LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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ALIENS IN AMERICA (The CW) - Dan Byrd ("Clubhouse") and newcomer Adhir Kalyan have scored the lead roles in the comedy pilot, about an unpopular 16-year-old (Byrd) and a 16-year-old Pakistani Muslim (Kalyan) who comes to live with the boy's family as an exchange student. David Guarascio and Moses Port are behind the project, which is based at NBC Universal Television. Production is set to begin shortly for possible midseason series consideration.
AMC ORIGINAL SERIES (AMC, New!) - The cable channel is developing nine original series projects in addition to the previously announced pilot "Mad Men," with the goal of launching one new weekly series next summer. Among those in the works: a hybrid family-horror drama set in suburbia from writers Adam and Seth Gross and executive producer Richard Kelley ("Donnie Darko"); a dark, New York-based detective hour from Will Rokos ("Monster's Ball"); an American adaptation of the British series "My Life in Film" from Phoef Sutton ("Boston Legal"); a "M*A*S*H"-esque sci-fi dramedy from Vic Levin ("Mad About You"); a New York-set 1970s period drama from William Finkelstein ("N.Y.P.D. Blue"); "Dead Channel," a sci-fi half-hour about a fictional entertainment industry from graphic novelist Warren Ellis; a modern-day horror effort along the lines of "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Shining" from Steven Katz ("Shadow of the Vampire"); a supernatural hour about what happens when dreams and desires are fulfilled from director Peter O'Fallon ("Blade: The Series") and writer Dan Sinclair; a sci-fi series set in a small Midwestern town from Rohan Gavin. A decision on which projects will move forward to the pilot stage is expected in the coming months.
AMY AFTER DARK (FOX, New!) - Writer John Scott Shepherd ("The Days") and director Todd Holland ("Wonderfalls") have scored a put pilot order from FOX for a new drama about a young female attorney in New York who joins the undead after she is bitten by a vampire. 20th Century Fox Television is behind the hour which Shepherd will write and Holland will direct should it move forward with both serving as executive producers.
BLINDSIDED (Lifetime, New!) - Rena Sofer ("Blind Justice") is set to topline a new original movie for the cable channel. Said project, from Harvey Kahn's Front Street Productions, revolves around a woman (Sofer) who returns to her small-town home when her father is injured in a hunting accident only to realize it wasn't and tries to bring her father's assailant to justice. Penelope Buitenhuis ("Past Tense") is directing the telefilm, which began production this month in Vancouver.
CABLE RATINGS ROUND-UP (Week of July 24-30) - TNT's "The Closer" posted an impressive 6.63 million viewers (#3; 1.7/5 in adults 18-49) on July 24, marking its most-watched episode since its second season launched on June 12. Lead-out "Saved" however sunk to 2.9 million viewers, falling outside the top 15 for the week. Still making the cut then were USA's "Monk" (5.2 million, #6) and "Psych" (4.4 million, #T8). Also of note last week: FX's "Rescue Me" posted an unusually high 2.96 million viewers (1.5/4 in adults 18-49) on July 25 while "30 Days" return for its second season on July 26 to the tune of 1.5 million viewers, down slightly from its 1.7 million viewer launch last summer. Meanwhile, Bravo continues to see strong numbers from "Project Runway" (2.99 million, 1.6/5 in adults 18-49) while fellow network series "Tabloid Wars" (240,000), "Work Out" (354,000) and "Queer Eye" (413,000) remained invisible by comparison. Over on Sci Fi, week two of "Eureka" dipped to 2.5 million from its 4.1 million viewer bow while "Who Wants to Be a Superhero" opened to a modest 1.1 million viewers on Thursday. Finally, E!'s "The Girls Next Door" scored 1.67 million viewers for its second season premiere, including a 1.0/3 in adults 18-49 and a 1.3/4 in adults 18-34, the latter of which marked E!'s best series numbers since 2002's "The Anna Nicole Show."
CHRISTMAS DO-OVER (ABC Family, New!) - Jay Mohr ("Last Comic Standing"), Daphne Zuniga ("Beautiful People"), Tim Thomerson ("A.I. Assault"), Adrienne Barbeau ("Carnivale") and David Millbern ("Chupacabra Terror") are all set to star in a new original movie for the cable channel that's being targeted for its annual "25 Days of Christmas" programming event. Said project, which Catherine Cyran ("The Prince & Me") will direct from a script by Jennifer Heath and Michele J. Wolff, revolves around a shallow ad executive who's forced to relive Christmas Day over and over until he makes some real changes to his life. Regent Media ("Gods and Monsters") will co-produce the telefilm with ABC Family while Paul Colichman and Robyn Meisinger will serve as executive producers.
DAMAGES (FOX) - Creator Jonathan Lisco has inked a two-year, seven-figure overall deal with 20th Century Fox Television. The pact, which has an option for a third year, calls for the writer/producer to develop new projects for the studio as well as potentially work on one of its existing properties. In addition, the deal will cover Lisco's services on "Damages" should it move forward to series. FOX passed on the pilot earlier this year however several cast members remain under contract, with NBC said to be reportedly interested in reviving the project.
DAMON WAYANS' THE UNDERGROUND (Showtime) - The pay channel has confirmed the sketch comedy series will launch on Thursday, September 14 at 10:00/9:00c.
ELI STONE/UNTITLED CRAIG WRIGHT PROJECT (ABC, New!) - "Everwood" creator Greg Berlanti has set up two new projects at ABC - a high-concept legal drama about a lawyer who finds out he might be a prophet and a second legal drama about an idealistic lawyer who takes on the job of tending to the legal and sometimes illegal needs of a wealthy and colorful New York family. Both developments come as Berlanti parts ways with his longtime producing partner Mickey Liddell (who's leaving to return to the feature world), renaming his Touchstone Television-based company simply Berlanti Television in the process. Berlanti has tapped former Sony Pictures Television executive Melissa Berman as president of production of said banner. As for the projects, "Eli Stone" - in which a thirty-something attorney begins having larger-than-life visions that compel him to do out-of-the-ordinary things - has booked a put pilot order from the network while the Craig Wright-penned hour has a script commitment. Berlanti and "Jack & Bobby" alum Marc Guggenheim co-wrote the script for "Stone" on spec, production of which will begin shortly with each serving as executive producers. As for the Wright project, about a wealthy New York family and their embattled and overwhelmed attorney, Berlanti will executive produce along with the Emmy-nominee.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS (NBC) - Feature writer/director Peter Berg, whose "Friday Night Lights" series bows this fall on NBC, has inked a two-year, first-look deal with NBC Universal Television. The pact calls for Berg and his producing partner Sarah Aubrey to develop and executive produce series projects for the studio via their Film 44 banner. In addition, former NBC drama executive Justin Levy has been tapped to head up the company's development as VP of television.
HEARTLAND (A.K.A. UNTITLED DAVID HOLLANDER PROJECT) (TNT) - Treat Williams ("Everwood") is returning to the world of medicine as the actor is set to topline a new drama pilot for the cable channel, about the high-stakes world of heart transplant surgery. David Hollander ("The Guardian") is behind the hour, which is set up at the newly formed Warner Horizon banner. Williams will play Nathaniel Grant, an intense, sleep-deprived surgeon whose devotion to his work takes a toll on his relationships, including his estranged wife, who works at the same hospital as the organ-recovery coordinator.
LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT (NBC) - Theresa Randle ("Bad Boys II") is the latest to step through the revolving casting door on the "Law & Order" spin-off. She'll play the new assistant district attorney on the series where she'll take over for Nona Gaye, who has exited over unspecified creative differences with the producers. Randle will appear in at least three episodes of the show's upcoming sixth season with an option to continue as a regular.
LEGACY OF FEAR (Lifetime, New!) - Teri Polo ("The West Wing") and Zachary Bennett have been tapped for the lead roles in a new original movie at the cable channel, about a thirtysomething female detective in pursuit of a serial killer who 30 years earlier murdered her mother before her eyes. Don Terry is directing the project from a script by John Benjamin Martin. Production is currently underway in Montreal on the telefilm, an air date for which was not specified. Jean Bureau, Stephen Greenberg and Anne Carlucci are the executive producers.
LITTLE BRITAIN (HBO, New!) - "American Idol" creator Simon Fuller is looking to import the British sketch comedy to the U.S. The series, which can be seen on BBC America, is described as follows: "Matt Lucas and David Walliams take viewers on a unique tour of the UK, from the rolling hills of England to the Scottish highlands and green valleys of Wales. Little Britain delights in all that is mad, bad, quirky, and generally eccentric about the people and places of Britain." Lucas and Walliams are on board to develop the U.S. version however talks are still in the early stages with HBO. No other details were available.
NURSES (FOX, New!) - Barry Josephson's Josephson Entertainment ("Bones") and the U.K.-based Shed ("Footballers Wives") are developing a new hospital-based drama at FOX. No other details however were released about the project, which has a script commitment from the network.
THE ROBBER BRIDE (Oxygen, New!) - Mary-Louise Parker ("Weeds"), Shawn Doyle ("Big Love"), Wendy Crewson ("Eight Below"), Susan Lynch ("The Ten Commandments"), Amanda Root ("Empire") and Greg Bryk ("Tilt") are all set to star in a small screen adaptation of Margaret Atwood's novel of the same name, about three friends, each of whom has been betrayed by Parker's character, who reunite to discover her secrets after she's mysteriously murdered. Production is set to begin shortly in Toronto on the project, which comes from Working Title ("A Tale of Two Wives") and Shaftsbury Films with Simon Wright, Christina Jennings and Scott Garvie executive producing. David Evans ("Mysterious Creatures") is on board to direct from an adaptation by Tassie Cameron.
SOLITARY (FOX Reality)/UNAN1MOUS (FOX) - Lincoln Hiatt, an executive producer on both series, has signed a first-look deal with FremantleMedia. He'll develop and produce new reality projects for the company as part of the pact. As for "Solitary" and "Unan1mous," both shows are still being considered for second seasons by their respective networks.
TERRIBLE LIFE/THE TRAIL (NBC, New!) - Feature directors Chris and Paul Weitz have set up a pair of single-camera comedy projects at the Peacock via their overall deal with NBC Universal Television. First up is "Terrible Life," a half-hour about the world's most incompetent guardian angel who gets one last chance. Mike Carnes and Josh Gilbert are behind said project, which they'll executive produce along with the Weitzes and their Depth of Field banner. The other entry is "The Trail," from Mark and Jay Duplass ("The Puffy Chair"), about a group of friends who, after becoming disgusted with their lives, decide to ditch it all and hike the Appalachian Trail. The Duplasses will write the pilot and likewise executive produce alongside the Weitzes. Both projects have script commitments from the network.
THIS IS YOUR LIFE (ABC) - The Regis Philbin-led revival of the classic series, in which celebrity guests are ambushed by faces from their past as part of a real-time biographical review, is understood to have been scrapped. Broadcasting & Cable reports that the option on his services has expired, essentially stalling the project. ABC had previously given a six-episode commitment to the series back in November of 2005 (read the story).
TOUGH TRADE (HBO, New!) - Feature producers Sean and Bryan Furst ("The Cooler") are developing a new drama at the pay channel about a fictional family-run music dynasty in Nashville. The project is set up at Lionsgate Television, where the pair recently signed a one-year, first-look deal. Author Chris Offutt ("Kentucky Straight") is on board to write the pilot script. No other details were released.
UNTITLED AMY SHERMAN-PALLADINO PROJECT (FOX, New!) - "Gilmore Girls" creator Amy Sherman-Palladino has scored a put pilot commitment from FOX for a new multi-camera comedy about two estranged sisters who reunite after one of them agrees to carry the other's baby. Sherman-Palladino, who - along with fellow executive producer/co-showrunner Daniel Palladino - exited the WB-turned-CW series earlier this year, will write, executive produce and potentially direct the pilot, which has yet to be set up at a studio. It's not clear however if Daniel Palladino will be involved on the new project.
UNTITLED BRYAN SINGER PROJECT (ABC, New!) - Feature helmer Bryan Singer ("Superman Returns") has inked a seven-figure, three-for-one deal with ABC. The lucrative pact, which isn't tied to a particular studio, calls for Singer to develop three projects at the network via his Bad Hat Harry Productions, at least one of which is guaranteed a pilot commitment. It's understood he'll also direct the resulting project as well. Bad Hat Harry's head of production, Alex Garcia, will oversee the development process for the company.
UNTITLED CHRISTIAN TAYLOR PROJECT (FOX, New!) - Writer/producer Christian Taylor ("Miracles") has booked a put pilot commitment from FOX for a new drama about an energetic young police detective who despite his youthful appearance, is actually centuries old. Taylor will pen the pilot script and executive produce alongside Scarlet Fire Entertainment's Steven Pearl and Allan Loeb. No studio is currently attached.
UNTITLED EDDIE GRIFFIN PROJECT (NBC, New!) - The life of actor/comedian Eddie Griffin ("Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo") is set to be the focus of a potential new comedy at the Peacock. NBC has given a script commitment to the NBC Universal Television-based half-hour, which will star and be executive produced by Griffin. John Davis of Davis Entertainment will also serve as an executive producer with Dallas Jackson and Griffin's manager Dan Spilo of Artistry Management also receiving producing credits. A search is currently underway for a writer to shepherd the project, which will pull from Griffin's own experience as a father of multiple children with different women.
UNTITLED VINCE CALANDRA PROJECT (ABC Family, New!) - Writer/producer Vince Calandra ("Beautiful People") has landed a pilot commitment from the cable channel for a new comedy about a father who takes improving his daughter's crumbling school into his own hands. Jordan Belfi ("Entourage"), John Carroll Lynch ("Close to Home"), Faith Prince ("Huff"), Miguel A. Nunez ("Joey"), Silas Weir Mitchell ("Prison Break"), Suzanne Cryer ("Two Guys and a Girl"), Marisol Ramirez ("Cold Case"), Candy Ford ("Will & Grace"), Leila Arcieri ("Mammoth") and Sonal Shah have already been cast in the project, which is based at Touchstone Television with David Bartis and Doug Liman executive producing alongside Calandra. Belfi is set as Diego, said father, with Ramirez as his wife and Lynch as the school's principal. Rounding out the cast then are the members of a parent-teacher group: the cynic (Nunez), the leader (Prince), the martyr (Cryer), the doomsdayer (Ford), the babe (Arcieri), the waif (Shah), and the can't-do guy (Mitchell). Vince Calandra penned the pilot and is executive producing with Hypnotic's Doug Liman and David Bartis.
UNTITLED VIVICA A. FOX PROJECT (Syndication, New!) - Vivica A. Fox ("Missing") reportedly is meeting with distributors about toplining a new syndicated daytime talk show. Details about the project, which is said to be positioned along the lines of broader reaching version of "The Tyra Banks Show," not surprisingly have yet to be finalized.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters