LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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ALIAS (ABC) - Rachel Nichols ("The Inside") reportedly has joined the cast of the veteran spy drama. She'll play a young C.I.A. trainee whom Jennifer Garner's character takes under her wing. As expected, Nichols's casting is designed to help take some of the stunt load off the Garner (whose pregnancy will be written into the show) as well as fill the void left by Mia Maestro, whose character has been downgraded to a semi-recurring role. In addition, the producers are also understood to be casting a new male character who will likewise fill in for the also-exiting Greg Grunberg. (Click here for full details about this news from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)
BEARABOO 2010 (NBC, New!) - NBC has given a cast-contingent pilot order to a new comedy about a small town that has aspirations of hosting an upcoming Winter Olympics. Cheryl Holliday ("King of the Hill") is behind the project, additional details of which weren't specified.
CHARMED (The WB) - The network formerly known as the Frog has confirmed Mark McGrath's previously announced guest spot (read the story) is being scrapped in favor of Jason Lewis's role on the series (as an artist who becomes involved with Alyssa Milano's character), which was unveiled last week (read the story).
DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES (ABC) - Richard Burgi ("Point Pleasant") has been upped to regular on the Emmy-nominated series. He'll continue in his role as Karl Mayer, the philandering ex-husband of Teri Hatcher's character. It's understood his character will become romantically entangled with Nicollette Sheridan's character in the new season however no other specifics were given.
FATHER OF THE MCBRIDES (NBC, New!) - The Peacock has given a cast-contingent pilot order to a new comedy from writer/producers David Israel and Jim O'Doherty ("The Tracy Morgan Show"). The project, which is set up at NBC Universal Television, revolves around a blue-collar family man with a rebellious teen daughter and a not-so-bright brother. Said project is a result from the two-year, seven-figure overall deal Israel and O'Doherty signed with the studio back in May (read the story).
FILMORE MIDDLE (NBC) - The comedy pilot, about disillusioned teachers at a rundown public junior high school, reportedly is close to being given a series order for midseason by the Peacock. Matt Tarses is behind the NBC Universal Television-based project, which stars Justin Bartha, Sarah Alexander, Phil Hendrie and Deon Richmond.
THE HUNTERS (Lifetime) - Kelly Lynch ("Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story") has been cast in the lead role of the drama pilot, about a former C.I.A. operative who is now the matriarch of a family of spies who take on spillover cases from the C.I.A. She'll play Joan Hunter in the project, who's described in the casting notice as: "Mid 40s-early 50s. A beautiful, cunning, "lethally seductive" woman, she's a former CIA agent who is married to Quin, another ex spook. After leaving the agency, she and Quin formed a freelance spy operation with their three grown children, Addison, Troy and Cat. Their business is a definite growth industry, with the Hunters handling volatile, globe-trotting assignments for the CIA which is undermanned and overworked. Brash, brilliant, multi-lingual and apparently without any sentiment whatsoever, Joan is a tough mom, and her take-no-prisoners attitude is especially resented by her oldest daughter Addison, who is so much like her that they frequently clash. But beneath her ruthless exterior lurks a mother's heart and a deep concern for her kids -- although she would never let them know it. Currently, she and her clan are busting a baby trafficking ring in Taipei - a particularly delicate assignment that she handles with typical finesse." Efrem Seeger ("Queer as Folk") is behind the project, which is set up at Touchstone Television. Production on the pilot began over the weekend in Vancouver. Details on the rest of the cast however weren't released.
I LOVE FARON HITCHMAN (NBC) - The comedy project, about a newly married couple who may have married too soon and whose families hate each other, remains in the works for the 2005-06 season. NBC gave the project a cast-contingent pilot order back in January and has since asked for a second script. Carlos Jacott, J.B. Roberts and Kelly Kulchak are behind "Hitchman," which is set up at NBC Universal Television and Tagline Pictures.
I'M A CELEBRITY BUT I WANNA BE A POP STAR (NBC) - The Peacock has scrapped the reality project, which aimed to place celebrities in an "American Idol"-style competition. NBC reportedly couldn't reach an agreement with producer Granada America over the show's production cost. "We negotiated throughout the weekend, but we couldn't come to terms," NBC's reality chief Jeff Gaspin told Daily Variety. It's understood NBC was mulling "Pop Star" as a multi-night event (a la ABC's "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!") to run during the week of September 12 as a build up to its fall premieres. The news leaves FOX's still-in-the-works "Celebrity Idol" as the only celebrity music competition in town. NBC wouldn't comment on if said project factored into its decision to scrap "Pop Star."
KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL (FOX) - Co-star John Cho has signed a mid-six figure talent holding deal with FOX and 20th Century Fox Television. The pact will keep Cho in the role of Teddy Wong on the fall newcomer for at least eight episodes, as well as call for the network and studio to develop a potential comedy vehicle around the actor. Cho's managers, Principato-Young Entertainment, are expected to co-produce any project that results from the deal.
LAGUNA BEACH: THE REAL ORANGE COUNTY (MTV) - The show's producer, Go Go Luckey, has signed a first-look deal with reality shop Endemol U.S.A. ("Fear Factor"). The pact gives Endemol first crack at Luckey's new scripted and unscripted projects, some of which are already being shot in secret. "Roller Girls," Luckey's next unscripted offering, is set to launch early next year on A&E.
LIES AND THE WIVES WE TELL THEM TO (NBC) - The David Guarascio/Moses Port-produced comedy pilot is understood to still be under consideration for a 2005-06 season series order. "Lies" stars Kyle Chandler, Johnny Sneed, Ed Helms and Jeremy Garrett as four best friends who struggle with the "politics of marriage" and the lies they tell to keep the peace. Guarascio and Port are the executive producers of the project, which comes from NBC Universal Television.
NEVER IN MY WILDEST (CBS) - Carol Leifer's ("The Ellen Show") failed NBC comedy project is getting a second life at CBS. The Eye has given a cast-contingent pilot order to the "Mad About You"-esque comedy, about two people who have an undeniable spark but impossible standards. NBC had previously given a cast-contingent pilot order to "Wildest" back in February of 2004 however a pilot was never produced. NBC Universal Television-based DreamWorks Television is behind the project, with Darryl Frank, Justin Falvey and Howard Klein serving as executive producers along with Leifer.
THE REAL GILLIGAN'S ISLAND (TBS) - The cable channel has confirmed the reality series won't return for a third cycle, following its ratings tumble during its recently-concluded second season. Just 1.9 million viewers tuned into said second season launch last month, literally half its debut numbers in November 2004 (4.0 million).
SMALLVILLE (The WB) - James Marsters ("Angel") is set to appear in a six-episode arc on the show's upcoming fifth season. He'll play Milton Fine, better known to comic readers as the Superman villain "Brainiac," on the series. He'll make his first appearance in the show's fourth episode this season as a college professor who tries to turn Tom Welling's character against humanity. Said installment will also see the introduction of Arthur Curry (a.k.a. "Aquaman") to the "Smallville" universe, however full details about his character were not released. Casting is underway for an actor to play Curry. In addition, former "Dukes of Hazzard" co-star Tom Wopat is also on track to make a guest spot on the series, where he'll reunite with fellow "Dukes" alumnus John Schneider. It's understood that he'll play a senator with undisclosed ties to Schneider's character.
SONY PICTURES TELEVISION COMEDY PROJECTS (New!) - Sony Pictures Television has provided details about its current comedy development slate, which includes projects from Morgan Spurlock ("30 Days"), Lewis Black ("The Daily Show"), Burt Reynolds ("The Dukes of Hazzard") and Adam Sandler ("The Longest Yard"). Sandler's company, Happy Madison Productions, is behind three projects at Sony as part of a first-look deal with the studio. First up is "Todd's Coma" at TBS, which features comedian Todd Glass as a bedridden patient whose unconscious mind filters interactions with visitors as flashbacks that take the form of comedy bits. Jeff Stilson ("The Osbournes") is executive producing. Next up is "Gay Robot" at Comedy Central, a live-action adaptation of Sandler's character from his "Shh ... Don't Tell" album. Nick Swardson is attached to executive produce. And finally there's an untitled project at FX, which would feature Burt Reynolds playing an exaggerated version of himself - a washed-up 1970s movie star whose denial of his faded star status is put to the test when he faces financial problems. Executive producing that project are Adam Small and Fax Bahr ("Blue Collar TV").
Outside of Happy Madison, Sony is developing "10 Items or Less" at TBS, an improv series from the creators of the indie comedy "Memron" set at a grocery store; "Public Nuisance" at Comedy Central, in which Morgan Spurlock and a cast of "investigators" solve consumer problems; an untitled Lewis Black-led project at FX, in which he plays a controversial commentator whose cult following doesn't keep him from being miserable; an import of the BBC comedy "Manchild" at Showtime, from Nick Fisher; "New York Animals" at Showtime, a revival of Paul Reiser and Steven Sater's failed FX pilot about a group of New Yorkers whose lives intersect; "Celebra-date" at TBS, a stop-motion animation series that imagines mismatched fictional romances between different celebrities from Denis Leary and Jim Serpico's Apostle Productions ("Rescue Me") and executive producer Corky Quakenbush ("Mad TV"); and a second Black project at Comedy Central (also from Apostle and executive produced by Stilson) entitled "Red State Diaries," in which the comedian travels to conservative-leaning areas to immerse himself in the local culture.
SPORTS CENTRAL (Comedy Central, New!) - The cable channel has completed production on a half-hour "Daily Show"-esque pilot about the world of sports. Writer Paul Mercurio ("The Daily Show") and producer James Jones ("Mad TV") are behind the project, which is being eyed as a weekly series (a la the upcoming "The Hollywood Show With David Spade"). Mercurio himself served as the anchor on the pilot with comedians Regan Burns and Casey Wilson acting as correspondents.
UNTITLED DICK WOLF PROJECT (NBC, New!) - After rumblings of a possible second season revival of Dick Wolf's "Law & Order: Trial By Jury," the network has confirmed the series has indeed been scrapped. Nevertheless, both NBC and Wolf plan to make use of the show's yet-to-be-struck sets as part of a new untitled legal drama. Said project, which is expected to begin casting in the next six weeks, is understood to revolve around a group of assistant district attorneys however no specific details were given.
UNTITLED MIKE MARKOWITZ PROJECT (NBC, New!) - An untitled project from veteran writer/producer Mike Markowitz ("Becker") has been given a cast-contingent pilot order by the Peacock. No details were given about the project, other than it used to be set up at ABC and that Brillstein-Grey will co-produce.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters