LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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BLADE (Spike TV) - Kirk "Sticky" Jones ("Over There") has reportedly been cast in the lead role of the two-hour backdoor pilot movie, based on the feature film franchise of the same name. He'll play Blade, whose TV incarnation is described in the casting notice as follows: "Late 20s-late 30s, male, African-American. An incredible martial artist and warrior, armed with a silver sword, this legendary vampire hunter ferociously seeks out his vampire prey and destroys them. A "half-breed" whose mother was attacked by vampires while pregnant with him, Blade is himself halfhuman, half-vampire, and forced to drink a special serum on a daily basis to control his raging thrist. Blade has all the vampires' strengths and none of their weaknesses - which is why he is so feared and hated by his nemeses. Anxious to stop vampire research into a top secret genome project, Blade enlists the help of a new ally - one who battles the menace from within their own ranks." David Goyer, Jon Kroll, Jim Rosenthal, Ari Arad and Avi Arad are the executive producers of the project, which is set to begin production this month for a mid-2006 premiere.
THE BODY POLITIC (The WB, New!) - Bill Robinson ("Pasadena") and Jason Rothenberg have scored a script order (with a small penalty attached) from the WB for a new drama about young people working in the nation's capital. The project is set up at Touchstone Television with Peter Horton ("Grey's Anatomy") attached to direct and executive produce should it go to pilot. As for plot specifics, "Politic" will track a young woman who comes to work in D.C. for the first time and becomes an aide in order to get close to her estranged biological father. Robinson himself worked on Capitol Hill as an aide to Sen. Ted Kennedy as a teen while his sister has worked in the White House.
BULL'S EYE ENTERTAINMENT PROJECTS (New!) - Tom Nunan, Cathy Schulman and Bob Yari's Sony Pictures Television-based Bull's Eye Entertainment has detailed its 2006-07 season development slate, which includes four comedies and three dramas. Two of the comedies - "The Group" and "The Guy Next Door" - are set up at ABC. The former, which they're co-producing with Touchstone Television, revolves around a rock super group that brings in a female shrink to work through their dysfunctional relationships (a la the Metallica movie "X"). Writer Jay Lacopo and producer Sean Bailey (who last teamed with Bull's Eye on the failed 2003 CBS pilot "All Grown Up") are behind the single-camera project, which includes a significant penalty should it not go to pilot. Also at ABC is "The Guy Next Door," from Michael Davidoff ("Bram & Alice"), a multi-camera entry about a Paul Giamatti-like character who lives in an Lower East Side apartment next to a group of hip, "Friends"-like young adults.
At FOX there's "Chicken or Beef?," from "The Groundlings" alums Heather Morgan ("The Comeback") and Patrick Bristow ("Ellen"), a "Sliding Doors"-esque comedy in which two versions of a plot unfold. Full details however weren't specified. And finally there's FOX's failed hybrid comedy "The Ant Hines Project," which is now being redeveloped by CBS and UPN as part of an usual move to develop the project together and decide later where to put it. Hines ("Da Ali G Show") describes the project as being along the lines of "Ali G" with mistaken identity and hidden camera moments.
On the drama front, Bull's Eye has the previously announced "Crash" TV series, which it is co-producing with Lions Gate Television. Don Cheadle is on board to appear in several episodes of the project's first season, with Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco also serving as executive producers. In addition, there's Scott Shepherd's "Illusions" at ABC and Dan McDermott's "Surveillance" at USA. The former is a procedural drama about a David Blaine-like illusionist who (along with his sister-in-law, an F.B.I. agent) hunts for his wife's killer and solves crimes. Veteran illusionists Penn & Teller are said to be in talks to serve as consultants on the project. As for "Surveillance," the one-time FOX-based project revolves around the son of a fallen F.B.I. agent who ends up running the agency's elite surveillance unit.
THE BUSINESS (NBC, New!) - Feature writer Sheldon Turner ("The Longest Yard") and the ever-busy Jerry Bruckheimer have landed a pilot order from the Peacock for a new drama about an estranged father and son who end up working together as private detectives in Los Angeles. The half-serialized/half-procedural project marks the Warner Bros. Television-based Bruckheimer's second pilot order at NBC this season, the other being the Gary Ross-created medical thriller "Invisible." As for specifics about "The Business," the action will track 28-year-old Bobby Verrick, a lawyer who comes home to see his estranged 48-year-old father Hayden, a former CIA operative, after a five-year separation. The pair then team up for yet-to-be-announced reasons with the show's ongoing plot dealing with their family's secret past. Turner will write the pilot script and executive produce along with Bruckheimer and Jonathan Littman.
CHEERLEADER (Lifetime) - Lifetime has reportedly committed to eight episodes of the half-hour docu-reality series, about the lives of a team of Dunbar High School cheerleaders in Lexington, Kentucky. The project, which comes from Fox TV Studios-based producer Laurie Girion ("R U the Girl With T-Boz and Chili"), was previously set up at MTV. Episodes are said to revolve around everything from the squad's efforts to hang on to its title as defending champions to the relationship between one of the girls and her mother, who is also the team coach. It's understood Lifetime is targeting the series for a first quarter 2006 premiere.
CONVICTION (NBC) - Julianne Nicholson ("Ally McBeal") and Anson Mount ("The Mountain") are the first to be cast in the midseason drama, a character-driven piece about young assistant district attorneys in New York. The pair will play unspecified characters in the project, which comes from executive producers Dick Wolf, Walon Green, Rick Eid and Peter Jankowski. "Conviction," which will begin production later this month for an early 2006 premiere, is set up at Wolf's NBC Universal Television-based Wolf Films.
DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES (ABC) - Page Kennedy, who plays the briefly seen man in Betty Applewhite's (Alfre Woodard) basement on the series, was fired for unspecified reasons on Friday. Industry insiders however suggest the termination is tied to allegations of improper conduct by the actor toward a member of the crew. Nashawn Kearse ("Law & Order: Criminal Intent") has been brought in to take over the role of Caleb, however it's not clear in what episode he'll make his first appearance.
THE DRESDEN FILES (Sci Fi) - Paul Blackthorne, who starred in the failed ABC drama pilot "Pros & Cons" last season, has been tapped for the lead role in the two-hour drama pilot, based on Jim Butcher's best-selling series of novels. Here's how the casting notice describes his character, Harry Dresden: "30s. This charming, wise-cracking guy is handsome and rugged. Dresden's a private eye, but with a big difference. Although he's known as an "occult investigator," he's actually a wizard. He's a little like Philip Marlowe, a tough but fair operator with a keen eye for the dames and an intrinsic ability to handle himself in a sticky situation. Harry frequently works with the police as a hired consultant, and he has a track record for solving cases of the most bizarre type. A while back, Dresden used black magic to kill a rival in selfdefense and his use of that forbidden art has gotten him in hot water with the Wizards' White Council, which is always breathing down his neck waiting for his next screw-up. When two people are killed by black magic, Dresden is summoned to consult on the case by the cops. However, as far as the White Council is concerned, he's the chief suspect, and unless he tracks down the real perpetrator, pronto, he faces dire consequences. Unfortunately, the bodies are piling up, and Dresden has few clues. He only knows that he's facing a powerful and mysterious adversary, and that unless he gets some information, fast, he might be the next victim." Hans Beimler, Robert Wolfe, Nicolas Cage, Norm Golightly, and Morgan Gendel are the project's executive producers. Production is set to begin on November 23 in Toronto for a summer 2006 premiere.
EX-WIVES CLUB (ABC, New!) - Casting has begun on a new reality series in which three famous "ex-wives" - Marla Maples, Angie Everhart and Shar Jackson - help those coming off a bad divorce or break-up, offering to help in everything from makeovers to financial advice. The project, a pilot of which has was shot earlier this year, has been given the green light to cast five additional installments. Glassman Media ("Three Wishes") is producing the series, which could be ready in time for a late spring or early summer run. Interested parties can visit, ABC's Casting Page for more information.
GENETICALLY CHALLENGED (FOX) - Will McCormack ("The Sopranos") and former "Head Cases" co-stars Rhea Seehorn and Richard Kind have all been cast in the comedy pilot, about a young lawyer named Zach (Coby Ryan McLaughlin) who works to overcome various traits that he has inherited from his parents. Kind will play Shermie, Zach's father, an obsessive, highly neurotic guy who has micromanaged his son's every move since childhood, while will portray Brooke, a fellow attorney and friend of Zach who finds herself in predicaments because of her endless attempts at finding the perfect man. McCormack then is set as Ricky, Zach's lawfirm associate who also happens to be his antithesis, a laid-back guy who skates through life mostly on luck. Steve Leff, Kell Cahoon, Eric Tannenbaum and Kim Tannenbaum are behind the project, which comes from the latter pair's Warner Bros. Television-based the Tannenbaum Co.
GERALDO AT LARGE (Syndication) - The premiere week of the syndicated newcomer drew an average 2.2 household rating/4 share. Said numbers were down 33% from the first week of Twentieth Television's recently-axed "A Current Affair." Overall, "Geraldo" was off 29% from its average lead-in (3.1/6) and 12% in year-to-year time period comparisons.
JAMIE KENNEDY'S BLOWIN' UP (MTV, New!) - Jamie Kennedy ("The Jamie Kennedy Experiment") has booked a new project at MTV, a hybrid scripted/reality series in which he and his best friend, Stu Stone, try to become legitimate hip-hop stars by crashing meetings with music moguls and artists in hopes of landing a record deal. The project, which is set up at George Verschoor's Hoosick Falls Productions ("Nashville Star"), will feature original music by the duo with Kennedy, Stone and Verschoor all serving as executive producers. No specific episode order was given for the series, which will bow sometime next year.
LOURDES (A&E, New!) - Lourdes, France, home to 68 miracles deemed "official" by the Catholic Church, is set to be the focus of a potential four-hour mini-series at the cable channel. The project will track the true story of a terminally ill surgeon who is healed after drinking water from a spring alleged to have been created after the Virgin Mary appeared to a young girl named Bernadette in 1858. Said man will then go on to investigate the power of the site and the thousands of anecdotal accounts of miraculous healing that originated there. Paul Lussier (A&E's "Blackout") is on board to write and executive produce the project, additional details of which weren't specified.
LOVESPRING (A.K.A. UNTITLED BRAD ISAACS/GUY SHALEM PROJECT) (Lifetime, New!) - The cable channel is said to be close to giving the comedy pilot presentation a series order of six episodes. The project, which comes from Eric McCormack and Michael Forman's NBC Universal Television-based Big Cattle Productions, is a "Curb Your Enthusiasm"-esque workplace half-hour set at a high-end matchmaking service where the employees' love-lives are sadder than the customers they're trying to help. Guy Shalem ("Boston Legal") and Brad Isaacs ("King of the Hill") created the series, the former of which will serve as the show's director. Lifetime is expected to pair the series with repeats of "Will & Grace" beginning in the first quarter of 2006, although no firm launch date or time period was specified.
THE NINE LIVES OF CHLOE KING (ABC Family, New!) - Alloy Entertainment ("The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants") is developing an original movie at the cable channel based on the book of the same name from Simon & Schuster. Said project follows a 16-year-old girl in San Francisco who discovers that she is part "cat-people." No other details were given other than it is in the early stages of development.
STUCK IN PARADISE/UNTITLED HARRIS GOLDBERG PROJECT (USA, New!) - Feature writer Harris Goldberg ("Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo") has set up a pair of semi-autobiographical projects - one comedy and one drama - at USA and the Warner Bros. Television-based Werner-Gold-Miller banner. The former is based on Goldberg's college years at Northwestern University, during which he lived in his brother's house freshman year as opposed to moving into the dorms, forcing him to straddle the college world and the adult world. The latter, entitled "Stuck in Paradise," tracks Goldberg's experiences as a waiter at Club Med. Goldberg will write and executive produce both projects along with Davis Entertainment Co. topper Amy Palmer.
UNTITLED DONNIE WAHLBERG PROJECT (New!) - Donnie Wahlberg ("Boomtown"), Warner Bros. Television and Relevant Entertainment are set to team for a potential new drama loosely based on Wahlberg's experiences prior to becoming a member of the late-'80s boy band New Kids On The Block. It's understood the project, which Wahlberg will executive produce but not star, will focus on how the tumultuous world of desegregation in 1970s Boston eventually led Wahlberg to his music career. Relevant's Jonathan Baruch and Michael Prevett are also on board as executive producers. The search is on for a writer for the project, however no network is currently attached.
UNTITLED MATTHEW CIRCULNICK PROJECT (Spike TV, New!) - Matthew Cirulnick ("South Beach"), Tony Krantz's Flame Television and Ice Cube's Cube Vision Productions are developing a "Grand Theft Auto"-esque series at Spike TV about a man acting as a double agent for a straight-arrow cop. Said project, which Cirulnick will write and executive produce, will track a 21-year-old who gets caught up in a series of criminal ventures in order to help out his blue-collar family, who is then recruited by an upstanding cop to infiltrate the numerous rackets that have overrun the city after being caught by the police. Krantz and Cube Vision's Matt Alvarez and Ice Cube will also serve as executive producers.
UNTITLED NOBERT LEO BUTZ PROJECT (CBS, New!) - Tony-winning actor Norbert Leo Butz ("Dirty Rotten Scoundrels") has inked a development deal with the Eye and Paramount Network Television-based Joe Roth Television to star in a new comedy series for the network. Butz and company are currently meeting with writers to hammer out the show's premise.
UNTITLED PRINCIPATO-YOUNG ENTERTAINMENT PROJECTS (FOX, New!) - Paul Young and Peter Principato's Principato-Young Entertainment has inked a first-look production deal with FOX. The pair represent such actors as Will Arnett ("Arrested Development") and Anthony Anderson ("The Shield") as well as screenwriters Thomas Lennon & Robert Ben Garant ("The Pacifier"), Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg ("Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle"), Don D. Scott ("Barbershop") and Geoff Rodkey ("Daddy Day Care"). Said deal will give FOX first crack at any projects the company has in the works for the small screen.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters