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.
THE AL FRANKEN SHOW (Sundance, New!) - The Sundance Channel has pacted with Air America Radio to broadcast highlights of Franken's three-hour radio show each night at 11:30 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. eastern time beginning September 7. Franken's radio show runs weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. eastern on Air America Radio. The deal will run through the November elections at the very least with both parties hoping the show continues indefinitely.
BIG LOVE (HBO) - The pay channel has ordered 10 episodes of the drama from Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman's Playtone Productions in addition to its pilot. Bill Paxton stars in the project as Bill Henderson, a practicing polygamist and successful home improvement warehouse store owner. Chloe Sevigny, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Ginnifer Goodwin star as his three wives with Harry Dean Stanton, Grace Zabriskie, Joel McKinnon Miller and Jolean Wejbe also among the cast. Hanks and Goetzman will executive produce "Love," which is expected to premiere in late 2005, alongside creators Will Scheffer and Mark V. Olsen.
BLUE COLLAR TV (WB) - 5.4 million viewers tuned into the show's launch last week, making it the second most-watched broadcast in the Thursday, 8:00/7:00c time period to date on the Frog (second only to the October 2001 season premiere of "Charmed"). Said numbers also marked the network's third-highest comedy debut ever and the strongest delivery by a comedy this season. Overall, "Blue" was second in its time period among adults 18-34 (2.3/9), persons 12-34 (2.3/9), women 18-34 (2.8/10), women 12-34 (2.6/10), men 12-34 (2.1/9) and adults 18-49 (2.1/8) across all networks. The series' launch even topped the 2001 debut of "Reba" among adults 18-34 (2.3/9 vs. 1.8/7, +28%) and persons 12-34 (2.3/9 vs. 2.1/8) not to mention nearly doubled the WB's Thursday, 8:00/7:00c time period average in nearly every demographic.
THE CLOSER (TNT) - TNT has released an official description of the drama pilot, which comes from The Shephard/Robin Company in association with Warner Bros. Television: "THE CLOSER is a gripping police drama from writer and executive producer James Duff (The DA, The Agency) and executive producers Greer Shephard (Nip/Tuck, The DA) and Mike Robin (Nip/Tuck, Kingpin, NYPD Blue). It tells the story of a female deputy chief heading up a special unit of the LAPD that handles sensitive, high-profile murder cases. Although she may be the world�s toughest interrogator, this officer often rubs people the wrong way."
THE EXONORATED (Court TV, New!) - Susan Sarandon, Danny Glover, Delroy Lindo, Aidan Quinn, David Brown and Brian Dennehy are set to star in a small screen adapation of Jessica Blank and Eric Jensen's play of the same name about the harrowing story of a group of six people who spent varying amounts of time awaiting capital punishment before dedicated lawyers got their convictions overturned. Actor/director Bob Balaban is helming and executive producing the project, which is currently shooting in New York, from a script by Blank and Jensen. The cast members were reportedly so committed to the telefilm's anti-capital punishment message that they each signed on for a fraction of their usual fees, making the project's budget a modest $500,000. The play and the TV version both have the majority of the dialogue coming from court transcripts and interviews with the actual participants as the six "exonorated" tell their story to the camera with various other actors portraying their family members, prosecutors, judges, detectives and defense attorneys. Stephen Tabakin and Karen Wolfe are the co-producers of the project, which is expected to premiere in the first quarter of 2005, a joint production of Court TV and @Radical.Media's Jack Lechner and Greg Schultz. Actress Lorraine Bracco is also said to have been a major catalyst for Court TV's decision to adapt the play however it's not clear if she has an on and/or behind the camera role.
FAMILY GUY (FOX) - The little animated show that could will make its return to FOX's schedule with a pair of four-episode marathons on Wednesday, August 18 and Wednesday, August 25. The broadcasts, featuring all repeats, mark "Family Guy's" first appearance on FOX's schedule since its cancellation in 2001. FOX has since revived the series, with new episodes targeted for next summer.
FRANKENSTEIN (Hallmark) - The cable channel has moved up the premiere of its two-part, four-hour mini-series to Tuesday, October 5 and Wednesday, October 6 at 9:00/8:00c. Hallmark's take, which stars William Hurt, Donald Sutherland, Alec Newman, Luke Goss, Nicole Lewis and Julie Delpy, will now beat USA's version, featuring Parker Posey, Adam Goldberg and Michael Madsen, to the airwaves. Hallmark's "Frankenstein" was originally slated to air October 26-27, while USA's, a two-hour backdoor pilot, will air Sunday, October 10 at 9:00/8:00c.
FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON (HBO) - TNT has purchased the broadcast rights to the 1998 12-hour mini-series from HBO in a deal valued at $6 million. The project, which was produced by Tom Hanks, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, will premiere the first weekend of October (all times eastern): Episodes 1 & 2 (Friday, Oct. 1, 9-11:30 p.m.), Episodes 3-7 (Saturday, Oct. 2, 5-11 p.m.), Episodes 1-12 Marathon (Sunday, Oct. 3, 9 a.m.-11 p.m.) and Episodes 8-12 (Saturday, Oct. 9, 8 a.m.-2 p.m.).
GENERATION KILL (HBO, New!) - HBO is developing a six-part mini-series about the recent U.S. invasion of Iraq based on Rolling Stone contributing editor Evan Wright's book of the same name (subtitled "Devil Dogs, Iceman, Captain America, and the New Face of American War"). The project, which is likened to a modern-day version of "Band of Brothers," tracks Wright's dangerous experiences with the First Reconnaissance Battalion Marines in Iraq, whose job was to flush out enemy troops laying potential ambushes before U.S. ground troops entered the fray. Each episode will follow the 16-day trek from Kuwait to Iraq through the eyes of a different soldier. Adi Hasak ("Shadow Conspiracy") is on board to adapt the book for the small screen. As for specifics, Hasak told Daily Variety, "Each episode will flash back and forward, but this is not an attempt to present the Iraq invasion through a historical prism -- only to present the 16 days as they happened." Wright, who will be a consultant on the project, won a National Magazine Award for his original three-part series for the magazine which served as the spearhead for "Generation Kill."
I'LL DO ANYTHING (ESPN, New!) - The sports channel has given an eight-episode order to a new one-hour series from TWI and Scott Messick's Mess Media ("NASCAR Drivers: 360") based on the U.K. format of the same name. The project, which premieres Tuesday, September 28, features three contestants as they compete in a series of challenges - ranging from fending off angry bulls, working as wedding singers to performing with the Chippendale dancers - in hopes of landing a friend or loved one's ultimate sports fantasy, such as playing golf with Tiger Woods. George Gray ("The Weakest Link") has been tapped to host "Anything," which will be executive produced by Messick and TWI's Robert Horowitz and Steve Mayer. Interested parties can visit the show's offical web site for more information.
JEREMIAH (Showtime) - The pay channel has finally scheduled the eight remaining installments of the show's second season, nearly nine months since its last original broadcast. Back-to-back new episodes of the series are now set to run every Friday at 8:00/7:00c starting September 3 through the end of the month. "Jeremiah" last aired in November of 2003.
THE LINE (TNT) - The network has released an official description of the drama pilot, which comes from DreamWorks Television in association with Sony Pictures Television: "THE LINE (previously announced as The System) is a hard-hitting one-hour drama from writer/executive producer Mark Rosner (Crime Story, Harsh Realm) and executive producers Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey (Las Vegas, TNT�s Into the West). It revolves around Sean Foley, a Miami-based federal prosecutor who lives by one rule: the rules don�t apply to him. Foley�s ruthless tactics get the job done, while his personal decadent lifestyle blurs the lines between right and wrong."
SNOW (ABC Family, New!) - Tom Cavanagh ("Ed") and Ashley Williams ("Good Morning Miami") are set to star in the latest ABC Family original, from director Alex Zamm ("Inspector Gadget 2") and writer Rich Burns. Here's how the cable channel's press materials describe the project: "In a reinvention of the Santa Claus myth, SNOW begins with Nick Snowden (Cavanagh) reluctantly taking over the family business. As if that wasn�t pressure enough, with only three days before the big night, one of Nick�s young reindeer is stolen from the North Pole and taken to a California zoo. Not only must Nick rescue Buddy-the-Reindeer in time to complete his Christmas deliveries, but he also has to do it before the young buck learns to fly and the zoo realizes what it�s got! In the course of his adventures, Nick touches the lives of the people who he encounters: Sandy (Williams), who works at the zoo and has lost heart during the holidays since the death of her parents; Lorna, the feisty older owner of a boarding house; Chester, who has been trying to win over Lorna for as long as he can remember; and single mother and son Isabel and Hector. As only a true innocent can do, Nick brings back the spirit of Christmas that they all had lost long ago. Nick not only rescues his reindeer, but in the process he finds true love." Phil Kruener and Myra Morris are the executive producers of "Snow," which is set to premiere in December as part of the network's annual 25 Days of Christmas campaign.
SOUTH PARK (Comedy Central) - The show's syndicated run, set to begin in the fall of 2005, has now been cleared on local stations covering 85% of the country, including New York's WPIX, Los Angeles' KCAL, Chicago's WCIU, Philadelphia's WPSG and San Francisco's KBHK. In addition, Comedy Central has confirmed it has pushed the winter premiere of the series back a week to Wednesday, October 27 at 10:00/9:00c.
SUBVERSION OF TRUST (ABC, New!) - The Alphabet has picked up the TV movie rights to Dr. William T. Close's award-winning first novel of the same name about a rural doctor who takes on an aggressive HMO in an effort to take the bureaucracy out of medicine and restore the doctor-patient relationship. Close, the father of actress Glenn Close, is a fellow of both the American College of Surgeons and the Academy of Family Physicians. Ron Raley ("The Locket") is on board to adapt the script to the project, which is still in the early development stage.
TRADING SPOUSES (FOX) - FOX has picked up 10 additional episodes of the series following strong ratings for the show's first two installments, bringing its season total to 20 episodes. New episodes of the series are set to run through August 10 on the network after which it will take a break until September to avoid competing against NBC's Olympic coverage.
UNTITLED DISASTER PROJECT (CBS, New!) - Brian Dennehy ("The Crooked E: The Unshredded Truth About Enron"), Dianne Wiest ("The Blackwater Lightship"), Randy Quaid ("The Brotherhood of Poland, N.H."), Nancy McKeon ("The Division") and Thomas Gibson ("Raising Waylon") are all set to star in a disaster-themed mini-series for the Eye, exact details of which are being kept under wraps. Dick Lowry ("Heart of a Stranger") is also on board to direct from a script by Matt Dorff ("See Arnold Run") with Frank von Zerneck and Robert Sertner ("Reversible Errors") of Von Zerneck Sertner Films executive producing.
UNTITLED GARY ROSS PROJECT (New!) - Director Gary Ross ("Seabiscuit") and his production partner Robin Bissell have teamed with actor/director Hart Bochner ("P.C.U.") to develop a new reality series built around the concept of contestants escaping from the famed U.S. penitentiary at Alcatraz Island. Currently being pitched to various networks, the producers have pacted with the National Park Service for exclusive rights to film the reality show in and around "the Rock." Should it go forward, Ross and Bissell will executive produce via their Larger Than Life banner.
WESTSIDE (ABC, New!) - Silvio Horta ("Jake 2.0") has snagged a six-figure script deal for a new drama series at the Alphabet set in the cutthroat world of real estate. Described as "Nip/Tuck" meets "L.A. Law.," the project is set up at Steve Pearlman's Warner Bros. Television-based Class IV Productions. In addition, Pearlman has signed onto the CBS fall drama "Dr. Vegas" as a non-writing executive producer. There he'll serve alongside showrunner Jack Orman ("J.A.G."). As for "Westside," the drama will focus on an upscale real estate agency specializing in high-end homes on L.A.'s Westside with three of the main characters being related by blood.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters