+ This could be the first TV development season in like — oh, what, forever? — that won’t be shrouded in mystery. That’s because the networks have ushered a number of scripts straight to series, bypassing the usual process of ordering dozens of pilots and deciding among them. (Why the switcheroo? Blame a time crunch caused by the 100-day-long writers’ strike.) NBC has led the charge, making series commitments to an adaptation of the Australian comedy Kath and Kim starring Molly Shannon, a dramatic version of Robinson Crusoe, and a Canadian import called The Listener about a mind reader. Fox is staying with some tried-and-true talent, ordering paranormal scarefest Fringe (from Lost‘s J.J. Abrams and starring Joshua Jackson), and a new drama from Joss Whedon that’ll reunite him with Buffy star Eliza Dushku. ABC picked up Section 8 from Zak Penn (X-Men: The Last Stand) about a secret government agency, and CBS has set in motion a sci-fi drama from Jerry Bruckheimer called Eleventh Hour. So the networks are sure about these projects, right? Um…not necessarily. ”Ordering straight to series doesn’t always work,” says one studio head. ”They’re committing $20 million to turn a pilot into six episodes. You don’t really know whether it’s going to be good.”
+ In a sure sign that it’ll focus on its drama and reality slates, The CW eliminated its comedy department this week as part of a cost-savings plan. The net insists it will still develop sitcoms. To wit, Everybody Hates Chris will be back for a fourth season, but the fates of Aliens in America and The Game remain unclear. — Lynette Rice
+ Late next month, rap newcomer Wale, 23, plans to release The Mixtape About Nothing — a set of new tunes inspired by Seinfeld. ”I think I’ve seen every episode, like, 30 times,” the Washington, D.C., emcee tells EW during a break from recording in New York City. Wale says he’s particularly partial to the sitcom’s controversial 1997-98 swan song. ”The last season is very underrated. A lot of Seinfeld fans be like, ‘Oh, the last season is so over-the-top.’ I’m like, It’s about reinventing!” Best of all, Wale exclusively reveals to EW that he’s persuaded Seinfeld alum Julia Louis-Dreyfus to record a short skit for the mixtape. ”She’s not [in character as] Elaine — she’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus,” Wale explains. The actress adds: ”Wale is my favorite artist because he’s the only one who ever included me in a mixtape — hear that, P. Diddy?” — Simon Vozick-Levinson
+ Rapper Jamal Woolard (a.k.a. Gravy) has landed the lead in the biopic Notorious, based on the life of rapper Notorious B.I.G., killed in 1997. Woolard won the role after a nationwide search that began online in August, and stars opposite Angela Bassett, who plays Biggie’s mom, Voletta Wallace, and Anthony Mackie (We Are Marshall), who’s been cast as Wallace’s rival Tupac Shakur. George Tillman Jr. (Men of Honor) will direct the Fox Searchlight film, which begins shooting March 24. Woolard gained notoriety in 2006 when he was shot in the buttocks on his way to an interview at NYC radio station Hot 97. He finished the appearance before being taken to the hospital. Ouch. — Nicole Sperling
Check out our HI blog for breaking entertainment news.