[10/17/05 - 12:00 AM]
Development Update: October 17
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!

COMEDIANS OF COMEDY (Comedy Central) - The half-hour documentary series, about the lives of comedians Patton Oswalt, Brian Posehn, Zack Galifianakis and Maria Bamford, has been slated to premiere Friday, November 11 at 11:00/10:00c.

THE DEAD ZONE (USA) - Debmar-Mercury Entertainment has signed on to sell the repeat rights to all 67 episodes of the veteran USA series, following their successful sales of "Farscape" and "South Park" to local stations across the country this fall. Like most syndicated offerings, the company is expected to offer both five-a-week plays to cable stations (for a cash license fee) and weekend-only plays to local stations (in exchange for seven minutes per hour for national ad sales) beginning in September 2006. No specific cable networks were mentioned as being targeted however USA itself is expected to be among the contenders.

FIREFLY (FOX) - USA has purchased the broadcast rights to "Serenity," the feature film continuation of FOX's short-lived series "Firefly," from NBC Universal Domestic Television. The deal, valued in the $3 million range, will give the cable channel the non-exclusive rights to broadcast the film beginning in May of 2008, when HBO's initial window expires. Not surprisingly, USA has the option to air "Serenity" on cable sibling Sci Fi, the current home to "Firefly's" off-network run.

THE INITIATION OF SARAH (ABC Family, New!) - The cable channel has greenlit production on a remake of Robert Day's cult-classic 1978 TV movie (featuring Morgan Fairchild and Robert Hays), about a sorority sister with supernatural powers she uses against rival houses. Dan Berendsen (Disney Channel's "Twitches") wrote the script to the new version, which will begin production in January for an October 2006 air date during ABC Family's "13 Nights of Halloween" franchise.

INTERVENTION (A&E) - A&E has quietly bumped the show's second season launch back a week to Sunday, October 30 at 10:00/9:00c. No reason for the change was given.

MUD SHOW (ABC Family, New!) - Writer/producers Sandy Chanley ("Fat Actress") and Doug Shaffer ("Weakest Link") are developing a new comedy pilot at the cable channel about disgruntled circus performers. The project, which Keith Truesdell ("Fat Actress") will direct should it move forward, tracks the performers and staff of a dilapidated one-ring circus as they try to get along with their new owner - the grudging, estranged son of the previous owner. Chanley and Shaffer are writing the pilot script and will executive produce with Tom Bull ("Fat Actress").

PAINKILLER JANE (Sci Fi) - The two-hour backdoor pilot has been slated to air Saturday, December 10 at 9:00/8:00c. Here's how Sci Fi's press materials describe the project: "Based on the Event Comics series, 'Painkiller Jane' is a super-heroine for the new millennium. When Jane Browning (Emmanuelle Vaugier) is exposed to a biochemical weapon that alters her genes, she becomes endowed with incredible self-healing powers and extraordinary physical and mental abilities. Now, on the run from a sinister organization determined to replicate her powers - or destroy them - Jane joins forces with some unlikely allies to become an ultra-covert crime-fighting agent." Tate Donovan, Richard Roundtree, Eric Dane and Walker Howard also star.

STUDIO 7 ON THE SUNSET STRIP (NBC, New!) - The Peacock has emerged as the winner of a bidding war with CBS to land a new project that marks "The West Wing" creator Aaron Sorkin's return to television. The project, which Sorkin wrote on spec, is described as a "Sports Night"-esque look at the lives of those that work on a long-running "Saturday Night Live"-esque sketch-comedy show based in Los Angeles. Sorkin's "West Wing" and "Sports Night" partner Thomas Schlamme is also on board to direct the pilot as well as executive produce. NBC agreed to several concessions as part of its bid to win the Warner Bros. Television-based project: the deal guarantees production of the pilot (budgeted in the $3 million range), after which it must commit to 12 additional episodes (at a new series record $2 million per episode license fee) or pay a substantial mid-seven-figure penalty.

In addition, NBC will guarantee the show a non-weekend (i.e. either Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday) time period between the hours of 9-11 p.m. eastern. Finally, NBC's contract for the show will run for only four and a half years, down from the relative standard of six to seven years. Said development means that NBC will have to renegotiate the license fee by the time the show's fifth season rolls around. As for specifics about the series, it's understood the pilot opens with a "Network"-esque meltdown of "Studio 7's" executive producer (a talented writer whose career is often compromised by cocaine use) while the "celebrity host" for that week's episode is "Desperate Housewives" star Felicity Huffman, who worked with Sorkin on both "Sports Night" and "The West Wing." Not surprisingly, the project's fictional network - UBS, a subsidiary of the equally fictional conglomerate Atlantic Media Group - is clearly a parallel to NBC itself, as are the various executive relationships. In a statement to the press, NBC's president of entertainment Kevin Reilly described it as: "Aaron Sorkin's work is truly in a class all its own, and Tommy Schlamme, time and again, has delivered exceptional television. This project is a noisy, compelling combination of bold drama and laugh-out-loud comedy."

Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters

  [october 2005]  


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