[08/10/07 - 06:04 PM]
Development Update: Week of August 6-10
By The Futon Critic Staff (TFC)

LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:

Looking to keep track of all the various projects in development? Click here to visit our signature "Devwatch" section. There visitors can view our listings by network, genre, studio and even development stage (ordered to pilot, cast-contingent, script, etc.). It's updated every day!

ARMY WIVES (Lifetime) - Dee Johnson has been upped to showrunner for the series' second season. She'll take over for Jeff Melvoin, who in turn replaced original showrunner Samantha Corbin-Miller. Said promotion comes on the heels of the writer/producer reupping her overall deal with producer ABC Studios.

BACKYARDS & BULLETS (NBC) - Jessalyn Gilsig ("Heroes") is the latest addition to the pilot's ensemble cast. She'll play the wife of Mathew St. Patrick's character, additional details of which weren't specified. The project, from Sony Pictures Television and Pariah, revolves around a suburban Neighborhood Watch group gone awry.

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (Sci Fi) - Executive producer Ronald D. Moore has signed a new two-year, seven-figure overall deal with Universal Media Studios. The pact covers his duties on the show's final season as well as calls for him to develop new series projects for the studio.

BIG SHOTS (ABC) - "Veronica Mars" creator Rob Thomas has been tapped as a consulting producer on the freshman drama while fellow "Mars" alums Danielle Stokdyk and Jennifer Gwartz have been named co-executive producers. Also signing on in the latter capacity - Michael Katleman ("Tru Calling") and Emily Whitesell ("American Dreams"). The group then will serve alongside creator/executive producer Jon Harmon Feldman.

BLOOD TIES (Lifetime) - The cable channel has confirmed the series will return for the back half of its inaugural season on Friday, October 12. Episodes will run at 11:00/10:00c, leading out of the second season of "Lisa Williams: Life Among the Dead" at 9:00/8:00c and newcomer "America's Psychic Challenge" at 10:00/9:00c.

BURN NOTICE (USA) - The summer series has been renewed for a second season of 13 episodes. The news comes as little surprise considering it scored its largest audience to date - 4.4 million (2.3 million of which fell into USA's target adults 25-54 demographic) - last Thursday. Jeffrey Donovan toplines the Fox Television Studios/Fuse Entertainment-based hour, which is executive produced by Matt Nix and Mikkel Bondesen.

CELEBRITY FIT CLUB (VH1) - TV Guide Network has acquired the repeat rights to the 40 episodes produced to date of the VH1 reality competition series. The two-year, non-exclusive pact, financial details of which weren't released, is set to kick off on Monday, August 20 with episodes running at 12:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. EST.

DROP DEAD DIVA (FOX, New!) - "Killer Instinct" and "Vanished" creator Josh Berman is back in business with FOX, landing a script commitment for a new dramedy about an uninspired model-in-training who suddenly dies and finds her soul entering an overweight, less attractive female attorney. 20th Century Fox Television, where Berman's overall deal is based, is behind the project, which has a penalty attached if it doesn't go to pilot.

THE FBI (FOX, New!) - The network has given a blind series commitment to a new procedural drama done in cooperation with the famed agency, including permission to use its name as the title - the first time since ABC's 1965-74 Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.-led series. Chap Taylor ("Changing Lanes") is behind the hour, which will revolve around the agency's Critical Incidents Response Group - a division involved in a range of cases, including kidnappings, hostage negotiations, hostage rescue and evidence collection. As for specifics, the show's lead character - Michael Cavanaugh, an Iraq war veteran - is based on real-life F.B.I. agent John O'Neill, who infamously warned the agency early on about the dangers of Al-Qaeda and quit in disgust, only to perish on September 11, 2001, one day after beginning his new job as security director at the World Trade Center. The project then is set up at 20th Century Fox Television and Imagine Entertainment with Taylor and the latter's Brian Grazer and David Nevins serving as executive producers.

JESSE STONE: THIN ICE (CBS) - Camryn Manheim, Leslie Hope and Kathy Baker are all set to star in the telefilm franchise's fifth installment, which will again feature Tom Selleck as Robert B. Parker's small-town police chief. Baker is reprising her role as Rose Gammon while Manheim is set as Elizabeth Blue, a woman in search of her child who was stolen from the maternity ward seven years ago, with Hope as Sidney Greenstreet, an Internal Affairs investigator charged to find out why Jesse was involved in a shootout in Boston when he was off-duty. Selleck and Michael Brandman are executive producing the project, which comes from Sony Pictures Television. Production then is set to begin later this month in Nova Scotia.

MY NAME IS EARL (NBC) - "Wild Hogs" screenwriter and former "Earl" co-executive producer Brad Copeland has inked a premium two-script deal with Sony Pictures Television. In addition, it's understood one of the two scripts is being developed for Adam Sandler's studio-based Happy Madison banner. Copeland was most-recently based at 20th Century Fox Television where he served his "Earl" tenure.

THE OAKS (FOX, New!) - The network has also issued a seven-figure put pilot order to a new relationship drama from creator David Schulner ("Tell Me You Love Me") and executive producer Shawn Ryan ("The Shield"). The project, to be directed by Michael Cuesta ("Dexter"), revolves around three different couples who inhabit the same house at three different times - a young couple who just lost a child in 1967, a family of four in 1987 and a pregnant couple in 2007 - but are connected by mysterious spirits that appear to haunt it. Schulner (who wrote the pilot on spec), Ryan and Cuesta then will executive produce the hour for 20th Century Fox Television and Gina Matthews and Grant Scharbo's Little Engine Entertainment (formerly Roundtable Entertainment). Production on the pilot then is set to begin in November with a decision about a series order expected to come shortly thereafter. Producers nevertheless are already recruiting additional writers to work on future episodes.

RECOUNT (HBO) - Jay Roach ("Meet the Fockers") has taken over the project's directing reins. He replaces Sydney Pollack, who has stepped down for unspecified medical reasons but will remain on board as an executive producer. The project, written by Danny Strong, explores the drama surrounding the Florida recount after the 2000 presidential election. HBO Films and Spring Creek/Mirage Productions are co-producing the effort with Paula Weinstein and Len Amato also serving as executive producers.

SAVING GRACE (TNT)/BURN NOTICE (USA) - Fox Television Studios has reupped its overall deals with the non-writing executive producers of both series, Gary A. Randall and Mikkel Bondesen, respectively. The new two-year pacts will cover their duties on the recently renewed dramas as well as call for them to develop new series projects for the studio. Nancy Miller and Matt Nix are the respective creators/showrunners of "Grace" and "Notice."

'TIL DEATH (FOX) - John Cho ("Kitchen Confidental") has signed on to appear in three episodes of the show's upcoming second season. He'll play the principal of a prestigious private school who clashes with Eddie Kaye Thomas's character, the school's vice principal.

TRUE BLOOD (HBO) - Alan Ball's drama pilot, based on Charlaine Harris' "Southern Vampire" novels, has been ordered to series. Negotiations are underway to iron out the exact number of episodes but production is nevertheless set to begin this fall. Ball wrote, directed and executive produced the hour (via his Your Face Goes Here Entertainment banner) and has already penned several more on spec. Anna Paquin, Ryan Kwanten, Sam Trammell, Stephen Moyer, Brook Kerr, Carrie Preston and Michael Raymond-James all star in the project, which tells the story of the integration of vampires - who now co-exist with humans thanks to the creation of a special Japanese-manufactured synthetic blood - into a small Louisiana town.

TRUTH IN ADVERTISING (TNT, New!) - "The Closer's" Greer Shephard and Michael Robin are developing a new drama at the cable channel set at a contemporary Madison Avenue ad agency that would feature the characters hawking real products that are paid for by advertisers. "Closer" writers Hunt Baldwin and John Coveny created the Warner Horizon Television-based project, which has a pilot commitment from the network. Robin himself then is attached to direct. As for specifics, the drama will track two young execs at the fictional Rothman, Greene and Mohr who, through an unexpected turn of fate, end up running a department at agency.

UNTITLED ALISON CROSS/ROB LOWE PROJECT (ABC, New!) - Actor Rob Lowe ("Brothers & Sisters") is set to team with writer/producer Alison Cross ("Commander in Chief") to develop a new drama at the network about the anti-stalking unit of the Los Angeles Police Department. Cross is penning the actual pilot script and will executive produce alongside Lowe and his newly formed lowePROFILE production banner for ABC Studios.

UNTITLED CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER PROJECT (ABC, New!) - The Alphabet has given a pilot commitment to a new multi-camera half-hour starring Cedric the Entertainer as a man who has always been the proud breadwinner for his family and has difficulty adjusting when his wife's hobby turns into a multimillion-dollar enterprise. "The King of Queens" alums Rock Reuben and Michael Soccio co-wrote the pilot script with Cedric himself. The pair then will executive produce for ABC Studios with Cedric and manager Eric Rhone serving as co-executive producers. The untitled half-hour stems from a talent holding deal the comedian signed with the network and studio back in November.

UNTITLED JOHN STEPHENS PROJECT (NBC, New!) - John Stephens ("The O.C.") has scored a script order - with a penalty attached - from the Peacock for a new drama about a team of regular cops dedicated to busting vampires, zombies and other criminal demons. The project is set up at Warner Bros. Television, where Stephens has a two-script deal. No other specifics were given.

UNTITLED KASI LEMMONS PROJECT (CBS, New!) - "Talk to Me" helmer Kasi Lemmons is set to team with "Grey's Anatomy" executive producer Mark Gordon for a potential new drama at the Eye about a Bellevue psychiatric neurologist who's also a crisis manager and while she's great at her job, her home life is a mess. Lemmons will write, direct and executive produce the hour, which has a script commitment from the network, alongside Gordon and Deborah Spera via their ABC Studios-based Mark Gordon Co.

UNTITLED KIM KARDASHIAN PROJECT (E!, New!) - Kim Kardashian is the latest socialite to land a reality series, this time at E!. Ryan Seacrest and Eliot Goldberg are behind the project, which will track the 26-year-old "model, actress and entrepreneur" Kardashian as well as her siblings (sisters Kourtney and Khloe and half-sisters Kendall and Kylie), mom/manager Kris and stepdad Bruce Jenner. Seacrest and Goldberg then will executive produce (via Ryan Seacrest Productions) alongside Bunim-Murray Productions's Jon Murray and Jeff Jenkins. No start date or episode order however was given.

UNTITLED LUKE REITER PROJECT (NBC, New!) - The ever-busy Barry Sonnenfeld ("Pushing Daisies") is teaming with writer Luke Reiter ("Boston Legal") for a new legal drama about the unapologetic lawyers at a prestigious New York law firm who will do whatever it takes to win their high-profile cases and outmaneuver one another. Universal Media Studios is producing the hour, which has received a pilot order from the Peacock. Sonnenfeld then will direct and executive produce the hour from a script by Reiter.

UNTITLED MARTIN CAMPBELL PROJECT (FOX, New!) - Feature helmer Martin Campbell ("Casino Royale") has inked a three-for-one deal with the network. The pact, which isn't tied to a specific studio, calls for him to develop three series projects - one of which will ultimately be given a pilot order. Campbell then will direct the resulting project and executive produce.

UNTITLED SHELDON TURNER PROJECT (FX, New!) - Sheldon Turner ("The Longest Yard") is developing a new drama at the cable channel about two law-enforcement agents - one who's gone off the grid (and potentially rogue) and the other, an N.Y.P.D. officer, who's sent to find him - who are undercover in the world of the Russian Mafia. The project then is set up at Pete Berg and Sarah Aubrey's Film 44 banner ("Friday Night Lights") with the pair executive producing alongside Turner. Should it move forward to pilot, Berg is expected to direct schedule permitting.

WORST WEEK (CBS, New!) - Matt Tarses ("Scrubs") is the latest writer/producer to take a stab at importing the British comedy "The Worst Week of My Life," which tells the story of a young couple who have to navigate the politics of dealing with their soon-to-be in-laws. The Eye has given a pilot order to the Universal Media Studios/Hat Trick Productions-based project and has commissioned four additional scripts. Marc Buckland ("My Name Is Earl") is also on board to direct the half-hour and executive produce alongside Tarses and Jimmy Mulville. Hat Trick previously set up "Worst Week" at FOX, 20th Century Fox Television and Regency Television where a pilot was shot starring Anna Galvin, Charles Malik Whitfield, David Ogden Stiers, Jaime King, JoBeth Williams, Stephanie Nicole Lemelin and Zachary Levi for 2006-07 season consideration. Ed Decter and John J. Strauss were behind said effort with Adam Shankman directing. The group subsequently tried to redevelop the concept with Ben Wexler at the helm however it didn't evolve past the studio draft.

Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters

  [august 2007]  


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