LOS ANGELES (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.
ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (FOX) - As expected, FOX will air the freshman comedy's true season finale on Sunday, June 6 at 8:30/7:30c, the show's new time slot. Here's how FOX's press materials describe the episode: "When George Sr. has a heart attack, the family heads to the hospital only to discover he�s escaped and is heading for Mexico in the stolen staircar with Kitty. Meanwhile, Lindsay decides to leave Tobias until a book he wrote a long time ago becomes a gay bestseller, and Buster and Annyong compete over women on the �Let �Em Eat Cake� episode of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT Sunday, June 6 (8:30-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX."
THE BROOKE ELLISON STORY (A&E) - Lacey Chabert ("Party of Five") is the first to join the cast of the upcoming telefilm, a docudrama about the life of Brooke Ellison, a woman who became a quadriplegic at age 11 and went on to graduate from Harvard University. Chabert will play the sister of the title character in the project, which will be directed by Christopher Reeve and is based on Ellison's autobiography "Miracles Happen: One Mother, One Daughter, One Journey."
CROSSING JORDAN (NBC) - The Peacock is set to run the show's long-delayed resolution to its second-season cliffhanger on Sunday, June 6 at 10:00/9:00c. Here's how NBC's press materials describe the installment: "In the conclusion of the second season ending cliff-hanger, Jordan (Jill Hennessy) searches for evidence to clear her father, Max (Ken Howard), who stands accused of murdering the chief of police. Hindered by Max' disappearancer, Jordan relies on a suspended Woody (Jerry O'Connell), working with detective Annie Capra (guest star Arija Bareikis), to help her track down missing brother James (guest star Michael T. Weiss, "The Pretender") who she believes to be the key to solving this homicide. Meanwhile, Garret (Miguel Ferrer) butts heads with former romantic partner D.A. Walcott (guest star Susan Gibney) who, in the wake of the chief's murder, has commandeered the morgue staff as part of the investigation. Kathryn Hahn, Steve Valentine, Ravi Kapoor and Ivan Sergei also star."
EMPIRE (ABC) - John Gray ("Helter Skelter," "Brian's Song") has signed on to helm two installments of the six-hour limited series. The move reunites Gray with executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, whom he worked with on ABC's "Song" and CBS' "Martin & Lewis."
THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU MEET IN HEAVEN (ABC) - The Alphabet has announced production has begun on the three-hour telefilm, which is based Mitch Albom's bestselling novel of the same name. Jon Voight, Ellen Burstyn, Michael Imperioli ("The Sopranos"), Jeff Daniels ("Gods and Generals"), Steven Grayhm ("White Chicks") and Dagmara Dominczyk ("The Count of Monte Cristo") all star in the project, which comes from Hallmark Entertainment. According to a network press release, "The Five People You Meet in Heaven" is "a contemporary fable that tells the story of Eddie (played by Voight as an older man, and by Grayhm in his younger incarnation), a war veteran who feels like his life as a repairman at the Ruby Pier Amusement Park has been meaningless. Then, Eddie dies while trying to save a little girl from a falling ride cart. The last thing he feels before he dies are two small hands in his. When Eddie wakes up, he's in heaven . . . but it's not what he expected, because heaven is a place where your earthly life is explained to you by five people who were in it - people you may have loved, or hardly knew existed. Yet each of them changed your path forever. Did Eddie save the little girl? That's part of the mystery Eddie can only learn in heaven. Daniels plays the Blue Man, Imperioli plays the Captain and Burstyn plays Ruby, three of the people whom Eddie meets in heaven while looking back on his life. Dominczyk plays Marguerite, Eddie's wife." Lloyd Kramer ("Oprah Winfrey Presents Amy and Isabel") is set to direct the project from an adaptation by Albom himself, with Robert Halmi Sr. and Robert Halmi Jr. executive producing.
THE GEORGE LOPEZ CHRISTMAS MOVIE (ABC, New!) - Sitcom star George Lopez ("The George Lopez Show") is set to topline a new holiday-themed telefilm at the Alphabet about "a sports radio DJ who gets a lesson on the importance of family and the values of life," according to a network press release. "In the movie, Henry Gracia (Lopez) is the reigning shock jock of Chicago sports radio who earns his living being rude. That is, until a young listener with a life-threatening illness forces Henry into a deal to be nicer on the air for just one day. He's amazed to discover that his false positive energy seems to be having an impact - the teenaged boy's health starts to improve, as do the local teams' scores. But Henry's new persona has made him the object of constant ridicule by a competing shock jock, The Hitman. While Henry's bosses certainly aren't happy with him, he's got other problems as well - his years of rudeness have taken a toll on his wife and daughter, and they're just not buying his sudden change of attitude. When his family ultimately leaves him, Henry is ready to give up -- until his fans unite and prove to him that Christmas miracles really can happen." Lisa Vidal ("The Division," "ER") also stars as his wife, Diana Gracia. Production is set to begin later this month in Winnipeg, Manitoba with Eric Laneuville ("I'll Fly Away," "ER") directing from a script by Garrett K. Schiff ("Angels in the Infield") and Jim Burnstein ("Renaissance Man") for a fourth quarter 2004 air date. Robert Sertner and Frank von Zerneck of von Zerneck-Sertner Films ("The Mystery of Natalie Wood," "Reversible Errors") are the executive producers of the project along with Lopez's real-life wife, Ann Lopez, and Jerry Vukas. Susan Noel-Benfatto is the co-producer and Karen Moore and Randy Sutter are producers.
GROUNDED FOR LIFE (WB) - ABC Family has snagged the cable rights to the veteran comedy in a four-year deal valued at $175,000 per episode. The move marks the fifth WB series to be purchased by the cable channel in the recent memory. "Grounded," which is set to launch in January 2005 on the network, joins fellow Frog series "Smallville," "Gilmore Girls," "7th Heaven" and "The Jamie Kennedy Experiment." Industry insiders indicate ABC Family is mulling using "Grounded" as a launching pad for one of its original sitcoms in development.
HIDDEN HOWIE (A.K.A. UNTITLED HOWIE MANDEL PROJECT) (Bravo) - The cable channel has given a six-episode order to a new half-hour improv series featuring comedian Howie Mandel as essentially himself, a family man with three kids who spends his workdays crafting hidden-camera bits for a major talk show. Julie Warner ("Nip/Tuck"), Estelle Harris ("Seinfeld") and John Mendoza ("Greetings From Tucson") also star in the project, which could be ready for a fourth quarter 2004 bow. The project, much like fellow Bravo improv series "Significant Others," is actually a redeveloped version of Mandel's failed NBC pilot from last season, which also starred Julianne Phillips, Eddie Jemison, D.L. Hughley, Ashley Michelle Tisdale and Stacy Galina. Mandel will executive produce "Howie" along with his manager, Michael Rotenberg of 3 Arts Entertainment. Gavin Polone's Pariah Television however appears to not be involved with the new version.
IN THE GAME (A.K.A. UNTITLED JENNIFER LOVE HEWITT PROJECT) (ABC) - Various sources have indicated the comedy pilot, which stars Hewitt as a sports producer who unwillingly becomes an on-camera reporter, is close to a midseason order. The Alphabet however has yet to officially make the order.
IKE: COUNTDOWN TO D-DAY (A&E) - 5.5 million viewers tuned into the Tom Selleck-led telefilm on Monday making it the most-watched program in the cable channel's 20-year history. Overall the broadcast delivered a 4.2 household rating and 1.7 million viewers in A&E's target demographic, adults 25-54.
THE PRACTICE: FLEET STREET (ABC) - Jeff Rake ("The Street," "Miss Match") and Scott Kaufer ("Gilmore Girls," "The Chris Isaak Show") have been named executive producers on the upcoming "The Practice" spin-off. The duo will serve alongside David E. Kelley and Bill D'Elia on the project with Rake and Kaufer heading the writing staff and D'Elia overseeing the day-to-day production. In addition, Kelley vets Ken Miller and Nikki Valko will oversee casting on the series, which stars James Spader, William Shatner, Rhona Mitra and Lake Bell. Rake's involvement is the result of an overall deal the writer/producer has with 20th Century Television, which was recently extended until 2006.
QUEER EYE FOR THE STRAIGHT GUY (Bravo) - Tuesday's season premiere averaged 1.685 million viewers among adults 25-54, nearly 50% over the show's most recent first-run airing (1.126 million on April 20). In addition, the broadcast pulled 1.533 million viewers in adults 18-49 and a 1.87 household rating, up 41% and 38% respectively from that last original telecast of six weeks ago.
SUMMERLAND (WB) - The series' two-hour premiere earned the highest ratings ever for a show debuting during the summer on The WB in women 18-34 (2.9/9), women 12-34 (3.2/10), adults 18-49 (2.0/6) and women 18-49 (2.9/8), according to a network press release. Said performance helped the Frog win the night in teens (2.4/9) and female teens (4.0/14) as well as finish #2 among persons 12-34 (2.1/7), women 18-34 (2.9/9) and women 12-34 (3.2/10) and #3 in adults 18-34 (1.9/6), adults 18-49 (2.0/6) and women 18-49 (2.9/8). Overall, 4.58 million viewers watched the broadcast.
TO BE LOVED: THE MUSIC, THE MAGIC, THE MEMORIES OF MOTOWN (NBC, New!) - Suzanne de Passe's de Passe Entertainment ("The Temptations") reportedly is closing in on a deal to executive produce a new 12-hour mini-series at the Peacock about the history of Motown, as seen through the eyes of founder Berry Gordy. Gordy's autobiography "To Be Loved: The Music, The Magic, The Memories of Motown" will serve as the basis of the project, which is expected to feature hits from such artists as the Jackson 5, the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Diane Ross and Marvin Gaye. Should the project go forward it isn't expected to bow until the 2005-06 season at the earliest. "To Be Loved" is undoubtedly a personal project for de Passe, as she started out as Gordy's creative assistant in 1968. de Passe's Suzanne Coston and NBC's mini-series VP Stephen Bulka will oversee the project's development.
UNTITLED DAVID E. KELLEY PROJECT (NBC, New!) - David E. Kelley ("The Practice," "Ally McBeal") is set to join the reality television fray as the prolific writer/producer has landed an eight-episode order from the Peacock for a new series "that will feature competitive legal eagles vying to propel their careers to the next level - but each week, the competition will be narrowed down until only one winner will emerge victorious," according to a network press release. Kelley will team with David Garfinkle and Jay Renfroe's Renegade 83 Productions ("Blind Date," "The Surreal Life") to produce the project, which will be distributed by 20th Century Fox Television. While the exact details about the series are still under wraps, it's understood the project will feature real lawyers, judges, etc. trying real civil cases through legal arbitration. In addition, there will be an elimination-style component in which lawyers will be dismissed each week. No target date was given for the untitled project. Kelley will serve as a consulting producer on the series with Garfinkle and Renfroe executive producing.
UNTITLED JOHN STAMOS PROJECT (ABC) - Much like "In the Game," the comedy pilot is said to be close to a midseason order according to various industry insiders. John Stamos and Madchen Amick star in the project, which aims to track the duo's first date over the course of an entire season (a la FOX's "24").
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters