NBC has extended Lorne Michaels’ contract with the network through 2012. The new deal continues one of the most productive comic relationships in network television history.

Michaels came to NBC in 1975 when he developed a little variety show called “Saturday Night Live.” During that institution’s run, Michaels has won 10 Emmys as a producer and writer.

“The network has benefited immeasurably from our long relationship with Lorne,” says NBC Universal President Jeff Zucker. “‘SNL’ is in its 30th season and is as fresh as ever. We look forward to marking many more milestones with Lorne who will help NBC to maintain our tradition as television’s late-night leader.”

The new NBC-Michaels pact will cover both “SNL” and other development projects.

“Simply put, Lorne Michaels is a comedic genius,” says Bob Wright, vice chairman of GE and chairman and CEO of NBC Universal. “Through his stewardship of SNL, Lorne has generated more laughs in more people for more years than almost anyone in show business, and I am thrilled that he will be with us for many years to come.”

Michaels adds, “The truth is, there’s no place I’d rather be.”

‘Office,’ ‘Jury’ report for NBC duty

March is shaping up as a busy month at NBC, with three series set to premiere in the month.

In addition to “The Contender,” which is set to go on March 7, the network has set March debuts for the fourth “Law & Order” series, “Trial by Jury” ( March 17) American version of “The Office” (March 22). The limited-run series “Revelations” will follow in April.

“This latest slate of much-anticipated new series and programs puts NBC in a great position for a late-season run,” says Kevin Reilly, president of NBC Entertainment. “We have been looking forward to showcasing these promising projects in the right time and place.”

“Trial by Jury” will get two weeks of previews in “ER’s” normal slot on March 17 and 24 – opposite the NCAA basketball tournament on CBS -before sliding into its regular home at 10 p.m. ET April 1. It’s taking the place of “Medical Investigation,” which will have ended its season by then.

Heavyweights unite for HBO film

Before beginning work on the fifth “Harry Potter” film, esteemed British television director David Yates will helm “The Girl in the Cafe” for HBO and BBC One. The telefilm is based on a script by Oscar nominated writer Richard Curtis (“Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Love Actually”).

Filming has just begun in London and will continue with location shooting in Reykjavik, Iceland.

The film, which mixes romantic comedy and social commentary on world poverty, tells the story of a shy civil servant (“Love Actually” co-star Bill Nighy) who falls for a mysterious girl (Kelly Macdonald, “Trainspotting”) he meets at a London cafe.

When he invites her to Reykjavik for the G8 Summit Meeting, their developing relationship and the progress of the summit intertwine.

– Zap2it.com

“This is an important and provocative film that addresses one of the most urgent issues on the world stage. It is a call to arms that shamelessly sets out to entertain, inform and challenge audiences to act.”

Yates is best know as the director of “State of Play,” a miniseries which earned great acclaim when it aired on BBC American last year (and also co-starred Nighy). He recently signed on to bring the fifth “Harry Potter” book to the big screen for his first major studio film.

Curtis wrote the scripts for films including “Four Weddings” and “Notting Hill” before making his directorial debut with “Love Actually.” Curtis is also co-founder and vice-chairman of the U.K.’s Comic Relief, and a member of the Make Poverty History campaign.

“When I start talking about the G8, people either doze off, or think I’m talking about a vegetable drink,” Curtis notes. “I wanted to write a film that would give people a chance to understand what it is, and how this year the G8 could change the face of extreme poverty forever.”

The real G8 Summit will be held at Gleneagles, Scotland, in July.


Tate Donovan and Richard Roundtree are the latest additions to the cast of “Painkiller Jane,” a two-hour movie/backdoor pilot for Sci Fi Channel. Production on the movie begins in Vancouver this week.

“Painkiller Jane” stars Emmanuelle Vaugier (“One Tree Hill”) as a woman who becomes a covert crime-fighter after exposure to a biological weapon gives her enhanced healing powers and extraordinary physical abilities. The project is based on the Event Comics series.

Donovan will play Graham Knight, a professor who helps Jane understand her new abilities, while Roundtree will play Jane’s mentor, Colonel Watts. The project also co-stars Eric Dane (“Helter Skelter”) and Walker Howard.

This will be Donovan’s first project after his recent departure from “The O.C.” The actor’s other credits include “Friends,” “Mister Sterling” and “Trinity.”

“Shaft” star Roundtree has recently been seen on episodes of “Desperate Housewives” and “Alias” and in the feature “Boat Trip.”

“Painkiller Jane” is written and executive produced by John Harrison (“Frank Herbert’s Dune”) and will be directed by Sanford Bookstaver.

(c) 2005, Zap2it.com.

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Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-01-21-05 1551EST

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