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Channel Surfing: TNT Orders Three Series, Rob Lowe to Leave "Brothers & Sisters," Conan Courted by Cable, "Questor," and More

Welcome to your Friday morning television briefing.

TNT yesterday gave series orders to all three of its drama pilots: Rizzoli & Isles, the George Clooney-executive produced Delta Blues, and an untitled Steven Spielberg-executive produced alien invasion drama. Ten episodes are on tap for all three, with Delta Blues--starring Jason Lee (My Name is Earl)--and Rizzoli & Isles--starring Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander and based on Tess Gettitsen's novels--set to launch later this year. Meanwhile, the untitled Spielberg project, which stars Noah Wyle (ER, The Librarian) and is written by Robert Rodat, will launch in 2011. (Hollywood Reporter)

Confirmed: Rob Lowe has asked ABC to release him from his contract on drama series Brothers & Sisters, reportedly because he felt he was being underused by the producers. ABC has complied with his request and Lowe will depart the series at the end of the season. "We would like to keep Rob at ABC," said ABC in a statement, "we feel he should be anchoring his own franchise. We are in talks now." (Entertainment Weekly's Ausiello Files, E! Online's Watch with Kristin, Deadline Hollywood)

According to The Hollywood Reporter's James Hibberd, Conan O'Brien is currently being wooed by a number of networks besides FOX, including FX, USA, TNT, Comedy Central, HBO, and Showtime. "With his quirky, offbeat sensibility, O'Brien could be well suited for the cable world, but let's face it: Should a performer who's now proven he can draw 2.0 ratings really be content with a cable-sized audience?" writes Hibberd. "Not that anybody would blame O'Brien for wanting to escape the bare-knuckle broadcast late-night wars." (Hollywood Reporter's The Live Feed)

[Editor: Meanwhile, Hibberd also has an interview with NBC Universal TV entertainment chairman Jeff Gaspin about the late-night situation at NBC, which you can read here.]

Hmmm, Tim Minear AND a Roddenberry project? Rod Roddenberry, the son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, has partnered with Imagine Television to develop a series based on his father's 1974 backdoor pilot The Questor Tapes, about an android whose missing memories propel him on a quest to discover his creator and his purpose. Former Dollhouse producer Tim Minear is said to be in discussions to join the project as a producer. "My father always felt that Questor was the one that got away," Roddenberry told the Hollywood Reporter. "He believed that the show had the potential to be bigger than Star Trek." (Hollywood Reporter)

ABC has given pilot orders to two drama projects: True Blue--from creators Jon Feldman, Chris Brancato, and Bert Salke and ABC Studios--about a group of homicide detectives in San Francisco who reunite in order to solve the murder of one of their friends; and Matadors--from writer/executive producer Jack Orman and Sony Pictures Television--about two rival families in Chicago, one of which works in the DA's office while the other runs a major law firm. (Variety)

UK satellite network Sky1 has announced Lost Reduced, a live Lost event on Thursday, January 28th at 7:30 pm GMT in Covent Garden, in which members of The Reduced Shakespeare Company will boil down the last five seasons of Lost into a ten-minute performance. (via Digital Spy)

BBC Three has unveiled three new drama pilot for 2010, including Dappers, Stanley Park, and Pulse. I'm especially intrigued by the latter project, a medical-horror drama from creator Paul Cornell (Doctor Who) and starring Claire Foy (Little Dorrit). Here's the description: "St Timothy's is one of the UK's top teaching hospitals, home to some of the country's most promising trainee doctors. But beneath its veneer of medical normality lies a secret network of dangerous experiments pushing back the boundaries of science with potentially horrifying consequences in this one-off 60-minute medical horror drama written by Paul Cornell. Hannah Carter's mother was a consultant at the hospital, but died suddenly a year ago. Grief left Hannah (Claire Foy) teetering on the edge, but following a year off, she's back to resume her training. But Hannah remains fragile, so when she starts glimpsing peculiar events in the hospital and unsettling behaviour from her ex-boyfriend and star surgeon Nick (Stephen Campbell Moore), she's unsure what to believe. Ignoring the pleas of those around her, Hannah puts her sanity on the line to uncover the truth about the hospital." (BBC)

Elsewhere in UK television, BBC has announced the cast for its upcoming season of daytime drama anthology series Moving On, which will include John Simm (Doctor Who, Life On Mars), Corin Redgrave (Turn Of The Screw, Four Weddings And A Funeral), Anna Massey (Hotel du Lac, Tess Of The D'Urbervilles), Robert Glenister (Hustle, Spooks), Gerard Kearns (Shameless, Mark Of Cain), Roy Marsden (The Green Green Grass, Adam Dalgleish in PD James adaptations) and Ewen Bremner (Trainspotting, Snatch). Meanwhile, actor Dominic West (The Wire) is set to direct one of the episodes. (BBC)

Showtime has acquired Robert Townsend-directed documentary Why We Laugh: Black Comedians on Black Comedy and will air the doc--which features interviews with Chris Rock, Bill Cosby, Keenen Invory Wayans, and others--on February 4th. (Variety)

Zodiak Entertainment is reportedly in talks to purchase RDF Media Group. If a deal closes, the move "would create the third largest TV production company in the world." (Broadcast)

In a surprise twist UKTV head David Abraham has been named CEO of Channel 4, rather than Jane Root, who was thought to be the most likely candidate for the appointment. (Variety)

Stay tuned.


Prez said…
The Questor Tapes could be an interesting project but "bigger than Star Trek?" Hmmm...I don't know about that.
I have three words for Rob Lowe: THE LION'S DEN.

There will never be another role for him as great as Samuel Norman Seaborn, and he wrecked that because of his ego. I don't care about Brothers and Sisters, but I have come to the conclusion that Rob Lowe is kind of an idiot.

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