LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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12 MILES OF BAD ROAD (HBO) - Gary Cole ("Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby"), Katherine Lanasa (Suzanne Fulcrum on "Justice"), Kim Dickens (Joanie Stubbs on "Deadwood"), Lily Tomlin (Deborah Fiderer on "The West Wing"), Mary Kay Place (Adaleen Grant on "Big Love") and Sean Bridges have all joined the cast of the comedy pilot, about an extremely wealthy family in Dallas. Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason are behind the half-hour, which has tapped Michael Engler ("Psych") to direct. No character details however were released.
ANGELS FALL (Lifetime) - Heather Locklear (Kelly Nolan on "Boston Legal") and Johnathon Schaech ("Road House 2: Last Call") are set to topline the original movie, the third of four adaptations of books by Nora Roberts that Lifetime plans to run back-to-back on Monday nights in February. Locklear will play a chef trying to rebuild her life in a small Wyoming town after a tragedy whose sanity is questioned after she witnesses a murder. Ralph Hemecker is directing the project from a script by Janet Brownell with Peter Guber, Stephanie Germain and Peter Strauss executive producing.
THE BRONX IS BURNING (ESPN) - John Turturro (Ambrose Monk on "Monk"), Oliver Platt (Russell Tupper on "Huff") and Daniel Sunjata (Franco Rivera on "Rescue Me") have all joined the cast of the upcoming mini-series, about the New York Yankees' 1977 pennant run amid a summer and fall that featured a major blackout, race riots and the notorious Son of Sam killings. Turturro will play manager Billy Martin while Platt is set as owner George Steinbrenner with Daniel Sunjata as Reggie Jackson. Jeremiah Chechik is directing the eight-hour project, from a script by James D. Solomon based on Jonathan Mahler's bestselling book of the same name. Solomon is also executive producing alongside Mike Tollin, Brian Robbins and Joe Davola. Production is currently underway at Sonalyst Studios in Waterford, Connecticut for a summer 2007 premiere.
CABLE RATINGS ROUND-UP (Week of September 11-17) - The double-header premiere of "Monday Night Football" on ESPN as expected took the top two spots for the week of September 11-17, with the Vikings/Redskins showdown drawing 12.6 million viewers (a channel record) and the Chargers/Raiders game pulling 10.5 million. Also making the top 15: Bravo's "Project Runway" (3.9 million, #T6), FX's "Nip/Tuck" (3.9 million, #T6), VH1's "Flavor of Love" (3.5 million, #T8) and the Lifetime original "Cries in the Dark" (3.4 million, #10).
COMPLICATIONS (ABC, New!) - Amy Holden Jones ("The Relic") has scored a put pilot order from the Alphabet for a drama that takes a behind-the-scenes look at the staff and patients of a hospital. The project is set up at Warner Bros. Television-based Jerry Bruckheimer Television with the company's Bruckheimer and Jonathan Littman executive producing alongside Holden Jones. KristieAnne Reed also serves as a consulting producer.
THE CONVERSATION (ABC, New!) - Francis Ford Coppola's popular 1974 feature is being developed as a weekly series by producer Tony Krantz ("24") and writers Christopher McQuarrie ("The Usual Suspects") and Erik Jendresen ("Band of Brothers"). The TV version will likewise follow the exploits of Harry Caul (played by Gene Hackman in the film), a master of electronic surveillance, this time set in the present day where he'll work with a group of four other experts, none of whom ever know what the others are up to. Coppola himself is attached to executive produce the hour alongside Krantz, McQuarrie and Jendresen, the latter two of which will pen the pilot script. ABC has given a put pilot commitment to the project, which is likely to be set up at Touchstone Television and Krantz's Flame Ventures.
DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES (ABC) - Kathleen York (Andrea Wyatt on "The West Wing") and Matt Roth have both booked recurring roles on the series. York will play Monique, a beautiful redhead mystery woman, with Roth (the husband of fellow recurring actress Laurie Metcalf) as Art, the newest neighbor on Wisteria Lane who buys Mary Alice and Paul Young's house. Details on when their first appearances will air weren't specified.
DISASTER (HBO, New!) - The pay channel is developing a mini-series based on The Wall Street Journal reporters' Christopher Cooper and Robert Block's book of the same name about the Katrina catastrophe in New Orleans. The project like the book will recount the harrowing events of the hurricane itself as well as the governmental and bureaucratic failures that deepened the tragedy. David Fanning ("Frontline") and David Kennedy ("Our Fathers") are on board to executive produce the project, which is still in the early stages of development.
GRACE (TNT) - Laura San Giacomo (Maya Gallo on "Just Shoot Me"), Leon Rippy (Tom Nuttall on "Deadwood") and Bokeem Woodbine (Steppin' Razor on "Blade") have all joined the cast of the drama pilot, about a jaded Oklahoma City police detective (Holly Hunter) who is visited by an irascible angel (Rippy) and offered an opportunity to redeem her life. Giacomo will play Rhetta Rodriguez-Ardmore, who's described in the casting notice as: "Early-mid 30s, Latin, sweet and smart, wearing a crucifix necklace. Rhetta is Grace's best friend in the Department, the woman in charge of Forensics. She and Grace have been buddies (and fellow troublemakers) ever since high school, only Rhetta has settled down and got herself a husband. A happily married woman who runs the Crime Lab, Rhetta is surprised when Grace brings her a bloodstained shirt, and later explains to a puzzled Grace that the bloodstains belong to a guy who's been on Death Row for years." Rippy then is set as Earl - "40-50, with a weathered face and tired eyes, Earl looks like a homeless rock 'n' roll alcoholic drug addict -- but in fact he's an Angel of the Lord, an Oklahoma angel with both magnificent, glorious wings and a chaw of tobacco tucked in his cheek. The angel assigned to the spiritual renewal of Grace Anadarko, Earl arranges for Grace to have a bottom-out moment when she drunkenly plows into a man on the side of the road. Catching Grace when she's down and out, Earl reveals himself and gives her the Orders From Above: shape up or fry perpetually. Wryly aware that Grace will need more than one lesson, Earl makes himself available to Grace, answering wearily the same tired old questions about the nature of the Afterlife, and he's been at it long enough that he tosses in a few doses of BS along with the straight scoop from the Throne." - with Woodbine as Leon Cooley - "30-35, African-American. Leon is walking by the side of the road when he's fatally run over by drunk driver Grace. But in fact, Leon is just a figment of Grace's imagination, conjured up by all-powerful angel Earl - though the blood he leaves on her clothes is real. After Grace traces his DNA, the real Leon is revealed to be a man on Death Row, who's also under Earl's close supervision. Leon is himself a former drunk driver, who later killed a prison guard. A man who has got religion under the shadow of lethal injection, Leon recognizes Grace from his dreams, and he urges Grace to be ready for the day of judgment - which in his case, has been arranged in advance by the Oklahoma court system. Leon is further along on his journey, and will help tutor Grace on Earl's ways." Sergio Mimica-Gezzan is directing the Fox TV Studios-based hour from a script by Nancy Miller. Artie Mandelberg, E. Duke Vincent and Gary A. Randall also serve as executive producers.
THE HEIRESS (A.K.A. TO LOVE AND DIE) (MyNetworkTV) - Twentieth Television has landed the domestic rights to "La heredera" (The Heiress) from Mexico's TV Azteca. The telenovela revolves around an heiress whose private jet crashes, leaving her and its pilot as its sole survivors. The pair's initial repulsion turns into love, which is challenged by her class-conscious family and society after their rescue. The project marks the fourth acquisition by the network in recent months, the others being "Luna, la heredera" (Luna, the Heiress), "Amores cruzados," (Crossed Loves) and "La guerra de las rosas" (The War of the Roses).
THE IMPOSTER (ABC, New!) - Peter Engel and Barry Katz ("Last Comic Standing") have received an eight-episode order for a new hourlong reality series which will search for the best celebrity impersonator in the country. The project, which is being targeted for a summer 2007 launch, is set up at their respective companies Peter Engel Productions and New Wave Entertainment. Format details are still being worked out but the show is expected to grade both talent and physical resemblance as well as feature cameos by some of the celebrities being impersonated.
IN TREATMENT (HBO) - Gabriel Byrne ("Assault on Precinct 13") has been cast in the lead role of the upcoming half-hour series, about a therapist (Byrne) who is calm, smooth, insightful and nonconfrontational with his patients but turns into a testy, self-doubting man full of barely concealed anger when he is a patient seeing his own shrink. Also signing on is Australian newcomer Mia Wasikowska. She'll play a patient of Byrne's character, a gymnast with dreams to go to the Olympics. Mark Wahlberg, Hagai Levi and Stephen Levinson are behind the project, which has a five-episode order from the network. Rodrigo Garcia is directing the series and serving as a co-executive producer alongside Noa Tishby.
LIPSHITZ SAVES THE WORLD (NBC) - Ty Burrell (Oliver Barnes on "Out of Practice") and model Brooklyn Decker are the latest additions to the comedy pilot, about a 17-year-old social pariah (Jack Carpenter) who comes to realize that it is his destiny to save the world. Leslie Nielsen also stars in the NBC Universal Television-based half-hour, which comes from creator Dan Fogelman. Chris Koch is directing.
LOVE IS A FOUR-LETTER WORD (Hallmark, New!) - Teri Polo, Barry Bostwick and Robert Mailhouse have all been cast in a new original movie for the cable channel, about two divorce lawyers (Polo and Mailhouse) who are representing clients divorcing each other (one played by Bostwick) and who fall in love while settling the case. Jill Blotevogel wrote the script to the project, from Alpine Medien in association with Larry Levinson Productions and RHI Entertainment, which Harvey Frost is directing. Robert Halmi Jr., Larry Levinson and Nick Lombardo are the executive producers of "Word," which is targeting a Valentine's Day premiere.
THE MAN (A.K.A. UNTITLED LL COOL J PROJECT) (CBS) - "C.S.I." franchise creator Anthony Zuiker has received a put pilot commitment from the Eye and CBS Paramount Network Television for a new drama about an undercover L.A.P.D. cop who spends the nights running sting operations to break criminal rings and the days raising his three adopted kids - an abused boy with an aggression problem, a former streetwalker girl he put in community college and a skateboarder boy who is a recovering drug addict. The project marks Zuiker's first piece of development since launching "C.S.I." Already cast in the lead role is LL Cool J, who had previously inked a talent holding deal with the network. Zuiker will pen the pilot script and executive produce with LL Cool J and his manager, Alchemy Entertainment's Jason Barrett, each receiving a producing credit.
ME AND EVERYONE ELSE (ABC, New!) - Alyssa Milano (Phoebe Halliwell on "Charmed") is set to star in a new comedy at the Alphabet about a 30-year-old, take-charge woman who's trying to find her way as an adult along with her boyfriend, her brother and her brother's boyfriend. Dan Bucatinsky ("The Comeback") is behind the half-hour sitcom, which is loosely based on his own relationship with his sister. "Me" had previously been in the works at CBS under the moniker "Mia and Everyone Else." He'll write and executive produce alongside Joe Roth and his CBS Paramount Network Television-based Joe Roth Television. Nina Lederman will also serve as co-executive producer on the project, which has a script commitment from the network with a penalty attached if it doesn't go to pilot.
THE MINISTER OF DIVINE (FOX, New!) - The U.K. comedy "The Vicar of Dibley" is being imported to the U.S. by writer/producer Suzanne Martin ("Hot Properties"), 20th Century Fox Television and Tiger Aspect Productions. The multi-camera comedy, which has a pilot commitment from the network, will revolve around an outrageous woman who tries to make amends for her sins by returning to her hometown of Divine, Georgia as a minister in the church. Martin will pen the pilot script as well as executive produce alongside Mark Chapman, Andrew Zien and original creator Richard Curtis.
MONTANA SKY (Lifetime) - John Corbett, Charlotte Ross, Ashley Williams, Laura Mennell and Diane Ladd have all been cast in the original movie, the second in a series of four Nora Roberts' adaptations for the cable channel. Williams, Ross and Mennell play three half sisters who meet for the first time after their father dies, only to learn that they must live together at his Montana ranch for a year in order to receive their sizable inheritance. Corbett then is set as a neighboring rancher put in charge of overseeing their operation for the year with Ladd as the ranch cook. Mike Robe is directing from a script by April Smith with Peter Strauss, Peter Guber of Mandalay Television and Stephanie Germain via her self-titled banner executive producing.
P.E. (HBO, New!) - Will Ferrell and Adam McKay's recently launched Gary Sanchez Productions has set up its first small-screen project, a new comedy at the pay channel about a guy who, after flaming out as a major league baseball pitcher, returns to his small Southern hometown to teach physical education at the middle school he once attended and has to make amends with all the people he turned his back on. Jody Hill, Ben Best and Danny McBride ("The Foot Fist Way") are behind the half-hour, which has a script commitment with a penalty attached. The trio then will write and executive produce the pilot alongside Ferrell, McKay and their head of production Chris Henchy.
PROTECT AND SERVE (CBS, New!)/UNTITLED GARY SCOTT THOMPSON PROJECT (NBC, New!) - "Las Vegas" creator/executive producer Gary Scott Thompson has set up scripts at both CBS and NBC for next season. The Eye project is an ensemble drama about street cops in Los Angeles that follows them on the beat as well as off duty. Thompson is co-writing the script alongside Mark Gibson and Philip Halprin with all three serving as executive producers. Over at NBC is an untitled hour, which Thompson will write and executive produce solo, about a loose-cannon cop who moves to Hawaii after he loses his loved ones on 9/11. Both projects are set up at NBC Universal Television.
TELL ME YOU LOVE ME (A.K.A. SEXLIFE) (HBO) - Sherry Stringfield ("ER") has booked a recurring role on the upcoming relationship drama. No details however were released about her character. The project, previously known as "sexlife," also stars Adam Scott, Ally Walker, Luke Kirby, Sonya Walger and Tim DeKay. Cynthia Mort created the hour while Patricia Rozema directed the pilot. Gavin Polone and Vivian Cannon are the executive producers.
UNTITLED ANGELA NISSEL PROJECT (NBC, New!) - Angela Nissel ("Scrubs") has scored a script order from the Peacock for a new semi-autobiographical comedy about the Wollensky Washingtons, a newlywed interracial couple trying to blend three generations of their families, all with very different views on race, gender and other issues. The untitled half-hour is set up at Chris and Paul Weitz's NBC Universal Television-based Depth of Field banner headed by Andrew Miano. Nissel, who has an overall deal at the network, will write and executive produce along with the Weitzs and Kerry Kohansky.
UNTITLED DAVE STEWART PROJECT (HBO, New!) - The pay channel has ordered six half-hour episodes of a new music-themed interview show hosted by British rock musician Dave Stewart. The untitled project will feature said musician interviewing fellow artists about their craft, who are also are expected to perform on the show. Stewart is executive producing the series, set to launch early next year, with Interscope Geffen A&M chairman Jimmy Iovine ("The Search for the Next Pussycat Doll"), Gene Kirkwood, Howard Klein and Jonathan Prince ("American Dreams").
UNTITLED DAVID O. RUSSELL PROJECT (FX, New!) - David O. Russell ("Three Kings") is developing an hourlong dramedy at the cable channel described as "Upstairs, Downstairs" set in a Los Angeles country club. Russell in on board to direct and co-write the Sony Pictures Television-based project, which has a script commitment from the network, with Josh Lieb ("The Simpsons"). The pair then will also executive produce alongside Pariah partners Gavin Polone and Jamie Tarses with Buster McCoy, Russell's real-life tennis teacher at the Riviera Country Club, serving as a co-producer.
UNTITLED KATE ROBIN PROJECT (CBS, New!) - Writer/producer Kate Robin has set up at a new ensemble drama at the Eye that will follow a single high-profile court case over the course of each season. The project, which is set up at CBS Paramount Network Television, has a script commitment at the network with a six-figure penalty attached if it doesn't go to pilot. It's understood said hour will focus on the lead lawyers on both sides of the case, along with half the members of the jury and the judge.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters