ABC Family has picked up one of its top series, Pretty Little Liars, for a third season, which is slated to launch next summer. The size of the order is a whopping 24 episodes, which rivals those for broadcast drama series. It matches the mystery series’ sophomore-season order, which was consequently upped to 25 episodes with a Halloween special that aired last month. Pretty Little Liars, from Warner Horizon and Alloy, returns for the second part of its second season on Monday, January 2. The series, which broke ABC Family ratings records in several young demos when it premiered last year, has become one of the network’s top three shows, or as ABC Family’s president Michael Riley calls them, ABC Family’s “triple-threat”: Switched At Birth, The Secret Life Of The American Teenager and Pretty Little Liars.
Here is the second-annual honor roll of the best and brightest at the broadcast upfront. First off, to all who got their pilots picked up to series — congratulations. You’re already winners. This is a list of those who took their upfront success to an extra level:
Whitney Cummings: The undisputed queen of Upfront 2011. She is behind two new comedy series that are among the highest-profile new half-hour entries next fall. She created, stars in and executive produces her eponymous comedy for NBC, which was assigned the network’s best comedy slot, following The Office. She also co-wrote on spec with Michael Patrick King the CBS comedy 2 Broke Girls, which broke records as CBS’ best-testing pilot (comedy or drama) ever. Both were the first comedy pilots to get a series order at their networks. Cummings, who also has a talk show in contention at E!, will serve as an executive producer on 2 Broke Girls but will be full-time on Whitney, which was in first position. I hope that doesn’t impact 2 Broke Girls, which King is expected to run/co-run, because the pilot indeed looks great. Honorable mention in the category of creators with multiple projects for Andrew Reich and Ted Cohen. One of their two ABC pilots, Work It, was picked up to series, while the other, Smothered, is very much in contention for midseason.
What a comeback for J.J. Abrams! After his high-profile NBC drama Undercovers went bust last fall, some questioned whether the networks will continue to bet on him. But bet they did this upfront, with both pilots he produced, CBS’ Person of Interest and Fox’s Alcatraz, going to series. Person of Interest instantly became one of the most anticipated new fall series when CBS made it its new Thursday 9 PM anchor. The network also said it was its best-testing drama pilot ever. And over at Fox, Alcatraz prevailed over several high-profile pilots to land one of only two drama series spots. Then, as icing on the cake, Abrams’ modestly rated but well-liked Fox sci-fi series Fringe got a renewal for next season, bringing the producer’s series for next season to three.
Alloy, producer of such series as Gossip Girls and The Vampire Diaries, is being purchased by ZelnickMedia, with former Nickelodeon CEO Geraldine Laybourne tapped as chairman of the board. An investor group led by ZelnickMedia has agreed to acquire Alloy for approximately $126.5 million. Alloy’s wholly owned subsidiary, Alloy Entertainment, publishes books for young adults and produces movies, including The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, as well as TV series, including Gossip Girl, The Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars, based on them. On the TV side, Alloy has a deal with Warner Bros. TV. The company also operates the Alloy Digital Network, a media and ad network of web sites, recently launched digital network Alloy TV as well as in-school broadcast network Channel One. Alloy’s co-founders, Matt Diamond and Jim Johnson, will continue to run the company as CEO and COO, respectively, with the rest of the Alloy senior management team also expected to remain in place. Additionally, Bill Jemas, former COO of Marvel Entertainment, will also serve on the board of directors. Leslie Morgenstein, CEO of Alloy Entertainment, will now work closely with Laybourne and Jemas.