- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Muppet auditions

Reality television has officially conquered the tube. Even the Muppets are being considered for their own reality show.

ABC has ordered a script and five episode outlines for “America’s Next Muppet,” in which viewers may join in choosing the newest member of the puppet family that includes Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, a network spokeswoman told Associated Press this week.

The premise tweaks such reality-show stalwarts as “American Idol” and “America’s Next Top Model,” both of which let the audience pick potential new stars.

Let’s hope we’ll never see an Omarosa Muppet.

ABC is part of Walt Disney Co., which in 2004 purchased from Jim Henson Co. the Muppets franchise and the right to use the characters in its theme parks, movies, TV shows and retail products. The ABC television movie “The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz” aired earlier this year.

The late Jim Henson’s Muppets got their first regular, widespread exposure on PBS’ “Sesame Street” starting in 1969.

The syndicated “The Muppet Show” aired from 1976 through ‘81 and was seen in more than 100 countries. The characters also briefly starred in “Muppets Tonight,” which aired for four months in 1996 as part of ABC’s prime-time lineup.

Mr. Henson’s fuzzy friends moved to the big screen in 1979 with “The Muppet Movie,” followed by movies including “The Great Muppet Caper” and “The Muppets Take Manhattan.”

Ross turns ‘Invisible’

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Gary Ross will team with producer Jerry Bruckheimer for a drama project with a pilot commitment at NBC, Reuters news agency reports.

The project, dubbed “Invisible,” is described as a medical thriller about a renegade researcher who is tracking a mysterious disease through the Centers for Disease Control. Mr. Ross is set to write the script and serve as an executive producer.

The writer and director earned Oscar nominations for adapted screenplay and best picture for his 2003 period drama “Seabiscuit.” He also snared Oscar nominations in writing categories for 1993’s “Dave” and 1988’s “Big.”

Mr. Ross is shepherding a remake of the 1954 film “Creature From the Black Lagoon” and writing one of the episodes for FX’s upcoming miniseries “The Ten Commandments.”

Scott gets ‘Saved’

TNT’s latest drama pilot follows a medical school dropout saving lives in San Francisco.

“Saved,” one of several series under consideration at the cable network, will star Tom Everett Scott in the lead role, Reuters news agency reports.

Production begins this week in Vancouver, British Columbia. TNT is expected to decide early next year if it will pick up the show.

Other drama pilots in the works include the cop show “Grace” and “Talk to Me,” about hostage negotiators.

Mr. Scott’s TV credits include recurring roles in “ER” and “Grace Under Fire.”

Lee’s new role

Actor Jason Lee has a pair of new projects on his hands, as if working full time on NBC’s “My Name Is Earl” weren’t enough for the movie actor.

Mr. Lee’s production company, Niva Films, has a pilot set up at MTV and another project in development at “Earl’s” home at NBC, according to www.zap2it.com.

The MTV pilot, which already has been shot, is for a comedy/variety show called “The Stereo Sound Agency.” Crafted to look like a relic of the 1970s, the show, which Mr. Lee would co-host, mixes sketches and music with skateboarding in a nod to Mr. Lee’s days as a professional skater.

At NBC, he’s attached to a drama project about John Miller, a British club owner who helped break a number of bands in the ‘70s while also working as a spy.

“Jason founded Niva to be an art collective that could have a lot of things going on,” Scott Martin, Mr. Lee’s producing partner, tells the Hollywood Reporter. “We thought TV could be a fun thing to be involved in if the project was right.”

Mr. Lee will serve as an executive producer of both projects with Mr. Martin and Beth Riesgraf, Mr. Lee’s fiancee and mother of his child, Pilot Inspektor.

Mr. Lee’s “Earl” is the top-rated new comedy of the season.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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