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[08/24/05 - 12:00 AM]
Development Update: August 22-24
By The Futon Critic Staff (TFC)

LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:

Looking to keep track of all the various projects in development? Click here to visit our newly revamped "Series in Development" charts. Visitors can now filter our listings by network, genre and even development stage (ordered to pilot, cast-contingent, script, etc.). It's updated every day!

BROKEN NEWS (TBS, New!) - Producers Sean Hayes and Todd Milliner ("Situation: Comedy") have booked a pilot order from the cable channel for a semi-scripted series in which actors improv a newscast for a fictional small town. The project, which will be set up at the pair's Hazy Mills Productions, also plans to incorporate advertising into the proceedings as the anchors themselves will read the ads during the show. Casting is currently underway for such characters as a chronically late reporter and a sports anchor reliving his high school football glory days. The news marks TBS's departure from its current trend of reality-based originals following the failure of "Minding the Store" (less than 1 million watched its August 14 finale) and season two of "The Real Gilligan's Island."

"News" joins TBS's previously announced development slate, which includes "Todd's Coma" (an offbeat sketch show about the dreams of a guy in a coma) and "10 Items or Less" (a semi-scripted series about a family-run supermarket being bought out by a major corporation). Also in the works are "The Replacement," which sees actor Tom Arnold doing odd jobs around the country; and an untitled animated series from "Blue Collar TV's" Ron White.

ENTOURAGE/SIX FEET UNDER (HBO) - 3.89 million viewers (a 8.9 rating/13 share in households with HBO) tuned into "Six Feet Under's" 75-minute swan song on Sunday, its best audience since its season four debut (4.1 million, 9.4/14) in June of last year. Said turnout helped raise "Six Feet Under's" fifth season average to 2.5 million, but still far short of last season's average (3.7 million). Meanwhile, lead-out "Entourage" hit a series-high of 2.7 million viewers thanks to the additional nudge from "Six Feet Under."

FIGHTING THE ODDS: THE MARILYN GAMBRELL STORY/STRONG MEDICINE (Lifetime) - Monday's premiere of "Fighting the Odds: The Marilyn Gambrell Story" drew 3.6 million viewers, making it cable's most-watched original movie so far this month. Fellow Lifetime original "Strong Medicine" also got some good ratings news as 3.27 million viewers (including a 1.1 rating/3 share among adults 18-49) tuned into Sunday's broadcast, its largest audience since February 2003 and the 13th most-watched program on cable last week (August 15-21).

LOSER LEAVES TOWN (TBS) - The cable channel has opted not to move forward with the reality series, in which feuding neighbors are pit against one another where the loser has to move away. No official reason was given for the decision. Here's how TBS detailed the project in its original announcement: "TBS is giving two feuding neighbors the chance to hash out their differences, once and for all, in LOSER LEAVES TOWN, a new original series created by Bruce Nash of Nash Entertainment (Outback Jack, Meet My Folks). The show will pit two feuding neighbors against each other in a series of challenging competitions, at the end of which, the loser must move to a new neighborhood."

LOST (ABC) - Cynthia Watros ("Titus") has joined the cast of the smash hit drama, making her the third new regular to be added to the series. No specific details were given about her character other than she was a therapist in her life before crashing on the island. It's not clear however when her first appearance will air. Watros joins fellow newcomers Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Michelle Rodriguez this season, which bows Wednesday, September 21.

OFF CENTRE (The WB) - Feature directors Chris and Paul Weitz ("American Pie," "About a Boy"), whose last TV producing effort was the short-lived WB comedy "Off Centre," have inked a massive two-year production deal with NBC Universal Television. The pact, valued in the $4 million range, sets up the TV arm of pair's Depth Of Field banner at the studio (where their film work is also based). Andrew Miano is expected to head up the day-to-day operations of company's TV projects with both Weitzs likely directing any of their resulting pilots. Following "Off Centre," the Weitz brothers directed the pilot to fellow short-lived comedy "Cracking Up" at FOX.

SCARLETT (Lifetime) - Rebecca Gayheart ("Dead Like Me"), Kristen Dalton ("The Dead Zone"), Lyndsy Fonseca ("Boston Public") and Michael Duvert ("The Thing About My Folks") have all been tapped to star in the Lifetime drama pilot, about a New Orleans-based best-selling gothic horror writer (Gayheart) whose characters mysteriously come to life. No details were given about Dalton, Fonseca or Duvert's characters. In addition, Steve Miner ("Wildfire") has been tapped to direct the pilot from a script by Robert Hewitt Wolfe & Hans Beimler ("Star Trek: Deep Space Nine"). Production is set to begin this month in New Orleans on the Lions Gate Television-based project with Wolfe, Beimler and Cheyenne Enterprises's Bruce Willis and Arnold Rifkin executive producing.

SEX, LOVE AND SECRETS (UPN) - Producers Jonathan Axelrod and Kelly Edwards has signed a new two-year overall deal with Paramount Network Television. The pair, whose Axelrod/Edwards Co. is behind UPN's new fall drama "Sex, Love and Secrets," will continue to develop new projects for the studio as part of the deal. In addition, the company has named ex-Shore View Entertainment executive Matt Hinerfeld as manager of development. As for its projects in development, the duo say they're currently working with writer Sean Hood ("Nellie Bly") and "Sex" director David Straiton on potential series.

THICK AND THIN (NBC) - Writer/producers Alan Cohen and Alan Freedland ("King of the Hill") have quietly been named the showrunners of the midseason comedy, about the exploits of a formerly overweight young woman (Jessica Capshaw). They'll serve as executive producers alongside creator Paula Pell and Broadway Video's Lorne Michaels and JoAnn Alfano. In addition, the pair have scored a blind six-figure commitment from NBC Universal Television, the company behind "Thick and Thin." It's expected (like "Thin") to be a half-hour comedy.

THE ULTIMATE FIGHTER (Spike TV) - Monday's much-hyped second season premiere of the popular reality series drew 2.1 million viewers, up a whopping 23.53% from its first season debut in January (1.7 million on 1/17/05).

UNTITLED CARYN MANDABACH PROJECTS (New!) - The recently formed Caryn Mandabach Productions has inked a two-year, first-look deal with Lions Gate Television. Founder Caryn Mandabach is best known as one-third of the successful indie studio Carsey-Werner-Mandabach ("The Cosby Show," "Roseanne" and "That '70s Show"), which has since moved out of the active TV business. As part of the pact, Lions Gate will provide some overhead for the Santa Monica-based company, which is focusing its efforts on developing new comedy projects. Mandabach herself is also developing comedies for the BBC, having signed a deal to create five comedies for the network earlier this year. Lions Gate reportedly will also get first crack at any U.S. versions of Mandabach's British efforts.

UNTITLED CHRIS ELLIOTT PROJECT (New!) - Chris Elliott ("Everybody Loves Raymond") is said to be close to signing a talent holding deal with Eric and Kim Tannebaum's Warner Bros. Television-based the Tannebaum Co. The pact would call for the "Two and a Half Men" producers to develop a comedy project for the actor, which he could wind up writing himself. Elliott spent the past development season shepherding an untitled comedy at FOX for 20th Century Fox Television and Regency Television which wasn't ordered to pilot.

UNTITLED CHRIS LEVINSON/DICK WOLF PROJECT (New!) - "Law & Order: Trial by Jury" writer Chris Levinson is set to team with boss Dick Wolf for a new series which tracks what happens when a blockbuster trial descends upon a small town. Three networks are understood to be interested in the project, which would follow the town's inhabitants and the media, lawyers and various weirdos who decent upon it during a Laci Peterson-esque trial about a man dealing with the loss of his wife and son. Levinson (who's believed to have a one-year overall deal at Wolf's company) is expected to write the pilot script herself with Wolf, through his NBC Universal Television-based Wolf Films, executive producing. The news marks Wolf's second non-"Law & Order" drama in the works, the other being an untitled project at NBC about a group of young New York-based assistant DAs.

UNTITLED RANDY JACKSON/LAUREN SANCHEZ PROJECT (Syndication, New!) - Twentieth Television is said to be developing a new syndicated talk show hosted by Randy Jackson ("American Idol") and Lauren Sanchez ("So You Think You Can Dance"). The project, additional details of which weren't specified, would likely be targeted for a fall 2006 launch.

UNTITLED TIM STORY PROJECTS (FOX, New!) - Director Tim Story ("Fantastic Four") has inked a deal with the FOX network to develop and helm two of its pilots targeted for the 2006-07 season. It's understood Story is eyeing one half-hour comedy and one one-hour drama as part of the deal. Already attached to develop the comedy is "Like Family" creator Dan Fogelman while no writer is currently tied to the drama. Neither project is set up at a studio, leaving Story the opportunity to shop both around town.

USA ORIGINAL SERIES (USA) - "Monk's" August 19 installment drew a stellar 5.5 million viewers. Said number was good enough to top TNT's "The Closer" (5.11 million, 1.5/4 among adults 18-49) to become the most-watched program on cable last week. Fellow USA originals "The 4,400" and "The Dead Zone" drew 3.9 million (tied for 7th overall for the week) and 3.4 million viewers (12th) respectively.

WONDER SHOWZEN (MTV2) - The MTV sibling has ordered a second season of the cult favorite series, a live-action, half-animated send up of "Sesame Street." A new cycle of eight episodes is expected to roll out in the first quarter of 2006, where it will most likely tentpole the network's Friday lineup of originals. "Showzen" will be joined by two other newcomers next year: "Final Fu," a martial arts competition from Amanda DeSeta and Becky Smith ("Queer Eye"), and "Rhythm and Reggaeton," a weekly half-hour video music block.

Also in the works are two pilots: "Are You Game?," from Matt Ringel and David Goetsch ("Third Rock from the Sun"), features contestants competing in live-action versions of their favorite video games; and "Stupid Ways to Die," from Jim Caser and Joseph Carolei, is a "Jackass"-esque series about a comedy troupe reenacting bizarre fatalities. All the aforementioned projects are designed to help bolster the fledgling channel's audience, which averaged 110,000 viewers in primetime for the month of July.

Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters





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· 10 ITEMS OR LESS (TBS)
· 12TH MAN, THE (FOX)
· 4400, THE (USA)
· AMERICAN IDOL (FOX)
· ARE YOU GAME? (MTV2)
· BLUE COLLAR TV (WB)
· BOSTON PUBLIC (FOX)
· CLOSER, THE (TNT)
· CONVICTION (NBC)
· CRACKING UP (FOX)
· DEAD LIKE ME (SHOWTIME)
· DEAD ZONE, THE (USA)
· ENTOURAGE (HBO)
· EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND (CBS)
· FIGHTING THE ODDS: THE MARILYN GAMBRELL STORY (LIFETIME)
· JACKASS (MTV)
· KING OF THE HILL (FOX)
· LAW & ORDER (NBC)
· LAW & ORDER: TRIAL BY JURY (NBC)
· LIKE FAMILY (WB)
· LOSER LEAVES TOWN (TBS)
· LOST (ABC)
· MEET MY FOLKS (NBC)
· MINDING THE STORE (TBS)
· MONK (USA)
· OFF CENTRE (WB)
· OUTBACK JACK (TBS)
· QUEER EYE (NETFLIX)
· REAL GILLIGAN'S ISLAND, THE (TBS)
· REPLACEMENT, THE (TBS)
· SCARLETT (LIFETIME)
· SEX, LOVE AND SECRETS (UPN)
· SITUATION: COMEDY (BRAVO)
· SIX FEET UNDER (HBO)
· SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE (FOX)
· STANDOFF (FOX)
· STRONG MEDICINE (LIFETIME)
· STUPID WAYS TO DIE (MTV2)
· THAT '70S SHOW (FOX)
· THICK & THIN (NBC)
· THIRD ROCK FROM THE SUN (NBC)
· TITUS (FOX)
· TODD'S COMA (TBS)
· TWO AND A HALF MEN (CBS)
· ULTIMATE FIGHTER, THE (FS1)
· UNTITLED JACKSON & SANCHEZ PROJECT (SYNDICATION)
· UNTITLED LEVINSON & WOLF PROJECT (NBC)
· UNTITLED RON WHITE ANIMATED PROJECT (TBS)
· WHAT NEWS? (TBS)
· WILDFIRE (ABC FAMILY)
· WONDER SHOWZEN (MTV2)





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