[06/30/04 - 12:00 AM]
Development Update: June 28-30
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.

777 (New!) - Scott Sternberg Productions and Bischoff-Hervey Entertainment are developing a new reality series in which seven high rollers agree to put $1 million in the pot as part of a monster gambling competition. Hotel heir Rick Hilton has partnered with said companies for the project, which would see the contestants live together in a Las Vegas suite and compete in a variety of gaming sessions, as determined by the show's "pit boss," with the winner taking home the $7 million prize. Hilton along with Scott Sternberg ("Sunday Morning Shootout"), Eric Bischoff ("WCW"), Jason Hervey ("First Shot") will executive produce the project, which is set to be pitched to the broadcast and cable networks this week. Hervey is also behind NBC's upcoming reality project from Hilton's wife Kathy.

AMERICAN FAMILY (PBS) - Network president Pat Mitchell has confirmed to various media outlets the critically acclaimed drama will not return for a third season. Not surprisingly, financial constraints are once again a major factor behind the show's end at the public broadcaster. PBS reportedly spent $1 million per episode to produce the series, which initially launched to a 1.5 national rating only to fizzle to a 0.1 rating in some markets for its most-recent episodes.

THE CELL (Showtime) - Clark Johnson ("The Shield," "S.W.A.T.") is in talks to direct the pay channel's drama pilot, about an ex-con, black Muslim recruited by the F.B.I. to infiltrate a sleeper Islamic terrorist cell.

THE CONTENDER (NBC) - Famed boxing manager Jackie Kallen, the inspiration for the recent Meg Ryan feature "Against the Ropes," is that latest to join the talent roster of the upcoming reality series. She'll serve as the "'den mother' to the show's 16 boxers. Her role will be to make sure they eat properly, train diligently, keep the fighting in the ring, and lend her shoulder to lean on when they are tired, homesick or have problems," according to a network press release. Sugar Ray Leonard, George Foreman and Sylvester Stallone are among the other faces set to appear in the series, which comes from executive producers Stallone, Mark Burnett and Jeffrey Katzenberg.

THE DAVEY GEE SHOW (New!) - David Alan Grier ("Life With Bonnie") and Tim Hightower ("Mad TV") have pacted with Touchstone Television to develop a new sketch comedy series along the lines of FOX's "In Living Color." The pair will write, executive produce and star in the project, which has a script at the studio. "Davey Gee" will feature Grier and Hightower leading a small cast of sketch performers.

EYES (ABC) - Eric Mabius has been upped to a series regular on the Alphabet's midseason drama. Originally contracted to only appear in the pilot, Mabius' role has since been extended. Tim Daly, Natalie Zea, A.J. Langer, Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon, Laura Leighton, Reg Rogers and Rick Worthy also star.

THE GRAHAM NORTON EFFECT (Comedy Central) - A disappointing 1.15 million viewers tuned into the show's debut on Thursday. Faring better for the cable channel was its Sunday lineup featuring specials from Jeff Foxworthy, Ron White and Larry the Cable Guy. Said specials helped the network deliver its most-watched night ever with 2.8 million viewers on average tuning in.

I HATE MY JOB (Spike TV) - Former presidential candidate Al Sharpton has signed on to host the upcoming reality series, which follows three guys willing to abandon their careers for the chance to pursue their unfulfilled dreams. The series, which comes from RDF Media, is set to launch its eight-episode run this fall on the cable channel.

INTO THE WEST (TNT) - The massive six-part, 12-hour mini-series from Steven Spielberg is scheduled to begin production in New Mexico in September. "Into the West" follows "two multi-generational American and Native American families, with each telling the dramatic stories of the development of the West from their distinct points of view. The episodes will bring them into contact with many of the larger-than-life characters and authentic historic events of the era," according to a network press release. Spielberg will executive produce the project alongside Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey, co-heads of DreamWorks Television.

THE JANE PAULEY SHOW (Syndication) - To help launch the upcoming syndicated talk show, NBC plans to air a new one-hour special featuring the former "Dateline NBC" and "Today" anchor during the week leading up to its August 30 premiere. Not surprisingly, "The Jane Pauley Show" comes from NBC Universal Television Distribution. Also due that week is Pauley's book "Skywriting: A Life Out of the Blue."

LAGUNA BEACH: THE REAL ORANGE COUNTY (MTV, New!) - MTV has begun production on what it's calling "the first ever reality drama." The project, which is set to debut Tuesday, September 14 on the network, will focus on seven teens, five girls and two boys, who have opened their lives to MTV's cameras. Unlike many of MTV's previous efforts, the producers don't plan to artificially introduce storylines or feature such reality show staples as confessionals or interviews. In fact, the producers promise the participants likely won't even notice the multiple digital-video cameras recording such events as prom night, spring break and college visits. No episode order was given for the half-hour series, which comes from creator Liz Gateley and executive producers Tony DiSanto, Gary Auerbach and Wendy Riche.

MONK (USA) - A solid 4.7 million viewers tuned into week two of "Monk's" new season, including a 1.4 rating/5 share in adults 18-49. The show opened its third season the previous week to the tune of 5.5 million viewers and a 1.6/8 in adults 18-49.

ROCKY POINT (WB) - Chyler Leigh ("That '80s Show," "Girls Club") has been cast as the female lead in the drama pilot, about a young woman (Leigh) living on Hawaii's North Shore who takes in her estranged father (Billy Campbell). "Blue Crush's" John Stockwell and Lizzy Weiss are behind the project, which is set up at Warner Bros. Television.

SCREAM PLAY (E!) - The cable channel has quietly announced it plans to move the series to Wednesdays at 10:00/9:00c beginning July 7.

SEE ARNOLD RUN (A&E) - Roland Kickinger ("Son of the Beach") has been cast as a young Arnold Schwarzenegger in the cable channel's upcoming telefilm about the actor turned politician. The project will primarily focus on Schwarzenegger's successful bid to become governor of California last year as well as feature a second story line that flashes back to his quest for a fifth consecutive Mr. Olympia title. Production is set to begin next month in San Diego for a fourth quarter 2004 air date with J.B. Rogers ("American Pie 2") directing from a script by Matt Dorff ("Inside the Osmonds").

SOUTHIE (Showtime) - Phillip Noyce ("Tru Calling") has signed on to direct the drama pilot, about two South Boston brothers who are at odds with fierce sibling rivalry in a neighborhood where politicians, cops, reporters and gangsters all grew up together. Blake Masters ("Total Sports," "The Ninth Man") is behind the project, which is set up at Mandalay Television.

STEPHEN KING'S KINGDOM HOSPITAL (ABC) - The Alphabet has rescheduled the show's two-hour finale for Thursday, July 15 at 8:00/7:00c instead of 9:00/8:00c. Here's how ABC's press materials describe the installment: "A s´┐Żance held by Sally Druse sends Dr. Hook and Peter back to the Old Kingdom. When they finally return with answers to buried secrets of the Gates Falls Mill fire, Mary's trapped spirit is freed and the future of Kingdom Hospital is altered forever. Meanwhile, when a vengeful Dr. Stegman finally catches up with the real Johnny B. Goode (Stephen King) and Antibus, his most terrifying visions of The Old Kingdom are realized, on the two-hour season finale of 'Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital.'"

STEPHEN KING'S IT (WB, New!) - Mark Wolper and Warner Bros. Television are developing a new small-screen adaptation of the classic Stephen King novel. The pair recently teamed for TNT's presentation of King's "Salem's Lot," which also was its second small-screen incarnation. Not surprisingly then, Peter Filardi, who scripted the TNT version of "Lot," is also on board to adapt the WB's take on "It." The original "It" aired on ABC in November 1990.

ULTIMATE FIGHTER (Spike TV, New!) - The cable channel has committed to 13 one-hour episodes of a new reality series that will chronicle a competition among 20 athletes of different weight classes battling each other using techniques from karate, judo and kickboxing to earn a shot at a spot in the Ultimate Fighting Championship league. Pilgrim Films and Television's Craig Piligian ("American Chopper") and Full Circle Entertainment's Robert Riesenberg ("The Restaurant") are behind the project which will begin production in September in Las Vegas for a January 2005 premiere date.

UNTITLED STEPHEN DORFF PROJECT (HBO, New!) - Actor Stephen Dorff ("Cold Creek Manor," "Feardotcom") is developing a new half-hour comedy at the pay channel about young-Turk real estate brokers. Alan Cohen and Alan Freedland ("King of the Hill") are set to serve as showrunners and executive producers of the project, which is inspired by Dorff's own travails trying to buy a house in Los Angeles. Dorff himself will likely star as one of the four main characters, all thirtysomething agents who compete in the cutthroat world of L.A. real estate. The actor, who will also serve as an executive producer, likens the series to "Glengarry Glen Ross" meets "Swingers." Howard Kremer and Brad Pope ("The Near Future," "Austin Stories") are also on board to write and serve as supervising producers as are Dorff's producing partner, Tucker Tooley, and Vince Newman ("A Man Apart").

WALKABOUT (HBO, New!) - The pay channel is developing a docudrama about the true story of a string of student protests in 1968 in which thousands of Latino high school students from five East Los Angeles high schools took to the streets to protest substandard education. Felix Alcala ("Taken") is attached to direct the project, with Moctesuma Esparza and Robert Katz of Esparza-Katz Productions ("Selena") on board to executive produce.

Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters

  [june 2004]  


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