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The week that was

Developing news

Film star Minnie Driver, most
notably known for her role in
Good Will Hunting, has signed an exclusive development deal with NBC for either a comedy or a drama series to launch in the 2003-04 season. …

UK-based Zeal Television
has sold five of format company Chatterbox's reality formats to U.S. buyers: The WB, Game Show Network, VH1, Bravo
and reality vetStone Stanley Entertainment. Our favorite: Game Show has picked up Risky Business, in which couples "bet on the answers of extraordinary and intriguing questions" that "have no exact answers." Our sample: What's with Barry Diller? …

climbed back to its perch atop the Nielsen cable rankings in the week ended Sept. 22, recording a 2.2 prime time average. …

has committed to a pilot based on a novel by John Grisham. Brian Koppelman
and David Levien
pen the pilot and executive-produce along with Grisham and his agent, David Gernert. At NBC,
development arm Pariah Television
has signed a deal with Pulitzer Prize-winning screenwriter and playwright David Mamet
to create an hour drama targeted for fall 2003. …

USA Network
has placed another 13-episode order for its hit original hit, Monk. The quirky detective series has averaged a 3.4 rating on USA and is one of cable's highest-rated originals. Monk
has also been a strong repeat performer for ABC, which has decided to extend its re-airing of the show into the fall while it waits for series Dinotopia
to show up. There is even talk ABC may make a play for the first airing of Monk.

will offer a dedicated 24-hour Spanish-language channel, ESPN Desportes, launching in third-quarter 2003 with Spanish-language telecasts of top ESPN sports properties including basketball and baseball. Currently, ESPN offers ESPN Desportes on Sunday nights.

Monitoring TV

With the suspense over, American Idol
seems to have lost much of its appeal. Last week's American Idol in Las Vegas, a two-hour concert featuring the contestants and the winner of the summer phenomenon, gave Fox only a fourth for the night in households and adults 18-49, according to Nielsen overnight affiliate ratings. …

Longtime Oprah Winfrey Show
incumbent WBIR-TV Knoxville, Tenn., owned by Gannett,
gave up rights to the show to Young Broadcasting's WATE-TV
effective Sept. 2. Sound familiar? WBIR-TV is the second Gannett station to give up the show this season. WFMY-TV Greensboro, N.C.,
also opted out effective Sept. 2. To replace Oprah, WBIR-TV created a home decorating/gardening show, Style: A Show for You. WBIR-TV did pick up King World-backed Dr. Phil
and renewed Martha Stewart

Scripps Networks' upstart lifestyle channel, Fine Living, sealed a distribution deal with DirecTV
that adds 10.7 million new subs. The DBS company will launch Fine Living Oct. 1 on its Total Choice
package, the most widely distributed tier. Also Tuesday, DirecTV's Airborne
service and airline JetBlue
unveiled plans to offer WNBC(TV) New York
and Telemundo
on JetBlue flights. Both services are owned by NBC. …

The Hallmark Channel
last week was honored with a National Angel
award for its Adoption
series' community outreach efforts. In Washington, Hallmark Channel President Lana Corbi
accepted the award at the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute's

awards celebration.

Facts you can lift

The Television Bureau of Advertising
launched a new area on its Web site called Research Central, packed with program and ad data. Commit this URL to memory: (It's really good.)

Roberts lauded

Comcast President Brian Roberts was honored last week by the Walter Kaitz Foundation at its annual New York dinner, which drew an everybody-who-is-anybody crowd of 1,500 cable executives. The foundation works to promote employment and contracting of minorities and women in the industry. Roberts accepted the honor as a "challenge to keep pushing Comcast." Introducing Roberts as both "the king" and "crown prince" of cable, AOL Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons said he learned of Roberts's real commitment to diversity as they worked out an agreement on Time Warner Entertainment. "During the course of our negotiations," Parsons joked, "he offered me a job."

Alexander to NAB post

As rumored, Marcellus Alexander Jr. , formerly GM of Philadelphia's KYW-TV, was named the new executive VP of NAB's Television Department. He replaces Chuck Sherman, who remains head of the NAB Education Foundation.