Despite the fact that they are weathering stagnant — or downright dreary — ratings for dense shows like Heroes and Lost, the networks are still planning on ambitious series with complex mythologies for next fall. As the drama development season winds up this month, some of the most notable projects include ABC’s Flash Forward (an adaptation of the sci-fi novel by Robert J. Sawyer) and Eastwick (based on John Updike’s The Witches of Eastwick), NBC’s Day One (lots of aliens from Heroes‘ Jesse Alexander), and Fox’s Masterwork (a National Treasure-like tale from Prison Break‘s Paul Scheuring). ”These are all huge shows,” says Endeavor agent Ari Greenburg. ”Writers are obsessed with Damages and Lost. They all want to write complex dramas.” Well, not everybody: Leave it to the industry heavyweights to know when to stick with the tried-and-true formulas. Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick (thirtysomething) will mark their long-awaited return to TV by writing A Marriage (involving a happy one!) for CBS, David E. Kelley (Boston Legal) is penning another law drama for NBC called Legally Mad, and John Wells (The West Wing) is chronicling the lives of police officers in Los Angeles for an NBC pilot called Southland. And even if those ideas don’t seem safe to you, consider these surefire shows in development: Chris O’Donnell headlines a spawn of NCIS (TV’s No. 6-rated show) for CBS. And at The CW, a Gossip Girl spin-off will imagine how Serena’s mom, Lily, made it through the ’80s, and a new version of Melrose Place will feature the son of Jake Hanson (Grant Show) at its center.
You know times are tough when Steven Spielberg is having trouble raising money. That was the case for the Hollywood kingpin, who announced Monday that his company DreamWorks Studios will now be housed at the Walt Disney Company, in a deal involving a $100 million loan and the agreement to release 30 of DreamWorks’ live-action films over the next five years. (DreamWorks Animation, led by Spielberg’s former partner Jeffrey Katzenberg, will remain at Paramount.) Spielberg & Co. bailed on their original distribution deal set with Universal when it became clear that DreamWorks needed more cash than Universal was willing to provide. Now, ironically, Spielberg will be part of the same family as Pixar, DreamWorks Animation’s archnemesis. — Nicole Sperling
Were you concerned that the very pregnant nominee M.I.A. would deliver on stage at the Grammys Feb. 8? You weren’t alone. The producers of the CBS telecast started to panic when the diminutive rapper began to experience contractions two hours before she was supposed to perform with Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, T.I., and Kanye West (Sunday was her due date, after all). ”I asked her to hang on,” recalls CBS exec VP Jack Sussman, who always has a backstage gurney handy in case someone falls — or, in this case, has a baby. ”The kid’s a gamer.” + So, you thought Kanye West was kidding when he declared that TV veteran Bob Newhart once won a Best New Artist Grammy — and that West never had? Believe it or not, Kanye was right: The television star received the award in 1960 for his best-selling comedy album The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart.