LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION (CBS) - Executive producers Carol Mendelsohn and Naren Shankar have confirmed William Petersen is departing the series as a full-time cast member. Petersen, who already was set for a reduced role on the show's upcoming ninth season (read the story), will exit in episode 10. Nevertheless, he'll continue as an executive producer on the series alongside his producing partner Cynthia Chvatal and make occasional guest appearances. As part of the build up to Petersen's exit, Sara Sidle (Jorja Fox), Lady Heather (Melinda Clarke) and "The Miniature Killer" are all expected to make return appearances. Entertainment Weekly further reports that to help fill Petersen's (as well as Gary Dourdan's - who was killed off in the season finale) void, Liz Vassey and David Berman have been upped to regulars while casting has begun for a new regular ("a male professor with a genetic quirk") in addition to the previously announced Lauren Lee Smith. Lastly, feature director William Friedkin ("To Live and Die in L.A.") has been recruited to helm the show's upcoming 200th episode following last year's duties on the episode "Cockroaches."
DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES (ABC) - Newcomers Joshua Moore, Kendall Applegate and twins Charles and Max Carver are all set to join the cast of the show's upcoming fifth season. They'll play Parker, Penny, Porter and Preston, respectively, the children of Tom and Lynette Scavo (Doug Savant and Felicity Huffman) who, due to the show's "flash forward," are now five years older. Zane Huett, Kerstin Pinkerton, Brent Kinsman and Shane Kinsman all originated said roles.
IRREPARABLE HARM (HBO, New!) - Writer Jesse Wigutow ("Eragon") and director Eugene Jarecki ("Why We Fight") are developing a new telefilm at the pay channel about the true story of Frank Snepp, the head of the CIA's strategic analysis in Saigon during the Vietnam War. The project, which Jarecki is also executive producing, will track Snepp as he returns to the U.S. after the fall of Saigon and, after being conflicted over what had just happened, decides to reveal the true story of the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam. Said account, detailed in his book "Decent Interval: An Insider's Account of Saigon's Indecent End, Told by the CIA's Chief Strategy Analyst in Vietnam," ultimately led to a court battle with the CIA. Wigutow's script then will be based on Snepp's second book, "Irreparable Harm: A Firsthand Account of How One Agent Took on the Agency in an Epic Battle Over Free Speech." Paula Weinstein and Spring Creek's Palak Patel are also executive producing.
LIFE ON MARS (ABC) - "October Road" alum Jonathan Murphy has joined the cast of the newcomer, about a modern-day police detective (Jason O'Mara), who, after a car crash, finds himself mysteriously transported back to 1973 and still working as a detective. Murphy will play Chris Skelton, a jittery young detective who is new to the department. His casting is part of a post-pilot revamp of the series by incoming executive producers Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec and Scott Rosenberg. Michael Imperioli also stars.
SCRUBS (ABC) - Bill Lawrence and Zach Braff confirmed during the show's panel at the TCA the latter will likely depart the series after its upcoming eighth season. Like William Petersen (see above) however, Braff says he's open to returning as a guest star and/or director. "My sense is this is my last year," Braff told reporters. "If the show does continue like he's saying, like an 'ER' kind of thing, I would love to come back and visit and definitely direct some - and do craft service if they need some help." In any case, production on the show's 18-episode order will be completed next month. Also confirmed at the panel: the series will finally switch to HD for its eighth season; six two- to four-minute webisodes are being shot to help promote the show's move to ABC; and upcoming guest stars include Courteney Cox, Lee Thompson Young, Aziz Ansari, Betsy Beutler and Eliza Coupe.
SINCERELY, TED L. NANCY (FOX, New!) - Ted L. Nancy's book "Letters From a Nut" is once again being targeted for the small screen, this time by FOX. The network has given a cast-contingent presentation order to the project, which centers on a regular guy who, after suffering through too many faulty products and customer service mishaps, decides to take on the corporations by writing letters that "seek to avenge the consumer frustrations of people everywhere." Barry Marder, Chuck Martin, Gary Auerbach and Rob Lee are all behind the Lionsgate-based half-hour, which is being likened to a "Borat"-like mockumentary style, featuring him doing outrageous stunts involving regular people. ABC previously took at stab at bringing the book to the small screen back in 2002. Lionsgate, Auerbach's Go Go Luckey Productions and Lee's Bayonne Entertainment subsequently picked up the rights last year (read the story).
SIT DOWN, SHUT UP (FOX) - Sony Pictures Television and most of the show's writing staff have settled their dispute over the animated comedy's status as part of the IATSE's Animation Guild. "This contract is a compromise -- an improvement over the standard TAG terms we were initially offered but not full WGA coverage," said writers Mitch Hurwitz, Josh Weinstein, Rich Rinaldi, Aisha Muharrar, Alex Herschlag, Laura Gutin, Dan Fybel, Aaron Ehasz, Michael Colton and John Aboud in a joint statement. "Compromises are never easy nor satisfying, always less comforting than a clear victory. We know that this is part of an ongoing struggle." Not agreeing to terms however were Bill Oakley, Weinstein's longtime writing partner, and Ken Keeler. A statement from the WGA, where the writers were trying to move the show to, noted that "when Sony offered to pay 'WGA equivalent residuals' and to give each writer up to $200,000 in additional compensation through a blind script deal, most of the writers decided to accept. We understand why they did so but wish they hadn't. Had they stuck together we believe that they would have won WGA coverage for 'Sit Down, Shut Up!'"
THE UNLIMITED (ABC, New!) - Sean Bailey ("Project Greenlight") has booked a $500,000 put pilot commitment from the Alphabet for a new drama about a Texas basketball coach who discovers that his recently deceased father was actually one of the world's most brilliant minds and that he's inherited his genius. Bailey, who penned the pilot on spec, will executive produce via his Idealogy banner. Said company was formed last year after Live Planet, his partnership with Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Chris Moore, got out of the TV and film business to focus on new media.
UNTITLED GREG DANIELS/MICHAEL SCHUR PROJECT (A.K.A. UNTITLED OFFICE SPIN-OFF PROJECT) (NBC) - "Saturday Night Live's" Amy Poehler is in final negotiations to join the cast of the Greg Daniels/Michael Schur project, which is no longer being billed as a spin-off of "The Office." Poehler would join the previously cast Aziz Ansari on the project, which will air after "The Office" on Thursday nights next year. Full details about the show obviously still remain under wraps. Poehler presumably will exit "SNL" or take on a reduced role.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters