LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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AMERICAN DREAMS (NBC) - The Peacock has officially cut the show's third season to 17 episodes, two short of its expected 19-episode run. Also as expected, "Dreams" will sit out the February sweeps period, returning for its final four installments in March. "Dreams" creator Jonathan Prince reportedly planned for the show's 17th episode this season to serve as a cliffhanger leading into a two-part finale. It's not clear though if any adjustments will be made in light of the episode rollback. Through its 13 airings this season, "Dreams" has averaged a modest 7.53 million viewers, down 12.65% from the same stretch last season (8.62 million). And when compared with its freshman season after 13 episodes, "Dreams" is off a significant 33.13% (11.26 million). No decision however has been made about the show's future and it's likely a final verdict won't be announced until May when NBC announces its fall 2005 schedule.
DANTE (NBC) - Kevin Hart ("The Big House") and Jennifer Westfeldt ("Kissing Jessica Stein") have joined the cast of the comedy pilot, about the life and family of a football superstar (Morris Chestnut) who has an extra-large sense of entitlement and often is out of touch with reality. Hart will play Dante's best friend, while Westfeldt will play his agent. The pair join the previously cast Tony Cox as Uncle Goldey. 20th Century Fox Television is behind the project, which comes from "Just Shoot Me" creator Steve Levitan and commercial writer-director John Immesoete.
E-RING (NBC) - Oscar-nominee Taylor Hackford ("Ray") has signed on to direct the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced drama pilot, while Benjamin Bratt ("Law & Order") is in talks to topline the project. Described as "The West Wing" set at the Pentagon, "E-Ring" revolves around the inner workings of the country's military headquarters. David McKenna and Ken Robinson created the project, which is set up at the Warner Bros. Television-based Bruckheimer Television and will be executive produced by McKenna, Bruckheimer and Jonathan Littman.
EARL (NBC) - Jason Lee ("Almost Famous") has been cast in the lead role of the comedy pilot, about a low-rent crook who, after winning the lottery, decides to use his limited yet oddly effective intelligence to right the wrongs he has made in his life. 20th Century Fox Television is behind the project, which comes from creator Greg Garcia ("Yes, Dear"). Lee's involvement lifts the cast-contingent component on the pilot's production.
FOUR KINGS (NBC) - Veteran James Burrows ("Will & Grace") reportedly will direct the comedy pilot, about four childhood friends in New York City. "Will & Grace" creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnuck are behind the project, which is set up at Warner Bros. Television.
GOOD GIRLS DON'T/NAKED JOSH/SHOW ME YOURS (Oxygen) - The three original comedies, all of which premiered last year on the cable channel, still remain under consideration for second seasons despite their mixed ratings results, according to recent statements from Oxygen programming chief Debby Beece.
HUFF (Showtime) - The show's freshman season concluded to the tune of 462,000 viewers on Sunday, up slightly from its debut in November (456,000). Production on season two of "Huff" is expected to begin shortly for a fall 2005 launch.
ILLEANA-RAMA (Oxygen, New!) - Illeana Douglas ("Action") is set to star in a new single-camera comedy pilot for the cable channel, in which she plays a fictional version of herself as she quits the showbiz rat race and opts for a simpler life working in a Hollywood grocery store only to find the two worlds are more similar than she'd thought. Douglas co-wrote and executive produced the project, which is loosely based on her short film "Supermarket," with Teresa O'Neill ("Becker," "The Chris Isaac Show"). Jeff Goldblum, Justine Bateman, Ed Begley Jr., Jane Lynch, Elisa Bocanegra and Jerry Mathers are among the celebrities that made cameos in the pilot, which taped last week in Los Angeles with Kyle LaBrache and Chris Bradle directing. New Line Television is behind the project, with the company's Job Kroll also serving as an executive producer.
IN JUSTICE (ABC) - Mick Jackson ("Num3ers") has signed on to direct the pilot to the Touchstone Television drama series, which revolves around a group of impassioned lawyers who aid the wrongly convicted. In addition to "Num3ers," Jackson helmed the pilots to "The Practice," "The Handler" and "That's Life" as well as the telefilm "Live From Baghdad" and multiple Stephen King TV projects. Jackson's involvement is the result of a talent holding deal he signed with ABC last year.
LOVED ONES (AND OTHER PEOPLE WE HATE) (NBC) - Jeff Greenstein, not Bob Greenstein, is one of the co-creators of the comedy pilot, about three adult siblings who lead very separate lives and yet they are always overlapping. The project is set up at NBC Universal Television where Greenstein and fellow co-creator Bob Kushell have overall deals.
MONK (USA) - "Monk's" second new episode of 2005 saw 4.1 million viewers tuning in. Said number was down 25.59% from last week's installment (5.51 million on 1/21/05).
NOBODY'S WATCHING (The WB) - Taran Killam ("Mad TV"), Paul Adelstein ("Hack") and newcomer Mircea Monroe have joined the cast of the comedy pilot, about two twentysomething guys (Killam, Paul Campbell) who win a reality show and get to create their own sitcom without realizing that, as they live on a soundstage where every move is filmed, they are the show. Adelstein's role is that of a TV network president named Jeff Zucker while Monroe's role has yet to be specified. "Watching," which is set up at Bill Lawrence's NBC Universal Television-based Doozer Television, is one of the first pilots to tape this season, as the project will be shot on February 10 and 11 at Universal Studios.
NOTORIOUS (A.K.A. UNTITLED TORI SPELLING PROJECT) (NBC) - The Tori Spelling-led comedy project has been given the green light to produce a pilot. Mike Chessler and Chris Alberghini ("Whoopi") are behind the project, which is loosely based on Spelling's own real-life, pre-marriage experiences as a Hollywood celebrity and a member of the Spelling clan. Spelling herself will also serve as a co-executive produce on the pilot, which is set up at NBC Universal Television.
PEPPER DENNIS (The WB, New!) - Writers Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts ("North Shore") and director Shawn Levy ("Cheaper By The Dozen") are set to team for a new drama pilot at the Frog about a Chicago-based TV reporter who juggles her career, love and family lives. The WB has given a cast-contingent pilot presentation order to the project, which is set up at 20th Century Fox Television with Levy directing from a script by the duo. Berg, Harberts and Levy teamed last season on the failed FOX drama pilot "The Deerings."
PLAY MATES (ABC, New!) - Writer/producers Mark Torgrove and Paul Kaplan ("The George Lopez Show") have landed a pilot commitment from ABC and Warner Bros. Television for a new comedy which revolves around the lives of three quirky couples whose lives intersected after they met in a baby preparation class. No other details were given about the project.
THE REAL WORLD/ROAD RULES: BATTLE OF THE SEXES 2 (MTV) - The show's ninth season finale drew 3.4 million last week. Look for season 10 to launch on Monday, March 7. Meanwhile, a fresh episode of "The Real World" earned 3.6 million viewers for its January 25 broadcast.
SOMETIMES IN APRIL (HBO) - The pay channel's latest original movie has been slated to air Saturday, March 19 at 8:00/7:00c. Here's how the network's press materials describe the project: "This harrowing drama focuses on the indescribable human atrocities that took place in Rwanda a decade ago, through the story of two Hutu brothers whose relationship and private lives were forever changed in the midst of the genocide. Idris Elba and Debra Winger star. SOMETIMES IN APRIL is written, directed and co-executive produced by acclaimed filmmaker Raoul Peck ("Lumumba")."
UNTITLED CHRIS KATTAN PROJECT (ABC) - The Chris Kattan-led comedy pilot has been given the go-ahead to produce a pilot. The former "SNL" regular plays an egocentric consumer reporter at a fledgling cable news channel in the project, which is set up at 20th Century Fox Television and 3 Arts Entertainment. Mike McCullers ("Austin Powers in Goldmember") will write and executive produce the untitled pilot along with Don Woodard and Tom Maxwell ("Just Shoot Me") as well as 3 Arts' Michael Rotenberg, Steve Tann and David Miner. Kattan will also serve as a producer.
UNTITLED EMILY KAPNEK PROJECT (NBC, New!) - Emily Kapnek ("As Told by Ginger") has booked a cast-contingent pilot order from the Peacock for a new comedy about a man who decides to fend for himself (with the help of a life coach) after working all of his life in the family hot dog stand. The project is set up at the 20th Century Television-based Adelstein/Parouse Productions with Marty Adelstein and Dawn Parouse executive producing along with Kapnek.
UNTITLED TINA FEY PROJECT (NBC) - "SNL" head writer Tina Fey has scored a pilot production order from the Peacock for a new comedy about the head writer of a variety show who has to manage her relationships with the show's volatile star and executive producer. The project, which is set up at Lorne Michaels' Broadway Video and NBC Universal Television, stems from a development deal the actress/writer signed with NBC in May 2003 (read the story). In addition to starring and writing the pilot, which will tape this summer once her "SNL" duties have completed, Fey will executive produce along with Michaels, Broadway's Joann Alfano and 3 Arts' David Miner.
UNTITLED PAULA PELL PROJECT (NBC, New!) - "SNL" writer Paula Pell has received a cast-contingent pilot order from NBC for a new comedy about an obese woman who turns thin and struggles in her relationships with her still-large family and friends. The project is set up at Broadway Video and NBC Universal Television with Pell and Broadway's Lorne Michaels and Joann Alfano executive producing.
WASHINGTON STREET (CBS) - The Warner Bros. Television comedy pilot, which stars Cynthia Watros ("Titus"), David Eigenberg ("Sex and The City") and Shawnee Smith ("Becker"), is scheduled to tape tonight on the Warner Bros. lot. The project revolves around the tenants in a modest apartment building who form a family led by a nurturing single mom (Watros).
WHAT ABOUT BRIAN? (ABC) - Brothers Anthony and Joe Russo ("Arrested Development," "LAX") are reportedly in talks to direct the J.J. Abrams-produced drama pilot, about a single man in his 30s still trying to figure out his life after all his friends have gotten hitched. The project is set up at Abrams' Touchstone Television-based Bad Robot banner.
WIDOW ON THE HILL (Lifetime) - 4.2 million viewers tuned into Lifetime's latest original movie last Monday, which starred Natasha Henstridge and James Brolin.
WORLD OF TROUBLE (NBC) - Stephen Hopkins ("24," "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers") has come aboard to direct the drama pilot, about a squad of U.S.-based F.B.I. agents that solve crimes committed against Americans (and U.S. interests) overseas. Peter Noah ("The West Wing") created the project.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters