LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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AMBUSH MAKEOVER (Syndication) - Twentieth Television has pulled the plug on the syndicated makeover series as the distributor has confirmed the series will wrap its run by Monday, September 12. Originally rolled out last season for a regional test run on several Fox owned-and-operated stations, "Ambush" expanded to national syndication in the fall where it currently averages a modest 1.1 household rating. Twentieth and producer Banyan Productions nevertheless are hoping to sell its nearly 300-episode run (which cost a relatively cheap $75,000 per half-hour) as a library product to both broadcast and cable networks.
THE BREAK (FOX) - The drama pilot, about an engineer (Wentworth Miller) who inserts himself into a prison he designed to help his brother (Dominic Purcell) - a death row inmate who insists he is innocent - escape, has been greenlit to series as FOX has committed to 12 episodes of the project in addition to its pilot. The news marks the first series order by the broadcast networks for the 2005-06 season. FOX hasn't specified however if the series will debut this summer or later during the broadcast networks' usual fall rollout, although the former is more likely the case. Sarah Wayne Callies, Peter Stormare, Amaury Nolasco, Marshall Allman, Robin Tunney and Wade Williams all star in the project, which could also feature both Jessalyn Gilsig and Stacy Keach in recurring roles. Paul Scheuring, Dawn Parouse, Marty Adelstein, Neal Moritz and Brett Ratner (who directed the pilot) are the executive producers of the series, which is set up at 20th Century Fox Television, Adelstein/Parouse Productions and Rat Television. A search for a showrunner currently underway.
CAROL POTTER GETS A LIFE (ABC) - Jenna Von Oy ("The Parkers") and Kevin Dunn ("All the King's Men") have both joined the cast of the comedy pilot, about a middle-aged woman (Brenda Blethyn) who leaves her picture-perfect family life for a divorce and a job. Dunn will play her ex-husband with Von Oy as her uptight daughter. Eugene Byrd and Erin Hershey Presley also star in the project, which comes from NBC Universal Television, Touchstone Television and Conaco Productions. Holly Hester, Conan O'Brien, A.J. Morewitz and Jeff Ross are the executive producers.
FILMORE MIDDLE (NBC) - Deon Richmond ("Sister, Sister") has joined the cast of the comedy pilot, about disillusioned teachers at a rundown public school. He'll join the previously cast Justin Bartha, Sarah Alexander and Phil Hendrie in the NBC Universal Television-based project, which comes from creator Matt Tarses.
LIFETIME'S ORIGINAL MOVIES (Lifetime) - The ever-busy Aisha Tyler, whose duties this season have included roles on "24," "C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation" and the CBS drama pilot "Ghost Whisperer," is set to star opposite Raven Symone in the original movie "For One Night." The project, which comes from von Zerneck/Sertner Films in association with RES IPSA Media Inc., centers on a black teenager (Symone) who, with the help of a newspaper reporter (Tyler), braves decades of segregation to stage the first interracial high school prom in the history of their small town. Gary Lennon is writing and directing "Night," which begins production next month in New Orleans. Also in the works are "The Marilyn Gambrell Story," about the life of a former parole officer who helps the children of jailed parents get their lives on track and the previously announced Kathy Bates-led "Ambulance Girl," about the true story of how former food writer Jane Stern conquered clinical depression after becoming a paramedic.
LIFETIME'S SERIES DEVELOPMENT SLATE (Lifetime) - The cable channel added two new drama projects to its development slate during its upfront presentation yesterday. Former CBS and PAX programming chief Jeff Sagansky and Paul Stupin ("Dawson's Creek") are behind "The Harbinger," which asks: "If you had only 24 hours to live and knew you could travel to your past, present or future to change the course of your life, what would you do?" Stupin will executive produce the project with Sagansky co-executive producing. Also new at the network is "Scarlett," about an Anne Rice-esque New Orleans-based gothic horror writer whose fictional characters mysteriously come to life. Bruce Willis' Cheyenne Productions (USA's "Touching Evil") is behind the project, with Robert Wolfe ("The 4,400") and Hans Beimler ("The Twilight Zone") executive producing.
The pair join the network's previously announced dramas in development: "The Hunters," about a family of spies who freelance for the C.I.A., from executive producer Efrem Seeger; an untitled project from executive producer Larry Sanitsky and co-executive producer Adriana Trigiani that follows a group of urban women from their wild days as singles to marriage and motherhood; "The Look," which explores corruption, back-biting and manipulation at a fashion magazine from John Tinker and co-executive producers John Murray, Peter Barsocchini and Wally Nicita; "The Gumm Sisters," about three overweight siblings - a dessert chef charged with a crime, a lawyer who defends her and an actress - from David Janollari, Kathy Najimy and writer/producer James Myhre; and Lions Gate Television's "Gravity" from Gale Anne Hurd and co-executive producer Charlie Craig, about astronauts stranded on a space station 200 miles from Earth and their interaction with the people who run Houston's Mission Control. The latter series is understood to be the furthest along in development and is being targeted as a limited-run series.
Comedies still in the works include: Jon Avnet and Ellen Williams's "Tripping the Prom Queen," a sitcom adaptation of Susan Shapiro's non-fiction book about a group of women who compete fiercely over everything from a job opening to the right school for their kids; "Dirty," about a ruthless woman trying to wrest control of a cosmetics company from her husband from Gale Anne Hurd and co-executive producer J. Paul Higgins; and "Thicker Than Water," a semi-autobiographical series from comedian Carol Leifer about a comedy writer who must cope with a dysfunctional family: her TV-sex-therapist mother, a dentist brother who can't settle down and two sex-obsessed sisters.
THE SHOW WITH A.J. CALLOWAY (UPN) - Justine Bateman ("Out of Order") has joined the cast of the comedy pilot, a fictionalized look at the life of BET personality/talk show host A.J. Calloway. She'll play Calloway's new confident, capable and sexy producer in the Sony Pictures Television/Handprint Entertainment-based project, which comes from executive producers David Goetch, Benny Medina, Jeff Pollack and Evan Weiss. Kel Mitchell also stars.
THE SIMPLE LIFE (FOX) - With a fourth season a near certainty, FOX is reportedly searching for a replacement for co-star Nicole Richie. Chief among the rumored replacements is Kimberly Stewart, the daughter of singer Rod Stewart. While both Richie and Paris Hilton have inked deals to star in at least five seasons of the series, FOX has yet to pick up their options beyond the current edition. A decision nevertheless is expected shortly with production beginning in late spring or early summer for a premiere date later this year.
THREE (CBS) - Newcomer Jama Williamson has booked the female lead in the comedy pilot, about a newly single guy (Zachary Levi) who suddenly finds himself the third wheel in the relationship between his best friend (James Van Der Beek) and the friend's wife (Williamson). Andrew Reich and Ted Cohen are behind the project, which is set up at Paramount Network Television.
THE TOM JOYNER SHOW (Syndication) - Litton Entertainment has cleared the weekend comedy/variety show in over 80% of the country, including stations in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Dallas, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Detroit as well as 38 of the top 40 U.S. markets. Reach Media - which also syndicates Joyner's radio program, "The Tom Joyner Morning Show" - is producing the series, with Litton serving as distributor.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters