LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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AMERICAN IDOL (FOX) - Tribune Entertainment has purchased the weekend repeat rights to the reality franchise, clearing it on all 26 of the company's stations across the country for a September launch. Additional clearances are expected to be announced at the annual National Association of TV Program Executives (NATPE) convention in Las Vegas later this month. It's believed participating stations will pay no cash, but rather turn over seven minutes per hour for national ad sales by Tribune. No other specifics, such as how the series will be cut for syndication, were given.
COMPANY TOWN (A.K.A. UNTITLED ELWOOD REID/LARRY SANITSKY PROJECT) (CBS) - The Eye has greenlighted production on the Washington, D.C.-based drama pilot, about the lives of government agents who happen to live in the same neighborhood. Elwood Reid ("The Pennsylvania Miners' Story") is behind the hour, which he's executive producing along with Larry Sanitsky's Paramount Network Television-based banner.
DAMAGES (FOX, New!) - Writer/producer Jonathan Lisco ("Jack & Bobby") has scored a pilot order from FOX for a new Chicago-based drama about "the pathology and personal hazards" lawyers face in juggling their career and personal lives. Lisco is writing the pilot script and executive producing the hour, which is set up at 20th Century Fox Television.
DEADWOOD (HBO) - The pay channel is said to be close to renewing the western for a fourth season, nearly six months ahead of its previously announced third season launch in June. No other details were given. Production has already been completed on eight of the show's 12 planned installments this season.
DUETS (FOX, New!) - "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell has scored a cast-contingent order for a new unscripted singing competition series in which professional singers partner with celebrities outside of the music business to perform duets in front of a live studio audience. Cowell, who's already sold a version to the U.K.'s ITV, is executive producing the summer-targeted project through his SYCO TV production company, but will not appear on camera. No other format specifics were given, other than audience voting and a judging panel will be featured.
FIX ME (NBC, New!) - "The Bernie Mac Show" creator Larry Wilmore is developing a new single-camera comedy at the Peacock, NBC Universal Television and DreamWorks Television about a young pediatrician who takes care of everyone around her but needs some help of her own. The project is said to be conceived by Steven Spielberg who still gets seen by a pediatrician himself. Wilmore will write and executive produce the half-hour along with DreamWorks Television toppers Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey.
THE KING OF QUEENS (CBS) - Michelle Nader, a writer and co-executive producer on the series, has inked a two-year, seven-figure overall deal with NBC Universal Television. The pact, which begins in June following her work on "Queens," calls for Nader to develop new series projects for the studio.
MEET THE BARKERS (MTV) - An impressive 2.53 million viewers tuned into the show's second season bow last Tuesday, including a 2.73 rating in the viewers 12-34 demographic. Said number in the key area was up a whopping 48% from its premiere last April and up 65% from its inaugural season average. Among viewers 12-17, "Barkers" was the most-watched program in primetime, beating out all other broadcast and cable programming. (Note: The original story incorrectly reportedly "Barkers" was seen by 4.4 million viewers on average. That number was the total unique viewers reached, not the average for the half-hour - 2.53 million.)
THE RAFTONS (NBC, New!) - Writer/producers Larry Wilmore and Bobby Gaylor ("The Bernie Mac Show") are set to team for a new single-camera comedy about a stiff, corporate executive who winds up running the business affairs for his younger brother, a rising hip-hop mogul in the vein of Jay-Z and Diddy. The project is set at NBC Universal Television with Wilmore himself being eyed for the older brother role and a yet-to-be-cast real-life hip-hop star as Riff-Raff, the young rapper character. Wilmore and Gaylor then are penning the pilot script and executive producing.
SPECIAL UNIT (Comedy Central, New!) - Christopher Titus ("Titus") has been tapped to write, star and executive produce a comedy pilot for the cable channel, about a rebel cop (Titus) whose on-the-job offenses land him in charge of a squad of physically and mentally challenged officers. It's understood the ensemble cast includes a Sherlock Holmes type whose speech is incomprehensible due to cerebral palsy; a midget with top-notch shooting skills; an autistic officer who knows martial arts but doesn't like to be touched; and a physically disabled Gulf War vet and tech specialist. Bryan Cranston ("Malcolm in the Middle") is attached to direct the half-hour, which is expected to shoot in Los Angeles next month, from a script by Titus. Michael Rotenberg and Dave Becky, Titus's managers at 3 Arts Entertainment, are also on board to executive produce.
THREE MOONS OVER MILFORD (ABC Family) - The cable channel has committed to yet another series, ordering eight episodes of the quirky drama, about a small town whose residents take their lives to the extreme upon learning that a cosmic explosion is threatening Earth's existence. "Moons" then will track the Montgomery family, which has Dad leaving to climb the world's seven largest peaks, daughter Lydia taking up witchcraft to help save Earth and son Alex getting involved with an older neighbor. Sam Murphy ("The Closer"), Nora Dunn ("Saturday Night Live"), Samantha Quan ("How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days") and Rob Boltin ("Pizza My Heart") all star in the project, which comes from Three Moons Productions and Touchstone Television. Howard Chesley and Jon Boorstin created the series and will serve as co-executive producers with Holly Goldberg Sloan ("The Secret Life of Girls") and Gary Rosen ("Hacks") executive producing and Jon Amiel ("Eyes") serving as a consultant. Production is set to begin this spring for a possible summer premiere. "Moons" joins "Balancing Act" and "Kyle XY" as ABC Family's third new hour to join the network's schedule in 2006.
UNTITLED AQUAMAN PROJECT (The WB) - 28-year-old newcomer Will Toale has been tapped to play the lead role in the drama pilot, about the DC Comics character of the same name. In addition, the WB has formally greenlighted production on the hour, which is expected to shoot in March, most likely in Miami. Miles Millar and Alfred Gough ("Smallville") are behind the project, which tracks Arthur Curry (Toale), the twentysomething owner of a dive shop who's actually the lost king of Atlantis.
UNTITLED CAROL LEIFER PROJECT (FOX, New!) - "Seinfeld" writer Carol Leifer has booked a script order for a new single-camera comedy at FOX about the unlikely friendship between two recently divorced high-society women in New York. The project, which is based on an idea by Steven Spielberg, is set up at the NBC Universal Television-based DreamWorks Television. Liefer is penning the pilot script and executive producing along with Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey of DreamWorks Television.
UNTITLED RACHAEL RAY PROJECT (Syndication) - Janet Annino ("Entertainment Tonight") has been tapped as the freshman talk show's showrunner. The King World Productions-based series, which features Food Network personality and author Rachael Ray offering solutions to everyday problems, has been cleared in 85% of the country for a fall 2006 launch.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters