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Channel Surfing: NBC Slices "Day One" to Four Episodes, James Franco Checks into "General Hospital," NBC Lands J.J. Abrams Spy Drama, and More

Welcome to your Friday morning television briefing.

NBC has announced that it has decided to slash the episodic order for its midseason sci-fi drama Day One to just four episodes, scheduling the series as a four-hour event mini-series rather than a thirteen-episode season. It's believed to be a cost-cutting measure as the decision will allow NBC to evaluate the mini-series' performance and ratings before committing to an ongoing series. News comes as Day One, which is slated to launch after the Olympics, has already shot two episodes and creator Jesse Alexander is said to be prepping the final two installments, which will wrap up storylines as well as leave some plot points intentionally dangling for a potential series order the following season. (Variety)

E! Online's Watch with Kristin is reporting that James Franco is set to the join the cast of ABC daytime soap General Hospital for two months. (Yes, seriously.) He'll appear in a multiple-episode story arc beginning with the November 20th episode that finds Franco portraying a mysterious new character who arrives in Port Charles and gets entangled with thug Jason Morgan (Steve Burton). According to sources, Franco took the gig because he "wants to do everything" in his career and, according to SoapNet, approached the series' producers about a role. He'll appear for work one day a week, when he will shoot several episodes for General Hospital at a time. "We are thrilled to announce that James Franco will play an integral part in a lengthy run on General Hospital this fall," General Hospital executive producer Jill Farren Phelps. "It's an honor that an actor of James' caliber would choose to spend some of his valuable time in Port Charles." (E! Online's Watch with Kristin, SoapNet)

NBC has won the bidding war for the untitled J.J. Abrams-executive produced spy thriller after outbidding rivals ABC and CBS. Pilot script, about two spies who are married, was written by Abrams and Josh Reims and will be produced by Warner Bros. Television and Bad Robot. (Variety)

Despite earlier denials, Comcast has announced that it is in talks with General Electric to form a new joint venture that would encapsulate NBC Universal. The new venture would be controlled by Comcast with a 51 percent stake in NBC Universal and would be overseen by Comcast, who plan to merge their cable holdings--including E!, Style, G4, Golf Channel, etc.--into the venture. Deal requires that Vivendi give up its 20 percent stake in NBC Universal. (Broadcasting & Cable)

Comedy fans rejoice: HBO has come on board to co-produce Chris Lilley's newest series, Angry Boys, an exploration of what it is like to be a man in the 21st century. As in Lilley's other series Summer Heights High and We Can Be Heroes, he will portray multiple roles as well as write the scripts for the twelve episode mockumentary-based comedy series. "There will be new characters and lots of surprises for the audience, and I'm really excited about having a longer-running series to work with," said Lilley. (Editor: I'm already anxious as I am obsessed with Summer Heights High.) Production on the series begins later this month in Australia. (Variety)

Showtime is developing single-camera comedy pilot Mouthpiece, from Fox Television Studios and writer/executive producer Carol Liefer (Seinfeld). Project, which would star Marlee Matlin and Mario Cantone, is set at a high-powered law firm. Elsewhere, Liefer has set up You and Me and He, a multi-camera comedy project at CBS about a recently divorced woman who enters a same-sex relationship only to discover that she is pregnant with her ex-husband's child. That project, which has a script commitment, hails from Sony Pictures Television and Happy Madison. (Hollywood Reporter)

NBC has given a script order to drama Midnighters, based on Alloy Entertainment's novel series about a group of people, each born at midnight, who have the ability to access the 25th hour of the day in order to fight crime. Project, from Warner Bros. Television and Ally, will be written by Chad Hodge (Runaway), who will executive produce with Bob Levy and Leslie Morgenstein. (Hollywood Reporter)

Entertainment Weekly's Michael Ausiello is reporting that Nick Chinlund (Desperate Housewives) has been cast in CBS' The Mentalist as the father of Simon Baker's Patrick Jane. Chinlund's first appearance on the series is set for November 12th, when he will first appear "in a series of circa '80s flashbacks that promise to shed light on Jane's early days as a carnie freak." The younger Jane will be played by Chris Brochu in the flashbacks, which will recount Jane's days as a circus psychic. (Entertainment Weekly's Ausiello Files)

Josh Lawson (Chandon Pictures) has been cast opposite Alyssa Milano and Kyle Bornheimer in ABC's midseason comedy Romantically Challenged, where he replaces Eric Christian Olsen who played the role in the original pilot episode. Elsewhere at ABC, Michael Ealy (Sleeper Cell) has joined the cast of drama series FlashForward, where he will play the nemesis to Joseph Fiennes' Mark Benford. (Hollywood Reporter)

Comedy Central has ordered a pilot for comedy Boys and Girls Guide to Getting Down, based on the 2006 indie film about the romantic adventures of a group of urban twenty-somethings. Luke Greenfield is attached to direct. (Hollywood Reporter)

Filming of the octoplets on TLC's Jon & Kate Plus 8 has been shut down following the filing of a cease-and-desist order by Jon Gosselin. In a statement, the cabler said that production would remain on hold "pending further conversations" between the Gosselins, though they were quick to point out that filming of persons other than the eight children would continue. The filing comes on the heels of the announcement that the reality series would be relaunched as Kate Plus Eight and that Jon Gosselin's participation would be curtailed. (Variety)

FOX and 20th Century Fox Television have extended options on the cast of single-camera comedy pilot The Station, which will remain in contention for a series order while producers tweak the pilot. Series, from executive producer Ben Stiller, follows a group of CIA operatives, including Justin Bartha, John Goodman and Whitney Cummings, working in Central America on a mission to install a new dictator. Elsewhere, CBS and ABC Studios have again extended the options on the cast of drama pilot House Rules, including Zoe McLellan, Eion Bailey, Kristin Bauer, Tawny Cypress, Anna Chlumsky, and Denzel Whitaker. (Hollywood Reporter)

UK digital network Living has acquired the rights to ABC comedy series Cougar Town, which it will launch next year. (Broadcast)

FOX has acquired the US rights to UK game show The Cube, in which contestants have to complete a number of physical challenges in a set period of time. If the concept sounds familiar, it's because NBC recently announced its own reality competition series, Perfect 10, which features more or mess the same premise. (Hollywood Reporter)

Stay tuned.

Comments

AskRachel said…
RE: James Franco on General Hospital...What the what? Very odd. Isn't he also enrolled in grad program at both Columbia and NYU too?
Jane Grey said…
Hurray for Chris Lilley! I loved Summer Heights High and can't wait to see a new project from him!
Beckacheck said…
" . . . which features more or mess the same premise."
Freudian slip?
Reality show mess, indeed.

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