This a costly cancellation for Disney-ABC. Despite OK ratings and a financial windfall for sibling ABC Studios from international sales, ABC pulled the plug on procedural Body Of Proof after three seasons. The network is replacing it with another female-driven procedural, newly picked up Killer Women. The appeal of star Reba McEntire was not enough to save freshman comedy Malibu Country, leaving Last Man Standing as literally the last man standing for multi-camera comedy at ABC. As expected, ABC-owned freshman The Neighbors prevailed over 20th TV’s How To Live With Your Parents for a second-season renewal. No surprise in the Red Widow demise.
At the networks’ upfront presentations, they usually tout their freshman successes. Last year, ABC brought out onstage the casts of breakout freshman dramas Once Upon A Time and Revenge, while CBS built its presentation around 2 Broke Girls. This year, ABC, which normally brings only 1-2 casts to the upfronts, is going with the cast of sophomore Scandal (plus veteran Modern Family, whose trip is paid for by USA as the cable network will showcase the comedy’s syndication rollout). Scandal‘s presence is completely justified as the Shonda Rhimes drama is that rare show that made the leap from an inauspicious start with a 7-episode run at the very end of last season to a bona fide success and a pop culture fixture in Year 2.
But its presence also underlines the fact that, unlike last season, ABC does not have a single breakout freshman series that has been a slam dunk for renewal. NBC has Revolution, CBS has Elementary, Fox has The Following, and the CW has Arrow — all of which received early pickups. ABC is heading into its renewal decisions tomorrow with its entire freshman class on the bubble. The one first-year show that appears most likely to get the nod is country drama Nashville. With a great pedigree, creator Callie Khouri and star Connie Britton, Nashville launched to critical praise and OK ratings. But it’s had a rocky freshman season, with the show going through growing pains and struggling with its creative direction as well as the ratings. I’ve heard accounts of tension between co-producers ABC Studios and Lionsgate and other behind-the-scene issues, including star Britton being unhappy with the experience. But in the end, most problems seem to have been resolved, and Nashville, which at one point looked unlikely to continue, now likely will be on the schedule next season. In addition to the solid response from critics (Britton is a major awards contender), Nashville draws important young viewers and also generates sizable revenue from digital music downloads. The only other freshman ABC drama that is still alive, Red Widow, is not expected to come back.
It’s pilot screening week, with the networks’ executives huddled in rooms watching the fruits of their development teams’ labor. The networks are still going through the process, with testing results just starting to pour in, but here is the latest pilot buzz I’ve compiled from various sources around town.
NBC had the breakout new drama of last fall, Revolution, and now the network has what could be the strongest drama pilot this season with Blacklist. I hear Blacklist and Crisis (aka untitled Rand Ravich) are considered front-runners on the drama side at NBC, buoyed by very strong testing. In fact Blacklist might be the highest-testing drama pilot at NBC in about a decade, and I also hear the male lead played by James Spader is one of the highest-testing characters ever for producing studio Sony TV. Also in the running are the J.J. Abrams-produced Believe; TV star vehicles Ironside, with Blair Underwood, and I Am Victor, with John Stamos; as well as medical drama Night Shift (aka After Hours). Also possibilities are late deliveries The Sixth Gun and the Chicago Fire spinoff.
PREVIOUS THURSDAY 8PM: With NBC and Fox pretty much done with their new series pickups, ABC, which …
He’s done it again! Escape artist CHUCK, which has successfully cheated cancellation for the past two years, will be coming back to fight again next season. I hear a deal is being finalized for a 13-episode order to the NBC spy dramedy. (The other Warner Bros.-produced, yet-to-be-renewed NBC series, David E. Kelley’s HARRY’s LAW, has long been considered a good bet to return). It is unclear what CHUCK‘s renewal bodes for NBC’s other big bubble Monday show, LAW & ORDER: LA. After getting a rare second chance with a complete reboot that has largely failed, it is unclear what more NBC can do with the show. But as they say, never bet against Dick Wolf. PARENTHOOD, which has done solid business in its Tuesday 10 PM slot, is expected to return, while THE EVENT is not. Also probably out is comedy OUTSOURCED despite a fan campaign to save the workplace show.
Last year, CBS went for a bloodbath, canceling seven series, including some decent performers like The Ghost Whisperer and The New Adventures of Old Christine. The network, which is yet to find a series that does as well as Ghost Whisperer in the Friday 8 PM slot, is not expected to go for such a dramatic overhaul this year. I hear a deal is almost done for RULES OF ENGAGEMENT to be renewed as CBS seems to be summoning all of its veteran comedies as flagship Two and a Half Men faces an uncertain future. There is even talk about possibly bringing $#*! MY DAD SAYS sans star Jonathan Sadowski. Even long-forgotten legal dramedy THE DEFENDERS is not completely dead. As one insider noted, the show starring Jim Belushi and Jerry O’Connell did better than any other CBS series in the Friday 8 PM season this season. Things don’t look good for midseason comedy MAD LOVE, though CBS brass loooove Jason Biggs, while CBS’ other midseason entry, crime drama spinoff CRIMINAL MINDS: SUSPECT BEHAVIOR, is at 50/50 as its performances has been largely disappointing given its pedigree. As for CSI: MIAMI and CSI: NY, word is that the entire CSI franchise, a big off-network and international seller, is safe for next season.
How great is it not to have Mother’s Day on the Sunday before Upfront Week this year but a week earlier? Let’s enjoy it as it will get pretty crazy pretty fast. There is speculation that Fox may pick up its hot comedy pilots THE NEW GIRL and FAMILY ALBUM as soon as Monday or Tuesday. Two other notes before we check out the standings at each network heading into pre-upfront week. It’s shaping up to be a bitchy development season as both pilots with “Bitch” in their titles — ABC’s GOOD CHRISTIAN BITCHES and THE BITCH AT APT. 23 – are read-hot and certain to land on the schedule (obviously with new titles). And it looks like the first major Comcast-NBC synergy move will find its way to primetime as NBC appears high on the pilot from E! star Chelsea Handler. Here is the rundown network-by-network:
With only one freshman drama, Body of Proof, having a shot at returning next season, ABC is rumored to pick up as many as 6-7 new hourlong series. And word is the network’s brass like so many of their pilots, they may have a hard time narrowing down their choices. Of the drama pilots screened today, only procedural PARTNERS, which had been cold for a while, didn’t do well. Two pilots that had been garnering mixed early reaction — Marc Cherry’s HALLELUJAH and the Count of Monte Cristo-inspired soap REVENGE — both did better today, with HALLELUJAH still drawing mixed reaction in some rooms but also getting strong approval in others. And the Phillip Noyce-directed REVENGE got solid feedback, though some question the long-term prospect of the central revenge storyline. Paranormal Activity-style thriller THE RIVER, helmed by Jaume Collet-Serra, was liked by most who call it “cool.” On the comedy side, APT. 23 was a hit, described as being laugh-out-loud funny. Two years after he directed the pilot for Modern Family, APT. 23 helmer Jason Winer has done it again. And WORK IT, the cross-dressing comedy that had been getting positive buzz in the past few days, did well today too. The UNTITLED TIM ALLEN multicamera comedy will not screen until Monday, but its buzz is so strong that it is considered a frontrunner, with some even speculating that ABC may use it to launch another comedy block, possibly on Tuesday. Also slated to screen next week are two drama pilots with solid early buzz, the magical tale ONCE UPON A TIME and 1960s airline soap PAN AM, as well as the DC drama GEORGETOWN that has been awfully quiet. Here is a recap of the rest of ABC’s pilots that have screened so far:
The marathon pilot screenings at the broadcast networks are in full force. While they are rarely the deciding factor in the networks’ final series pickup decisions, they help solidify early standouts’ frontrunner positions and sometimes breathe life into pilots that might have been written off too soon. Here are some …
May is upon us, and with that the final stage of the primetime pilot panic leading into the broadcast networks’ May 16-19 upfront presentations in New York. Producers are currently rushing to finish the cuts or re-cuts of their pilots for the networks’ official screenings. CBS on Friday became the first network to begin viewing its pilots, with the others are slated to follow this coming week. In compiling this 2nd hot list (1st is here), we surveyed a wide range of TV industry insiders, and I feel good about the sourcing on it. Still, as a former rocket scientist, I want to point out that it is not a scientific document as buzz is fickle. For instance, last year, CBS’ Blue Bloods flew completely under the radar until 24 hours before CBS’ upfront presentation. Now it’s looking good for a Season 2 renewal:
Last season, with no X Factor on the fall schedule, Fox picked up only two new dramas, Lone Star and The Chicago Code, in addition to Terra Nova, which was targeted for midseason. This year, the network has Terra Nova for fall after the series’ premiere was pushed. With the Tim Kring/Kiefer Sutherland drama pilot TOUCH all but assured a series order, the network may pick up as few as one and possibly two new dramas. After solid testing, the Ethan Hawke-starring and Antoine Fuqua-directed thriller EXIT STRATEGY has emerged as a frontrunner. The House-esque medical drama WEEKENDS AT BELLEVUE also has buzz, possibly as a companion (and eventual successor) to House. After an encouraging reaction from fans of Bones and promising preliminary research following last week’s airing of the Bones‘ spinoff episode, THE FINDER is also in contention.
Meanwhile, I hear Fox’s new crop of dramas may not include a sci-fi entry this year as both LOCKE & KEY and ALCATRAZ have cooled off, though the time travel-themed mystery Alcatraz still has loyal fans among the higher-ups. With the network recently renewing Fringe for a full season, it has secured the genre’s presence on the network for fall and has protected its good relationship with Fringe executive producer JJ Abrams, who also produces Alcatraz, in case the pilot doesn’t go.
The two 20th Century Fox TV-produced pilots, Liz Meriwether’s THE NEW GIRL directed by Jake Kasdan and starring Zooey Deschanel and the Shawn Levy-directed FAMILY ALBUM starring Mike O’Malley have the most buzz at the moment, with Warner Bros. TV’s multicamera comedy I HATE MY TEENAGE DAUGHTER starring Jaime Pressly also getting positive feedback. It’s been eerily quiet on the others, with TAGGED and OUTNUMBERED looking cold at the moment.
Once again the broadcast upfronts are upon us. With less than a month until the five nets start to unveil their fall plans in New York, it’s time to begin our favorite guessing game of which pilots are likely to make it to series for next season. It is still early and many pilots have yet to be completed or even delivered, but there are some early standouts, like Fox’s comedy The New Girl and ABC’s Don’t Hate The Bitch In Apt. 23. I hear these two have ranked as 20th TV’s highest-testing comedy pilots in 10 years. After a season of no breakout comedy series, the genre might do well next season if strong preliminary pilot buzz is any indication. So here is early intelligence on what looks hot (and not) at the broadcast networks. (If your favorite pilot is not mentioned, it doesn’t mean it’s doomed: it just mean I don’t have enough intel on it yet. Check back for my next Pilot Panic update next week.)
Despite disappointing performance from most of Fox’s new series, especially on the drama side, the network doesn’t have many needs for next season with X Factor launching in the fall, all animated comedies already renewed, plus Raising Hope and Fringe, and midseason comedy Breaking In also in the mix. With two new animated series, Napoleon Dynamite and Allen Gregory, also on tap for 2011-12, and the renewal deals for Bones and House bound to close, there really isn’t much space for new scripted fare. Especially if Human Target gets renewed for a possible pairing with Fringe on Friday. And with the Kiefer Sutherland-Tim Kring pilot Touch, which won’t film until June, looking very likely for a midseason order.
All hail THE NEW GIRL! Great early buzz on Liz Meriwether’s comedy pilot directed by Jake Kasdan and starring Zooey Deschanel as an unlucky-in-love teacher who moves in with three unruly guys. The pilot has been testing through the roof and appears a shoe-in for a series pickup.
The Shawn Levy-directed comedy pilot FAMILY ALBUM is not such a slam-dunk but has a lot going going for it, including stars Mike O’Malley and Rachael Harris, and is considered a solid contender. Also promising, largely because of its star Jaime Pressly, is multicamera comedy pilot I HATE MY TEENAGE DAUGHTER.
Part of a series that takes an analytical look at the current broadcast pilot season and some of its trends and heroes.
Once upon a time, there was a pilot season ruled by classic fairy tales and characters, real-life stories and books, with a dash of iconic brands and foreign …
Up-to-date network-by-network pilot listings are now available at the top of Deadline’s Primetime Pilot Panic section, which features all of our news coverage of the current pilot season. The listings are being updated with new information daily. The comments …