LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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AMY COYNE (FOX) - Bill Bellamy ("Fastlane") is the latest addition to the drama pilot, about a woman (Ashley Williams) who inherits her father's sports agency following his death. He joins the previously cast ensemble of Tom Berenger, Kate Jennings Grant, Phillip Vaden and Matthew Bomer. No details were released about Bellamy's character. "Amy" is set up at 20th Century Fox Television and created by Kevin Falls.
BLUE SKIES (NBC) - Anna Faris ("Scary Movie") is set to topline the comedy pilot, about a 27-year-old who finds herself the "reluctant enabler" to her eccentric family. She'll play Sarah, a twentysomething ex-stock broker who's now a Y.M.C.A. lifeguard and must deal with the sudden arrival of her dysfunctional family. Faris' involvement lifts the cast-contingency on the pilot's production. Jhoni Marchinko ("Will & Grace") created the project, which is set up at NBC Universal Television.
THE COMMUTERS (CBS) - David Arquette ("Scream") has joined the cast of the drama pilot, about the lives of three couples in the New York suburbs whose husbands commute together to the city. He'll play one of said husbands in the project, which comes from Paramount Network Television and creator Dan Bucatinsky. Jeri Ryan also stars. Arquette had previously been attached to star in a comedy project being developed at the WB about a twentysomething owner of a newsstand who decides to ditch his slacker life when he falls in love. With the loss of Arquette as star, that project apparently will not go forward to pilot.
EMPIRE FALLS (HBO) - The original mini-series, which stars Ed Harris, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Helen Hunt, Paul Newman, Robin Wright Penn, Aidan Quinn and Joanne Woodward, has been slated to premiere Saturday, May 28 and Sunday, May 29 (times to be announced). The Fred Schepisi-hemled project is described in the network's press materials as follows: "Adapted by author Richard Russo from his Pulitzer Prize winning novel, EMPIRE FALLS is a compassionate, insightful look at blue-collar America, rich in both the gritty drama and human comedy of everyday life. It's the story of a man and the story of a town, a look at class differences in which the past present and future converge like the branches of a river. On a daily basis, goodhearted restaurant manager Miles Roby tries to keep his Empire Grill going even as wealthy Mrs. Whiting, the most powerful person in town, makes life difficult for him. Miles has more on his mind than restaurant receipts--he contends with a wife who left him for an older man, a disabled brother who may or may not be involved with drugs, the desperate crush of Mrs. Whiting's daughter on him, and ghosts from a tragic past that keep his fate inexorably connected to Empire Falls. Through it all, Miles is a doting father to his beautiful teenage daughter Tick. It is Tick's friendship with an outcast boy that leads to a stunning finale, as father and daughter learn to heal old wounds and move on with their lives."
GROWN MEN (The WB, New!) - Dean Cain ("Clubhouse") is set to star in a new comedy pilot for the Frog, about five former fraternity brothers dealing with adulthood after reuniting 13 years after graduating from college. Mike Sikowitz ("Grounded for Life") is behind the project, which is currently looking for a studio and production of which remains cast-contingent. No other details were available about the comedy.
HALLEY'S COMET (The WB) - Relative newcomer Audrey Marie Anderson ("Drop Dead Sexy") has scored the title role of Halley Newell in the David E. Kelley-produced drama pilot, about a 23-year-old med school student just discovering adulthood after surviving a devastating childhood disease. Also cast in the San Francisco-based pilot are Adam Campbell ("Commando Nanny"), Adam LaVorgna ("7th Heaven"), Marika Dominczyk ("North Shore") and Sean Maher ("Firefly"). Halley's character is described in the casting notice as: "Halley Newell: 23. Attractive, bright, dry-witted, and funny, Halley is a med student, with an ER internship. Recently pronounced cancer-free, after her diagnosis at age seventeen, Halley has a lot of catching up to do. She's eager to make up for lost time - to take life by the reins, but is still a bit tentative." Campbell then is set as Mike Calendar, who's listed as: "Mid-late 20s, Irish. A musician with a positive attitude, he's always broke, but one step away from making it big. He is Halley's loft neighbor, an all-around nice guy whose only got Halley's best interests at heart. He'd like to see her find a beau, eager to find out how things went with his guitar student, Ben."
As for Dominczyk, she'll play Mathea Cray: "23. Beautiful, free-spirited and take-charge, she is Halley's best friend since childhood, and now works as a stockbroker. She's adamant that Halley get back into the dating game," while Maher is set as Bret Fennow: "30. Chief Resident at UCSF Hospital, he is bright and handsome, "the guy you want taking care of you." Sensitive, caring, decent, and extremely likable, he was Halley's doctor, now her friend. Clearly, he'd like to be more." Finally, LaVorgna is set as Ben, who's described as: "Mid-late 20s, good-looking. He is one of Mike's guitar students. Left at the altar by his previous girlfriend, Ben is a sweet guy, and he and Halley hit it off immediately. Clearly, Halley thinks Ben may be the guy for her." Jonathan Pontell is directing the 20th Century Fox Television/David E. Kelley Productions-based project from a script by creator Andrew Kreisberg.
HOW CLEAN IS YOUR HOUSE? (Lifetime) - The cable channel has committed to 13 additional half-hours of the reality series, which stars eccentric British housekeepers Kim Woodburn and Aggie MacKenzie. Over its initial 22-episode run, "How Clean Is Your House?" posted significant gains from the network's Monday, 11:00/10:00c time period average (previously occupied by "Golden Girls" repeats), most notably among women 18-34 (up 83% from the previous year) and women 18-49 (up 22%). FremantleMedia North America is behind the project, which is executive produced by Tracy Verna and Jeff Collins.
THE INSIDE (FOX) - Writer/producer Craig Silverstein ("The Dead Zone," "The Invisible Man") has inked a two-year, seven-figure overall deal with 20th Century Fox Television. As part of the pact, Silverstein will serve as a co-executive producer on FOX's midseason drama "The Inside" as well as develop new projects for the studio. Silverstein is also working on a drama project for NBC entitled "Fables" (no details of which were available) separate from the 20th deal.
JOINT CUSTODY (ABC) - Marilu Henner ("Taxi") has joined the cast of the comedy pilot, about a recent college grad (Nick D'Agosto) who comes home and discovers that his parents have divorced and realizes that he must now take care of his eccentric family. Henner will play the mother of D'Agosto's character in the 20th Century Fox Television-based project, which also stars Will McCormack. Joel Stein, Regina Stewart and director Shawn Levy are behind the pilot.
LIQUID GENERATION TV (The WB, New!) - The Frog has ordered a pilot presentation from LiquidGeneration.com founder/CEO Bruce Freud and former Showtime programming chief Jerry Offsay for a new animated series based on the former's web site. Described as a no-holds-barred sketch-comedy show, the project, like the web site, will be created using Flash animation. Freud and Offsay will executive produce with Brad Saranecki and Kim Klechner.
MAN-THING (Sci Fi, New!) - The original movie, which was once targeted for a theatrical release, will instead premiere Saturday, April 30 at 9:00/8:00c on the cable channel. Here's Sci Fi's description of the project from its official web site: "Agents of an oil tycoon vanish while exploring a swamp marked for drilling. The local sheriff investigates and faces a Seminole legend come to life: Man-Thing, a shambling swamp-monster whose touch burns those who feel fear. Jack Thompson (Star Wars: Episode II � Attack of the Clones) stars."
MURDER AT THE PRESIDIO (USA) - The telefilm, the third in USA's "true crime" series, is set to premiere Saturday, April 30 at 9:00/8:00c. Here's how the network's press materials describe the project: "Desperate to cash in on his wife's life insurance policy, a highly decorated marine plots to kill his wife in the true tale of military murder. When James Willis of the Criminal Investigation Division gets pulled into this convoluted murder case, Willis finds his own tragic past comes to haunt him. With the help of the murdered woman's grieving brother, Willis goes beyond the call of duty to solve the crime -- even bending protocol in his passionate determination to find the killer. Others give up hope and suggest Willis do the same. However, Willis and Military Police Corporal Tara Jeffries finally blow the case wide open, bringing down the commanding officer and uncovering the most unlikely hitman -- the CO's mother." Lou Diamond Phillips, Victoria Pratt, David Cubitt and Jason Priestley are among the cast.
OVER THERE/THIEF (FX) - Less than two weeks after ordering two of its comedy pilots to series (read the story), FX has given series orders of 13 and six episodes respectively to Steven Bochco's war saga "Over There" and the Andre Braugher-led crime drama "Thief." The network had previously indicated only one of the two pilots would go to series. Nevertheless, "Over There" (from Steven Bochco Productions and 20th Century Fox Television) will bow in July with "Thief" (from Fox Television Studios, Regency Television and Pariah Pictures) debuting early next year.
"Over There," which was co-created by Bochco and Chris Gerolmo ("Citizen X"), revolves around a group of American soldiers stationed in Iraq as well as their families on the homefront. Among the show's principal cast are Josh Henderson, Luke MacFarlane, Erik Palladino, Keith Robinson, Sticky Fingaz, Lizette Carrion, Nicki Aycox and Sprague Grayden. Production on the series is set to begin next month in Southern California.
As for "Thief," the project stars Braugher as Nick Atwater, the head of a high-end robbery crew about to embark on a landmark heist, all while dealing with a Chinese mafia out for revenge, a relentless cop looking to take them down and Braugher's problematic teenage stepdaughter. Linda Hamilton, Yancy Arias, Malik Yoba, Mae Whitman, Will Yun Lee, Michael Rooker, Clifton Collins and Dina Meyer also star. Paul McGuigan ("Gangsta No.1") directed the pilot from a script by creator/executive producer Norman Morrill. Production on the six episodes is slated to begin this fall in New Orleans.
REEFER MADNESS (Showtime) - The pay channel's long-awaited musical adaptation is set to premiere Saturday, April 16 at 8:00/7:00c. Here's how Showtime's press materials describe the project: "Inspired by the notorious 1936 anti-marijuana propaganda film, Showtime's first movie musical REEFER MADNESS is a tongue-in-cheek raucous musical comedy about clean-cut kids who fall into a twisted, hilarious downward spiral of reefer, sex and mayhem. One of the most complicated musicals filmed for television, the movie contains sixteen musical sequences and several complex large-scale dance numbers. And every member of the cast was proud to display their real singing voice. This screen version of the award-winning stage musical stars Kristen Bell ("Veronica Mars"), Christian Campbell, Neve Campbell ("Party of Five"), Tony Award-winner Alan Cumming ("Cabaret"), Ana Gasteyer ("Saturday Night Live"), John Kassir, Amy Spanger, Robert Torti and Steven Weber ("Wings"). Garnering strong critical acclaim for its off-Broadway run, the original Los Angeles production of REEFER MADNESS also took theatergoers by storm, sweeping the theatrical awards from the various L.A. critics groups and becoming one of the longest-running shows in Los Angeles history. The film REEFER MADNESS reunites the stage version's creative team. Directed by Andy Fickman from the screenplay by Kevin Murphy & Dan Studney based on their musical stage play, the three men also serve as the film's executive producers."
REVVED (FOX) - The network has scrapped production on the drama pilot - about two brothers in North Carolina NASCAR country who, working out of a chop shop, try to protect local residents from threats of big business and corrupt government - for unspecified reasons. Greg Coolidge, Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Charlie Craig were behind the project, which was set up at 20th Century Fox Television and di Bonaventura Pictures.
THE SNAKE KING (Sci Fi, New!) - The telefilm is slated to premiere Saturday, April 9 at 9:00/8:00c. Here's how the network's web site describes the project: "Deep in the heart of the South American jungle, two scientists find the fabled fountain of youth � only to learn that it's guarded by a deadly, five-headed serpent. Stephen Baldwin (SCI FI Pictures' Silent Warnings) and Jayne Heitmeyer (Renee Palmer on Earth: Final Conflict) star."
SOCCER MOMS (ABC) - Gina Torres ("Firefly") is set to star opposite Kristin Davis in the drama pilot, about two suburban housewives (Davis, Torres) who team up as private investigators. The Touchstone Television/Vertikal Entertainment-based project comes from executive producers Don Todd, Marla Ginsburg and Jeff Kline.
THE TONY DANZA SHOW (Syndication) - The Buena Vista Television series has secured a significant upgrade in the Chicago market: the NBC owned-and-operated WMAQ-TV will begin airing the series this fall weekdays at noon where it will take over for "The Jane Pauley Show." Currently, "Danza" airs at 1:40 a.m. on the ABC owned-and-operated WLS-TV. Last month, the talk show received a similar upgrade in the L.A. market, where it will move from its current late-night slot on KABC to a daytime period on Viacom's KCBS-TV/KCAL-TV this fall.
UNTITLED LIZ TUCCILLO PROJECT (The WB) - "Just Shoot Me" alum Laura San Giacomo is the first to be cast in the pilot, a dramedy which tracks four adult sisters in Manhattan who together struggle through career and romance. The Warner Bros. Television/Class IV Productions-based project comes from executive producers Liz Tuccillo, Steve Pearlman, Andrew Plotkin and Marta Kauffman.
UNTITLED SARA GILBERT PROJECT (The WB) - The Sara Gilbert-led, David Kohan/Max Mutchnick-produced comedy project has received a green light to produce a pilot from the Frog. The project revolves around fraternal twin sisters who have nothing in common, with Gilbert playing one of the sisters. The untitled pilot is set up at Warner Bros. Television and Kohan and Mutchnick's KoMut banner.
WARM SPRINGS (HBO) - The pay channel's FDR biopic, which stars Kenneth Branagh, Cynthia Nixon, Jane Alexander and Kathy Bates, will premiere Saturday, April 30 at 8:00/7:00c. Here's how the network's press materials describe the project: "In this emotionally-riveting bio drama, Franklin Delano Roosevelt struggles against the crippling effects of polio in Warm Springs, a southern resort that has fallen on hard times and through the process finds his political soul. Starring Kenneth Branagh, Cynthia Nixon, Jane Alexander and Kathy Bates. Written by Margaret Nagle and directed by Emmy� award-winner Joseph Sargent ("Something the Lord Made")."
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters