[06/25/04 - 12:00 AM]
Development Update: June 21-25
By The Futon Critic Staff (TFC)

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.

BLACKOUT (A&E, New!) - The cable channel has given the green light to a new four-hour, estimated $15 million-$20 million budget mini-series inspired by the blackout that swept across the eastern U.S. and Canada last year. Paul Lussier ("Watergate") is writing and executive producing the project, a co-production of A&E and Sony Pictures Television, which is being targeted for a summer 2005 premiere. The mini-series isn't intended to be a docudrama but rather a fictional account, a la NBC's recent "10.5," of a nationwide power grid failure. Jason Leopold, late of the Wall Street Journal's Dow Jones newswires, will serve as a technical adviser on the project with A&E's Delia Fine and Sony's Helen Verno also executive producing.

THE DAYS (ABC) - The Alphabet has released an official description of its upcoming summer drama series: "'The Days' is a smart and true take on a modern American family with two ambitious parents and three strong-minded kids, as they grapple with sobering and often humorous change-of-life issues. Each episode of �The Days� chronicles a 24-hour period in the life of the family, as seen through the witty but cynical eyes of fifteen year-old son Cooper. Beginning July 18, the series airs Sundays (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET), on the ABC Television Network. �The Days� stars David Newsom as Jack Day, Marguerite MacIntyre as Abby, Laura Ramsey as Natalie, Evan Peters as Cooper and Zach Maurer as Nathan."

THE DEAD ZONE (USA) - 3.4 million viewers watched the show's most recent installment on Sunday, making in the second week in a row the series has built its audience. The show's third season bowed to 2.6 million viewers on June 6 while 2.9 million viewed the June 13 episode.

EMPIRE (ABC) - Dennis Haysbert ("24") has signed on to guest star in the network's upcoming six-hour limited series. He'll play Magonius, "a political ally of Caesar's who becomes a mentor to the young Octavius, Caesar's nephew who is forced into exile after Caesar's murder," according to a network press release. Haysbert is expected to film his role in July.

FAMILY BONDS (HBO) - The pay channel has given a 10-episode order to a new documentary series about the real-life adventures of one of the country's top bounty hunters, Tom Evangelista. The project is a spin-off of the network's "American Undercover" series, the pilot to which was originally slated to air as part of said series. HBO executives however were so impressed by the "Bonds" installment that the network began exploring the possibility of a series back in October (read the story). Each episode of the half-hour series will feature the loud, larger-than-life Queens, N.Y.-based Evangelista clan as they track criminals with varying levels of success. In addition, the family's home life will be explored including his son's desire to join the business just as his daughter wants out. Steven Cantor ("Devil's Playground"), Daniel Laikind and HBO's Sheila Nevins are the executive producers of the project, which is expected to bow this fall, with Julie Goldman, Caroline Stevens and Krysanne Katsoolis serving as co-executive producers.

FATHERHOOD (Nick at Nite) - The cable channel's first original series opened to 1.8 million viewers during its special premiere on Sunday while an impressive 2.9 million, an increase of 59%, tuned into the show's rebroadcast (and time period premiere) on Tuesday. Said debut was up 20% in year-to-year programming comparisons for the network.

GLOBAL FREQUENCY (WB) - Director Nelson McCormick ("Alias," "ER") is set to helm the drama pilot, which is expected to begin production in Vancouver in August for midseason 2005 series consideration. The project, which comes from Warner Bros. Television and Mark Burnett Productions, revolves around a covert intelligence organization, led by the mysterious Miranda Zero, called on to fight evil around the world. Burnett and John Rogers are the executive producers.

HUMAN ANIMALS/RECOVERING MY LIFE (FX, New!) - FX has gone ahead and greenlighted two new comedy projects to pilot: "Human Animals," about married wildlife documentary filmmakers, and "Recovering My Life," about a group of middle-aged New Yorkers battling eating disorders. The two projects mark the network's entertainment chief's, John Landgraf, long-promised first steps to try and put two scripted comedies on FX's schedule in 2005. Both projects will be filmed as mockumentaries with production on each set to begin this summer. "Animals" tracks said couple's marital woes, the wife plays by the rules while the husband doesn't, as they film the "human" animals involved in a bizarre murder trial in Sarasota, Florida. Andrew Gurland ("Frat House") and Huck Botko ("Mail Order Bride") are behind the project, which is set up at Principato Young Entertainment ("Reno 911"). Gurland will executive produce, write, direct and co-star in the pilot as the husband with his managers Peter Principato and Paul Young also executive producing. As for "Life," the half-hour chronicles the misadventures of four 30-something friends (a bulimic cop, an obese writer, a commodities broker and an anorexic bisexual songwriter) as seen through the country's obsession with food. Eric Schaeffer ("My Life is In Turnaround") will write, direct and co-star in the Basic Elements-based pilot with "The O.C.'s" Doug Liman and David Bartis executive producing.

I DO (BUT I DON'T) (Lifetime) - Dean Cain ("The Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story") and Jessica Walter ("Arrested Development") have joined the cast of the telefilm, about a divorced wedding planner (Denise Richards) whose life is made a living hell by an overdemanding psycho bride she is planning the nuptials for. Making matters worse is Richards' character goes on to fall in love with a handsome fireman (Cain) only to find out he's actually the husband-to-be of said bride. Walter will play the wedding planner's manipulative boss. The cable channel is targeting the project, which comes from Ira Pincus Films and von Zerneck-Sertner Films and is based on the novel of the same name by Cara Lockwood, for a September premiere.

THE JOE SCHMO SHOW (Spike TV) - Despite the absence of the NBA Finals, week two of the show's second season drew just 418,000 viewers on Tuesday, down from its premiere audience of 596,000.

JUDGING AMY (CBS) - Dan Futterman is set to rejoin the cast of the veteran drama as a series regular this fall. Futterman, who plays Vincent, the younger brother of Amy Gray (Amy Brenneman), left the series during its second season for personal reasons but has since made several recurring appearances. Kevin Rahm, who was brought on to fill the void left by Futterman in 2001, will then be downgraded to a recurring character with several appearances planned for this season.

LAW & ORDER (NBC) - The casting carousel continued this week on the veteran drama as Jesse L. Martin is finalizing a multi-year, multi-million-dollar deal to stick with the series while Elisabeth Rohm is expected to end her run on the show after 13 episodes next season. Both moves come as heels of the recent departure of Jerry Orbach and the addition of Dennis Farina to the series' cast. As for Rohm, the actress reportedly wants to explore other career interests and opportunities but will stick with the show initially this season to help with the transition of Orbach to Farina's character.

LAST COMIC STANDING (NBC) - The Peacock had added a second run to the popular reality series' second season. Encores of the show's Tuesday, 9:00/8:00c broadcast are set to run Wednesdays at 8:00/7:00c beginning June 30 all the way through July 28. NBC had originally slated repeats of Bravo's "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" for the slot. Said installments will now be rescheduled for a later date.

MONK (USA) - The third season of the cable drama opened to 5.5 million viewers, making it the most-watched season premiere of the show to date. The series debuted to 4.8 million in 2002 while 5.4 million watched its second season launch in 2003. Nevertheless, said broadcast couldn't top its record of 6.0 million for its January 16 installment. Overall, Friday's episode notched a 2.4 national rating/7 share in the channel's target demographic of adults 25-54 demo and a 1.6/8 (2.1 million) in 18-49.

NIP/TUCK (FX) - 3.8 million total viewers tuned into the show's commercial-free second season premiere on Tuesday, its largest audience to date. Said numbers also made the broadcast the top cable program among adults 18-49 (2.1 national rating/6 share, 2.7 million viewers) and adults 25-54 (2.1/5, 2.6 million) that night as well as set series highs in not only total viewers, but also adults 18-49, households (2.8/5) and women 18-49 (2.4/6). An encore at 11:00/10:00c also fared particularly well, earning 1.9 million viewers. "Nip/Tuck" launched in July of last year to the tune of 3.7 million viewers. Meanwhile, in other "Nip/Tuck" news, newcomer Seth Gabel has landed a multi-episode arc on the drama as the troublemaking son of Famke Janssen's character, who befriends Matt McNamara (John Hensley).

NORTH SHORE (FOX) - Josh Hopkins ("Ally McBeal") and Dylan Bruno have each signed on for multi-episode arcs on FOX's new summer drama. Hopkins, who is set to appear in at least four episodes beginning July 5, will play the yet-to-be-seen fiance of Brooke Burns' character while Bruno, who's set for at least two episodes, will play a professional surfer and ex-boyfriend of Nikki Deloach's character. Both Hopkins and Bruno are no stranger to FOX as each were part of the network's recent failed drama pilots "Ricochet" and "The Break" respectively.

OUTBACK JACK (TBS) - A solid but unspectacular 2.1 million viewers tuned into the show's launch on Tuesday, up 33% in year-to-year time period comparisons for the cable channel. Among TBS' target demographics of adults 18-34 and adults 18-49, "Jack" managed a 1.1 rating/3 share in each.

REVENGE OF THE MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN (CBS) - The Eye has released an official description of the upcoming telefilm, which stars Christine Lahti ("The Book of Ruth"), Cynthia Harris ("Mad About You"), Brian Kerwin ("Common Ground") and Bryan Brown ("Footsteps"). "Revenge" is "a light-hearted television movie that has begun production in Los Angeles for broadcast on the CBS Television Network. The story revolves around a woman who, after being unceremoniously dumped by her husband of 25 years, discovers that the best in her life is yet to come. Rose (Lahti) first meets Nathan Lloyd (Kerwin) on a plane the day her relationship with Hal Thorne (Brown), an adventurer and author who doesn't want to be tied down, ends. Twenty-five years later, after marrying, having two kids and working together at a newspaper, Nathan informs Rose that he's met someone new and is leaving her behind. Adding insult to injury, Nathan's new love is none other than Mindy (Abby Brammell), Rose's ambitious young assistant. Rose intends to keep her sanity by throwing herself into her work, but soon learns that her job as book editor is being given to Mindy as well. Alone and jobless, Rose's first response is to bury herself under the covers. However, her survival instinct and sense of humor come to the rescue and, slowly but surely, she begins to rally. Though her life has taken a turn that she never imagined was even possible, Rose finds that there are interesting new possibilities that lay ahead. REVENGE OF THE MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN is being produced by Dan Wigutow Productions in association with Sony Pictures Television. Dan Wigutow ("Raising Waylon") is the executive producer; Laura Brownson ("Raising Waylon") is the co-executive producer; Bob Wilson ("American Daughter") is the producer. Sheldon Larry ("The Color of Love: Jacey's Story") is the director from a script by Nancey Silvers ("The Elizabeth Smart Story")."

ROCK STAR (CBS) - CBS has emerged as the winner of Mark Burnett's latest reality project, which chronicles the search for a lead singer to join a rock group, in the first season's case 1980s and 1990s staple INXS. The Eye has gven a 13-week commitment to the series, which is expected to air for two hours each week beginning in the summer of 2005. ABC and NBC were both also said to be in the hunt for the project, however Burnett and company reportedly were more enticed by the synergistic opportunities at CBS, where the network's Viacom siblings MTV and VH1 could provide additional cross-promotion platforms. Financial details about the deal were not released, although it's understood the pact won't eclipse Burnett's deal with NBC for "The Contender." Most of the competition's details are still being kept under wraps however it was recently revealed the finalists will live together in a Hollywood Hills home and auditions will be held in not only the U.S., but also Canada, Australia, the U.K. and Japan. Said finalists will then be eliminated through a mix of viewer votes, judges and INXS members with the winner going on to record and go on tour with the band. Burnett will executive produce the project along with "American Idol" alum David Goffin, INXS business managers David Edwards and Michael Murchison, and Burnett's producing partner Conrad Riggs.

SALEM'S LOT (TNT) - A whopping 5.9 million viewers tuned into the four-hour mini-series' opening installment on Sunday, while 5.3 million caught the conclusion on Monday. More importantly, "Lot" was not only the top-rated cable program for the week in total viewers, 18-49 (2.7/8, 3.5 million) and 25-54 (3.0/8, 3.6 million) but also the most-watched cable movie thus far in 2004. Sunday's opener also managed to beat out ABC, CBS and NBC among adults 18-34 and ABC and FOX among adults 25-54.

SMALLPOX (FX, New!) - The cable channel has purchased the rights to the two-hour movie, which tracks an imagined terrorist attack on the U.S. via an outbreak of smallpox, from the U.K.'s Wall to Wall Productions ("Colonial House"). Set several years in the future, "Smallpox" is told from several points of view, including F.B.I. and Interpol agents, the terrorists, health officials and loved ones of the first victims and also features footage of the real-life havoc smallpox has wrought. The version seen by U.S. audiences won't be the entirely the same as that seen in the U.K. as FX plans to recast and reshoot a storyline involving a British family affected by the epidemic as an American family whose patriarch is based in London. Casting in underway on said actors with production expected to be completed in time for a fourth quarter 2004 air date. Alex Graham and Jonathan Hewes ("The Day Britain Stopped") are behind "Smallpox," which could potentially be the first of a several "what if" projects surrounding terrorism and the like for the network.

TRADING SPOUSES: MEET YOUR NEW MOMMY (FOX, New!) - The network has given a 10-episode order to a new reality series from Rocket Science Laboratories ("Joe Millionaire") that will follow two families as they're forced to adapt when their matriarchs switch places. While undoubtedly similar to ABC's upcoming "Wife Swap," FOX notes that their take will also have the fathers occasionally swap places instead, not to mention an unspecified competitive element between the families. FOX is hoping to have the series ready to go by the end of the summer, beating ABC's "Swap" to the airwaves. No other details were given.

UNTITLED KATHY NAJIMY PROJECT (Lifetime, New!) - Actress Kathy Najimy ("Veronica's Closet") is reportedly in early talks to star and produce her own primetime series for the cable channel. No details were given about the project other than it's expected to be a one-hour dramatic comedy.

WHILE I WAS GONE (CBS) - Bill Smitrovich is set to star opposite Kirstie Alley in the upcoming telefilm from Zerneck/Sertner Films. "While" centers on a woman (Alley) with a successful veterinary practice, a devoted husband (Smitrovich) and a beautiful home whose life is turned upside down when a friend from her past comes back into her life. Sue Miller's book of the same name is the basis of the project.

WILL & GRACE (NBC) - Alex Herschlag and David Flebotte ("The Bernie Mac Show," "Commando Nanny") have been named the executive producers/showrunner of the veteran comedy while Greg Malins ("Come to Papa") has been tapped to serve as a co-executive producer when the series returns for its seventh season this fall. In addition, Herschlag and Flebotte have both also signed seperate two-year overall deals with "Will & Grace's" producer NBC Universal Television. Herschlag has been involved with "Will & Grace" since its debut while Flebotte signed on upon completion of the "Nanny" pilot. The group will take over for creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan who were not asked to return this season.

Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters

  [june 2004]  

· 10.5 (NBC)
· 24 (FOX)
· ER (NBC)

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