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 CLUB/I HATE MY JOB (Spike TV) - Neither of the cable channel's latest reality entries scored with audiences as the Ben Silverman-produced "The Club" opened to a miniscule 810,000 viewers on Wednesday while the Al Sharpton-hosted "I Hate My Job" pulled in 780,000 viewers. Among adults 18-49, the former earned a 0.4 rating/1 share with the latter pulling in a 0.3 rating/1 share.
EYES (ABC) - Gregg Henry ("24") has booked a recurring role on the midseason drama at the Alphabet after guest-starring in the pilot. He'll play the head of a competing company in the project, which revolves around the workings of a high-tech risk-management corporation.
HEAD 2 TOE/MERGE (Lifetime) - Lifetime has renewed its two makeover reality series for third seasons of 13 episodes each. The pickup brings "Head 2 Toe," which airs Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. eastern, to 57 episodes to date while "Merge," which runs Fridays at 11:00 p.m. eastern, will be bumped up to 47 episodes thus far.
JUST A PHASE (ABC Family) - Mitchel Federan ("Eight Simple Rules"), James McCauley ("The Manchurian Candidate") and Seana Kofoed ("The Audrey Hepburn Story") have been cast in the cable channel's comedy pilot, about a teenage boy (Federan) uncertain about his sexual identity. McCauley and Kofoed will play the parents of Federan's character.
MI-5 (A&E) - A&E has quietly announced the third season of the British import will premiere Saturday, January 8 at 10:00/9:00c.
THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW (Syndication) - King World has cleared the veteran talk show, currently in its 19th season, in all top 20 markets and virtually every top 50 market through the 2010-2011 season. Winfrey previously extended her contract through said period in August (read the story).
PRISON BREAK (FOX) - Brett Ratner ("Rush Hour," "After the Sunset") has signed on to direct and executive produce the drama pilot, about an engineer who inserts himself into a prison he designed to help his death row inmate brother escape using a copy of the blueprint of the building he has tattooed on his chest. Ratner will direct from a script by creator Paul Scheuring ("A Man Apart") and executive produce alongside Marty Adelstein and Dawn Parouse through their Adelstein-Parouse Productions banner. Adelstein, Parouse and Ratner are all set up at 20th Century Fox Television with overall deals. The news marks Ratner's third project in the works for the 2005-06 season, the others being two untitled dramas at CBS - one with "Law & Order" veteran Barry Schindel and the other with writers David Diamond and David Weissman.
SIX FEET UNDER (HBO) - Tina Holmes ("Taken") has been upped to series regular for the show's fifth and final season. She'll reprise her role of Maggie, the daughter of James Cromwell's character.
STRONG MEDICINE: FIRST RESPONSE (Lifetime) - Lauren Velez ("Oz"), Nichole Hiltz ("Something's Gotta Give") and Michael Trucco ("Perfect Romance") have been tapped to star in the upcoming backdoor pilot episode of the cable drama. Said installment will revolve around two sisters by adoption (Hiltz, Velez) who work as a paramedic and head of a trauma center, respectively. Trucco will play a paramedic in the project, which like the parent series, comes from Sony Pictures Television.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (FX, New!) - George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh's Section Eight is developing a 10-hour mini-series at the cable channel which would explore the spiritual and moral issues faced by modern America as interpreted by 10 different directors with each "episode" focusing on a specific commandment. It's understood each installment will be self-contained as different ethnicities, classes and religious persuasions will be used for each "commandment." Clooney and Soderbergh will each helm one of the ten episodes as well as executive produce. The pair are said to already be in talks with other directors for the project however no names were given.
UNTITLED 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT PROJECT (NBC) - Brian Grazer and Ron Howard's Imagine Entertainment has climbed aboard to produce the Peacock's proposed eight-hour limited series based on the bestselling book about the attacks. Grazer, Howard and David Nevins will executive produce the untitled project along with Graham Yost ("Boomtown," "Band of Brothers"). While it's possible the project will air during the 2005-06 season, no firm target date was given by NBC. Yost himself however says it will likely take at least a year of research and development before production could begin.
UNTITLED BRIAN DANNELLY/MICHAEL URBAN PROJECT (New!) - Brian Dannelly and Michael Urban ("Saved!") are developing a new half-hour comedy at Carsey-Werner ("That '70s Show") for the 2005-06 season. No details were given about the project, which the pair will write and Dannelly will direct. Dannelly is no stranger to television, having helmed the Showtime comedy pilot "Weeds," starring Mary-Louise Parker and Elizabeth Perkins.
UNTITLED DENNIS HOPPER PROJECT (NBC) - The Peacock has emerged as the winner for the rights to the Dennis Hooper-led comedy, which comes from Matt LeBlanc's Warner Bros. Television-based Fort Hill Productions. The project, originally announced last month (read the story), stars Hopper as a free-spirited new father who lives with his grown-up daughter and her husband. Mike Chessler and Chtis Alberghini ("Tucker") are attached to write and executive produce the untitled comedy, which has received a script commitment with a penalty attached. LeBlanc and his producing partner John Goldstone will executive produce through their Fort Hill banner.
UNTITLED DIANE KEATON PROJECTS (HBO, New!) - Diane Keaton's Blue Relief Productions ("Surrender, Dorothy") has pacted with HBO to develop two half-hour single-camera comedies for the pay channel, one of which she'll star in. No writers are currently attached to either project, one of which will ultimately go to pilot. Keaton is attached to executive produce whichever project moves forward along with her longtime producing partner Bill Robinson. No firm details about the comedies were given other than one is understood to be a slice-of-life series and the other a broader comedy.
UNTITLED LARRY WILMORE PROJECT (FOX, New!) - Emmy-winner Larry Wilmore ("The Bernie Mac Show") is returning to FOX as the writer/producer has scored a script commitment (with an unspecified penalty attached) from the network for a new comedy about the behind-the-scenes action of a TV show fronted by an ultrapopular black actor. The news comes some 20 months after Wilmore was asked to exit "Mac," the series he created and executive produced for its first two seasons. The project, which is likened to "The Larry Sanders Show" meets "The Office," will be set up at NBC Universal Television where Wilmore has an overall deal. Wilmore himself, whom is set to appear in a guest role on NBC's "The Office," is said to be mulling playing a writer on the series.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters