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Channel Surfing: Starz Developing US Underbelly, Tim Kring Talks Heroes' Movie Chances, Charice Heads to Glee, and More

Welcome to your Tuesday morning television briefing.

Vulture's Josef Adalian is reporting that Starz is developing a US adaptation of Aussie crime series Underbelly, which has aired Stateside on DirecTV's Channel 101, following a deal to acquire the U.S. rights to the gritty crime drama, which some have likened to Australia's answer to The Sopranos... which Starz topper Chris Albrect himself oversaw when he headed up HBO. "Albrecht is clearly hoping Underbelly’s phenomenal success in Australia (its 2008 premiere drew more viewers there than any other non-sports broadcast, and the show won the country's equivalent of the Emmy for best drama) can be replicated here," writes Adalian. "Since the show is based on real events that took place in Australia starting in the 1970s, Starz can't simply film the original scripts using American actors. But the network is currently researching various American crime families that they can build effective story arcs around...just as long as the clans aren't from New York or New Jersey, which would invite calls of Sopranos copycatting." Should Starz be able to find the right setting and characters, a pilot script could be ready before next year and unnamed sources have indicated to Adalian that Albrecht would likely go straight to series rather than shoot a pilot. (Vulture)

Entertainment Weekly's Lynette Rice talks to Heroes creator Tim Kring about his new project--interactive content for Nokia that's "meant to inspire social change"--and about the future of the NBC superhero drama. "No decision has been made," said Kring about a potential Heroes movie. "But the Heroes brand is an extremely broad premise. It was a premise about ordinary people, an undisclosed number of people all over the world, who were waking up to these extraordinary abilities. Any number of stories could happen around that. We never posited a single ending or a single premise. It wasn’t about getting off of an island or stopping something from happening. We told stories in volumes that had a beginning, a middle, and an end. Those volumes could go on and on and on with many different characters. As a result, that Heroes universe is something that can be tapped into again in many ways. Certainly, a movie is a way to do that and clearly, there is an entire world and a number of platforms that this property could live in. Movies sometimes need a little distance from the television show." (Entertainment Weekly's Hollywood Insider)

It's official: Charice is heading to Glee. Entertainment Weekly's Michael Ausiello is reporting that the international pop star has signed a deal that will have her recur on the FOX musical-comedy, where she will play a foreign exchange student who quickly becomes a bitter rival to Lea Michele's Rachel. (Entertainment Weekly's Ausiello Files)

[Editor: meanwhile, E! Online's Kristin Dos Santos reports that there's no truth--as of yet, anyway--to those rumors that Justin Timberlake will be appearing on Glee.]

Deadline's Nellie Andreeva reports that Mary Steenburgen (Curb Your Enthusiasm) is the first casting attachment for FX drama pilot Outlaw Country, which is being described as "a crime thriller/family drama set against the backdrop of southern organized crime and Nashville royalty 'where music and love, hope and tragedy collide.'" She'll play a country music icon who attempts to protect her daughter Annabel. Project, from Fox Television Studios and FX Prods., is created by Josh Goldin and Rachel Abramowitz, who will executive produce with Art Linson and John Linson. (Deadline)

E! Online's Kristin Dos Santos is reporting that Kristin Chenoweth (Pushing Daisies) would like to reprise her role on FOX's Glee next season after appearing twice as April Rhodes. She's also aiming to land her own series next season as well. "I'm working on my album with Sony," Chenoweth told E! Online. "So I'll be doing a tour and going back to Glee a little bit and also doing my own TV show." No details were immediately available about her in-development project. (E! Online's Watch with Kristin)

FOX has lowered the age requirement on American Idol, allowing kids as young as 15 years old to audition for the musical competition series. "A lot of young, talented people are now seeking careers and representation before they turn 16," said FremantleMedia North America's Cecile Frot-Coutaz, executive producer of Idol. "Lowering the age limit allows us to tap into this talent pool." (Hollywood Reporter)

It's official: all five of NCIS's renegotiating actors--Sean Murray, Michael Weatherly, Rock Carroll, Pauley Perrette, and David McCallum--have signed new deals that will bring them back to the CBS crime procedural next season, following the successful conclusion of Murray's deal, a new multi-year contract that will keep him aboard NCIS. (Entertainment Weekly's Ausiello Files)

Jane Krakowski has teased some details about the next season of NBC's 30 Rock, telling E! Online's Kristin Dos Santos, "Will Forte will be coming back as Jenna's shman." But he's not the only love interest slated to make a return appearance next season. "I do believe Matt Damon is going to come back," Krakowski told E! Online. "He is scheduled to make some return appearances if we can work them around his schedule and availability." (E! Online's Watch with Kristin)

Deadline's Nellie Andreeva is reporting that The Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan will produce and host an unscripted series about the Velux 5 Oceans 2010-11 race, which "features skippers from all over the world sailing alone for 30,000 miles around the globe on high powered racing yachts and video recording their journeys." No US network is current attached to the project. (Deadline)

Syfy's drama pilot Alphas is set to shoot in Toronto at Cinespace Film Studios. Project, which revolves around a team of individuals with exceptional abilities who work as vigilantes, is written by Zak Penn and Michael Karnow and directed by Jack Bender. (Hollywood Reporter)

Elsewhere at Syfy, the cabler is giving fans of its Saturday night movies the chance to oversee each and every aspect of the production of one of its upcoming creature features, according to The Hollywood Reporter's James Hibberd. "The network is launching a production site, B Movie Mogul, where fans can vote and pitch ideas for the film, from title, creatures, wardrobe, dialogue and character deaths to promotional taglines," writes Hibberd. "The resulting 'script' will be shot as a two-hour Syfy original movie to be released next year." (Hollywood Reporter)

ABC is said to be mulling the possibility of reinstating its current programming department, according to Variety's Michael Schneider. The division had been axed last year, when programming operations at ABC and ABC Studios were merged into a single unit reporting to Steve McPherson. "With a slew of new series on the fall docket -- not to mention aging staples that might need a little more attention -- the network began to reconsider," writes Schneider. "There's nothing firm in the works yet, and no exec has been identified for the gig. But the return to a current department would come after a similar decision by NBC. The Peacock recently reinstated its current department under exec VP Vernon Sanders. CBS and Fox have maintained current programming departments." (Variety)

Warner Bros. Television has signed a blind script deal with Michael Markowitz (Becker), who will team up with executive producers Tom Werner and Mike Clements. (Hollywood Reporter)

Endemol has come on board as the international distributor for TV Land's comedy series Hot in Cleveland and will be taking the series to market at MIPCOM this fall. (Deadline)

Stay tuned.


Iona said…
Hopefully, they will bring Kristin Chenoweth back to Glee as she is one of the few bright spots left in the show. Of course, seeing her just makes me miss Pushing Daisies!!

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