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Channel Surfing: Starz Gets Spartacus Prequel, ABC Pulls Happy Town, Burt Reynolds to Burn Notice, Sarah Silverman Axed, and More

Welcome to your Wednesday morning television briefing.

Starz is heading back to Spartacus, ordering six episodes of a prequel series that will be set before Season One of the gladiator drama series, which wrapped its run last month. The six-episode prequel, as yet untitled, will revolve around the House of Batiatus and its champions and will star John Hannah and Lucy Lawless, as well as Peter Mensah, Manu Bennett, Antonio Te Maihoha, Nick E. Tarabay, and Lesley-Ann Brandt, and feature a brief appearance by Andy Whitfield, who is currently undergoing treatment for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. Production will begin this summer, with the pay cabler eying a January 2011 launch, clearly an effort to keep the franchise humming until a second season can be produced. "The prequel story maintains the excitement and entertainment value of the first season of Spartacus, giving audiences the engaging experience they've come to expect," said Starz President and CEO Chris Albrecht in a statement. "We look forward to continuing the Spartacus story." (via press release)

Bad news for Happy Town: ABC has opted to pull the supernatural drama series from its schedule beginning next week. The series, produced by ABC Studios, will return on Wednesday, June 2nd at 10 pm ET/PT to begin burning off its remaining five installments, wrapping up its run on Wednesday, June 30th. Happy Town's current timeslot will be filled by an episode of Primetime: What Would You Do? next week and the network broadcast premiere of Transformers on May 26th. (TVGuide.com)

Entertainment Weekly's Michael Ausiello is reporting that Burt Reynolds will guest star on an upcoming episode of USA's Burn Notice, where he will play Paul Anderson, described as "a legendary operative, now retired and cast out of the CIA, who serves as somewhat of a cautionary tale for Michael (Jeffrey Donovan)." Reynolds is slated to appear in the fourth season of Burn Notice, which launches June 3rd. "Things have not gone well for him since he left the spy service," creator Matt Nix told Ausiello. "He’s now working as a bartender under an assumed name, and he gets into trouble with some very nasty Russian guys... He’s not precisely like Michael. He’s Michael should Michael succumb to some of the demons that haunt ex-spies." (Entertainment Weekly's Ausiello Files)

Deadline's Nellie Andreeva is reporting that Comedy Central has cancelled The Sarah Silverman Program after three seasons after it failed to earn a renewal, despite a Twitter campaign to save the series, which had in its last season been bumped to a midnight timeslot. (Deadline.com)

Alan Ball and Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Films have pacted to produce an HBO original telepic based on Rebecca Skloot's book, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks," about a Baltimore mother of five children who died of cervical cancer at age 31 in 1951. However, the cancerous cells removed from her body led to major breakthroughs in medical research, including leading to the cure for polio and AIDS treatments. No screenwriter is currently attached to the project, which will be produced by Ball, Winfrey, Kate Forte, and Peter Macoissi. (Variety)

Deadline's Nellie Andreeva is reporting that NBC is preparing to give comedy Perfect Couples a series order and the network has authorized writers Scott Silveri and Jon Pollack to begin staffing the writing team for the series. Meanwhile, NBC is said to still be high as well on comedy Friends with Benefits and is said to be looking for a showrunner for the series. Drama Garza--which stars Jimmy Smitts--will likely be retooled for midseason. (Deadline.com)

Sir Derek Jacobi (Gosford Park) has been cast in a multiple episode story arc on Showtime's upcoming period drama The Borgias, where he will play Cardinal Orsini, described as "a nemesis to Pope Alexander (Jeremy Irons)" in several episodes. Elsewhere, Richard Griffiths (Harry Potter, History Boys) has been cast in the pay cabler's comedy series Episodes, where he will play a version of himself, "a brilliant British actor deemed 'too sophisticated' by an American TV network to star in a fictional comedy pilot who instead is replaced by Matt LeBlanc." (Hollywood Reporter)

Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who) and Mackenzie Crook (Pirates Of The Caribbean, The Office) will star in BBC One's six-part drama Accused, created by Jimmy McGovern (The Street), each episode of which will follow an individual man accused of a crime and lead to court to hear his fate. "In the time it takes to climb the steps to the court we tell the story of how the accused came to be here," said McGovern in a statement. "We see the crime and we see the punishment. Nothing else. No police procedure, thanks very much, no coppers striding along corridors with coats flapping. Just crime and punishment – the two things that matter most in any crime drama. It's great to work with Chris again and I've often tried in the past to get Mackenzie into something of mine. And needless to say, it's wonderful to reunite the team that made The Street." (BBC)

E! Online's Drusilla Moorhouse has an interview with The Amazing Race's Jet and Cord McCoy, who sadly failed to come in first place this season. "I don't know if it was that one single act that cost us the race," said Jet about Jordan's queue-jumping move at the Shanghai airport. "It was more about the principle than it was anything. We were standing in a marked line of three people, and [Jordan] thinks that's where he wants to play his ace or whatever. Me and Cord were just kinda blown away. My goodness." And those of you wondering whether we'll see the cowboys on television again should take note of the fact that Cord's fiancee wants him to do Dancing with the Stars. (E! Online's Watch with Kristin)

Universal Media Studios has signed a new two-year overall deal with Friday Night Lights executive producer David Hudgins, under which he will remain aboard the drama series as co-showrunner (a title he shares with Jason Katims) until the series' end and will develop new projects for the studio. (Variety)

Spike has promoted Sharon Levy to EVP of original series and animation. She will continue to report to Kevin Kay. (Variety)

Stay tuned.

Comments

Cara said…
More Spartacus? Blech. How about another season of Party Down, please?!!!

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