LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A 5TH GRADER? (FOX) - The network has ordered nine additional episodes of the series, bringing its third season total to 22 hours. Mark Burnett Productions and Zoo Productions are behind the project, which shifts to Friday nights starting September 5. Jeff Foxworthy hosts.
THE CONVERSATION (AMC) - Francis Ford Coppola's 1974 feature is once again being eyed for the small screen, this time at AMC. Christopher McQuarrie ("The Usual Suspects") and Erik Jendresen ("Band of Brothers") are penning the latest adaptation, following their previous pass for ABC/ABC Studios in 2006. Tony Krantz and Coppola are also returning via their respective companies Flame Ventures and American Zoetrope for Sony Pictures Television. McQuarrie, Jendresen and Heather McQuarrie then will executive produce alongside Krantz. As for specifics, the new incarnation will center on electronic surveillance expert Harry Caul (played by Gene Hackman in the film) as he works as an eavesdropper with a larger, ongoing storyline about who's monitoring him as he hears conversations he shouldn't be privy to. The AMC version will also bet set in the 1970s, unlike the ABC version which was set in present day. Prior to ABC, Krantz sold a version to NBC in 1995 as an agent, with Ron Bass writing and Kyle MacLachlan attached to star.
DROP DEAD DIVA (Lifetime) - Golden Brooks ("Girlfriends") and April Bowlby ("Two and a Half Men") are the latest additions to the drama pilot, about Deb, a dead aspiring actress-model who is reincarnated in the body of Jane (Brooke Elliott), a chubby, brilliant attorney. Brooks is set as Kim Kastle, who's detailed via the casting notice as: "Late 20s-Mid 30s, all ethnicities, in a Michael Kors suit, with a blue Hermes bag. Kim is a partner at the same law firm as Jane. Confident, savvy, manipulative and rather bitchy, she is not as smart as Jane, or as well liked by the clients, but she does know how to play the office politics game. For Kim, "everything's a competition. Every woman, a threat. Every man, a conquest"." And Bowlby then is playing Stacy Punt: "Early 20s, all ethnicities, "Sports Illustrated swimsuit sexy," a vapid but sweet young woman. She is Deb's best friend. Shallow, but with a gushy, fun personality, she is offended when Deb suggests she get a job and tells her, "I'm a model." Later, Stacy is the only person in whom Jane (Deb) confides about her rather unusual situation." Jackson Hurst and Margaret Cho also star in the Sony Pictures Television-based hour, which James Hayman is helming from a script by Josh Berman.
THE INFORMANT (FOX, New!) - Tom Szentgyorgyi ("Journeyman") is developing a domestic take on the Australian series of the same name, about Richard Button, a regular middle-class suburban dad who works as a police informant for an elite federal investigative agency. Greg Haddrick was behind the original version. 20th Century Fox Television and Alchemy Entertainment are co-producing.
LOVELAND (FOX, New!) - The network is reportedly close to importing the upcoming U.K. dating series, in which participants select their dates based on interactions with computer-generated versions of potential suitors. Jo Pine created the format, which comes from Tom Gutteridge's Standing Stone Productions. Antwerp animation house Nazooka is behind the technology used in the show, which is set to roll out on Sky One later this season, as is a web-based version of the format.
SHAWN RYAN PROJECTS (Various, New!) - "The Shield" creator Shawn Ryan has set up three new projects around town - "The Lead Sheet" at A&E, "Millionaires Club" at FOX and an untitled hour at FX. That's in addition to "Confessions of a Contractor" at CBS, which was announced earlier this week. All four stem from his overall deal with 20th Century Fox Television. "Sheet," created by author James Ellroy, chronicles the hunt for the infamous Hillside Strangler - a prolific serial killer who tortured, raped and killed young women in 1977-78 in the hills above Los Angeles. The series then follows three police officers and two DAs as they investigate the killer, with each episode of the crime procedural starting with a tip leading to a violent crime that may or may not be related to the Strangler. Ellroy is penning the hour and executive producing alongside his manager Joel Gotler. As for "Club," the single-camera comedy revolves around a ragtag group of wannabe millionaires who keep coming up with ill-fated plots to get rich. "Semi-Pro" helmer Kent Alterman attached to direct the half-hour from a script by Ryan. And finally, Ryan is teaming with "Ocean's Eleven" writer Ted Griffin for the FX project, which is billed as a comedic drama about a private eye. Ryan is executive producing each via his MiddKid Productions banner with 20th producing the broadcast projects and Fox 21 shepherding the cable projects.
TREME (HBO) - Khandi Alexander ("CSI: Miami") and "The Wire" alums Wendell Pierce and Clarke Peters are the first to be cast in the drama pilot, a post-Katrina-themed drama which chronicles the rebuilding of New Orleans through the eyes of local musicians. David Simon and Eric Overmyer are behind the hour, which is also executive produced by Nina Noble for Simon's Blown Deadline Productions. As for specifics, Pierce will play Antoine Batiste, "an accomplished jazz trombonist who is now scratching for gigs, trying to support a live-in girlfriend and a new baby, while still carrying a torch for a failed marriage to Ladonna Batiste (Alexander), the mother of his two children, who is single-handedly keeping her bar afloat," according to The Hollywood Reporter. Peters then is set as Albert Lambreaux, a big chief of the White Feather Nation trying to bring the tribe's members home.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters