LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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BLUE BLOOD (FOX, New!) - Edward Conlon's memoir of the same name is set to be the focus of a potential new drama series at the network. The 20th Century Fox TV/Roundtable Entertainment-based hour, which FOX has given a put pilot commitment, revolves around a Harvard graduate who has decided to continue the family tradition and pursue a career in the N.Y.P.D. Brett Ratner ("Prison Break") reportedly plans to direct the project, which will focus more on the lives of its main characters than be a standard procedural, from a script by feature writer Neil Tolkin. The pair will also executive produce alongside Roundtable's Grant Scharbo and Gina Matthews.
CABLE RATINGS ROUND-UP (Week of July 10-16) - USA's broadcast premiere of "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" emerged as cable's top draw last week with 7.37 million viewers tuning in, including a 2.8 rating/8 share among adults 18-49. The cable channel also saw week two of "Monk" (4.89 million, #6; 1.3/5 in adults 18-49) and "Psych" (4.71 million, #8; 1.5/5 in adults 18-49) break the top 15, as did a new episode of "The 4,400" (3.3 million, #T13). TNT also took four of the top 15 spots, including new episodes of "The Closer" (6.40 million, #3; 1.6/5 in adults 18-49) and "Saved" (3.2 million, #15; 1.1/3 in adults 18-49) as well as the first two installments of "Nightmares & Dreamscapes" (5.2 million, #4 and 4.8 million, #7). Outside the top 15, Lifetime saw decent numbers for the premiere of "Angela's Eyes" on Sunday (2.6 million overall, 1.1/3 in women 18-49, 1.0/3 in women 25-54). Said audience however was off from the network's launches of "Missing" (3.3 million) and "Wild Card" (2.8 million). Also of note: week two of Showtime's "Brotherhood" drew just 158,00 viewers, nearly a third of its premiere audience (454,000 on 7/9/06); Bravo's "Project Runway" returned to a season premiere best of 2.41 million viewers (1.2/4 in adults 18-49); the second edition of Oxygen's "Mo'Nique's Fat Chance" delivered 674,000 viewers; and A&E's "Driving Force" kicked off on Monday, July 17 to the tune of 1.8 million viewers (0.9/3 in adults 18-49) with a second episode at 9:30/8:30c drawing 1.5 million.
CLOSE TO HOME (CBS) - Jon Seda (Damian 'Dame' Ruiz on "Kevin Hill") and Cress Williams (Tucker Jones on "Grey's Anatomy") have both joined the cast of the sophomore drama, where they'll play new detectives that work with Jennifer Finnigan's character. No other specifics were given about their roles. The pair join David James Elliott, who also joined the cast last month.
COLD CASE (CBS) - Kenny Johnson (Curtis Lemansky on "The Shield") is set to reprise his role of Joseph, a drug counselor who was believed to be dead for a year before resurfacing, from this show's third season finale. He'll appear in at least four episodes of the new season, although it's not clear when his episodes will air.
COMANCHE MOON (CBS) - Indira Varma (Adrienne Holland on "3 Lbs.") has joined the ensemble cast of Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana's upcoming mini-series. She'll play the owner of a saloon in the project, which also stars Adam Beach, David Midthunder, Elizabeth Banks, Graham Greene, Jonathon Joss, Karl Urban, Keith Robinson, Linda Cardellini, Rachel Griffiths, Ryan Merriman, Steve Zahn and Val Kilmer.
THE COMPANY (TNT) - The cable channel has confirmed that Michael Keaton ("Herbie Fully Loaded") has come aboard the six-hour limited series, which traces the activities of the CIA during the Cold War. Chris O'Donnell and Alfred Molina also star in the Sony Pictures Television-based project, which is based on Robert Littell's novel of the same name. Ridley Scott, Tony Scott and John Calley are the executive producers.
DANCING WITH THE STARS (ABC) - "Dancing With the Stars" finalist Stacy Keibler has inked a talent holding deal with Touchstone Television. The pact calls for the studio to cast Keibler in existing series produced by the studio or develop a new project around her.
DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES (ABC) - Dougray Scott (Mickey O'Neil on "Heist") is reportedly in talks to join the cast of the ABC dramedy. He'll play a new love interest for Teri Hatcher's character, a role which is listed as recurring. No other details about his character were given.
DEXTER (Showtime) - Mark L. Young ("CSI: Miami") has joined the cast of the pay channel's upcoming drama series. He'll play a teen who has been released from juvie after four years for murder. No other specifics about his role were given.
DRIVE (FOX) - Co-creator Tim Minear has inked a new two-year, seven-figure overall deal with 20th Century Fox Television. The pact, which has an option for a third year, will cover his duties on the FOX pilot - about an underground road race across America - should it move forward to series. Otherwise, he'll continue to develop new projects for the studio as well as potentially work on its other properties.
FRANGELA (FOX, New!) - Comedians Frances Callier and Angela Shelton have booked a pilot order at the network for a new female buddy comedy based on their stand-up act - which is self-described as "what happens when two funny black women decide enough is enough" and decide to release their "inner black bitch." Touchstone Television is behind the half-hour, which Callier and Shelton penned alongside David Zuckerman ("American Dad"). Zuckerman, Dan Pasternack and Brillstein-Grey Entertainment's Peter Traugott, Sandy Wernick and Marc Gurvitz then will serve as executive producers with Callier and Shelton both earning a producing credit.
GHOST WHISPERER (CBS) - Camryn Manheim (Ellenor Frutt on "The Practice") has officially joined the cast of the series, which returns for its second season this fall. She'll play a friend of the series star Jennifer Love Hewitt's character. No other details about her role were released.
GRACE (TNT) - Oscar winner Holly Hunter has been tapped for the lead role in the drama pilot, about a jaded Oklahoma City police detective who is visited by an irascible angel and offered an opportunity to redeem her life. Her character, Grace Anadarko, is detailed in the casting notice as follows: "35. Grace is tough, audacious and sexy as hell. A homicide detective in Oklahoma City, Grace is headed for hell: she sleeps with her married partner, drives drunk, smokes too much, sings along with country music at the top of her lungs and avoids her mother on every occasion. A woman who's broken more than her share of the Commandments, and has turned her back on her Catholic upbringing, Grace is famous within the department for being a hard-nosed cop who clears cases, but her volatile persona keeps her under constant scrutiny, lest she go wholly off the rails. Still guiltily aware of the fact that she contributed in a minuscule way to her sister's death in the Oklahoma City bombing, Grace is an angry, unforgiving woman whose life is about to blow apart at the seams. When she's visited by a tobacco-chewing angel named Earl and ordered to reform her trainwreck of a life, Grace has a "Road To Damascus" moment, and when events (and the forensics lab) prove Earl to be more than a drunkard's dream, Grace begins her journey, stumbling through her Heavenly orders, painfully aware that the road to Calvary is steeper and straighter than the road to Hell." Nancy Miller is behind the Fox TV Studios-based hour, which has been in the works for nearly a year. Gary A. Randall and E. Duke Vincent also serve as executive producers on the project. "Grace" joins "Talk to Me" as the only pilots currently under consideration at the cable channel.
HELP ME HELP YOU (ABC) - Lindsay Sloane (Karly Stone on "The Stones") has joined the cast of the freshman comedy. She'll take over for Carla Gallo as Sasha, the daughter of Ted Danson's character. Her role is detailed the casting notice as follows: "Bill's 19 year old daughter, Caucasian. She's in a psychology program in college and she emulates her father in her tendency to psychoanalyze everybody and every situation. However, Sasha doesn't quite realize that, by having an affair with her much older professor, she's actually acting out her obvious father complex. Sasha also has some latent anger issues with Bill. Later, when Bill and Anne, Sasha's mother, have an argument at their home, Sasha videotapes it for her thesis on "The Fall of the Extreme Narcissistic Personality"."
HOUSE (FOX) - Lawrence Kaplow, a writer/producer on the hit FOX drama, has signed a two-year, seven-figure overall deal with 20th Century Fox Television. The pact, which includes an option for a third year, calls for Kaplow to join one of the studio's existing series as a co-executive producer once he completes his duties on the third season of the NBC Universal Television-based "House." In addition, he'll also develop his own projects for 20th.
JERICHO (CBS) - "Judging Amy" alum Carol Barbee has inked a new three-year, mid-seven-figure overall deal at CBS Paramount Network Television. The pact, which replaces her previous deal with CBS Paramount, calls for the writer/producer to develop new projects for the studio as well as serve as executive producer/showrunner of the upcoming CBS drama. This past season Barbee served as a co-executive producer on the then CBS newcomer "Close to Home." As for "Jericho," she'll serve alongside Jon Turteltaub and creator Stephen Chbosky.
JUNIPER PLACE PRODUCTIONS (New!) - Jeffrey Kramer, the former president of David E. Kelley Productions, has inked a two-year overall deal with CBS Paramount Network Television. The pact calls for the industry veteran to develop new projects - both for TV and digital platforms - via his newly formed Juniper Place banner.
JUSTICE (FOX) - Aunjanue Ellis (Jocelyn Pierce on "E-Ring") has booked a multi-episode arc on the freshman drama, which launches next month on the network. She'll continue in her role from the pilot, a district attorney who goes up against Turk, Nicholson, Tuller & Gaines, the firm that's the centerpiece to the series.
LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT (NBC) - Eric Bogosian (Phil on "Love Monkey"), Julianne Nicholson (Christina Finn on "Conviction") and Nona Gaye (Zee on "The Matrix Revolutions") have all joined the cast of the "Law & Order" spin-off where they'll take over for the departing Jamey Sheridan (Capt. James Deakins), Annabella Sciorra (Det. Carolyn Barek) and Courtney B. Vance (A.D.A. Ron Carver) respectively. Nicholson will play Det. Megan Wheeler, the new partner of Chris Noth's character while Bogosian is set as the new captain and Gaye as Patricia Kent, the new A.D.A. that works with the squad. The changes leave Kathryn Erbe and Vincent D'Onofrio as the sole remaining original cast members.
LINCOLN HEIGHTS (ABC Family) - Jacqueline Pinol (Elena Parkman on "Heroes") has scored a recurring role on the upcoming cable drama. She'll play Delilan Sandoval, details of which weren't released.
THE LOST ROOM (Sci Fi) - Roger Bart (George Williams on "Desperate Housewives") has joined the cast of the network's upcoming eight-hour mini-series, about a detective (Peter Krause) who happens upon a seemingly ordinary motel room key only to discover that it opens a portal to alternate worlds that lets loose a set of mundane objects with mysterious powers. He'll play Professor Howard Montague, the sociopathic adversary of Krause's character, who's obsessed with obtaining the key. Production on the Lionsgate Television-based project begins this month in New Mexico.
THE SHIELD (FX) - Luis Antonio Ramos ("The Unit") and Lela Loren ("C.S.I.: Miami") have both scored roles on "The Shield's" upcoming sixth season. Ramos will play Guardo Lima, an unspecified new character, while Loren will play his girlfriend. No other details were mentioned.
SMOKE HOUSE PRODUCTIONS (New!) - George Clooney and Grant Heslov ("Good Night, and Good Luck") have inked a first-look production and development deal with Warner Bros. Pictures and Warner Bros. Television. The new film and television production company, entitled Smoke House (after the longtime Burbank restaurant across from the Warner Bros. lot), will replace Clooney's Section Eight banner, which he formed with Steven Soderbergh in 2000. The news won't affect Section Eight's current film slate - "Ocean's Thirteen," "The Good German" and "Michael Clayton," which will continue to be produced by Soderbergh and Section Eight president Jennifer Fox.
STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP (NBC) - Comedian Ayda Field ("Blue Collar TV") has booked a recurring role on the Peacock's freshman drama. No details however were given about her character.
TWO AND A HALF MEN (CBS) - FX has emerged as the winner of the off-network rights to the sitcom veteran. The deal with Warner Bros. Domestic Cable Distribution, valued in the $750,000 per episode range, will give FX the cable rights to the series beginning in the fall of 2010. The pact however won't be exclusive as the company previously sold the repeat rights to local stations across the country starting next fall.
UNTITLED AMY SACCO PROJECT (HBO, New!) - Abdi Nazemian and Micah Schraft ("The Quiet") are developing a new half-hour comedy at the pay channel inspired by the life of New York nightclub entrepreneur Amy Sacco, owner of Bungalow 8 and Lot 61. The project, which has a script commitment from the network, is set up at Sarah Jessica Parker's Pretty Matches banner with Parker herself executive producing and Nazemian and Schraft serving as co-executive producers. Sacco will also serve as a consultant.
UNTITLED FOX O&O TALK SHOW PROJECT (Syndication, New!) - Twentieth Television is set to launch a new one-hour, New York-based morning news/talk show for the 25 FOX owned-and-operated stations in major markets. The untitled project, which will launch in January and air at 9-10 a.m. in most markets, is designed to strengthen the connection between Fox's stations and the Fox News Channel, the latter of which will produce the newcomer with network personalities Juliet Huddy and Mike Jerrick serving as hosts. It's not clear when or if Twentieth will sell the series to non-FOX stations or if FOX itself will pick it up for distribution across all FOX stations.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters