The new fall pilots haven't even premiered yet, but already the networks are looking forward to their next big task: finding the right pilots and scripts to order for the 2013-2014 season. Development season is well underway and has been for the past few weeks — although this season is marked by a declaration from some networks (namely ABC and NBC) that the typically order-happy suits would not be as quick to bulk up their pilot orders this year. In other words, less is more.
Most of the majors have already made their first-round choices for specific projects, and the trends that have emerged seem to be all about big-name attachments (e.g. Vince Vaughn, Jodie Foster, Ryan Reynolds), period dramas (e.g. Aztec empire, Cold War America, 1890s Europe), international transplants (from Israel, England and Scandinavia) and — in an interestingly-revived yet well-worn trend — book adaptations (including Dracula and two Sleepy Hollow reboots).
Here's what ABC, CBS, The CW, FOX, NBC and more have coming down the '13-'14 pipeline so far:
— Dumb F*ck: Single-camera comedy about an average Joe and his brilliant wife who move in with her intelligent yet emotionally stunted family of geniuses; written by Hank Nelken (Saving Silverman), executive produced by Vin Di Bona, Bruce Gersh, Susan Levison and Shaleen Desai.
— Burns & Cooley: Medical procedural about two New York neurosurgeons who compete as they strive to be the top in all aspects of their lives; written by Meredith Philpott (Awkward), exec produced by Matt Gross (Body Of Proof).
— Founding Fathers: Drama about a war veteran whose Texas hometown is in the hands of a militia group led by his older brother; written by Rich D'Ovidio (Thir13en Ghosts), produced by Lorenzo Di Bonaventura and Dan McDermott.
— Untitled McG Project: Retelling of Romeo and Juliet, revolving around two rival families fighting for control over Venice, California; written by Byron Balasco (Detroit 1-8-7), produced by McG (The OC, Supernatural, Nikita).
— Untitled Kurtzman/Orci Project: Drama about a mysterious game; written by Noah Hawley (The Unusuals), produced by Heather Kadin, Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci.
— Dracula: 1890s-set period piece about the iconic vampire; written by Cole Haddon, produced by Tony Krantz and Colin Callender; starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers (The Tudors).
— The Blacklist: Drama about an international criminal who surrenders himself and helps the government hunt down his former cohorts; written by Jon Bokenkamp, exec produced by John Davis, John Fox and John Eisendrath.
— Hench: Based on the comic about a man who becomes a temp for super villains; written by Alexandra Cunningham (Desperate Housewives), exec produced by Peter Berg and Sarah Aubrey (Prime Suspect).
— Cleopatra: Period drama about the Egyptian queen Cleopatra; written by Michael Seitzman (Americana), exec produced by Lorenzo Di Bonaventura and Dan McDermott.
— Pariah: Drama inspired by Freakonomics about a rogue academic who uses economic theory to police San Diego; written by Kevin Fox (The Negotiator), exec produced by Kelsey Grammer, Stella Stolper and Brian Sher.
— After Hours/The Last Stand: Medical drama about Army doctors who work the night shift at a San Antonio hospital; revisited from last season; written by Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah.
— Untitled Parkes/MacDonald Project: Drama about an interpreter at the United Nations who works with diplomats and politicians from around the world; written by Tom Brady (Hell on Wheels), produced by Walter Parkes, Laurie MacDonald and Ted Gold.
— Untitled Charmelo/Snyder Project: New Orleans-set drama, described as a "sexy Southern Gothic thriller"; created by Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder (Ringer), exec produced by Peter Traugott and Rachel Kaplan.
— Untitled Rand Ravich Project: Drama-thriller following a secret service agent at the center of an international crisis in Washington, DC; created by Rand Ravich (Life), produced by Far Shariat.
— Island Practice: Based on the book Island Practice: Cobblestone Rash, Underground Tom, and Other Adventures Of A Nantucket Doctor, about an eccentric doctor with a controversial medical practice on an island off the coast of Washington; written by Amy Holden Jones (Mystic Pizza, Beethoven), produced by Brian Grazer, Francie Calfo and Oly Obst.
— The Brady Bunch: Reboot of the series, about a divorced Bobby Brady who re-marries a woman with children of her own; written by Mike Mariano (Raising Hope), co-developed and exec produced by Vince Vaughn (Sullivan & Son).
— A Welcome Grave: Based on the book series about a private investigator who comes under suspicion when a rival turns up dead.
— Backstrom: Based on the book series about a House-like detective who tries to change his self-destructive nature; written by Hart Hanson (Bones), produced by Leif G.W. Persson (novel) and Niclas Salomonsson.
— Ex-Men: Single-camera comedy about a young guy who moves into a short-term rental complex and befriends the other men who live there after being kicked out by their wives; written and directed by Rob Greenberg; starring Chris Smith and Kal Penn.
— Sleepy Hollow: Contemporary reinterpretation of the Sleepy Hollow short story; written by Patrick Macmanus and Grant Scharbo, produced by Scharbo and Gina Matthews.
— Gun Machine: Based on an upcoming novel (of the same name) about a New York detective whose chance discovery of a stash of guns leads back to a variety of unsolved murders; written by Dario Scardapane (Trauma), produced by Warren Ellis (book author), Scardapane, Peter Chernin and Katherine Pope.
— Sleepy Hollow: Modern-day thriller based on the Sleepy Hollow short story, following Ichabod Crane and a female sheriff who solve supernatural mysteries; written by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (Fringe, Hawaii Five-0) and Phillip Iscove, produced by Heather Kadin and Len Wiseman.
— The Beach: Based on the 1996 novel and 2000 movie about a group of youths who try to start society over on a remote paradise; written by Andrew Miller (The Secret Circle).
— Hard Up: Single-camera comedy based on Israeli series about four twentysomething guys who are strapped for cash; written by Etan Frankel (Shameless), produced by John Wells.
— Lowe Rollers: Animated comedy about a struggling Titanic-themed casino in Las Vegas; written by Mark Torgove and Paul Kaplan (Outsourced) and Ash Brannon, produced by Ryan Reynolds, Jonathon Komack Martin, Steven Pearl and Allan Loeb.
— Untitled Chris Levinson Project: Cop drama about a detective who puts his life under surveillance when he begins to lose his memory; written by Chris Levinson (Touch), produced by Peter Chernin and Katherine Pope.
— Untitled Friend/Lerner Project: Drama set on an aircraft carrier following young naval officers and a female fighter pilot who tries to solve an onboard murder; written and produced by Russel Friend and Garrett Lerner (House).
— Untitled Ryan Reynolds Project: Half-hour comedy about a disgraced hotelier forced to manage a rundown airport hotel; written by Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay (Clash of the Titans), produced by Ryan Reynolds, Allan Loeb, Jonathon Komack Martin and Steven Pearl.
— Untitled Jason Katims Project: Romantic comedy about a single female attorney; written by Jason Katims (Parenthood, Friday Night Lights) and Sarah Watson.
— Getting On: U.S. adaptation of a British comedy about a group of nurses and doctors working in a women's geriatric wing of a run-down hospital; Big Love creators Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer to exec produce with Jane Tranter, Julie Gardner and Geoff Atkinson.
— Buda Bridge: Belgian-set crime drama about a woman who is found dead on a famous bridge in Brussels; written and directed by Michael R. Roskam (Bullhead), produced by Michael Mann (Luck) and Mark Johnson (Breaking Bad).
— Hello Ladies: Comedy about an oddball Englishman who chases women in Los Angeles; written, directed by and starring Stephen Merchant (The Office), produced by Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky (The Office).
— Angie's Body: Drama about a powerful woman at the head of a crime family; written by Rob Fresco (Heroes, Jericho), directed and executive produced by Jodie Foster, Fresco and Russ Krasnoff.
— Conquest: Period drama about Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes, who clashes with the Aztec ruler Moctezuma II; written by Jose Rivera (The Motorcycle Diaries), produced by Ron Howard, Brian Grazer and Francie Calfo.
— Low Winter Sun: Based on 2006 British miniseries about the aftermath that follows the murder of a cop by a fellow detective; written by Chris Mundy; James Ransone, Ruben Santiago Hudson and Athena Karkanis to star.
— Those Who Kill: Based on Danish series about a detective and forensics scientist who track down serial killers; written by Glen Morgan, produced by Brian Grazer, Francie Calfo, Peter Bose and Jonas Allen, directed by Joe Carnahan.
— Untitled LaGravenese/Goldwyn Project: Legal thriller about an attorney who discovers new evidence that re-opens a sensational murder case; written by Richard LaGravenese, directed by Tony Goldwyn, exec produced by David Manson; Marin Ireland to star as female lead.
— The Americans: Period drama about two KGB spies posing as Americans in Washington, DC; created by Joe Weisberg, exec produced by Weisberg, Graham Yost, Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey; directed by Gavin O'Connor; Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys and Noah Emmerich to star.
— The Bridge: Based on the Scandinavian series, about a murder investigation opened up after a dead body is discovered on a bridge connecting the United States and Mexico; written by Meredith Stiehm and Elwood Reid (Cold Case), produced by Carolyn Bernstein, Lars Blomgren and Jane Featherstone.
— Untitled Dr. Dre Project: One-hour drama about music and crime in Los Angeles; written by Sidney Quashie, exec produced by Dr. Dre.
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[Photo Credit: ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, The CW]
Making an earnest cinematic argument for the immortality of the soul and the existence of an afterlife without delving into mushy sentimentality is a difficult task for even the most gifted and “serious” of filmmakers. Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson discovered as much last year when his sappy grandiose adaptation of the ethereal bestseller The Lovely Bones opened to scathing reviews. Critics by and large tend to bristle at movie renderings of what may or may not await them in that Great Arthouse in the Sky.
And yet filmmakers seem determined to keep trying. The latest to make the attempt is Clint Eastwood who throughout his celebrated directorial career has certainly demonstrated a firm grasp of the death part of the equation. His filmography with a few notable exceptions practically revels in it: of his recent oeuvre Invictus is the only work that doesn’t deal with mortality in some significant manner. With his new film Hereafter Eastwood hopes to add immortality to his thematic resume.
The film's narrative centers on three characters each of whom has intimate experience with death and loss. Their stories in true Eastwood fashion can ostensibly be labeled Sad Sadder and Saddest: Marie (Cecile de France) is a French TV news anchor who’s haunted by disturbing flashbacks after she loses consciousness — and briefly her life — during a natural disaster; George (Matt Damon looking credibly schlubby) is a former psychic whose skills as a medium are so potent (the slightest touch from another human being triggers an instant powerful psychic connection a la Rogue from X-Men) they’ve left him isolated and alone; Marcus is a London schoolboy who retreats into a somber shell after losing his twin brother in a tragic car accident (both brothers are played rather impressibly by real-life twins Frankie and George McLaren).
Humanity offers little help to these troubled souls surrounding them with skeptics charlatans users and deadbeats none of whom are particularly helpful with crises of an existential nature. Luckily there are otherworldly options. Peter Morgan's script assumes psychics out-of-body experiences and other such phenomena to be real and legitimate but in a non-denominational Coast-to-Coast AM kind of way. Unlike Jackson’s syrupy CGI-drenched glimpses of the afterlife Eastwood’s visions of the Other Side are vague and eery — dark fuzzy silhouettes of the departed set against a white background. Only Damon’s character George seems capable of drawing meaning from them which is why he’s constantly sought out by grief-stricken folks desperate to make contact with loved ones who’ve recently passed on. He’s John Edward only real (and not a douche).
Marie and Marcus appear destined to find him as well but only as the last stop on wearisome circuitous and often heartbreaking spiritual journeys that together with George’s hapless pursuit of a more temporal connection (psychic ability it turns out can be a wicked cock-blocker) consume the bulk of Hereafter’s running time. We know the three characters’ paths must inevitably intersect but Morgan’s script stubbornly forestalls this eventuality testing our patience for nearly two ponderous and maudlin hours and ultimately building up expectations for a climax Eastwood can’t deliver at least not without sacrificing any hope of credulity.
It should be noted that Hereafter features a handful of genuinely touching moments thanks in great part to the film's tremendous cast. And its finale is refreshingly upbeat. Unfortunately it also feels forced and terribly unsatisfying. Eastwood an established master of all things tragic and forlorn struggles mightily to mount a happy ending. (Which in my opinion is much more challenging than a sad or ambiguous one.) After prompting us to seriously ponder life’s ultimate question Eastwood’s final answer seems to be: Don’t worry about it.
Oprah's jury delivers guilty verdict
Talk show maven Oprah Winfrey, who was one of 12 jurors who convicted a Chicago man of murder Wednesday, said her three days in the jury box was an eye-opening experience. "It's a huge reality check; there's a whole other world going on out there," Winfrey, surrounded by other jurors, said in the Cook County Criminal Courts Building lobby. "When your life intersects with others in this way, it is forever changed." The Associated Press reports the jury deliberated for less than three hours before convicting 27-year-old Dion Coleman of first-degree murder in the February 2002 shooting death of Walter Holley, 23. Coleman is scheduled to be sentenced next month and could face 45 years to life in prison. The otherwise routine trial received more intense interest because of Winfrey's involvement, something the media mogul tried to downplay. "This is not good for the victim's family, " she said of the media hype. "This is not about Oprah Winfrey. The fact is, a man has been murdered." Winfrey, who was paid the standard $17.20 a day for her jury duty, said she plans to bring her experience as a juror on a murder trial to her TV show next week.
Trump board game hits stores
Donald Trump has unveiled his newest business venture: a new Parker Brothers board game. According to the AP, Trump, the Game can be played by up to four players who bid on real estate, buy big ticket items, including islands and office buildings, and make billion-dollar business deals. Players can also terminate their opponents using The Donald's trademark words "You're fired" from his hit TV reality show The Apprentice. Mark Blecher, senior vice president of marketing at Hasbro Games (the parent company of Parker Brothers), said the game "allows players to feel the power and make the deals." Trump, the Game retails for $24.99.
Moore to publish book of soldiers' letters
Publisher Simon & Schuster announced Wednesday that Michael Moore has two new books coming out this fall. The first book, The Official 'Fahrenheit 9-11' Reader, is a companion book to the scheduled DVD release of Moore's controversial documentary about President Bush, the terrorist attacks and the Iraq war. The other release, Will They Ever Trust Us Again?, is a collection of letters written to Moore from U.S. troops in Iraq. "Our goal is to have both books out before Election Day," Simon & Schuster spokeswoman Victoria Meyer told the AP. His previous books include Stupid White Men and Dude, Where's My Country?
The Contender loses round one in court
A California judge yesterday denied DreamWorks TV and Mark Burnett's first bid to stop Fox Broadcasting Co. from premiering it's boxing skein The Next Great Champ on Sept. 10. DreamWorks and Burnett claim Fox ripped off their own boxing reality show, The Contender, and tried to stop Champ from debuting as scheduled by arguing the show's producers violated state boxing laws in a bid to beat them to the airwaves. But according to court papers, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Linda Lefkowitz did leave open the possibility of blocking the Champ in the near future by setting a Sept. 8 hearing on a motion for a preliminary injunction against the show. The judge also ordered an expedite exchange of documents between the parties to the lawsuit, Reuters reports.
Celebs gearing up for fall sitcom appearances
Joan Rivers, who openly jokes about her own cosmetic surgery, will guest star as herself on the season finale of the FX drama series Nip/Tuck, set to air Oct. 5. In the episode, Rivers meets with the show's plastic surgeons for an unusual cosmetic consultation. Newlyweds star and singer Nick Lachey, meanwhile, is set to play Alyssa Milano's love interest in an upcoming six-episode arc on the WB's Charmed, which kicks off its new season Sept. 12. And last but not least, Jennifer Lopez will return to guest star as herself on the season premiere of NBC's Will & Grace, set to air Sept. 16. In the episode, Lopez, who was recruited by Megan Mullally's character to sing at her Vegas marriage last season, returns to New York after her summer tour, where Sean Hayes' character served as a backup dancer.
Howard Stern gets animated series on Spike TV
Radio host Howard Stern will be appearing as a teenage cartoon character of himself in a new animated series tentatively titled Howard Stern: The High School Years. Reuters reports the male-oriented cable channel Spike TV has ordered 13 episodes of the show, which is based on Stern's teenage years growing up on New York's Long Island. The network said Wednesday it has not yet determined whether Stern will lend his voice to his own character. A Spike TV spokesman said Stern is serving as executive producer of the series, and added the shock jock's parents be major characters on the cartoon series. As of this week, episodes are still being written, with producers conducting animation tests. Howard Stern: The High School Years is aimed for launch in the summer of 2005.
Are the Black Crowes reuniting?
Singer Chris Robinson, who is married to actress Kate Hudson, has canceled plans for a fall tour with his band New Earth Mud, amid rumors he may reteam with younger brother Rich under the Black Crowes moniker. Billboard.com reports the warring siblings have recently met with former manager Pete Angelus to discuss a potential reunion. Fueling the reunion speculations is the recent reactivation of the Black Crowes' Web site (http://www.blackcrowes.com), which had been largely dormant since the group announced a hiatus in 2002. Robinson and Hudson, who were married on December 31, 2000 in Colorado and have a 7-month-old son, have recently denied reports their three-year marriage is on the rocks.
Film composer Elmer Bernstein dies
Film composer Elmer Bernstein, who created themes for The Magnificent Seven, The Man With The Golden Arm and To Kill a Mockingbird, died in his sleep at his Ojai, Calif., home Wednesday at age 82, the AP reports. Bernstein, who earned 14 Academy Award nominations, an Oscar and an Emmy Award in his 70-year career, is survived by his wife, Eve, sons Peter and Gregory, daughters Emilie and Elizabeth, and five grandchildren. Among Bernstein's more notable efforts were the scores for Some Came Running, Birdman of Alcatraz, The Great Escape, Hawaii, The Great Santini, My Left Foot, A River Runs Through It, Devil in a Blue Dress and The Age of Innocence. He also composed several works for symphony orchestras, some 200 movies and 80 television shows. He won an Emmy Award in 1964 for The Making of The President: 1960 and an Oscar only once for the 1967 film Thoroughly Modern Millie. A memorial service is pending.