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.
AVERAGE JANE (A.K.A. PLAIN JANE) (NBC) - Casting has begun on the network's reverse version of its hit reality series "Average Joe." The eight-episode series, which will feature "women hoping to find romance with a man who wants something more substantial than just superficial physical attraction" according to a network press release, is set to begin production later this summer. "Joe's" Stuart Krasnow and Andrew Glassman will executive produce the new edition, which is set up at NBC Universal Television and Krasnow Productions.
BIG LOVE (HBO) - Jolean Wejbe ("Gilmore Girls") has scored a role on the drama pilot, about a polygamist (Bill Paxton) with three wives. She'll play the 9-year-old daughter of Paxton's character.
DEADWOOD (HBO) - Sean Bridgers ("3: The Dale Earnhardt Story") has been upped to series regular on the pay channel's western drama. He'll reprise his role of Johnny Burns, one of Al Swearengen's hired hands, when the series returns for its second season next year.
EIGHT SIMPLE RULES (ABC) - Tracy Gamble has stepped down as executive producer/showrunner of the series due to personal reasons. No replacement has been named on the Touchstone Television comedy, which moves to Friday nights this fall.
FREAK BEAT (HBO) - Collin Friesen ("The Big White") has come aboard as a co-executive producer of the comedy project, which has a script commitment from the pay channel. Friesen will pen the script alongside creator Steve Garbarino, a former New York Post editor. "Beat" tracks Garbarino's experiences as an investigative journalist covering Hollywood, Madison Avenue and the fashion scene. Tom Nunan is the executive producer of the project via his Bull's Eye Entertainment.
HUFF (Showtime) - Kimberly A. Brooks ("The Hughleys," "The Jamie Foxx Show") and Nichole Robinson ("Love Don't Cost a Thing," "Torque") have joined the cast of the upcoming drama at the pay channel. Brooks will play the former office manager of Hank Azaria's character, a psychiatrist suffering a midlife crisis, who's brought back into the fold after a suicide at the office. Robinson, whose role is recurring, will be that of a seductress to Oliver Platt's character.
KYRA (Sci Fi) - David Twohy has confirmed he's writing the script for the two-hour backdoor pilot movie, which is based on the upcoming feature "The Chronicles of Riddick." "Kyra" will track Alexa Davalos' characer between the events of "Pitch Black" and "Riddick," a five-year gap. It's understood however that Davalos won't be involved with the TV series as the role will likely be recast with someone younger in mind. Twohy told Sci Fi Wire, Sci Fi Channel's news site, the reason is "because, A, she wants to pursue a film career, not a cable career, and, [B], it might deal with a slightly younger version [of Kyra]. Because [Riddick takes place] five years later, she's playing 18, 19, 20. I think this character would be 15, 16, 17." "Riddick" opens nationwide this Friday.
THE L WORD (Showtime) - Directors Neil LaBute ("The Shape of Things"), Burr Steers ("Igby Goes Down"), Lisa Cholodenko ("Laurel Canyon"), Ernest Dickerson ("Never Die Alone"), Rose Troche ("The Safety of Objects"), Daniel Minahan ("Series 7: The Contenders"), Jeremy Podeswa ("The Five Senses"), Lynn Stopkewich ("Kissed"), Alison Maclean ("Jesus's Son") and Tricia Brock ("Killer Diller") have all signed on to helm installments of the show's upcoming second season, set to premiere in 2005. Production on the new batch of episodes is set to begin later this month.
LEGALLY BLONDE (Syndication) - MGM Television has partnered with Tribune Entertainment to redevelop a small-screen version of the popular movie franchise. A TV series of "Blonde" was previously set up at ABC and Touchstone Television two years ago which featured "All My Children's" Jennifer Hall in the Reese Witherspoon role. The new one-hour version, which is being eyed for a fall 2005 launch, will be sold into first-run syndication with a second window on a cable channel. No writing and producing team has been announced for the new project, however "Blonde" screenwriter Marc Platt is understood to not be involved with the new version. MGM will spearhead the show's actual production while Tribune will work to clear the series on local stations across the country. In a surprising move however, Tribune will seek cash license fees to air the series, a tactic which has been resisted since the bulk of first-run scripted programming in syndication has dried up. The company will also seek cash from the cable run with the possibility of letting the series premiere on said network several months before syndication.
LAW & ORDER: TRIAL BY JURY (NBC) - Candice Bergen ("Murphy Brown") and John Mahoney ("Frasier") are in talks to join the rotating ensemble cast of the upcoming "Law & Order" spin-off. "Law & Order" veterans Carey Lowell and Jerry Orbach are also in talks to appear in the new series however no firm casting deals have been made for the project. Lowell and Orbach would of course reprise their roles of Jamie Ross and Lennie Briscoe while Bergen and Mahoney are reportedly up to play judges on the series.
MANHUNT: THE SEARCH FOR AMERICA'S MOST GORGEOUS MALE MODEL (Bravo, New!) - Taking a cue from UPN's "America's Next Top Model," the cable channel has given an eight-episode order for a new reality competition series which will feature 15 "unsuspecting men [as they] are plucked from the streets and invited to participate in a series of challenges to determine who has the looks, style, stamina and charisma to be a male supermodel," according to a network press release. "Average Joe's" Stuart Krasnow is behind the project, which comes from TWI Productions, the television arm of IMG. No other details were given about the new series. Interested candidates can visit Bravo's casting page for more information.
THE O.C. (FOX) - Recurring player Alan Dale is set to be upped to series regular when the drama returns this fall. He'll reprise his role of Caleb Nichol on the series, last seen getting married to Melinda Clarke's character.
ULTIMATE MASH-UPS (MTV, New!) - Rapper Jay-Z is developing a new project at the cable channel in which artists from different musical genres unite in an attempt to blend styles before a live audience. No other details were given about the project, other than it is the only one of the 11 from MTV mentioned in today's report that has yet to receive a pilot order.
In addition, MTV has announced it has greenlit 10 projects to pilot. The following descriptions were taken from the network's press release about the news:
BORROW MY CREW - Starring Fonzworth Bentley, P Diddy�s former umbrella wielding arbiter of style and conduit to the upper crust, this reality-based, semi-comic program has a popular celebrity lending their professional entourage to a viewer facing a relatively modest, everyday obstacle or ambition. In a coordinated team effort, the star�s �glam squad� demonstrates the full force of their resources while assisting the needy individual. The pilot features a girl getting ready for her senior prom with the help of J-Lo�s crew. Farnsworth hosts and J-Lo makes an appearance in the pilot. Executive Producer: P Diddy; Co-Executive Producers: Fonzworth Bentley and Andre Harrell; Executives in Charge of Development for MTV: Tom Calderone, Michele Dix and Jesse Ignjatovic; Senior VP of Talent and Series: Rod Aissa.
DEDICATED - Features viewer music video dedications with an added tale. Hosted by the hot music artist Omarion, each show will feature 3 to 4 dedications shown as mini reality bios that tell the story behind the dedication. Created By: Paul Harrison Ivan Dudynsky, Audrey Morrissey. Executives in Charge of Development: Lois Curren, Jessica Samet and Lauren Dolgen.
GRANTED (A.K.A. UNTITLED FRANKIE MUNIZ PROJECT) - A reality series starring Frankie Muniz. In each episode, Frankie will surprise 3 unsuspecting viewers and whisk them off to solve their problems, jump-start their fantasies and help them live out their dreams. Frankie enlists the help of his sidekicks as well as celebrity experts. The pilot episode features L.A Laker star Derek Fisher helping a basketball team hopeful get back his game, Blink 182�s Travis Barker inspiring skills and confidence to the drummer of an all girl band, and former race car driver Danny McKeever helping a teen who has failed his driving test 2 times get it in gear and get his license. Creator: Frankie Muniz; Executive Produced by David Franzke and Mark Schulman and Jeff Golenberg of 3 Arts Entertainment; Executives in Charge of Development: Lois Curren, Rod Aissa and Beth Greenwald.
HOUSE ARREST - From MTV�s News & Docs group, each episode of �House Arrest� features a different celebrity traveling home to spend not only one week with their parents but also follow their rules and guidelines. Can they resolve a long-standing issue they�ve had with mom and dad since childhood? Do they squabble with their parents and siblings? Fight over the remote? Are they forced to do the dishes and clean up their room, despite their celebrity status? Show creators and Series Producers: Jessica Chesler and Sam Simmons; Executives in Charge of Development for MTV: Lauren Lazin and Marshall Eisen.
KAPPA MIKEY - When unemployed New York actor Mikey Simon is recruited to join the cast of LilyMu, formerly Japan�s hottest TV Anime series, let�s just say, �the fish doesn�t stick to the rice.� His co-stars can tell right away that he�s the wrong guy for the job. But the viewers disagree, and suddenly, Mikey is Japan�s newest superstar, rocketing LilyMu back to the top of the ratings. Kappa Mikey is the story of Mikey�s epic struggles to win over his co-workers, get a clue about Japanese culture and look cool while wrestling giant robotic beetles! Kappa Mikey has adapted the Larry Sanders model to the growing pop culture of anime, giving the viewers an exclusive comedic look at the behind the scenes of a Japanese cartoon. Created by Larry Schwarz; Directed by Sergei Aniskov; Produced by Animation Collective; Executives in Charge of Development for MTV: Marian Davis and John Priemer.
POWER GIRLS - Reality show exploring the life of a team of young publicists, led by press maven, Lizzie Grubman and her PR company, who control much of the Manhattan, Hamptons, and Miami trendy nightlife. Executives in Charge of Development: Tony DiSanto and Liz Gateley.
SHOW AND GO - Hosted by Wilmer Valderrama (�That 70�s Show�), this reality drama/competition series takes the glamour and excitement of street racing into a safe and legal environment while maintaining the integrity of the lifestyle. High-octane look into the world of import car street racing that will follow 2 teams of 5 individual racers as they try to build the ultimate ride and dust their opponents. As the competition unfolds, competitors are rewarded and eliminated, but there can only be one winner. Guided and trained by a professional racer, the teams will compete against one another for the ultimate prize: the privilege of talking home the tricked out cars they have built and raced over the course of the season. Executive Producer: Patrick Byrnes; Co-Executive Producers/Creators: Glasgow Phillips and Heather Waters; Executives in Charge of Development: Lois Curren, Jessica Samet and Lauren Dolgen.
TRIPPIN' (A.K.A. UNTITLED CAMERON DIAZ PROJECT) - In the pilot, Cameron Diaz and a group of friends, including Drew Barrymore, Derrick Watkins aka Farnsworth Bentley and pro skateboarder Eric Costin, travel to Chile to uncover adventure and highlight environmental issues without the aid of four star hotels or indoor plumbing. Executive Producers: Cameron Diaz, Elizabeth Rogers, Lois Curren, Rod Aissa and R. Greg Johnston.
WHO WANTS TO BE A SUPERHERO? - Created by prolific producer Bruce Nash (�For Love or Money,� �Meet My Folks,� Mr. Personality� and �Outback Jack�) and executive produced by Michael Bloom (Nickelodeon�s �Rocket Power� and �Late World with Zach�), eight lucky comic book fans-who dress up as their own original comic book heroes-will get a chance to compete against each other in games and challenged that transform their comic book fantasies into the most exhilarating real-life situations they could ever imagine. And when the dust settles, the winner will get to see his/her character featured in his/her very own comic book�written by none other than comic book legend, Stan Lee. Executives in Charge of Development for MTV: Lois Curren, Jessica Samet and Drew Tappon.
ZOMBIE CHRONICLES - Developing a horror-themed series with Rob Zombie. Executives in Charge of Development: Tony DiSanto and Liz Gateley.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters
This article was updated with additional information on Tuesday, June 8.