LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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BIG DAY (ABC)/'TIL DEATH (FOX) - Writer/producers Cathy Yuspa and Josh Goldsmith, the pair behind the upcoming "Big Day" for ABC and "'Til Death" for FOX, have inked a new three-year, seven-figure overall deal with Sony Pictures Television. The pact will cover their duties on the two Sony-produced series as well as any future development during the period.
CABLE RATINGS ROUND-UP (Various) - HBO's new Sunday lineup of "Deadwood" (2.4 million viewers), "Entourage" (2.7 million), "Lucky Louie" (1.5 million) and "Dane Cook's Tourgasm" (1.1 million) failed the crack the top 15 for the week of June 5-11. Nevertheless, said "Entourage" numbers were up a whopping 68.75% from its sophomore bow last year (1.6 million) and 42.11% from its overall season two average (1.9 million). "Deadwood" however was off a modest 14.29% from its season opener last year (2.8 million) but on par with its second season average. Also not making the cut was the premiere of Comedy Central's "Dog Bites Man" (1.1 million), which fell 35.29% from its "South Park" repeat lead-in (1.7 million). Among the top 15 then were USA's "The 4,400" (4.2 million, #3) and MTV's "Movie Awards" (3.2 million, #11). The latter broadcast was down 31% from last year and its least-watched overall since 1996 while "The 4,400" was off 17% from its two-hour season premiere a year ago.
THE COMEBACK (HBO) - Lisa Kudrow and Dan Bucatinsky's Is or Isn't Entertainment has inked a two-year, first-look deal with NBC Universal Television. The news marks a move from Warner Bros. Television, where the pair had been since the company's launch in June of 2003. As for the pact, the studio will get first crack at any of Kudrow and Bucatinsky's series projects with Kudrow herself potentially attached as star. It's understood they're currently working on their first project, an adaptation of Jancee Dunn's book "But Enough About Me." Separately, the company has partnered with Magical Elves Productions ("Project Runway") for a potential new unscripted show at Bravo set in the world of sketch comedy. No other specifics however were mentioned.
DAMAGES (FOX) - Feature director Jon Amiel, who helmed said drama pilot this past development season, has signed a one-year development deal with 20th Century Fox Television. The pact, which has an option for a second year, will call for Amiel to direct one or more of studio's pilots next season as well as develop new series projects. In addition, should any of his feature work move forward in the coming months, the deal will roll over to next year.
DRIFT (ABC) - Jason O'Mara ("In Justice"), who toplined said pilot last season, has inked a new talent holding deal with ABC and Touchstone Television. The news marks the actor's second consecutive holding deal with the studio, a pact which calls for the pair to cast him in one of their projects in the works for the next development season or develop a new project around him.
DRIVE (FOX) - Kristin Lehman ("Killer Instinct") and Ivan Sergei ("Crossing Jordan") have booked the final principal roles on the drama pilot, which revolves around an illegal cross-country race. Sergei will play Alex Tully, who's detailed in the casting notice as: "Early 30s. A ruggedly handsome blue-collar nursery owner. He is beside himself with worry over his wife's recent disappearance. When Alex receives a mysterious phone call instructing him to place his savings into a secret account, he assumes that the money is his wife's ransom. Before long, he realizes that the reasons behind his wife's disappearance are far more sinister and complicated than he could have imagined. In fact, Alex has been specially scouted to take part in a secret road race, that has been organized, perhaps for generations, by a mysterious cabal. Issued instructions along the way via a red cell phone, Alex teams up with the beautiful Corinna Wiles to unravel the mystery behind the race and his wife's fate. However, he's beginning to realize that this just might be a race to the death."
Lehman then is set as Corinna Wiles: "25-27, stunningly beautiful woman. She hops into Alex's pick-up truck to get away from a gun-wielding pursuer whom she claims is her boyfriend. Corinna claims to be entirely ignorant of the mysterious race that Alex has been forced to participate in, but as he later realizes, Corinna knows far more than she's telling. However, what exactly her connection to this strange competition is remains to be seen." The pair join the previously cast Alan Ruck, Andres Saenz-Hudson, Emily Stone, Melanie Lynskey and Shahine Ezell in the 20th Century Fox Television-based hour, which comes from executive producers Tim Minear, Ben Queen and Greg Yaitanes.
EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS (UPN/The CW) - Ali LeRoi, the show's co-creator, has inked a two-year, seven-figure overall deal with CBS Paramount Network Television. The pact will keep the writer/producer on board the comedy as showrunner as well as call for him to develop new projects for the studio.
GHOST WHISPERER (CBS) - Creator John Gray is set to continue in his role as showrunner on the drama as the writer/director/producer has inked a two-year overall deal with Touchstone Television. The pact, financial details of which weren't released, will cover Gray's duties on the series, which returns for a second season this fall. It's understood he'll also write and direct the planned two-hour second-season opener as well as two or three more episodes next season.
GREY'S ANATOMY (ABC) - Writer/producer Krista Vernoff has signed a new two-year, seven-figure overall deal with Touchstone Television. The pact, which has an option for a third year, calls for Vernoff to be upped to executive producer next season as well as potentially develop new series projects for the studio.
LATE NIGHT BUFFET (TBS, New!) - TBS is looking to follow in the footsteps of fellow Time Warner-owned Cartoon Network's Adult Swim as the cable channel has ordered a pilot for a new late-night series from the Jim Henson Co. that would stage a talk show entirely with puppets - except for the human celebrity guests. The half-hour project won't feature Muppets like Kermit the Frog but rather newer puppets Augustus Pfiffle and Delbert Kastle (who will serve as host and sidekick respectively) as well as an all-puppet band consisting of the character Gina Cappellini and her pet monkeys. Henson Co. co-chair and co-CEO Brian Henson will do the puppetry for "Buffet" with Bill Barretta.
LAW & ORDER (NBC) - Alana De La Garza ("C.S.I.: Miami") has been tapped to join the cast of the veteran drama series. She'll take over for Annie Parisse as a new assistant district attorney on the flagship "Law & Order" series. She'll join Milena Govich, who's taking over for Dennis Farina as the new partner of Jesse L. Martin's character. No specifics however have been released about their characters.
LIFE SUPPORT (HBO) - Wendell Pierce, Anna Deavere Smith, Evan Ross, Tracee Ellis Ross, Tony Rock and newcomer Rachel Nicks have all joined the cast of the docudrama, about Ana Willis (Queen Latifah), an HIV-positive former drug addict who has overcome her addiction to become a wife and mother committed to educating people in the black community on how to protect themselves from becoming infected. Pierce will play the husband of Latifah's character with Smith as her mother and Nicks as her daughter. Evan Ross then is set as Trace, a gay teenager (and childhood friend of Willis' daughter) born HIV-positive who ends up on the street, selling his AIDS drugs for money. Latifah herself is executive producing the telefilm along with Jamie Foxx.
NIGHTY NIGHT (Showtime, New!) - Darren Star is teaming with U.K. producer Baby Cow Productions to develop a U.S. version of the British comedy, about a beauty salon owner who has developed an unhealthy obsession with her neighbor, a handsome married doctor. Said woman then manages to shove her way into the lives of the couple next door after her cheating husband is laid up in a hospital with a terminal illness. Showtime has committed to a pilot script for the project, which the Sony Pictures Television-based Star will write and executive produce along with Baby Cow's Steve Coogan ("A Cock and Bull Story") and Henry Normal. Cable's Oyxgen network, which carries repeats of the U.K. original, is also expected to get a production credit should it move forward to series. No other details were given.
OFF THE LEASH (A.K.A. PAWS) (Lifetime) - The cable channel is moving forward with six episodes of the reality project, about "the world of a Hollywood pet agency -- as told from the people that run it and the women who think their animals should be stars." Kevin Dill and Mechelle Collins ("Blow Out") are behind the half-hour project, which tracks the clientele of Le Paws Hollywood Pet Agency. Dill and Collins then will executive produce alongside Intuitive Entertainment.
OUT OF PRACTICE (CBS) - Writer/producers Sivert Glarum and Michael Jamin ("King of the Hill") have inked a two-year, seven-figure overall deal with CBS Paramount Network Television. The pair, who recently served as co-executive producers on the short-lived CBS comedy, will develop new projects for the studio as well as potentially join of its existing properties.
SLEEPER CELL (Showtime) - Dutch film star Thekla Reuten and Omid Abtahi have both scored roles on the show's upcoming second season. No details about their characters however were released.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters