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.
10.5 (NBC) - The Peacock is reportedly developing a four-hour sequel to last season's well-received mini-series, hiring the original's co-writer and director John Lafia to reprise his writing and directing duties. Executive producers Howard Braunstein and Michael Jaffe of Jaffe/Braunstein Films and Gary Pearl of Pearl Pictures are also set to return for the sequel, which is said to pick up where the original left off as parts of California have drifted off into the Pacific Ocean, leaving millions dead or devastated by the destruction. As you might guess, the worst isn't quite over as Lafia expects to work in everything from volcanoes to tsunamis as a result of the original earthquake's rampage. Once the script is complete, NBC will decide on whether to greenlight production on the sequel. It's not clear who - or if any - of the original's cast (which included Beau Bridges, Kim Delaney and Dule Hill) will reprise their roles should it go forward.
COMMANDO NANNY (The WB) - Rachel Sweet ("The George Lopez Show") has opted to exit her role as executive producer/showrunner of the troubled WB comedy, forcing Warner Bros. Television to suspend production for the time being until a replacement is found. The news marks the second time production has been halted on the series, the first being a postponement following co-star Gerald McRaney's surgery to remove a small cancerous growth from his lung. Originally targeted for the Friday, 8:30/7:30c slot this fall, "Nanny" will now appear at some point later on this season.
THE DEAD ZONE (USA) - Jack LoGiudice ("Resurrection Blvd.," "Street Time") has been named an executive producer on the cable drama, where he'll take over for Karl Schaefer in the role of showrunner and serve alongside fellow executive producers Michael Piller and Lloyd Segan. In addition, Tommy Thompson ("Dark Angel") has come aboard as a co-executive producer, Michael Taylor has been upped to supervising producer and newcomers Shin Shimosawa and James Morris have each joined the show's writing staff. All three moves come as the series braces for the grind of its extended 22-episode fourth season, production of which begins next month. No reason was given for Schaefer's exit, however he will still be involved with the series in an executive consultant role.
FINDING FABIO (Oxygen, New!) - The cable channel has ordered a new reality series that (as you might guess) aims to find the next Harlequin romance novel cover model. The project will track 12 guys as they undergo a "romance boot camp" and prepare for competition in a "Mr. Romance" pageant, the winner fo which will receive $50,000 and grace the covers of several Harlequin titles. The Greif Co. and Jude Weng ("Trading Spaces") are behind the series, which is expected to launch in March and will be hosted by romance novel cover girl Cindy Guyer.
FIVE HOUSES (NBC, New!) - Todd Holland ("Malcolm in the Middle") and John Riggi ("The Bernie Mac Show") are close to reviving their 1998 FOX comedy pilot at the Peacock and 20th Century Fox Television. The project, a single-camera comedy about five families living on a suburban Los Angeles cul-de-sac, is said to be nearing a put pilot commitment from the network. Like the original FOX pilot, which co-starred Margaret Cho, one of the families will be a gay couple which recently moved into the neighborhood. At the time, following the demise of ABC's "Ellen" but before NBC's "Will & Grace," such a plotline was considered too controversial by some executives.
THE FRENCH CONNECTION (NBC, New!) - The Peacock is developing a prequel series to William Friedkin's 1971 feature film from writer Rand Ravich ("The Astronaut's Wife"). The project, which is set up at NBC Universal Television as part of Ravich's two-script deal with the studio, will focus on the events that led to the now famous operation and the two cops who led it, played by Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider in the film. It's understood the TV series won't be an update or re-imaginging of the concept as it will also take place in the 1970s and feature Hackman and Schieder's characters Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle and Buddy "Cloudy" Russo respectively. Like he did for the feature, N.Y.P.D. veteran Sonny Grosso, upon whom the film was based, is expected to serve as a consultant.
HOTEL NOVELLA (HBO, New!) - Brothers Joe and Anthony Russo ("Arrested Development," "LAX") have pacted with the pay channel to develop a new offbeat project, a dark drama about a family with a history of psychological problems and the way those problems complicate their relationships. The project, which the pair will executive produce alongside Michael Costigan ("Brokeback Mountain"), opens with the death of the family patriarch and tracks his two estranged sons as they attempt to uncover the truth behind his death, not to mention overcome their own destructive psychologies as well as run the family hotel in Florida's Panhandle. Francesca Gregorini will write the pilot script with the Russos.
JUST A PHASE (ABC Family, New!) - The cable channel is developing a new comedy about a teen uncertain about his sexual identity. Touchstone Television in on board to executive produce the project, which was created by Carter Covington. No other details were available.
LAST COMIC STANDING (NBC) - As expected, Comedy Central will air the show's season finale on Saturday, October 16 at 8:00/7:00c. The Peacock announced Alonzo Bodden was the winner last night during its "Father of the Pride" marathon.
MARRIED BY AMERICA (FOX) - The FCC has fined FOX and its affiliates a combined $1.2 million as a result of the show's April 7, 2003 airing, which focused on the Las Vegas bachelor and bachelorette parties for the two remaining couples and featured strippers in various sexual situations. The ruling came about after 159 complaints were received by the agency following its broadcast. While it's not clear if FOX can or will appeal the ruling, it has been quick to defend its actions, noting that it carefully edited out any indecent content including electronically obscuring all nudity. The FCC nevertheless disagreed, saying in its ruling, "Although the nudity was pixilated, even a child would have known that the strippers were topless and that sexual activity was being shown." Federal law prohibits broadcasters from airing references to sexual or excretory functions between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
MY OTHER LIFE IN BROOKLYN (NBC, New!) - Comedian DJ Nash ("Whoopi," "Life With David J") has pacted with Kelsey Grammer's Paramount Network Television-based Grammnet banner to develop a new comedy series for the Peacock. The project is based on Nash's own experiences on the New York-based production of "Whoopi," during which he lived with two single male roommates five days a week, then flew home to his wife in Los Angeles on the weekends. Nash will write the pilot script and likely star in the project should it move forward with Grammnet principals Grammer and Steve Sark executive producing. Gramment only recently set up "Brooklyn" at NBC as the company had previously made a blind six-figure commitment to Nash earlier this year.
OR BEST OFFER (FX, New!) - Hank Capshaw and C. Russell Muth ("American Chooper") have set up a new reality series at the cable channel about the world of used car salesman. FX has given a pilot presentation order to the project, which centers on a father and son who work at the former's used car dealership. Capshaw and Muth will executive produce "Offer" along with Alex Campbell.
THE RALPH SHOW (FOX, New!) - Todd Holland ("Malcolm in the Middle") is set to team with Ralph Macchio ("The Karate Kid") to create a new hybrid comedy series featuring the actor playing a version of himself (a la Larry David in "Curb Your Enthusiasm"). The project, which is set up at 20th Century Fox Television (where Holland recently signed a two-year, seven-figure overall deal), would track Macchio as both a fortysomething married father of two in Long Island and the star of a fake fledgling sitcom and feature both single-camera and multi-camera scenes. Holland describes the series as a mix of "Curb," "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "The Larry Sanders Show." Matt Ember ("Grace Under Fire") is in talks to possibly showrun the project as well as help co-create the series. Holland will executive produce via his WalkingBud banner.
SMALLVILLE (The WB) - Jane Seymour ("Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman") has booked a five-episode arc on the popular Frog drama where she'll play Genevieve Teague, the mother of Jensen Ackles' character, a rich, powerful Metropolis socialite who may hold the key to Lana's mysterious tattoo.
THICKER THAN WATER (Lifetime, New!) - Carol Leifer is set to write, produce and star in a potential new comedy series for the cable channel, about three sisters and their psychologist mother. The news marks Lifetime's first half-hour venture since the exit of the 1998-2000 Cynthia Stevenson vehicle "Oh Baby." Liefer will play one of the sisters in the project, which has been given the production green light to produce a pilot.
UNTITLED CHERI OTERI/J.J. ABRAMS PROJECT (ABC) - Carol Leifer ("Seinfeld") has officially come aboard the comedy, where she'll executive produce and write the pilot script. Despite the news, no details about the project have been released.
UNTITLED CHRIS ELLIOTT PROJECT (FOX) - Chris Elliott has landed his Regency Television/20th Century Fox Television project at FOX, earning a put pilot commitment from the network. John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky ("King of the Hill") will write and executive produce the project alongside Elliott, which features the actor/writer as a real estate agent and frustrated performer who plays stage dad to one of his two teen daughters, a driven aspiring pop singer. Altschuler and Krinsky's involvement is the result of their overall deal with 20th.
UNTITLED JERRY BRUCKHEIMER/MARSH MCCALL PROJECT (CBS, New!) - Jerry Bruckheimer has scored yet another put pilot commitment, this time for a new comedy at CBS from writer Marsh McCall ("I'm With Her," "My Big Fat Greek Life"). The project, which will be set up at Bruckheimer's Warner Bros. Television-based banner, revolves around three adult siblings (two brothers, one sister) doing their best to deal with their eccentric, newly single father. McCall will write the pilot script and executive produce alongside Bruckheimer and Jonathan Littman. The news marks Bruckheimer's second comedy effort at the Eye, the first being a 2002 project from Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio ("Shrek") that never made it to pilot. As for McCall, the writer/producer spent the past development season on the ABC comedy pilot "News to Me" with Joel Stein and is in the second year of his two-year overall deal with Warner Bros. Television.
UNTITLED KENNY SCHWARTZ/RICK WIENER PROJECT (ABC Family, New!) - Writers Rick Wiener and Kenny Schwartz have set up a new comedy series at the cable channel. The project, which revolves around twins who move in with their widowed father and discover a basement trapdoor leading to alternate universes, is set up at Tollin-Robbins with the company's principals Michael Tollin and Brian Robbins executive producing.
UNTITLED ROCKY CARROLL PROJECT (New!) - Actor Rocky Carroll ("The Agency") has signed a talent holding deal with Touchstone Television to topline a new series project for the studio. Touchstone is said to be looking at both comedy and drama projects, as Carroll has been featured in everything from "Chicago Hope" to "Welcome to New York" to "Roc."
UNTITLED KELLY SIEGLER PROJECT (ABC, New!) - The Alphabet is developing a new drama series based on the life of unconventional Houston assistant district attorney Kelly Siegler. Writer Gary Glasberg ("Crossing Jordan") and Roundtable Entertainment's Gina Matthews and Grant Scharbo ("The Mountain") are spearheading the project, which is set up at 20th Century Fox Television and Roundtable. Siegler first garnered media attention after a "48 Hours" piece which focused on her 95% success rate in court, partly due to her theatrical presentation in arguing cases. ABC has given a script commitment to the project, which has a $250,000 penalty attached. Glasberg spent the past development season working on a pilot script for ABC entitled "Brave New World," about a man who moves his family from New York to a small town outside Houston to be part of N.A.S.A.'s educator astronaut program.
UNTITLED L.A.P.D. PROJECT (TNT) - The cable channel is moving forward with a third drama pilot, casting Gary Cole ("The West Wing") as the lead in its L.A.P.D.-based project from Jorge Zamacona ("Homicide: Life on the Streets") and Spelling Television. Cole will play Conrad, the head of an elite crime-fighting team that handles Southern California's most dangerous fugitives. Aaron Spelling and E. Duke Vincent ("Summerland") will executive produce the untitled drama with Zamacona. The project is one of three series in consideration for a summer 2005 premiere on TNT, the others being legal dramas "The Closer" (featuring Kyra Sedgwick) and "The Line."
WIDOW ON THE HILL (Lifetime, New!) - Natasha Henstridge, James Brolin and Jewel Staite ("Firefly") are set to topline a new telefilm at the cable channel, about a hospice nurse (Henstridge) suspected of killing the ailing wife of wealthy landowner (Brolin). Staite plays the daughter of Brolin's character, who suspects the nurse did the deed after she marries her father. Production is set to begin this week with Peter Svatek directing from a script by Stephen Harrigan ("King of Texas"), which in turn is based on a Vanity Fair article by Michael Shayerson. Judy Polone ("Lucky 7"), Steven Weinstock and Glenda Hersh ("Help Wanted") are the telefilm's executive producers for Lions Gate Television.
WILDFIRE (A.K.A. RAINTREE) (ABC Family, New!) - The project, previously set at the WB, has moved over to ABC Family and is being redeveloped as a two-hour backdoor pilot telefilm. Michael Piller ("The Dead Zone") created the series, which concerns a teenage girl on her own for the first time, having been a ward of the court, who ends up working with a racehorse. Lions Gate Television will remain as a producer on the project, production of which is expected to be completed in time for a March air date.
WWE RAW (Spike TV) - World Wrestling Entertainment is reportedly in talks with the Turner Broadcasting, NBC Universal and FX Networks cable groups about taking over the network's top-rated "WWE Raw" and its other series once its contract expires in September 2005. No other details were given.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters