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Sci Fi, USA Sign New Deals for 'Devil's' and 'Pirates'

PASADENA -- Sci Fi Channel on Thursday announced a development slate that includes the scripted series "Devil's Advocate" from Mark Burnett and a mini-series titled "Outpost" from Lynda Obst.

The network also said that Emmy nominee Peter Krause (HBO's "Six Feet Under") has been tapped to star in its upcoming limited-series event "The Lost Room."

Separately, USA Network has acquired cable TV rights to the hit sequel "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" from Buena Vista Television.

The announcements were among several made Thursday during the NBC Universal cable networks' portion of the Television Critics Assn. summer press tour at the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel.

Bonnie Hammer, president of USA and Sci Fi, touted the performance of the networks during the session, pointing to such recent successes as the new USA series "Psych," which debuted to 6.1 million total viewers Friday.

"Devil's Advocate," from reality guru Burnett and DreamWorks Television, is a one-hour conspiracy thriller that centers on a theology professor thrust into the world of secret societies, religious espionage and genetic research. The show is from NBC Universal Television Studios; Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey are the exec producers for DreamWorks.

Obst ("How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days") is exec producing the mini "Outpost," an adventure that centers on a group of private explorers in the near future that takes over an abandoned NASA research base after the government has scrapped space exploration as too expensive. It is written by Eric Jendresen (HBO's "Band of Brothers") and produced by astronomer David Grinspoon.

In "Lost Room" (previously announced under the working title "Motel Man"), Krause will portray a homicide detective who stumbles upon a motel room key that unlocks the door to a world of imaginable power, becoming a target to those who will stop at nothing to claim it. The six-hour series from Lionsgate is set to begin shooting Wednesday in Albuquerque and premiere in December.

USA, which last year bought rights to the original "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," said it now has the network window premiere to the sequel beginning in fall 2008. The movie opened to a record-breaking $135.6 million at the domestic boxoffice this past weekend.

In other NBC Universal cable announcements Thursday:

Sci Fi is developing "Witch Doctor," a dramedy from Ben Edlund that mixes the worlds of medicine and the supernatural with "warm human comedy." Edlund is the creative force behind the comic book series "The Tick."

Sci Fi also is developing "Stoner," a show from Jeff Kline that centers on a slacker who is thrust into the limelight as the newest superhuman celebrity but must decide whether to reveal that he actually has no superpowers.

Sci Fi announced an "aggressive foray" into late-night with three shows in development: "George Noory," featuring the host of the overnight radio talk show "Coast to Coast AM"; "Alien Invasion," a computer-animated comedy from Dave Goetsch; and "Prove It," a lighthearted panel discussion on sci fi-based theories from host Mark DeCarlo and Mark Walberg.

Sci Fi has greenlighted production on "Painkiller Jane," a female superhero action series from Vancouver's Insight Film Studios and Kickstart Comics. The show, based on the comic book created by Jimmy Palmiotti and Joe Quesada, centers on a young researcher trying to make a difference as the world faces its greatest drug addiction epidemic. Production on 22 one-hour episodes of the show will begin next month at Insight, with a January premiere set to be followed by a domestic broadcast weekly syndication window in fall 2007.

Bravo has inked a deal with Production Partners Inc. (Showtime's "Fat Actress") to produce "Funny Girls," a series of irreverent stand-up comedy specials. The three specials, set to premiere in the fall, will separately feature Joan Rivers, Paula Poundstone and Caroline Rhea.

Principal photography for the second season of Bravo's culinary competition series "Top Chef" starts this month in Los Angeles on 13 episodes set to debut in October.


Kimberly Nordyke writes for The Hollywood Reporter.

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