[03/31/04 - 12:00 AM]
Development Update: March 31
By The Futon Critic Staff (TFC)

CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:

Looking to keep track of all the various pilots and other projects in development? Be sure to check out our detailed production chart listings by clicking here.

THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW: LET'S BUMP UP THE LIGHTS (CBS, New!) - The Eye has scheduled a second reunion special featuring Burnett, Tim Conway, Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner for Wednesday, May 5 at 10:00/9:00c. In the special, "the illustrious cast comes together before an audience to introduce never-before-seen clips from the spontaneous and hilarious moments that were seen at the beginning of every 'The Carol Burnett Show' -- where Carol and the gang answered questions from the studio audience. The question and answer segments featured Carol as herself, not as a character, as she answered the no-holds-barred questions from audience members. Always impromptu and spur-of-the-moment, the segments showed Carol at her creative and improvisational best. Questions were also often asked of fellow cast members Harvey, Tim, Vicki and Lyle who joined Carol on stage to respond. Viewers will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite clips by telephone or the Internet. Carol will announce the top three clips on CBS News´┐Ż "The Early Show" (7:00-9:00 AM, ET/PT) the morning after the broadcast," according to a network press release.

D.O.T.S. (NBC) - Steve Hytner ("Eurotrip") has joined the cast of the pilot, a comedy centering on a team of meter maids. He'll play the team's lieutenant in the NBC Studios/Pariah Television project, which also stars Stephen Dunham, Davenia McFadden and Khary Payton.

EARTHQUAKE (ABC) - Holly Robinson-Peete ("Like Family") is set to play Heaven, the wife to the single-named comedian in the comedy pilot, which comes from Touchstone Television and Tollin-Robbins Productions. Charles Duckworth, Christopher Pinnick and Rhyon Nicole Brown also star in the project, about an unlucky father of four (Earthquake) who, with his wife (Peete), struggles to make ends meet.

MAD WORLD OF WILLIAM M. GAINES (HBO, New!) - Director Betty Thomas ("I Spy") is spearheading a new telefilm about the life of William M. Gaines, the eccentric founder of Mad Magazine. Frank Jacobs' book "Mad World of William M. Gaines" will be the basis of the project, which is still in the early stages of development.

THE PARTNER (FOX, New!) - FOX has given a series commitment to a new reality project in which a group of recent law school graduates will battle each other to win a job as a partner in a major law firm. Eight-to-10 one-hour episodes are set to be produced of the project, which comes from Rocket Science Laboratories ("Temptation Island," "Joe Millionaire") and executive producers Chris Cowan and Jean-Michel Michenaud. "The Partner" will begin with two teams - one made up of Ivy League grads, the other consisting of players who attended less prestigious schools - and each week they'll serve as prosecutors or defenders in mock trials inspired by actual cases. Winners will be determined by a jury of real people selected by the contestants, with the losing team left to expel one of its members. It's not clear how the elimination process will work as it could be a straight voting scenario like "Survivor" or more along the lines of "The Apprentice," in which a yet-to-be-cast celebrity judge/lawyer makes the final call on who's kicked off. The exact rules and contestant eligibility requirements are still being worked out. The network is currently talking with several law firms about signing on to the project, which would likely feature lawyers from said firm acting as advisers to the teams. FOX reality topper Mike Darnell, who came up with the idea for the series, expects either a late summer or an early fall bow at the earliest.

POINT PLEASANT (FOX) - Sam Page ("American Dreams") has scored the male lead in the drama pilot, about a beach-side community that turns upside down when a 17-year-old girl (Elisabeth Harnois) with mysterious abilities washes ashore. Page will play Jesse Parker, a lifeguard who spots her floating in the sea and dives in to save her. Cameron Richardson, Brent Weber and Aubrey Dollar also star in the project, which comes from 20th Century Fox Television and Original Television.

THE SAVAGES (ABC) - Keith Carradine ("Deadwood") is set to topline the Mel Gibson-produced comedy pilot as Tom, a fireman who takes care of his five teen sons. Universal Network Television and Gibson's Icon Productions are behind the project, which also stars Erik Von Detten, Andrew Eiden, Shaun Sipos and Mitchel Musso as Tom's children.

STEPHEN KING'S KINGDOM HOSPITAL (ABC) - The Alphabet has moved the time slot premiere of "Kingdom Hospital" back a week. "The Young and the Headless," the episode originally scheduled for Thursday, April 1 at 9:00/8:00c, will now air the following week on April 8. A repeat of "Extreme Makeover" ("Episode 205") will take its place on April 1.

SUBURBAN MADNESS (CBS) - Sela Ward ("Once & Again") is set to play private investigator Bobbi Bacha in the Eye's telefilm about the July 2002 murder of Texas orthodontist David Harris. Harris' wife Clara was convicted of the murder in 2003 after a videotape by Bacha showed her running over him several times with her Mercedes-Benz in a Houston hotel parking lot after discovering his infidelities. "Madness" will tell the story from Bacha's perspective, from being hired by Clara Harris to investigate her suspicions of her husband's extramarital affairs to the 2003 trial. Robert Dornhelm ("Anne Frank: The Whole Story") is also on board to direct the telefilm, which comes from Sony Pictures Television and Craig Zadan and Neil Meron's Storyline Entertainment.

UNTITLED DANE COOK PROJECT (UPN) - Pat Finn ("Ed") is the latest to join the cast of the comedy pilot, about an aspiring comedian (Cook) who suddenly loses it all. He'll play Paul, the brother and manager of Cook's character in the project, which comes from Sony Pictures Television. Bre Blair also stars.

UNTITLED ROB LONG/DAN STALEY PROJECT (CBS) - Kirstie Alley ("Vernoica's Closet") is in final talks to star opposite Ricki Lake in the comedy pilot, about a young cop's widow (Lake) who raises her kids with her mom (Alley) and runs a bar frequented by cops. Dan Staley and Rob Long ("Cheers") are behind the project, which is set up at Paramount Network Television.

UNTITLED MARSH MCCALL PROJECT (NBC) - Shelley Long ("Cheers") has joined the cast of the comedy pilot, about the relationship between an adult son (Mitch Rouse) and his newly divorced father (Tom Conti). Long will play the mother of Rouse's character, where she'll take over for the departing Beverly D'Angelo. No reason was given for the casting change but it's understood the decision was mutual. Jamie Denbo and Greg Pitts also star in the project, which comes from Warner Bros. Television.

WILL & GRACE (NBC) - Debra Messing is expected to miss the final four episodes of "Will & Grace" this season as she's been ordered to stay off her feet for the rest of her pregnancy by her physician. Production apparently has been proceeding quietly for the past three weeks without Messing, whose final appearance is currently scheduled for April 8. It's not completely clear how her character's absence will be explained in the show's closing installments, which plan to focus on the upcoming wedding of Megan Mullally and John Cleese's characters. The one-hour/two-episode season finale, featuring guest star Jennifer Lopez, is set to air April 29.

Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters

  [march 2004]  

· ED (NBC)

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