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.
AMERICAN START-UP (Spike TV, New!) - The cable channel has given a 10-episode order to a new reality project from LivePlanet, the producing house of Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Sean Bailey and Chris Moore. The series, set to debut in mid-2005, tracks eight contestants as they are given $50,000 in seed money to follow through with their big idea. Said contestants then compete each week in a series of tests to hit certain milestones needed to form a successful company with one being eliminated by a yet-to-be-announced board of professionals. The winner will then receive an unspecified investment that will allow their start-up to grow into a full-fledged business. In addition, viewers can help support their favorite contestant by purchasing their products or visiting their storefront.
C.S.I.: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION (CBS) - As expected, actor George Eads is set to return to the veteran drama following the rehiring of Jorja Fox last week (read the story). Both Fox and Eads are understood to be returning at their current estimated salaries of $100,000 per episode. Industry insiders say each actor was offered a $20,000 per episode pay bump in exchange for extending their current seven-year contracts by one year before their respective firings. "George and Jorja have been an important part of 'CSI's' past success, and we are thrilled that they will once again be part of the show's future," executive producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Carol Mendelsohn said in a joint statement to the press. Production on the new season is set to resume later this week.
DARKLIGHT (Sci Fi) - The cable channel has slated its latest Saturday low-budget action movie for September 18 at 9:00/8:00c. Here's how the network's press materials describe the proejct: "A secret society fights evil with evil, unleashing the demon Lilith to kill a rampaging monster � but will she save humanity or destroy it? Shiri Appleby (Roswell), Richard Burgi (The Sentinel, SCI FI Pictures' Decoys), John de Lancie (Q of Star Trek) and David Hewlett (Stargate Atlantis and the indie hit Cube) star."
A DR. PHIL PRIMETIME SPECIAL: FAMILY FIRST (CBS, New!) - Dr. Phil McGraw has scored his first primetime special, set to air Wednesday, September 15 at 9:00/8:00c on the Eye. Here's how CBS' press release describes the project: "Dr. Phil McGraw hosts his first Network primetime special, A DR. PHIL PRIMETIME SPECIAL: FAMILY FIRST, where he lays down the laws of parenting, to be broadcast Wednesday, Sept. 15 (9:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Amy Brenneman, Nicole Kidman, Robert Redford and Will Smith share their own child-raising experiences and best parenting advice. With his signature tell-it-like-it-is style, Dr. Phil takes viewers behind closed doors and into the heart of the family for an up-close-and-personal look at parenting -- the challenges, the problems and the solutions. Using hidden cameras to capture the biggest mistakes parents make, Dr. Phil visits an out-of-control family that desperately needs his help: the parents scream at each other, their teenage daughter is drinking and having sex without their knowledge and the father has not spoken to his 13-year-old son in more than a year. The results of his visit will be revealed during the broadcast. Dr. Phil will also answer parents� most-frequently asked questions and help celebrity mothers, Holly Robinson Peete and Vanessa Marcil, to potty train their toddlers in one day�s time. He will also show parents how they can raise their child�s IQ with just a few easy steps, how to reveal techniques to discipline children that will work each and every time and will help parents understand what kind of a child they are raising, be it a brat or a wallflower. And, in a disquieting segment, Dr. Phil talks with the parents of a boy who possesses 10 of the 14 traits of a serial killer and offers the help they need before it�s too late. A DR. PHIL PRIMETIME SPECIAL: FAMILY FIRST is being produced by Paramount Domestic Television. Carla Pennington Stewart is the executive producer; Judy Rybak and Kandi Amelon Sawyer are the supervising producers; Julie Ross, David Goldman and Kathy Giaconia are the producers. Paul Casey is directing the special."
EMPIRE (ABC) - A fire on the Italy-based Roma Studios has destroyed the entire 37,700-square-foot, four-story-high space for the upcoming limited series. Reports say the incident, which occurred at 7:00 a.m. local time on Wednesday, required 10 fire trucks and five hours to extinguish. No injuries were reported as production for the day had finished a few hours earlier. No official cause for the fire has been given although preliminary reports cite a short circuit in electrical wiring as the cause with the flames spreading rapidly due to wood flooring. ABC spokesman Kevin Brockman nevertheless insists the move shouldn't affect production on the project as shooting had been completed on the majority of the damaged sets. On the flip side however the incident will likely prevent any reshoots or reuse of the intricately designed sets should a second season be ordered. ABC insists that the sets were covered by insurance and could be rebuilt should the need occur. The news is latest hurdle for the troubled production as the Alphabet has already trimmed the show's order from eight to six episodes due to budget issues.
EVERWOOD (WB) - It didn't take long for Jordan Levin, the network's recently departed CEO, to make his return to the Frog. The executive has been tapped to direct an installment of the WB's "Everwood" this season. No details were given about Levin's episode, the sixth episode to be shot this season. Levin will travel to Utah next month to prep and observe other directors before production begins on his installment in October. It's understood Levin was a frequent visitor to the "Everwood" set while at the Frog, even buying a home in nearby Park City, Utah. Levin also insists directing isn't his only post-WB plan as he wants to expand to other creative aspects in the industry.
FAIRLY UNBALANCED (New!) - Talk show hosts Tom Green and Jerry Springer are looking to team for a new "week in review"-style series from Lions Gate Television. The project, which is currently being shopped around to several cable networks, features the pair discussing headlines and newsmakers and generally offering their observations on political and pop culture-oriented topics. Al Burton and Scott Sternberg have already signed on to executive produce the project with Gabe Abelson set as head writer.
GLOBAL FREQUENCY (WB) - Josh Hopkins ("North Shore") and Austrailian actress Jenni Baird are the latest additions to the drama pilot, which is based on the DC comic of the same name about a worldwide independent defense intelligence organization that uses ordinary people as agents to fight black-ops projects, unexplained phenomena and other problems that government agencies struggle with. Hopkins will play the agency's newest recruit, suspended cop Sean Ronin, who used to think that the underground organization was an urban legend. Baird then is set as Dr. Katrina Finch, a member of the team that's described as a shy scientific genius. The pair join the previously cast Michelle Forbes and Aimee Garcia on the Warner Bros. Television/Mark Burnett Productions project.
HERCULES (NBC) - British actor Paul Telfer has scored the lead role in the Peacock's latest adaptation of the Hercules myth. Sean Astin ("The Lord of the Rings") and Leelee Sobieski ("Joan of Arc") have also landed roles in the project, which also has offers out to Marisa Tomei and Timothy Dalton. Roger Young ("The Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story") will direct the Robert Halmi-produced project, which is set to air sometime in 2005 on NBC.
JOEY (NBC) - Andrea Anders ("The Stepford Wives") has been tapped to play Alex Garrett, an uptight lawyer who lives next door to Matt LeBlanc's character in the upcoming "Friends" spin-off. Garrett will take over for Ashley Scott, who left the show last month when the show's writers decided to rework her character. It's not clear if Garrett's character will still be married as she was in the original pilot. As no doubt expected, scenes involving the character will be reshot. Anders spent the past development season as part of the Colin Hanks-led comedy pilot "News to Me" at ABC.
A MINUTE WITH STAN HOOPER (FOX) - Barry Kemp, the show's co-creator and executive producer, has signed a two-year overall deal with Touchstone Television. The pact calls for the veteran writer/producer to develop new and existing projects for the studio.
ONCE UPON A MATTRESS (ABC) - Tracey Ullman (HBO's "Trailer Tales") and Kathleen Marshall ("Wonderful Town") are set to star opposite Carol Burnett the Alphabet's upcoming remake of the popular book, a twist on the classic fairy tale "The Princess and the Pea." Ullman will play Princess Winnifred, the role Burnett originated on Broadway and a pair of TV productions. Burnett will instead star as the evil Queen Aggravain. In addition, Marc Platt ("Legally Blonde") has been named an executive producer on the project, which will begin shooting September 7 in Vancouver. Platt, who will executive produce alongside Burnett and Marty Tudor, will help fill the void left by Neil Meron and Craig Zadan's Storyline Entertainment, which bowed out as producer earlier this year. Janet Brownell ("Gilda Radner: It's Always Something") wrote the new teleplay based on the original book by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller and Marshall Barer with playwright Mary Rogers doing the music.
POINT PLEASANT (FOX) - Gail Berman, the network's topper, confirmed at FOX's session at the TCA's summer press tour the network has committed to several additional scripts of the still-in-the-works drama pilot. Described as "Peyton Place" meets "The Omen," the project tracks a small New Jersey beach community that is turned upside down when a mysterious young girl washes ashore and begins to affect the town's residents in unsettling ways.
POP ROCKS (ABC Family) - The cable channel has confirmed the telefilm is set to air Sunday, September 12 at 8:00/7:00c. Here's how ABC Family's press materials describe the project: "POP ROCKS! focuses on Jerry Harden (Gary Cole), a respectable banker and family man in his 40�s, who is about to be haunted by his deepest, darkest secret�he was the lead singer of the biggest heavy metal band of the 80�s, Rock Toxin. At the height of their success, Jerry fell in love with Allison (Sherilyn Fenn) and sharply cut his ties to the band without looking back. Now Jerry is offered the chance to reunite with the band for one final concert and a substantial paycheck that would allow him to send his son to a private school so he'll stop hanging out with his bad influence, "garage band friends." Jerry convinces himself he can rehearse and perform the concert without ever revealing his former identity to his family and friends. Let the deception begin. Directed by Ron Lagomarsino ("The Brotherhood of Poland, New Hampshire") and teleplay by William Ryan and Dan Berendsen. Patricia Clifford ("The Elizabeth Smart Story") serves as executive producer with Jackie George ("Full Court Miracle") as producer."
RESCUE ME (FX) - A more than solid 4.1 million viewers watched the show's commercial-free launch on Wednesday, making its the second-best series opener in the cable channel's history ("The Shield's" 4.8 million viewer debut in 2002 being the best). "Rescue," along with the theatrical "Independence Day" (2.4 million overall, 1.4 million among adults 18-49), helped make FX the top cable draw on the night. More importantly, "Rescue" also fared well among adults 18-49 (2.0 national rating/6 share, 2.5 million viewers), the third best opening in basic cable history in the demographic, as well as men 18-34 (2.2/7) and men 18-49 (2.1/6). An encore at 11:00/10:00c pulled in 1.5 million viewers overall.
ROME (HBO) - Frank Doelger has been brought in to take over the $70 million project, which like the similarly-themed "Empire" at ABC has seen its own share of production troubles. Shooting on the show's fourth installment of its 12-episode order has been delayed for the past three months, in part due to flooded sets in Bulgaria as well as budget issues (read the story). Production, which is primarily based in Rome's Cinecitta Studios, is set to resume next month. Doelger will take over for HBO senior VP Anne Thomopoulos who had been shepherding the project for the past eight months.
SCRUBS (NBC) - Heather Graham's ("Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me") stint as an attending psychiatrist on the Peacock comedy has been confirmed to be eight episodes. "I've always found Heather incredibly funny and can't wait to start writing this character for her," said Bill Lawrence, the show's creator and executive producer, in a press release touting the news. "Although her character will be a professionally competent shrink, her personal life will be a train wreck. She'll shine the light on all the other characters' dysfunctional behaviors and will be a foil for Dr. Cox and a mentor to Elliot."
SITUATION: COMEDY (A.K.A. PILOT SEASON) (Bravo) - Sean Hayes ("Will & Grace") and Todd Milliner's upcoming reality series now features the title "Situation: Comedy." The project "will allow viewers to go behind the scenes of national television as neophyte writers will earn the opportunity to produce and sell a sitcom - but the eavesdropping audience will give the final thumbs-up by choosing the winning entry that will be broadcast on Bravo," according to a network press release. Interested parties can visit the show's official web site for more information.
STARTING OVER (Syndication) - Actor/writer Millee Taggart-Ratcliffe ("One Life to Live") has tapped to executive produce the show's upcoming second season, set to start airing on September 13, where she'll bring along fellow soap writer Francesca James ("All My Children") to serve as a consulting producer. The pair will serve alongside co-executive producer Jim Johnston and supervising producers Linda Midgett and Joan O'Connor on the series, which comes from NBC Universal Domestic Television and Bunim-Murray Productions. Taggart-Ratcliffe originally joined "Over" last season at the request of her longtime friend Mary-Ellis Bunim, the show's co-creator and executive producer. "'Starting Over' brings such a fresh combination of ingredients to daytime television," she said in a press release about the news. "Mary-Ellis was really on to something with this concept, and I'm honored to be extending her legacy through my involvement in this show as it continues to grow."
SOUTHIE (Showtime) - Annabeth Gish ("The X-Files") and Jason Clarke ("Rabbit-Proof Fence") has scored roles in the pay channel's drama pilot from Blake Masters. The project centers on two ambitious bothers from south Boston, one a politician (Clarke) and the other a gangster. Gish will play the wife of Clarke's character.
TRIPPING THE RIFT (Sci Fi) - In a follow-up to the network's session at the TCA's summer press tour (read the story), USA/Sci Fi Channel topper Bonnie Hammer has confirmed the series has been renewed for a second season. No details were given in terms of episode order or new season launch date.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters