[07/13/04 - 12:00 AM]
Development Update: July 12-13
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.

ACCESS HOLLYWOOD/THE INSIDER (Syndication) - Former "Access Hollywood" anchor Pat O'Brien's move to Paramount's "The Insider" got off to a rocky start this week as NBC Universal Television has filed a lawsuit against O'Brien over breach of contract. The company says that an exclusivity provision in his "Access" contract forbids him from actively promoting his new series until after it expires at the end of August. In addition, the studio alleges O'Brien recruited at least 10 "Access" staffers to join "The Insider," which in their minds also constitutes breach of contract. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge denied the studio's request for an immediate restraining order but set a hearing for next Friday, July 23. Should NBCU win the suit, O'Brien would not be able to appear in any ads for the "Entertainment Tonight" spin-off until September 1, less than two weeks before the show's planned September 13 launch.

AMERICAN DREAMS (NBC) - Milo Ventimiglia ("Gilmore Girls") has joined the cast of the Peacock drama. He'll play a potential love interest for Brittany Snow's character, a rebel high school senior whose family moves in next door to the Pryors. Ventimiglia spent the past development season attached to the ABC drama pilot "Gramercy Park."

A CHRISTMAS WITHOUT ORNAMENTS (CBS) - Peter Falk, Tammy Blanchard ("Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows") and Katey Sagal ("Eight Simple Rules") have been named the principal cast members of the upcoming telefilm, the third project to feature Falk's character of the angel Max ("A Town Without Christmas," "Finding John Christmas"). CBS' press materials describe the project as "a heartwarming story about two very different families who need his help at Christmastime. This time, Max�s job may be at stake when a supervising angel, Jo (Sagal), comes to earth to discipline him for contacting the wrong family in need. Max first appears to Sally Reid (Blanchard), a hardworking young woman whose goal is to get a promotion and a raise so that she can get her younger brother out of foster care. Jo tells him that he made a mistake on the address and should have contacted Karl Hoffman, a young man who is about to automate his family�s Christmas ornament factory and eliminate its artisan personnel. As the story unfolds, it appears that Jo may have made the real mistake and that the families may be connected in many surprising ways."

DEAD LIKE ME (Showtime) - Yeardley Smith ("The Simpsons") has scored a recurring role on the sophomore drama as a reaper who died on the Titanic. The second season of "Dead Like Me" kicks off Sunday, July 25 at 10:00/9:00c.

ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT (Syndication) - Mark Steines is set to succeed the departing Bob Goen as co-host of the long-running newsmagazine alongside Mary Hart. ESPN "Sportscenter" anchor Kevin Frazier will then take over Steines' current gig on the show's weekend edition. Steines, who has been with "ET" since 1995, will assume his new role immediately while Frazier will join "ET Weekend" on September 18. As for Goen, the anchor has signed a development deal with Paramount which will likely place him as a host on one of the game or reality shows in the works at the studio.

GILMORE GIRLS (WB) - Matt Czuchry ("Hack") has joined the cast of the WB series in a recurring role. He'll play a new love interest of Alexis Bledel's character. Czuchry starred in the Frog's remake of "Dark Shadows" this past development season.

I WANNA BE A SOAP STAR (SoapNet) - LMNO Productions has received a six-episode order that, as you might have guessed, features the search for a new soap star. The project, set to kick off this fall, will feature six aspiring daytime actors as they live full-time on the set of ABC's "General Hospital" while competing in a series of acting challenges. The winner of the competition will then go on to receive a 13-week contract on the series. LMNO's Bill Paolantonio and Lisa Bourgoujian will executive produce the series with SoapNet's Mary Ellen DiPrisco overseeing the series for the cable channel.

THE MEN'S ROOM (NBC) - Brian Skala ("Just Deal") has joined the cast of the midseason comedy. He'll take over as Michael, one of the three men that's the focus of the series. Eric Lively originally played the character in the pilot and was let go soon after the series received a midseason commitment (read the story).

N.Y.P.D. BLUE (ABC) - Currie Graham ("Suddenly Susan") has been placed in charage of the 15th precinct as the actor will join the cast of the veteran drama this fall. He'll play an abrasive bureaucrat who takes over the reins of squad left by the departure of John O'Donohue's character.

THE O.C. (FOX) - Nicholas Gonzalez ("American Family," "Resurrection Blvd.") has signed on for a four-episode arc of the FOX series when it returns for its second season this fall. He'll play a pool boy on the series.

RELATED BY FAMILY (FOX) - Maz Jobrani ("13 Going on 30") has been added to the cast of the upcoming FOX comedy. He'll play the owner of a fast food place in the food court where the teens at the center of the show hang out and work.

SEARCHING FOR DAVID'S HEART (ABC Family) - Billy Aaron Brown ("Eight Simple Rules") has joined the cast of the telefilm, about a young girl's (Danielle Panabaker) search for the recipient of her older brother's (Brown) heart after his death. Ricky Ullman and Jeffrey Nordling also star in the project, which is directed by Paul Hoen.

SEE ARNOLD RUN (A&E) - German actor Jurgen Prochnow ("The English Patient") is in talks to play the elder version of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the cable channel's upcoming biopic of the actor turned politician. Roland Kickinger ("Son of the Beach") has already been tapped to play the younger version. Production is scheduled to begin next month in southern California for a potential fourth quarter air date.

SMALLVILLE (WB) - Newcomer Erica Durance has scored the highly anticipated role of Lois Lane on the WB series. She'll play Lois as a college freshman with no interest in journalism who comes to Smallville to investigate the death of her cousin Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack) for at least four episodes this season. In addition, Jensen Ackles ("Still Life") has also signed on as Jason Teague, a new series regular. He'll play the stubbornly independent heir to a rich Metropolis financial firm who becomes romantically involved with Kristin Kreuk's character.

VINEGAR HILL (CBS) - Tom Skerritt ("The Grid"), Tim Guinee and Betty Buckley have joined the cast of the Mary-Louise Parker-led telefilm, based on A. Manette Ansay's book of the same name. "Hill" revolves around "a schoolteacher (Parker) and her husband (Guinee) who are down on their luck and, with their two children, are temporarily forced to move into her husband�s parents� (Skerritt, Buckley) home," according to the Eye's press materials. "Once there, they discover that his parents have a loveless, bitter relationship that thrives on making each other miserable. Ellen (Parker) realizes that there are dark and terrifying secrets being kept inside and watches helplessly as her husband, torn between his father and herself, begins to change into a person with whom she doesn�t want to live. In the end, in order for her family to survive, Ellen must discover the mysteries that are tearing everyone apart."

Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters

  [july 2004]  


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