Thursday, October 14, 2004

Lachey’s big deal

Nick Lachey isn’t just the other half of pop music princess Jessica Simpson. The singer-actor, who recently enjoyed a multi-episode turn on the WB Network’s “Charmed,” is a leading man in his own right.

The former 98 Degrees heartthrob has now inked a development deal with Fox Broadcasting Co., 20th Century Fox Television to topline a half-hour or one-hour series project created for him, Reuters News Agency reports.

Mr. Lachey’s new deal with Fox is in second position to his existing ABC pact for the comedy project “Hot Mom.” The pilot, in which Mr. Lachey co-starred as part of his development/talent deal with ABC and Touchstone TV, was not picked up in May, but the network still has an option on the actor until year’s end.

Mr. Lachey, who became a pop culture fixture as a member of the minor musical group 98 Degrees and with the MTV reality hit “Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica,” in which he stars with Miss Simpson, has been in high demand recently. Last month, he landed his first feature role, joining the indie film “The Hard Easy.”

That deal came on the heels of solid ratings for his ABC special “The Nick & Jessica Variety Hour.” The couple will soon begin work on a Christmas special for the network.

Pfeiffer stands back

It seems only natural that actress Michelle Pfeiffer would appear in one of her husband’s projects.

After all, David E. Kelley has a new show on the air nearly every fall season, and some of them have become huge hits, such as “Ally McBeal” and “The Practice.”

Mr. Kelley agrees, to a point.

“She would be great,” Mr. Kelley told Associated Press. “The trick would be convincing her to ever work with me. Even though I might be able to persuade her that other people are running the show, she might not quite believe that I would completely stay out of the process.

“We made one rule that we would try not to work together, if possible. For example, I wrote a feature a year ago that I thought she would happen to be right for. She read it, she liked it, and the next day I was fired off the project.”

“Boston Legal” stars James Spader and William Shatner as two eccentric lawyers. It airs at 10 p.m. Sundays on ABC

‘French’ in action

Hollywood decided against remaking the classic drug-bust film “The French Connection” into a slick new feature.

Instead, the suits over at NBC decided to turn the Gene Hackman vehicle into a series.

The film, which depicted one of the biggest drug busts in U.S. history, will become a show covering the events leading up to the operation, Reuters News Agency reports.

The drama also will explore the two officers who led the bust, New York Detectives Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso.

Feature writer Rand Ravich has been tapped to pen the project as part of a two-script deal he has signed with the network’s sister studio, NBC Universal TV.

A “French Connection” police drama had been on NBC head of drama Christopher Conti’s list of show ideas for some time. When, after inking the NBC pact, Mr. Ravich met with Mr. Conti and heard several possible concepts, he pounced.

“It’s one of my favorite movies,” Mr. Ravich said. “I had to do it.”

As part of his research, Mr. Ravich spent a lot of time with Mr. Grosso and talked to a number of other NYPD veterans from the 1960s and ‘70s. (Mr. Egan died in 1995.) Mr. Grosso, who along with Mr. Egan served as technical adviser on William Friedkin’s Oscar-winning feature, is expected to serve as a consultant on the NBC project.

Like the 1971 movie, the two central characters based on Mr. Egan and Mr. Grosso will be named Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle and Buddy “Cloudy” Russo, respectively. But in addition to the gruff law enforcement duo, Mr. Ravich hopes to bring in a third central character on the show.

“I’m looking at New York City not just as a backdrop but as a character,” Mr. Ravich said. “I want to (explore) N.Y.C. of the 1970s with the drugs, the Vietnam War, the Black Panthers, Mayor John Lindsay and how all that was trickling down to the regular people.”

In the film, the two leads were played by Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider who earned an Oscar and Oscar nomination for their roles as Doyle and Russo, respectively.

Mr. Ravich’s previous credits include writing and directing the lackluster 1999 feature “The Astronaut’s Wife,” which starred Johnny Depp and Charlize Theron.

‘Opportunity’ moves

The Discovery Channel is moving its “No Opportunity Wasted” series from Sundays to Thursdays beginning next week, the network announced yesterday.

The next episode, “Pucking the Odds/Redwood,” centers on two sports fans who want to take their love of the game to another level. One, a postman, has dreams of playing professional hockey, while the other — a kickboxing champ — wants to get children off the tough Los Angeles streets by building them a boxing ring.

The hourlong segment, airing Thursday evening at 8, will be immediately followed by another installment of “No Opportunity Wasted.” “Aerial Art/Navy Seals,” the episode about three Vietnam veterans who reunite in the Alaskan wilderness had been scheduled to air Sunday night, but instead will air Thursday at 9 p.m., the network said.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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