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Channel Surfing: WBTV Developing Sandman, JJ Abrams' Alcatraz, Evil Wheaton Back to Big Bang, Free Agents, True Blood, and More

Welcome to your Thursday morning television briefing.

Hollywood Reporter's Borys Kit and James Hibberd are reporting that Warner Bros. Television is in the process of acquiring television rights to Neil Gaiman's DC/Vertigo comic series "Sandman" with the view of adapting it as an ongoing television series. Among the contenders to tackle the project: Supernatural creator Eric Kripke. It's not the first time that Hollywood has courted the mythopoeic comic series: HBO nearly had a version in development at one time with James Mangold attached; Roger Avery attempted to get a feature film version off the ground in the mid-90s. It's still early days for the project as Kripke is said to be cautious about treading on such hallowed ground and attempting to translate the deeply complex and layered narrative for television. [Editor: Personally, I'd rather that Kripke and WBTV didn't: the plot of "Sandman" isn't a strict narrative in the traditional sense of the word but rather an exploration of stories and myth, strung together with some serialized plots and one-offs about Morpheus of the Endless, a race of eternal beings older than the gods themselves. It would be a very difficult project do justice to, given the strength of Gaiman's work on the series and I can't quite wrap my head around how an ongoing series would function. Would it draw from some of the more linear storylines like "A Doll's House," "Season of Mists," "The Kindly Ones," etc.? Or would it be a procedural about a dream lord who can flit through people's subconscious minds? The latter would make me vomit in rage, really.] (Hollywood Reporter's The Live Feed)

Deadline's Nellie Andreeva is reporting that Warner Bros. Television-based producer JJ Abrams and writer/producer Elizabeth Sarnoff (Lost) are shopping drama spec script Alcatraz, about the notorious San Francisco island prison that once housed the nation's most infamous criminals, including Al Capone and, yes, the Birdman himself. The duo are taking the script--which was written by Sarnoff--to networks. No other details were immediately available, though it seems clear that the Bad Robot-produced project would be a period drama. Or not, as Abrams has been known to throw a curve ball or two. (Deadline)

Entertainment Weekly's Michael Ausiello is reporting that Evil Wil Wheaton will be returning to CBS' Big Bang Theory to resume his feud with Jim Parsons' Sheldon. “We started talking about the idea of minor celebrities cutting in line, and we thought it might be funny to have our [Big Bang] guys waiting in line for a one-time-only midnight screening of something like Raiders of the Lost Ark with restored footage, and Wil Wheaton and his three friends cut the line," executive producer Bill Prady told Ausiello. "When it comes time for our guys to get in, the line stops; Wil took the last four seats and Sheldon is just furious. Because it doesn’t make sense to him. Wil’s celebrity is not applicable here. This is not Star Trek. It’s just wrong.” Should the episode come together, it would likely air in November. (Entertainment Weekly's Ausiello Files)

Another day, another project for Party Down co-creator John Enbom, who has sold a second project to NBC in the last week. Enbom will adapt UK's Channel 4 comedy Free Agents for the Peacock and will executive produce with Karey Burke and Todd Holland and Universal Media Studios. The original UK series, which hailed from Simon Pegg and Nira Park's UK shingle Big Talk, revolved around an agent enmeshed in a very messy divorce. (Variety)

SPOILER! E! Online's Kristin Dos Santos and Megan Masters have the scoop on which actors will be returning for Season Four of HBO's vampire drama True Blood, though the answer might surprise you. According to the duo, Denis O'Hare, Marshall Allman, Kevin Alejandro, and Lauren Bowles will all be back next season, along with the previously reported Joe Manganiello. Yep, Russell will be back in some capacity next season, though he won't be seen initially in Season Four, which will focus--according to reports--on witches. Tommy Mickens will be back as well, as well as Alejandro's Jesus, while Lauren Bowles--who plays Wiccan Holly--has been promoted to series regular. (E! Online's Watch with Kristin)

As expected, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci's adaptation of Joe Hill's comic book "Locke & Key" has landed at FOX, which has given the project a series commitment, though Steven Spielberg will no longer be involved as an executive producer. Project, which revolves around two brothers who live in a strange New England mansion, hails from 20th Century Fox Television and DreamWorks Television. (Variety)

Elsewhere, FOX has handed out a series order to an untitled sketch comedy show from executive producer Jamie Foxx, which will feature "a diverse cast tackling spoofs of movie trailers, commercials, TV shows, music videos and celebrities." Affion Crockett will star and executive produce the series, which comes from Fox Television Studios, Foxx/King Entertainment and The Tannenbaum Company. (Hollywood Reporter)

Entertainment Weekly's Michael Ausiello is reporting that Mekhi Phifer will be leaving FOX's Lie to Me when the Lightman Group breaks its ties with the FBI. "We’re going rogue a little bit,” executive producer David Graziano told Ausiello. “Lightman [Tim Roth] is going to act slightly in the more old-school PI model of a TV protagonist, [so] we’re doing away with the FBI contract [and] Mekhi is unfortunately no longer going to be on the show. The FBI franchise limited our storytelling a little bit because it had to adhere to the FBI structures of ‘Would the FBI take this case or not?’ The character that’s going to be our badge this season is a bent cop, Wolowsky [The Unusuals' Monique Gabriela Curnen], who goes about business in a similar way to Lightman. There’s a mutual respect from the get-go. We’re working hard to make The Lightman Group a dysfunctional family.” (Entertainment Weekly's Ausiello Files)

E! Online's Megan Masters has an interview with The Office executive producer Paul Lieberstein, in which he floats another possible replacement for Steve Carell, who is set to leave the NBC comedy at the end of the season: Harvey Keitel. "He's probably the only guy who can do it, and he's doing TV now," said Lieberstein. "I haven't started any talks with his people, but Harvey would do a great job—a very different energy. And we don't want to bring in another Michael, having someone play a very similar character because we have such a high regard for Steve." Lieberstein goes on to say that Keitel could play a former salesman who comes out of retirement in order to oversee the Scranton branch. (E! Online's Watch with Kristin)

HBO has ordered a third season of dark comedy Hung, with ten episodes likely to air in summer 2011. (Entertainment Weekly's Hollywood Insider)

In other renewal news, Deadline's Nellie Andreeva reports that TNT said to be close to giving Memphis Beat a second season order. Elsewhere, Lifetime has passed on that Army Wives spin-off that was to star Brigid Brannagh and Gabrielle Union and USA has slashed the episodic budget for legal drama Facing Kate from twelve to ten episodes and pushed the premiere into early 2011, due to scheduling issues. (Deadline)

Syfy has announced the cast for its upcoming four-hour miniseries Nerverland, a prequel to Peter Pan, which will star Rhys Ifans (Pirate Radio), Anna Friel (Pushing Daisies), Bob Hoskins, Raoul Trujillo (Tin Man), and Charlie Rowe (Pirate Radio). Project, from writer/director Nick Willing, will air in 2011. Here's how Syfy describes the project: "Raised on the streets of turn-of-the century London, orphaned Peter (Rowe) and his pals survive by their fearless wits as cunning young pickpockets. Now, they've been rounded up by their mentor Jimmy Hook (Ifans) to snatch a priceless--some believe, magical--treasure which transports them to another world. Neverland is a realm of white jungles and legendary mysteries of eternal youth, where unknown friends and enemies snatched from time welcome the new travelers with both excitement and trepidation. These groups include a band of 18th century pirates led by the power-mad Elizabeth Bonny (Friel), and the Native American Kaw tribe led by a Holy Man (Trujillo), which has protected the secret of the tree spirits from Bonny and her gang for ages--and that has meant war. But as the fight to save this strange and beautiful world becomes vital, Hook, Peter, and the ragamuffin lost boys consider that growing old somewhere in time could be less important than growing up right here in their new home called Neverland." (via press release)

TV Guide Magazine's Will Keck reports that Cybill Shepherd will be guest starring on ABC's upcoming dramedy series No Ordinary Family, where she will play Barbara Crane, the mother of Julie Benz's Stephanie. (TV Guide Magazine)

Following yesterday's news that Eddie Izzard would be appearing in eight episodes of Showtime's United States of Tara, the pay cabler has announced that Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under) will be guest starring in one episode of Tara next season, where she will play "Max Gregson’s (John Corbett) mother, a recluse with a compulsive hoarding problem." (Entertainment Weekly's Hollywood Insider)

Former Heroes star Jack Coleman has been cast in an upcoming episode of CBS' The Mentalist, where he will play Max Armstrong, described as "wealthy, regal, arrogant, self-important man who becomes the prime suspect in a murder," according to TV Guide Magazine's Will Keck. Coleman's episode is slated to air October 14th. (TV Guide Magazine)

Nickelodeon has announced that Jane Lynch's episode of iCarly will air on Saturday, September 11th at 8 pm ET/PT. Lynch guest stars as the "never-before-seen, eccentric" mother of Sam, Pam Puckett. (via press release)

Alyssa Milano will star in Lifetime original telepic Sundays at Tiffany's, based on the book by James Patterson. Milano will star opposite Eric Winter and will play a "bride-to-be visited by the adult incarnation of her childhood imaginary friend" who "begins to re-examine her life." (Variety)

Stay tuned.


HipHopAnonymous said…

I supposed this was inevitable given the success of INCEPTION, but it's hard to imagine a worse fit than WBTV and Eric Kripke. Maybe Disney and McG, but it's close. All wrong for so many reasons.

However I do believe Sandman could work as a series if a) Neil Gaiman were involved. And b) It was something like a BBC/HBO co-prod with a director like Guillermo del Toro or Chris Nolan supervising.

Storywise the collected volumes function quite nicely as season-long arcs, with each issue roughly equal to a given episode. 12-eps over 6 seasons sounds about right, give or take a few bits here and there.

Ah well, I can dream, can't I? (bad pun)

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