LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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BEAUTY AND THE GEEK (The CW) - Ashton Kutcher and Jason Goldberg's Katalyst Films has signed a multi-pronged overall deal with the CBS Corporation. The pact gives CBS and the CW first crack at any of the company's unscripted projects while all of its scripted properties will be set up at sibling CBS Paramount Network Television. In addition, Katalyst will also begin developing first-run syndicated efforts through CBS Television Distribution. And finally, the company will retain the international format and distribution rights to its all of its unscripted shows developed as part of the deal. The news spells the end of Katalyst's three-year partnership with 20th Century Fox Television and Fox 21, where current hit "Geek" as well as ABC's newcomer "Miss/Guided" is based.
BIONIC WOMAN (NBC) - Director/executive producer Michael Dinner has opted out of continuing on the freshman drama, which was ordered to series earlier this month. It's understood Dinner wasn't willing to relocate to Vancouver where the series will be produced. Said decision leaves David Eick, Glen Morgan and Jason Smilovic as the remaining executive producers on the series.
BOSTON LEGAL (ABC) - Executive producer Janet Leahy won't be returning to the dramedy this fall while consulting producer Lawrence Broch has been upped to co-executive producer. No reason was given for Leahy's exit. As for the rest of the staff, consulting producers Phoef Sutton and Susan Dickes, producer Craig Turk, executive story editors Sanford Golden and Karen Wyscarver and story editor Corinne Brinkerhoff will round out the fourth season's crew.
DO YOU TRUST ME? (CBS) - The Eye has greenlit production on six episodes of the series, in which strangers determine how much they trust each other as they develop a relationship via gameplay. Game show guru Phil Gurin is behind the project, which will roll out sometime next season.
EAST BOUND AND DOWN (A.K.A. P.E.) (HBO) - Katy Mixon, John Hawkes and Andrew Daly have all joined the cast of the Will Ferrell/Adam McKay-produced comedy pilot, which is now running under the title "East Bound and Down." The half-hour stars Kenny Powers (Danny McBride), a burned-out former professional baseball pitcher who returns to his small Southern hometown, where the only job he can find is as a substitute gym teacher. Mixon will play Kenny's high school girlfriend, now a teacher at the school and engaged to the principal (Daly), with Hawkes ("Deadwood") as Kenny's brother. Jody Hill, Ben Best and McBride himself penned the pilot script, which Hill will direct. The trio also serve as executive producers alongside Ferrell, McKay and Chris Henchy.
EIGHT DAYS A WEEK (The CW) - The netlet is already expanding its midseason order, ordering 12 additional episodes of the Christina Milian/Mario Lopez-led comedy. The network's press materials detail the project as follows: "Twenty-somethings Olivia Campbell (Christina Milian, "Love Don't Cost a Thing"), Riley McGann (Anna Chlumsky, "My Girl"), Ben Bradley (Johnny Lewis, "The O.C."), and Daniel "Sarge" Sargent (Robert Ri'chard, "One on One") are close friends with one thing in common: they're all paying their dues with demanding, entry-level jobs with outrageously egocentric bosses in New York City. These four pals are at that time of life when everything is new and exciting, and having a job has just morphed from abstract concept to daily reality. Riley works for Nathan Bloom (guest star RonReaco Lee, "The Shield"), a narcissistic website entrepreneur; Sarge is the assistant for Peter Lee (Mario Lopez, "Dancing with the Stars"), a pretentious hedge fund operator; Ben is a musician who spends his days as the assistant/babysitter to Randi Rome (Rosa Blasi, "Strong Medicine"), a hard-partying publicist; and Olivia gave up a promising law career to follow her passion for art, taking a receptionist job with Marjorie Walsh (newcomer Jerrika Hinton), a cold and trend-obsessed gallery owner. In other words: nightmare jobs. What keeps them sane at the end of the day is the support and understanding of good friends living through the tough times together. They may not have money or job satisfaction, but they have each other. "Eight Days a Week" is from Hazy Mills Productions in association with CBS Paramount Network Inc. and Warner Bros. Television with executive producers Sean Hayes ("Will & Grace," "Situation Comedy"), Todd Milliner ("Situation Comedy") and Betsy Borns ("Friends," "Roseanne"). Arlene Sanford ("Desperate Housewives") directed the pilot."
GENERATION KILL (HBO) - Alexander Skarsgard, James Ransone, Stark Sands, Jon Huertas and Lee Tergesen are all set to topline the seven-part mini-series, which chronicles the first month of the American-led 2003 Iraq invasion through the eyes of young Marine whose unit was part of the first wave of the U.S. military assault on Baghdad. David Simon and Ed Burns ("The Wire") are behind the project, which also stars David Barrera, newcomer Josh Barrett, newcomer Wilson Bethel, Nabil Elouahabi, Neal Jones, Chance Kelly, Michael Kelly, Eric Ladin, Jonah Lotan, Billy Lush, Kellan Lutz, newcomer J. Salome Martinez Jr., Marc Menchaca, Eric Nenninger, Pawel Szajda, Rey Valentin, Brian Patrick Wade, Owain Yeoman and Marine and Iraq War veteran Rudy Reyes as himself. No other details about their characters were released. In addition, Susanna White and Simon Cellan Jones have been tapped to direct the mini-series, where they'll work from scripts by Simon, Burns and Evan Wright, the author of the book upon which the project is based. Production is expected to run through the end of the year in South Africa, Mozambique and Namibia for a 2008 premiere on the pay channel. Simon, Burns, George Faber, Charles Pattinson and Anne Thomopoulos will executive produce with Nina Noble as a co-executive producer and Andrea Calderwood as a producer.
HEROES (NBC) - Dania Ramirez ("The Sopranos") is set to join the cast of the hit drama series when it returns for its second season this fall. She'll play Maya, a new hero whose powers are being kept under wraps. Producers are also casting for a sexy boyfriend for Hayden Panettiere's character as well as a 28-year-old black mother, a surrogate for Niki's (Ali Larter) son and an Irish mobster. As for Ramirez, the actress spent the past development season as part of the NBC drama pilot "Fort Pit," which didn't move forward to series.
LAW & ORDER (NBC) - Co-star Fred Thompson has officially given notice that he won't return for the show's 18th season. The former senator-turned-actor as expected is taking the initial first steps toward forming a fund-raising apparatus to run for President of the United States. It's not clear who will fill the void left by the exit of his character Arthur Branch, who served as district attorney for the past five seasons. In other "Law & Order" casting news, Jeremy Sisto ("Kidnapped") will join the cast next season as the latest detective to don the badge on the franchise. Industry speculation has him taking over for Milena Govich's character, however executive producer Dick Wolf has yet to confirm her release.
LIFE ON MARS (ABC) - "The West Wing" and "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" helmer Thomas Schlamme has signed on to direct and executive produce the long-in-the-works drama pilot, about a detective who ends up back in the 1970s. He'll take over for the previously attached Dwight Little, where he'll work from a script by creator/executive producer David E. Kelley while Stephen Garrett and Jane Featherstone are also executive producing. Production on the 20th Century Fox Television-based hour is set to begin this summer once casting is complete.
MOONLIGHT (CBS) - "Angel" co-creator/executive producer David Greenwalt has signed on as the newcomer's showrunner. He'll begin work on retooling the Warner Bros. Television-based show's original pilot presentation including finding a new female lead and potentially other casting changes on the horizon. Joel Silver, creators Ron Koslow and Trevor Munson, director Rod Holcomb and Gerard Bocaccio also serve as executive producers.
MURDER, SHE WROTE (CBS) - The Hallmark Channel has acquired the off-network rights to the long-running 1984-1996 series from NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution in a deal valued at $13 million, or about $50,000 for each of its 264 episodes (plus five TV movies). The cable channel will begin airing the series at 7 and 8 p.m. ET on Sundays and as a strip from 8-10 a.m. and 11 p.m.-1 a.m. ET starting next week. Star Angela Lansbury earned 12 Emmy nominations for her role, making her the most nominated lead actress of all time. Since its original CBS run, USA, A&E and most recently the Biography Channel carried the show's off-network repeats.
MYNETWORKTV ORIGINAL SERIES (MyNetworkTV) - The fledgling broadcast network has confirmed its fall 2007 schedule, which as expected will see the introduction of several new reality series. In addition, the netlet confirmed the return of its flagship series "IFL Battleground" for a second season (once again with first-run episodes on Mondays and encores on Saturdays) while its "My Movie" blocks will continue to run on Thursday and Friday nights. As for the rest of its lineup, Tuesdays will see the off-cable premiere of Fox Reality's "The Academy" (10 episodes) kick things off at 8:00/7:00c followed by back-to-back episodes of newcomer "Jail" (10-15 episodes) at 9:00/8:00c. The half-hour series, from "Cops" creator John Langley, follows inmates around the U.S., from their initial booking to their first moments being locked up. On Wednesdays, look for the previously announced "Divorce Wars" (10-15 episodes) at 8:00/7:00c with the network's revival of NBC's "Meet My Folks" (10-15 episodes) at 9:00/8:00c. All except its Wednesday entries will bow in the first week of September despite rumblings of a summer launch. As for its Wednesday lineup, telenovelas "American Heiress" and "Saints & Sinners" will continue their runs until the late fall, after which "Wars" and "Folks" will bow. "Folks" initially will feature repeats of the show with production on new installments targeted for later in 2007. The netlet also confirmed 10 new "Access Hollywood"-produced "exposed" specials as well as exclusive coverage of two live AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour events: the "Croc's Cup Championship" from Cincinnati on September 1, and the "Gods & Goddesses of the Beach" from Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas on September 8. Finally, keep an eye out for the return of the short-lived FOX series "Paradise Hotel" (15 episodes) in March. Episodes will be shot on location in Mexico with single people once again living in a luxurious resort and competing to see who can stay in the hotel the longest.
'TIL DEATH (FOX) - Tim Hobert ("Scrubs") is set to join the show's sophomore season as an executive producer where he'll work alongside creators Cathy Yuspa and Josh Goldsmith. The news is a result of a two-year, seven-figure overall deal the writer/producer recently signed with producer Sony Pictures Television. In addition, he'll develop new series projects for the studio.
UNTITLED PHIL TRAILL PROJECT (NBC, New!) - Writer/director Phil Traill (BBC's "Spoons") is set to helm a new sketch comedy project for the Peacock which tells varied stories of twenty- and thirtysomethings and their attitudes toward sex and relationships. The news marks Second City Television's first major piece of development since Lowell Mate took over the company's TV operations earlier this year. It's understood several members of the Second City's troupe may be featured in the project however no casting has been announced. Thus far the Peacock has only committed to a script for the project, which a potential production green light later this summer.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters