LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
AMERICAN IDOL (FOX) - The producers have confirmed the series will expand to three nights a week on February 21, February 28 and March 7. The additional episodes, all airing Mondays at 8:00/7:00c, will be used to showcase the initial rounds of viewer voting. Unlike previous years the judges will select the 24 finalists (12 males and 12 females) by February 16, after which performance shows will air on Mondays and Tuesdays with each featuring men only or women only. Viewers then will whittle down the group to 12 contestants by March 9.
BOOK OF DANIEL (NBC, New!) - "Titus" co-creator Jack Kenny has scored a cast-contingent pilot order for a new darkly comedic drama about an Episcopalian minister and father who finds himself conversing with a hip, modern Jesus who helps navigate family problems, church politics and even his nagging reliance on prescription painkillers. Kenny, who wrote the project on spec, is executive producing along with Flody Suarez ("Eight Simple Rules").
COLD TURKEY 2 (PAX) - The network plans to push back the second season debut of its reality series to March despite initially being on target for a January premiere.
DEADWOOD (HBO) - The pay channel has confirmed season two of its western drama will debut Sunday, March 6 at 10:00/9:00c following "Carnivale."
DOG TOWN LAWYERS (The WB) - The Frog has given a production green light to the drama pilot, which revolves around the unlikely pairing of a crusty fortysomething lawyer and an 18-year-old prodigy just out of law school. Jonathan Shapiro ("The Practice") created the project, which is set up at the Warner Bros. Television-based Bruckheimer Television with Shapiro, Jerry Bruckheimer and Jonathan Littman executive producing. The WB gave a put pilot commitment to "Lawyers" back in August (read the story).
THE E RING (NBC) - The Peacock is moving forward with its defense-themed drama as the network has greenlit production on a pilot for the project. Warner Bros. Television-based Bruckheimer Television is behind the project with Jerry Bruckheimer and Jonathan Littman executive producing along with creators David McKenna ("S.W.A.T.") and Ken Robinson. Like Bruckheimer's "Lawyers" at the WB, the drama was originally set up as a put pilot in August (read the story).
ED (NBC) - TBS' preliminary January schedule indicates repeats of the late NBC drama are set to join the cable channel's weekday schedule on Monday, January 17 at noon. Neither NBC Universal Television nor TBS however have confirmed the show's off-network sale.
LACKAWANNA BLUES (HBO) - The pay channel's latest original movie is set to bow Saturday, February 12 at 8:00/7:00c. Here's how the network's press materials describe the project: "Celebrated Tony Award-winning stage director George C. Wolfe makes his infectiously energetic feature debut with Lackawanna Blues, a star-studded ensemble based on writer/actor Ruben Santiago-Hudson's original Obie Award-winning play. Making its world premiere at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, the film is a coming-of-age story set on the eve of desegregation that bursts at the seams with a bounty of colorful characters, an affectionate portrait of a golden age gone by, filled with music, dance and sexual energy."
LAW & ORDER: TRIAL BY JURY (NBC) - An NBC spokesman has confirmed the late Jerry Orbach completed work on three of the six produced episodes of the latest "Law & Order" spin-off. Said episodes are expected to bow in March although the Peacock has yet to confirm a time slot or specific date. It's also not clear how Orbach's death will be addressed on the series, which has a 13-episode order.
LIVING WITH FRAN (A.K.A. SHACKING UP) - The midseason comedy now features the title "Living With Fran." Here's how the WB's press materials describe the project, which is expected to air on Friday nights beginning in March: "If things weren't so complicated, you could call Josh (newcomer Ben Feldman) and Riley (Ryan McPartlin, "Passions") roomies. They live in the same house, share everything and are both involved with the same woman: she's Riley's girlfriend...and Josh's MOTHER, Fran (Fran Drescher, "The Nanny"). When 25-year-old Josh gets kicked out of medical school and moves back in with his mom and teenage sister Allison (Misti Traya, "Joan of Arcadia"), he's shocked to find Mom sharing her life, not to mention her house, with Riley, a 24 1/2-year-old stud. Josh is so shocked, in fact, that he barely has time to notice a guy named Duane (Branden Williams, "Charlie's Angels," "The Sweetest Thing") is renting the closet in his old bedroom. "Living With Fran" is a fun, contemporary look at a non-traditional family."
LOVED ONES (NBC, New!) - Bob Greenstein ("Will & Grace," "Friends") and Bob Kushell ("3rd Rock From the Sun," "The Simpsons") have booked a cast-contingent pilot order at the Peacock for a new comedy about three siblings from a close-knit family whose lives didn't turn out quite the way they had imagined. The pair are writing and executive producing the project at NBC Universal Television where they each have overall deals.
THAT '70S SHOW (FOX) - Producer Carsey-Werner and FOX are reportedly trying to squeeze out an eighth season of the veteran comedy. While star Topher Grace has repeatedly indicated the show's current season will be his last, most of the rest of the cast has agreed to come back for an additional season. The only other wild card is Ashton Kutcher, however it's understood he's open to return in a limited role by making guest appearances throughout the season. Nevertheless, neither FOX nor Carsey-Werner has commented on these developments nor is it clear how the show will be "revamped" without Grace in the mix.
UNTITLED JACK ORMAN PROJECT (FOX, New!) - Jack Orman ("ER," "dr. vegas") has set up his second project for the 2005-06 season at FOX as the writer/producer has scored a script plus penalty commitment from the network for a new drama about a Secret Service agent who discovers that the person he was sworn to protect is enemy No. 1. Orman will write and executive produce the project, additional details of which weren't specified. Orman is also at work on "The Code," with actor Donnie Wahlberg and director Jon Avnet, at NBC.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters