[08/06/04 - 12:00 AM]
Development Update: August 4-6
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.

24 (FOX) - Kim Raver ("Third Watch"), Nestor Serrano ("The Day After Tomorrow"), Shohreh Aghdashloo ("House of Sand and Fog") and Louis Lombardi ("The Sopranos") have all scored roles on the drama's upcoming fourth season. Raver will play Audrey Raines, an aide to the secretary of defense in Washington and a potential new love interest for Kiefer Sutherland's character while Serrano is set as a Middle Eastern businessman with Aghdashloo as his wife. Lombardi will then play a new member of CTU.

THE ASSISTANT (MTV) - The series scored a 1.9 national rating/6 share among MTV's target demographic of persons 12-34 on Monday, building off its lead-in "Road Rules" by 18.75% (1.6/5) and winning its time period among all basic cable networks in said group. Overall this season, "The Assistant" has averaged a solid 1.9 million viewers.

BLUE COLLAR TV (WB) - Comedy Central has purchased the exclusive repurposing rights to the WB series from Warner Bros. Domestic Cable Distribution in a deal believed to be valued at $100,000 per episode. The series, which currently airs on the Frog on Thursday nights at 8:00/7:00c, will encore on the cable channel Mondays at 10:00/9:00c and 12:00/11:00c beginning next week. The pact also includes the option to purchase the show's entire off-network run should it build enough episodes for syndication as well as built-in escalators should it reach certain ratings levels on the WB. The news won't effect the WB's Friday, 9:30/8:30c encores of the series, meaning viewers will be able to catch each broadcast four times within a given week: Thursdays at 8:00/7:00c and Fridays at 9:30/8:30c on the WB and Mondays at 10:00/9:00c and 12:00/11:00c on Comedy Central.

BODYGUARD (New!) - Wright-Crear Management, which reps the Backstreet Boys, has signed a deal with producer Jonathan "J.T." Taylor ("The Osbournes," "Tough Enough") to develop a new reality series in which contestants compete for the chance to become a bodyguard for the group, which is planning a comeback tour next summer. Backstreet's A.J. Maclean, Kevin Richardson, Brian Littrell, Howie Dorough and Nick Carter will all be involved both in front of and behind the camera on the project. Complete details however weren't specified about the series, other than the final episode will track the winner's first day on the job. Wright-Crear partners Johnny Wright and Kenneth Crear will executive produce the project along with Taylor. The trio plans to pitch the series to various broadcast and cable networks later this month.

THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART (Comedy Central) - 1.3 million viewers on average tuned into the show's coverage of the Democratic National Convention last week, good enough to tie the primetime average of MSNBC during the same stretch. "The Daily Show" was also watched by more viewers among adults 18-49 and 18-34 than MSNBC, CNN and Fox News Channel on three of the four convention nights. Overall said numbers marked the series' third best weekly average to date as the show is up 21% in year-to-year comparisons from January-June 2004 (1.1 million viewers) versus the same period last year.

DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES (ABC) - Writer/producer Kevin Murphy ("Reefer Madness") has signed on as a co-executive producer of the series which premieres on Sunday nights this fall. He'll serve alongside executive producers Marc Cherry, Michael Edelstein and Tom Spezialy on the project, which comes from Touchstone Television.

DISTRACTION (Comedy Central, New!) - The cable channel has ordered six episodes of a new primetime game show from FremantleMedia ("American Idol," "The Swan") in which contestants answer relatively simple trivia questions while withstanding various forms of "distractions," such as electrical shocks and body-piercing. Michael Dugan ("Trigger Happy TV") has come aboard to executive produce/showrun the project, which could air by the end of 2004. Not surprisingly, "Distraction" is based on the U.K. series of the same name, however the U.S. edition won't feature some of the more extreme stunts.

DREAM JOB (ESPN) - ESPN has bumped up the premiere of the show's second season up a week to Tuesday, September 14 at 7:00/6:00c.

GROWING UP GOTTI (A&E) - The network's latest reality entry opened to a stellar 3.2 million viewers, 1.8 million of which fell into the adults 18-49 demographic. Both numbers mark records for a series premiere on the cable channel. In addition, the series also fared well among A&E's target demographic of adults 25-54, pulling in 2.0 million viewers, and built 500,000 total viewers between the half-hours of its two-episode premiere. In total, 20 half-hours of the series are set to debut this season.

HELL'S KITCHEN (FOX) - FOX has released an official description of the series, which notes casting has started on the project: "Casting has begun on HELL'S KITCHEN (working title), a new unscripted series for FOX which will begin production this summer and will air later this season on FOX. HELL'S KITCHEN is a culinary boot camp that features the drama of a group of wannabe cordon bleu cooks and aspiring restaurateurs running a top-class restaurant, and is overseen by world-renowned but equally terrifying Head Chef, Gordon Ramsay. Ramsay and HELL'S KITCHEN will serve daily helpings of terror, tears, tantrums and triumphs. Ramsay, a former pro-soccer player-turned-Michelin-starred chef will cross the pond to the United States' hotbed of haute cuisine, Los Angeles, CA., to open the city's newest restaurant, staff it with would-be head chefs, and turn it into the city's top hot spot. Adapted from the wildly successful British short-run series of the same name, HELL'S KITCHEN will follow the competing chefs 24/7, capturing all the drama, intrigue and high emotion as they strive to open their restaurant. These ambitious hopefuls believe they have the drive, talent and desire to one day run their own restaurant and they will be tossed into the cauldron working under Ramsay, fighting for survival. Casting for participants is underway and whether they already have culinary experience -- a burger flipper, a mother of six or a BBQ whiz -- one thing they will all have in common is a passion for cooking. These future contestants will believe they have what it takes to work in the adrenalin-fueled atmosphere of a busy kitchen ... but they haven't worked for the perfectionist Ramsay before. A man they may fear and respect in equal measure, he will be assessing their performance and driving them to achieve the best. For him, failure is not an option, and nothing or no one will stand in his way. So for the trainees, this means one thing -- they are in for the toughest weeks of their lives. Each week Ramsay will slice and dice the contestants, keeping those who possess the right combination of ingredients to ensure success. The ultimate prize for the winning chef is to have his or her own restaurant and that is exactly what awaits if they are the last cook left in HELL'S KITCHEN. Applications for potential chefs/restaurateurs are available at www.fox.com. HELL'S KITCHEN is produced by Granada Entertainment and A. Smith & Co. Paul Jackson and Arthur Smith serve as executive producers."

HERCULES (NBC) - Timothy Dalton has been confirmed while Angie Harmon ("Law & Order") is in talks to join the cast of the Peacock's $20 million, four-hour mini-series. Already cast are Sean Astin, Leelee Sobieski and newcomer Paul Telfer in the project, which chronicles the life of the Greek hero (Telfer) who, after killing his two sons and two of his brother's sons, performs 12 labors to repent. Astin will play Linus, Hercules' music teacher with Sobieski as Hercules' second wife, Deianeira; Dalton as his stepfather, Amphitryon; and Harmon up for the role of Hercules' mother, Alcmene. Production on the project is set to begin on August 23 for a likely May 2005 air date.

IMMIGRANTS (Spike TV) - The cable channel has put the kibosh on the animated series' two-hour August 12 premiere. No reason for the change was given as Spike will instead air a two-hour block of "Most Extreme Elimination Challenge."

JEOPARDY! (Syndication) - Game show phenom Ken Jennings will resume his run when the series kicks off its 21st season on September 6. The syndicated series closed last season as the top draw in its category for the fourth consecutive week on July 25.

LAW & ORDER: S.V.U. (NBC) - Neal Baer, the show's executive producer/showrunner, is reportedly close to a new, eight-figure, multi-year deal with NBC Universal Television to remain with the series for at least four more years as well as develop original projects for the studio. Exact details however have yet to be finalized.

THE MEN'S ROOM (NBC) - Kate Walsh ("The Drew Carey Show") is the latest addition to the midseason comedy, about three best friends of various ages (Scott Cohen, John Cho and Brian Skala). It's not clear if Walsh is replacing one of the show's current female cast members (Suzanne Cryer and Shelly Cole) or is been written in as a new role. In addition, Franco Bario ("That '70s Show") and Will Calhoun ("What I Like About You") have signed on as executive producers of the series, where they'll serve alongside creator Danny Zucker.

NIP/TUCK (FX) - Tuesday's broadcast marked a series high among adults 18-49 (2.2 rating/6 share) for the sophomore drama, which also finished as the top cable draw for the night (3.8 million viewers).

THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW (Syndication) - Oprah Winfrey has once again extended her stay with King World Productions as her syndicated talk show has been renewed through the 2010-11 season, its 25th year overall. The three-year extention comes as part of a new deal with the distributor, which calls for her to put out 28 original weeks per season except for the final year of the deal in which she'll cut back to 26 weeks. "Oprah" is coming off its best May sweeps in seven years, during which it averaged a 7.2 household rating including a 5.2 rating among women 25-54, a 4.5 among women 18-49 and a 4.1 among women 18-34, and is up a solid 16% in year-to-year comparisons.

POP ROCKS (ABC Family) - The telefilm, which stars Gary Cole and Sherilyn Fenn, has been pushed up two days and will now premiere Friday, September 10 at 8:00/7:00c.

THE TONY DANZA SHOW (Syndication) - Former "The Apprentice" contestant Ereka Vetrini has landed herself a new gig: sidekick to Tony Danza on his new syndicated talk show, which bows on Monday, September 13. The news comes as "Danza" fights for exposure in the cluttered syndicated talk show market: in some cases it will air at 2:09 a.m., such as on the ABC-owned KABC in Los Angeles, and in others it will air at 10:00 a.m. following "Live with Regis and Kelly," such as on ABC-owned WABC in New York and WPVI in Philadelphia. As for the addition of Vetrini, she'll serve as a correspondent as well as join Danza to chat about entertainment and other events.

UNTTILED CHRIS KATTAN PROJECT (New!) - 20th Century Fox Television has inked a one-year, mid-six-figure talent holding deal with the "Saturday Night Live" alum. The project calls for the studio to develop a series with Kattan in mind or place him in an existing project. Should said series be developed for him, 3 Arts Entertainment, the actor's representation which also has a deal with 20th, will serve as a producer. Kattan is said to already have an idea for a show, noting it will not be a sketch comedy, and will begin meeting with writers shortly.

UNTITLED DIANE FARR PROJECT (New!) - Diane Farr ("The Job") is developing a TV series loosely based on her life, as the actress has scored a script deal at Sony Pictures Television. The project plans to revolve around a group of women entering their 30s in Los Angeles with Farr herself as star of the show. Farr's life is understood to be full of TV-ready events, such as her fiance calling off their wedding on Valentine's day just as they sent out cards announcing the date. Said story lead to her deal with Sony as she recounted the events during an apperance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show." The news marks the latest gig for the actress, who is set to make several appearances on FX's "Rescue Me" this season not to mention is developing a talk show based on her book "The Girl Code."

UNTITLED GUARDIAN ANGELS PROJECT (New!) - Rollman Entertainment has stuck a deal with the legendary Curtis Sliwa-founded organization to develop a new reality series focusing on the group. The project, described as a mix of "Cops" and "The Real World," would track the Angels' recently announced plans to return to the streets of Los Angeles, including the recruitment and training of new members and any impact they have on the city. Jeff Androsky will executive produce the project, which is set to be pitched to various networks in the coming weeks, for Rollman.

UNTITLED JIM SHERIDAN PROJECT (NBC, New!) - Recent Oscar-nominee Jim Sheridan ("In America") and his daughter Naomi Sheridan are developing a new drama series at the Peacock about a large Irish family struggling to run a restaurant in the United States. The project, set up at Paramount Network Television, will be written by Naomi Sheridan and executive produced by the duo. Jim Sheridan himself may also direct the pilot should it go forward, time permitting.

UNTITLED PAM BRADY/WILL GLUCK PROJECT (FOX, New!) - Pam Brady ("South Park") and Will Gluck ("Method & Red") are set to team for a new experimental comedy at the network. While the exact details are being kept under wraps, it's understood to revolve around "the first guy in his group of friends who has a real button-down job," according to an interview with Brady in Daily Variety. In addition, the duo plan to do the series with a production schedule with three days of shooting and two days of rehearsal per episode in order to give the actors more prep time. 20th Century Television, where Gluck's overall deal is based and was recently extended through May 2006, is behind the untitled project.

UNTITLED TARA REID PROJECT (FOX, New!) - FOX has inked a talent holding deal with Tara Reid ("Scrubs") in which the actress is expected to topline a new project for the network. Reid will meet with producers in the coming months to hammer out the details of the series, which is expected to be a half-hour comedy. Financial details about the pact weren't released.

WEEDS (Showtime) - Elizabeth Perkins ("Battery Park") is set to star opposite Mary-Louise Parker in the pay channel's comedy pilot, about a suburban mother (Parker) whose life is turned upside down when her husband dies unexpectedly and she turns to dealing pot to make ends meet while trying to maintain her life as a responsible mother and PTA member. Perkins will play a prim-and-proper mother in the community whose son becomes romantically involved with the daughter of Parker's character. Brian Dannelly ("Saved!") is set to direct the project from a script by Jenji Kohan ("The Stones").

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED? (Comedy Central, New!) - Adam Cohen, Cara Tapper and Joanna Vernetti of Super Delicious ("The Assistant") are developing a new series at the cable channel, described as a semi-spoof of E!'s "True Hollywood Story." The project explores recent pop culture moments, such as the Ben Affleck/Jennifer Lopez breakup, using campy reenactments of the how they think the event went down.

Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters

  [august 2004]  

· 24 (FOX)

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