LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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AMERICA'S NEXT MUPPET (ABC, New!) - The Alphabet has ordered a script and five script outlines for a new potential reality TV parody in which viewers get a chance to pick the next Muppet. Details on the project remain a secret, however it's expected to mimic the formats of "American Idol" and "America's Next Top Model" with several current Muppets acting a judges. The Walt Disney Company purchased Jim Henson's Muppets in February of 2004.
THE COLBERT REPORT/THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART (Comedy Central) - "The Colbert Report" averaged 1.2 million viewers (a 1.0 household rating) for its inaugural week, including a 0.7 rating among adults 18-49. Said numbers among adults 18-49 were up a whopping 177% from the year-ago time period average. Not surprisingly helping things: lead-in "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" posted its second most-watched week ever during the stretch (the most being its 2004 Election Week coverage), averaging 1.6 million viewers (a 1.4 household rating) and a 1.0 rating among adults 18-49.
CELEBRITY HORSE (New!) - Reality guru Phil Gurin ("The Weakest Link") and basketball star Magic Johnson are developing a reality competition series around the playground hoops favorite. Full format details weren't specified however it's expected to follow traditional rules, with Johnson likely having an on-air presence. Gurin and Johnson are developing the project, which is expected to make the rounds at the various broadcast and cable networks in the coming weeks, through their respective companies the Gurin Co. and Magic Johnson Enterprises.
DESTORY ALL HUMANS! (FOX, New!) - Writer/producer Jim Dauterive ("King of the Hill") is spearheading a half-hour CGI-animated comedy based on THQ's best-selling sci-fi video game "Destroy All Humans!" at FOX. The game, a spoof of '50s Hollywood B-movies, tracks Crypto 137, a bulbous gray head alien who has landed on Earth and is intent on destroying it. The project, which has a script commitment, is set up at 20th Century Fox Television where Dauterive has an overall deal. Should it move forward, "Destroy" would be the first primetime broadcast series based on a videogame. Since its release in June, "Destroy" was sold 1 million units worldwide.
DRAWN TOGETHER/SOUTH PARK (Comedy Central) - The return of Comedy Central's two animated franchises on October 19 drew an average of 2.4 million viewers, making them cable's most-watched programs in the 10:00/9:00c hour (as well as adults 18-34 and 18-49). Across all networks, broadcast and cable, the pair finished a strong third place among men 18-24, behind only "Invasion" on ABC and FOX's MLB post-season coverage.
INVISIBLE (NBC, New!) - Oscar-nominated director Gary Ross ("Seabiscuit") is set to team with uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer for a new medical thriller at NBC and Warner Bros. Television. The Peacock has given a put pilot commitment to the project, which will focus on a rogue researcher for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who's tracking a mysterious illness. Ross will write the pilot script and serve as an executive producer along with Bruckheimer and Jonathan Littman. Much like the Warner Bros.'s Aaron Sorkin-created "Studio 7 on the Sunset Strip," NBC has agreed to a shortened four-and-a-half year license term should the project move forward to series.
JUDGE ALEX (Syndication) - Twentieth Television has renewed the freshman court series for a second season. In total, the company has cleared "Alex" in 87% of the country for the 2006-07 season, including the Fox Television Stations group as well as KTVU/San Francisco, WFOR/Miami, KSTW/Seattle, WPGH/Pittsburgh, WNDY/Indianapolis, KWBP/Portland and WXIX/Cincinnati. For the week ending October 16, "Alex" averaged a 2.1 household rating, ahead of fellow newcomers "Martha" (1.7) and "The Tyra Banks Show" (1.8).
LAGUNA BEACH: THE REAL ORANGE COUNTY (MTV) - The show's October 17 episode drew a stellar 3.6 million viewers, where it finished as the seventh most-watched program on cable this week and the top show among adults 18-34 overall on cable.
NIP/TUCK (FX) - The cable drama continues to thrive as the show's October 18 installment drew 3.84 million viewers, making it the fifth most-watched program on cable last week. Among adults 18-49, the episode was last week's top draw in the key demographic, averaging a strong 2.2 rating/6 share.
OVER THERE (FX) - The cable channel isn't expected to renew the freshman drama, which concludes its 13-episode run tonight. "I feel really good about it creatively. It's a tough show and at times a very darkly truthful show," FX president John Landgraf told USA Today. "Chris and Steven did a really good job of developing their characters over the long haul. The last run of episodes is quite moving... [but] the ratings are probably below the level of sustainability from our standpoint." Landgraf nevertheless stressed no final decision has been made. The show's most recent episodes have fallen to sub-2.0 million viewer levels after opening to 4.06 million viewers in July.
RED BALL (FOX, New!) - Feature writer Craig Fernandez ("Biker Boyz") and producer Sergio Aguero ("Y Tu Mama Tambien") are developing a new procedural drama at FOX about a young Latina woman who's in charge of a Houston police unit that focuses on high-profile crimes. Fernandez will write the pilot script and serve as a co-executive producer on the 20th Century Fox Television-based project, with Aguero serving as an executive producer.
SAVED (TNT) - Tom Everett Scott ("Philly"), Omari Hardwick ("Beauty Shop"), Michael McMillian ("What I Like About You") and Tracy Vilar ("Full Frontal") have all been cast in the drama pilot, about a San Francisco paramedic and gambling addict who finds his only thrills in the breakneck pace of his job. Scott will play the lead role of Wyatt Henry in the project, which comes from creator David Manson ("Nothing Sacred"), Fox 21 and Imagine Television. As for the rest of the cast, McMillian will play Harper Simms, who's described in the casting notice as: "21, Mormon, a new paramedic. Harper looks like Donny Osmond and talks like Opie. Green-as-grass, he is partnered with the more experienced Angela, but is dismissed by her as an FNG (Fucking New Guy). Overly polite, �the whitest white boy in America,� Harper is eager to make a good impression, and naturally grates on the nerves of cynical pros like Wyatt and Angela. But in a pinch, Harper proves to have some solid driving skills."
Vilar is believed to be playing Angela De La Garda, who's detailed as: "31, Hispanic and hard-boiled, Angela is also what Wyatt and Sack call a DOOD (Designated Object Of Desire). Another paramedic in LifeForce and a resident Merry Prankster, Angela is sharp-tongued and no-nonsense and finds herself partnered for the day with a Mormon newbie, Harper Simms. She grew up in the El Paso slums, the child of migrant workers, and is an extraordinarily capable EMT." Hardwick's character wasn't specified. Production on the pilot began this week in Vancouver with Darnell Martin ("Their Eyes Were Watching God") directing from a script by Manson.
THE STEREO SOUND AGNECY (MTV, New!) - Production has completed on a pilot from "My Name Is Earl" star Jason Lee and his production company, Niva Films. The project, which he co-hosted with Chris Pastras and executive produced, is a retro-style variety show that mixes sketch comedy and music with skateboarding on a set that satirizes 1970s TV shows. The show's name comes from Lee's skateboarding company, Stereo Skateboards, which he co-owns with Pastras. Danny Masterson, Bijou Phillips and Drea de Matteo all made appearances on the pilot while Pastras, Scott Martin and Beth Riesgraf also served as executive producers. Scott Tomlinson ("The Hollow Men") is attached as showrunner should the pilot go to series.
THREE WISE GUYS (USA) - USA's holiday original has been slated for Saturday, December 10 at 9:00/8:00c. Here's how the network's press materials describe the project: "Bethlehem was never like this. The three wise men of Christmas past will be replaced this holiday season by gun-toting gangsters Vincent, Joey, and George chasing a mother-to-be across the desert. Tom Arnold, Judd Nelson, Katey Sagal and Nick Turturro head an all star cast in this genre-bending takeoff of the traditional Christmas story."
THE TRIANGLE (Sci Fi) - The cable channel has confirmed its three-night, six-hour mini-series will premiere Monday, December 5 at 9:00/8:00c. Parts two and three will air Tuesday, December 6 at 9:00/8:00c and Wednesday, December 7 at 9:00/8:00c respectively, with encores of the previous night's installment serving as a lead-in at 7:00/6:00c. To help hype the project's premiere, Sci Fi also plans to air two new specials - "The Bermuda Triangle: Startling New Secrets" and "Sci Fi Inside: The Triangle" - on Sunday, November 27 beginning at 9:00/8:00c.
UNTITLED DAVE CAPLAN/EMILE LEVISETTI PROJECT (ABC, New!) - Dave Caplan ("The George Lopez Show") and Emile Levisetti ("Hope & Faith") are set to team for a new comedy at the Alphabet about a recovering alcoholic trying to put his life back on track. Touchstone Television is behind the project, where Levisetti has an overall deal. In addition, the untitled project will mix both single and multi-camera elements (a la FOX's "The War at Home"). As for plot specifics, the show will track Eddie Cooper, a recovering alcoholic who's trying balance winning back his wife, his duties as an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor for a very needy and fragile man, and the demands of his difficult boss.
UNTITLED JOHN MILLER PROJECT (NBC, New!) - The true story of John Miller, a club owner who worked as a British spy when he wasn't discovering such future rock stars as the Sex Pistols and Annie Lennox in the '70s, is set to be the focus of a potential new drama series at the Peacock. Jason Lee, Scott Martin and Beth Riesgraf's Niva Films is behind the project, which is set up at NBC Universal Television with Oliver Wilson and Daniel Arkin ("Alias") attached to write the script.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters