LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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BETTY LA FEA (ABC) - The Alphabet has given a cast-contingent pilot order to the drama project, a U.S. version of the Colombian telenovela of the same name about an unattractive girl who's hired by a Vogue-esque fashion magazine to stop her new boss's habit of sleeping with attractive assistants. Silvio Horta is penning the Touchstone Television-based adaptation and will executive produce along with Reveille's Ben Silverman and Ventanarosa's Salma Hayek and Jose Tamez.
DIRT (FX) - Courteney Cox and David Arquette's Coquette Productions has inked a new first-look deal with Touchstone Television, the studio which helped produce their failed comedy pilot "Talkshow Diaries" at UPN this past development season. The pact, which takes effect retroactively on November 1, replaces their previous deal with Warner Bros. Television. Said development won't affect the company's Arquette-led comedy in development at ABC and Warner Bros. however the studio has opted out of producing their drama pilot "Dirt" for FX. Touchstone then will have first crack at the hour, which comes from writer/producer Matthew Carnahan.
E! NEWS (E!) - "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest is said to be close to signing a three-year, high seven-figure deal to become the lead anchor of the channel's daily news program as well as develop original series for the network via his Ryan Seacrest Productions. The pact is expected to kick in early next year, with Seacrest likely toplining E!'s red-carpet coverage of the Golden Globe Awards on January 16. As for "E! News," current anchor Giuliana DePandi is expected to remain with the show. More details are expected to be announced by the weekend.
EMILY'S REASONS WHY NOT (ABC) - James Patrick Stuart ("Andy Richter Controls the Universe") has joined the cast of the midseason comedy, which premieres Monday, January 9 at 9:00/8:00c. He'll play a high-paid business consultant who butts heads with Heather Graham's character when her publishing house brings his character in to boost the bottom line. It's not clear when Stuart's first episode will air. In addition, Bill Diamond ("Nikki") has been tapped as the Sony Pictures Television/Pariah-based show's new executive producer/showrunner. Again, it's not clear what episode Diamond will take over. No reason for his addition was given.
GREY'S ANATOMY (ABC) - Christina Ricci ("Monster") has signed on to appear in the show's post-Super Bowl XL episode, due to air on Sunday, February 5. Details about her character are being kept under wraps, however creator/executive producer Shonda Rhimes told The Hollywood Reporter she'll be coming to Seattle Grace Hospital "not as a patient but in a life-and-death situation."
HEIST (NBC) - The Peacock is moving forward with its caper project "Heist," ordering 13 episodes (including the pilot) of the series just 10 days after production on the pilot wrapped. Dougray Scott, Steve Harris, Seymour Cassel, Reno Wilson, Marika Dominczyk, David Walton, Michele Hicks and Billy Gardell all star in the project, about a group of thieves who spend the season executing a scheme to rob three Rodeo Drive jewelry stores during Oscar week. The early pick-up means episodes should be ready to air by the spring. Robb and Mark Cullen created the project, which comes from NBC Universal Television, Sony Pictures Television and Doug Liman & Dave Bartis's Hypnotic banner. The Cullens, Liman and Bartis then will serve as executive producers on the series along with Bernie Brillstein and Peter Safran.
MANDEVILLE FILMS PROJECTS (New!) - David Hoberman's Mandeville Films has lined up a pair of new projects at ABC and Touchstone Television as well as two unattached scripts at the studio. Among the ABC efforts: "86 Ocean Ave.," a comedy from Rachel Sweet ("The George Lopez Show"), about a group of divorced friends who live in the same apartment building; and "Paradise," from Ted Humphrey ("Now and Again"), a procedural drama about the Miami police department's internal affairs division. The latter project was said to have originally been set in New Orleans, but the producers opted for a Miami locale after recent events. Hoberman and Mandeville's Todd Lieberman will serve as executive producers on both projects along with their respective creators. Also at Touchstone, but not attached to a network: "The Ghost," from novelist Lorenzo Carcaterra ("Sleepers"), about a deep-cover F.B.I. operative; and "Edison," from Howard Franklin ("Antitrust"), about an undercover cop plagued by being a chronic liar. "Edison" had previously been set up at both ABC and USA and is now being redeveloped. The quartet join the company's previously announced heist drama at Spike TV (read the story).
MEET THE SANTAS (Hallmark) - The cable channel original drew a solid 3.6 million viewers for its premiere this past Saturday. Overall, said broadcast was the 12th most-watched program on cable for the week of December 12-18.
MTV ORIGINAL SERIES (MTV) - MTV has confirmed launch dates for several of its upcoming projects. Tuesday, January 3 sees the second season launch of "Meet the Barkers" at 10:00/9:00c. Then on Thursday, February 2 look for the season two premiere of "Nick Cannon Presents: Wild 'N Out" at 10:00/9:00c followed by the debut of "The Shop," a docu-reality series set at New York's Mr. Rooney's Barbershop, at 10:30/9:30c. Later that month, the landmark 17th season of "The Real World" is expected to kick off on Tuesday, February 21 at 10:00/9:00c while quasi-"Laguna Beach" newcomer "8th & Ocean" is tentatively set to bow on Tuesday, March 7 at 10:30/9:30c. Also on tap for the first quarter of 2006 is reality newbie "The X Effect," which asks "If you were reunited with your former love, would you close the door on the past or re-kindle the flame?" No firm launch date has been announced for said project.
THE MODEL (ABC, New!) - "Sex and the City" creator Darren Star has inked a two-for-one pilot commitment with ABC. The pact calls for Star, through his self-titled Sony Pictures Television-based banner, to develop two series projects at the Alphabet, one of which is guaranteed a pilot order. Already set up as part of the deal is "The Model," a single-camera comedy described as "That Girl" set in the New York modeling universe. Darlene Hunt ("Good Morning, Miami") created the project and will executive produce along with Full Picture's Desiree Gruber and Jane Cha ("Project Runway"). No details however were released about the second project being developed as part of the deal.
MY BOYS (TBS, New!) - Writer/producer Betsy Thomas ("Run of the House") has scored a pilot order at the cable channel for a single-camera comedy about a twentysomething Chicago sports columnist whose life revolves around men - her brother, her ex-boyfriend, her best friend and a sportswriter for a rival paper. The project is set up at Sony Pictures Television-based Pariah with Gavin Polone ("Gilmore Girls") and Jamie Tarses serving as executive producers along with Thomas. Casting is currently underway on "Boys" with shooting set to begin in February.
NIP/TUCK (FX) - A whopping 5.7 million viewers tuned into the show's two-hour season finale on Tuesday, 3.9 million of which fell into the adults 18-49 demographic. Said numbers in the key demographic marked not only FX's most-watched broadcast in its history but also the most-watched on cable so far this year. Among all networks, broadcast and cable, in the 10:00/9:00c hour "Nip/Tuck" was second only to "Law & Order: S.V.U." on NBC, not to mention saw its audience grow by 17% from its first and second hours.
PEN AND THE SWORD/WAREHOUSE 13 (NBC/Sci Fi, New!) - Additional details have been revealed about NBC's "Pen and the Sword" and Sci Fi's "Warehouse 13," Ronald D. Moore's two new projects set up as part of his recently inked two-year overall deal with NBC Universal Television (read the story). "Pen" reportedly revolves around a young man at a temp agency who comes to realize the building he works in is a portal to a sort of medieval alternate reality. Said project would then follow the man as he slides between worlds, trying to unravel the connection between the two (verbal spats between colleagues in one dimension are sword fights in the other) as well as how his late father relates to the office. As for "13," the cable project concerns a pair of government officials banished to a storage facility in North Dakota where they spend their days cataloguing artifacts and other odds and ends collected by the government over the years, unknowingly pulling them into fantastic and supernatural quests each week. Moore is executive producing both projects, penning the former and Brent Mote ("Atomic Train") writing the latter.
SCOTT FREE PRODUCTIONS PROJECTS (New!) - Ridley and Tony Scott's Scott Free banner ("Numb3rs") has lined up three new drama projects at CBS and Paramount Network Television. First up is the Stephen Dorff-led "Cutter," about the professional and personal lives of the crew of a Coast Guard cutter. Feature writer Jim Kouf ("National Treasure") is behind the hour, which he'll executive produce along with the actor and his producing partner Tucker Tooley. Next up is "Orpheus," which centers on the activities of a cult, from Oscar and Emmy-nominated writer/director Nicholas Meyer ("The Human Stain"). Finally there's "New Mexico," from writer Julie Hebert ("ER") and producer Brooke Kennedy ("Numb3rs"), about a town in New Mexico where technology meets spirituality. The Scotts will serve as executive producers on all three hours as part of their overall deal with Paramount, a deal which they recently reupped for a second year.
STAR TREK/STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION (G4) - The fledgling gaming channel reportedly is in talks to purchase the repeat rights to Paramount Domestic Television's "Star Trek" as well as spin-off "Star Trek: The Next Generation." No other details were given about the deal, which is understood to be tied to the Comcast-owned network's expected rebranding next year.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters