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.
ALIAS (ABC) - Jeffrey Bell ("Angel," "The X-Files") has signed a new two-year, seven-figure overall deal with Touchstone Television. The pact calls for Bell to join "Alias" as a writer and co-executive producer next season and be upped to executive producer for the show's 2005-06 season.
THE AMAZING WESTERBERGS (CBS) - George Segal ("Just Shoot Me") and Susan Sullivan ("Dharma & Greg") are set to guest star in the comedy pilot, about two brothers (Chris O'Donnell, Jay Harrington) who were raised to think they were special and as adults must adjust to the reality that they're just regular guys. Segal and Sullivan will play the pair's parents in the Sony Pictures Television/CBS Productions project. Kathleen Rose Perkins, Monica Potter and Joel David Moore also star.
C.S.I.: NEW YORK (CBS) - Hill Harper ("The Handler") is the latest addition to the upcoming "C.S.I" spin-off, which stars Gary Sinise, Melina Kanakaredes, Vanessa Ferlito and Carmine Giovinazzo. He'll play the coroner working with the New York team in the project, which comes from CBS Productions, Alliance Atlantis and Bruckheimer Television.
CLASS ACTIONS/THE COVEN (Lifetime) - The cable channel has passed on ordering both drama pilots to series. The former, from Sony Pictures Television and executive producer Deborah Joy LeVine, featured Diane Venora as a high-powered New York lawyer who moves to a small town to teach at the local university while the latter, from Lions Game Television and Gale Anne Hurd's Valhalla Television, dealt with a group of monder-day witches (Illeana Douglas, Paula Devicq and Nia Peeples). Instead, Lifetime reportedly plans to go forward with a fifth season of "The Division." The network had been grooming either "Actions" or "Coven" to replace the veteran drama as the series is down 30% in adults 18-49 and 24% in total viewers in year-to-year comparisons so far this season. No official announcement has been made however.
DATELINE NBC (NBC) - NBC News has acquired the documentary feature "Deadline" to air as part of its "Dateline NBC" franchise this summer. The project follows Illinois Gov. George Ryan's final months in office, leading up to his landmark decision to offer blanket clemency to the state's death row inmates. The pact, believed to be in the six-figure range, is said to mark the first time NBC has purchased outside content to air under the "Dateline" umbrella. Katy Chevigny and Kirsten Johnson directed "Deadline" while Chevigny and Dallas Brennan executive produced for Big Mouth Productions in association with Arts Engine Inc. NBC chairman-CEO Bob Wright reportedly saw the film at this year's Sundance Film Festival and personally approached the producers about licensing the project.
THE GUARDIAN (CBS) - The Eye's press materials confirm the series will wrap its third season on Tuesday, May 4 at 9:00/8:00c. Here's how they describe the episode, entitled "Antarctica": "When Nick takes a job at a competing law firm after getting fired from Fallin & Fallin, Burton questions whether Nick made the right choice, on the season finale of THE GUARDIAN, Tuesday, May 4 (9:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. One of the series� executive producers, David Hollander, directed and wrote the episode along with producer Rick Eid. Having been fired from Fallin & Fallin, Nick quickly accepts an offer from a competing firm, but Burton fears Nick might have made the wrong decision because he thinks corporate law might not be Nick�s passion. Meanwhile, Lulu gives birth to a baby girl and decides to only work part-time, which forces Legal Services of Pittsburgh to find someone else to run the clinic."
HUSTLE: THE PETE ROSE STORY (ESPN) - Peter Bogdanovich ("The Mystery of Natalie Wood") has signed on to direct the cable channel's upcoming biopic of the controversial baseball player. Production is set to begin on May 17 in Toronto on the project, which is slated to air Saturday, September 25 at 9:00/8:00c on the network. Christian Darren ("Count Three and Pray") wrote the script to "Hustle" while Orly Adelson of Orly Adelson Productions ("The Junction Boys") will executive produce.
OPRAH WINFREY PRESENTS: THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD (ABC) - The Alphabet has given a production green light to the long-in-the-works telefilm, based on the Zora Neale Hurston novel. Halle Berry stars in the project, about a free-spirited 1920s woman whose search for identity and happiness through three marriages with very different men puts her in opposition to the mores of her small Florida town. Michael Ealy ("Barbershop"), Ruben Santiago-Hudson ("Lackawanna Blues") and Ruby Dee ("Do the Right Thing") are also attached to star while Quincy Jones and Winfrey will executive produce via her Harpo Films banner. Santiago-Hudson will play the ambitious second husband of Berry's character, who forces her into submission and often beats her, while Ealy will play her third husband, the first man to truly love and respect her. Dee is set as her grandmother who, as a slave near the end of the Civil War, gave birth to her white master's child. Darnell Martin ("Law & Order: S.V.U.") will direct from an adaptation by Suzan-Lori Parks ("Topdog/Underdog").
THE SAVAGES (ABC) - Vincent Ventresca ("The Invisible Man") is the latest to join the cast of the comedy pilot, about a blue-collar dad (Keith Carradine) raising five teenage boys, ages 11 to 17. He'll play the brother of David Carradine's character, joining the previously cast Andrew Eiden, Shaun Sipos, Eric Von Detten and Mitchel Musso. Icon Productions and Universal Network Television are behind the project.
THE TWO-TIMER (ABC, New!) - Production is underway on reality guru Mike Fleiss' ("The Bachelor") latest project, a comic reality series (a la "The Simple Life") about a twentysomething man with a knack for juggling multiple women. ABC has committed to 10 episodes of the project, which is set up at Fleiss' Telepictures-based Next Entertainment, for a summer launch date. "Two-Timer" has been shooting in secret over the past few weeks under the guise of being a documentary on young people in Hollywood. Instead the project will follow the "bachelor" as goes on multiple dates each day, most of which are arranged by himself however a few will be pre-set by the producers. Fleiss and his fellow producers however are quick to note that the series won't glamorize such philandering ways and promise a final "dramatic" twist in addition to such other hurdles as forcing him to meet the parents of several of his girlfriends.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters