All I'm Sayin'
April 25, 2012|
...is this is one of my favorite times of the TV season - the Upfronts! That's probably a foreign term to you since it's a made-up word used primarily in the television advertising industry. What it means is (cue Wikipedia) a meeting hosted at the start of important advertising sales periods by television network executives, attended by the press and major advertisers. It is so named because of its main purpose, to allow marketers to buy television commercial airtime "up front", or several months before the television season begins. Here in the United States, the major broadcast networks' upfronts occur in New York City during the third week of May, the last full week of that month's sweeps period. The networks announce their fall primetime schedules, including tentative launch dates (i.e., fall or midseason) for new television programming, which may be "picked up" the week before. The programming announcements themselves are usually augmented with clips from the new television series, extravagant musical numbers, comedic scenes, and appearances by network stars, and take place at grand venues such as Lincoln Center, Radio City Music Hall or Carnegie Hall. Most cable networks present earlier in the spring since they usually program for the summer months; press attention to these announcements is usually much lighter.
The portion of this event that interests me the most is the announcement of the fall primetime schedules - which new pilots are picked up and which are not.
Each year the television studios - ABC Studios, 20th Century Fox Television, Warner Bros. Television, Sony Pictures Television, etc. - pitch their pilots to the broadcast networks - ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, and NBC - in hopes they will be picked up by the networks to whom they were pitched. For purposes of this article I'm focusing on our 2 station affiliations - ABC and FOX.
The pilots that ABC has under consideration are:
* 666 Park Avenue - drama starring Terry O'Quinn (from Lost), Vanessa Williams (from Desperate Housewives), and Dave Annable (from Brothers and Sisters) about a young couple who accepts an offer to manage one of the most historic apartment buildings in New York City and unwittingly begin to experience supernatural occurrences, which complicate and endanger the lives of everyone in the building. Based on the book by Gabriella Pierce.
* American Judy - comedy starring Judy Greer and Mimi Kennedy about a cosmopolitan woman that gets married, becomes a fish out of water in the suburbs and has to juggle stepkids, her mother-in-law and the ex-wife of her husband, who also happens to be the town sheriff.
* Americana - soapy drama starring Anthony LaPaglia (Without A Trace) revolving around a legendary fashion designer and his family business.
* Awesometown - comedy starring Dennis Miller that revolves around the lives of four young professionals who work and live together in New York.
* Beauty & the Beast - a fantasy reimagining of the classic fairy tale set in a mythical, dangerous world where a beautiful and tough princess (Ruth Bradley) discovers an unlikely connection with a mysterious beast (Darius Campbell).
* Dark Horse - drama focusing on an astrophysics grad student (Max Thieriot) in NYC that learns he is the chosen one to destroy the forces of evil.
* Devious Maids - sopay dramedy created by Marc Cherry (Desperate Housewives) starring Susan Lucci in her first post-All My Children role following four maids (Ana Ortiz, Judy Reyes, Dania Ramirez and Roselyn Sanchez) with ambitions and dreams of their own while they work for the rich and famous in Beverly Hills.
* Down to Earth - comedy centering on a family (Lenny Venito, Jami Gertz, Isabella Camp, Clara Mamet, Max Charles) that moves into a coveted New Jersey gated community only to discover that the entire neighborhood is comprised of aliens disguised as humans.
* The Family Trap - comedy about newlyweds Annie (Mandy Moore) and Ben (Nelson Franklin) that get the opportunity of a lifetime to run a hip new restaurant in Annie's hometown, bringing her closer to her needy and high-maintenance family.
* The Gilded Lilys - soapy drama starring Blythe Danner revolves around the opening of the first luxury hotel in New York in 1895 and the intermingling of love, treachery and disdain between the classes set against a backdrop of vicious family rivalries, scandalous secrets and conflict and co-mingling of the classes.
* Gotham - drama about a seemingly unsolvable case and its detective, Annie Travers (Megan Ketch) that discovers a magical world that exists within New York City. A world that goes unseen by normal humans takes all of the familiar N.Y. landmarks and reinvents them in a magical, otherworldly manner.
* How to Live with Your Parents for the Rest of Your Life - comedy starring Sarah Chalke (Scrubs), Elizabeth Perkins (Weeds), and Brad Garrett (Everybody Loves Raymond) about a recently divorced single mom that moves in with her eccentric parents, a couple who are full of life but know no bounds.
* Last Resort - drama that centers on the crew of a U.S. nuclear submarine (led by Andre Braugher) who, after ignoring an order to fire nuclear missiles, wind up being hunted and escape to a NATO outpost where they declare themselves to be the world's smallest nuclear nation.
* Maibu Country - comedy starring Reba McEntire, Lily Tomlin, and Sarah Rue. After her "good 'ol boy" rock star husband cheats on her and burns through most of their money, Reba divorces him and moves her three kids and mom from Nashville to the only asset they have left -- a little house in Malibu. There she’ll try to reignite her own singing career and keep herself and her kids from being corrupted by the materialistic and rarified Malibu world she now calls home.
* The Manzinis - comedy starring Kirstie Alley about a boisterous, volatile Italian Family that moves into an idyllic suburban neighborhood and they affect the lives of everyone in the cul-de-sac.
* Nashville - a family soap set against the backdrop of the Nashville music scene revolving around one star at her peak (Connie Britton) and another on the rise (Hayden Panettiere).
* Only Fools and Horses - comedy that chronicles the misadventures of two streetwise brothers (John Leguizamo, Dustin Ybarra) and their aging grandfather (Christopher Lloyd) as they concoct outrageous, morally questionable get-rich-quick schemes in their quest to become millionaires.
* Penoza - drama that revolves around the widow (Radha Mitchell) of an assassinated criminal who is forced to adopt her husband’s role in a crime syndicate in order to protect her family.
* Prairie Dogs - comedy starring Kal Penn (Harold and Kumar movies) as an uncool cubicle worker (“prairie dog”) at one of the coolest companies in the world who is the victim of identity theft. When he discovers that the thief has created a much more fulfilling life with his identity than he ever has, he engages the charismatic con man to help him change his life.
* Red Van Man - comedy starring Leah Remini (King of Queens) about a man who is forced to put his dreams on hold in order to take over the family handyman business from his father.
* Scruples - soapy drama based on the Judith Krantz novel set in the late 1970s and follows a socialite (Claire Forlani) who, after her husband's death, seeks to open a fashion-forward boutique in the heart of Beverly Hills.
* The Smart One - comedy produced by Ellen Degenerous and starring Porti de Rossi, Malin Akerman, Jean Smart, and David Arquette about a brilliant and successful woman begrudgingly going to work for her less-brainy but more popular sister -- a former beauty queen, weather girl and now big-city mayor.
* The Unprofessional - comedy starring Mary McCormack (In Plain Sight) about a high-powered executive who has dominated corporate America for years facing the biggest challenge of her life when she finds herself unemployed and acting as full-time mom to her two teenagers.
* Zero Hour - drama starring Anthony Edwards (ER) about a bizarre twist of fate that pulls a man who's spent 20 years as the editor of a skeptics magazine into one of the most compelling conspiracies in human history.
And that's the slate of 24 programs - 12 comedies and 12 dramas (1 game show that was not listed and zero reality shows) - that ABC executives have from which to choose for their 2012-2013 season. According to most insiders, comedies are a bit more of a priority given the recent successes with Modern Family, The Middle, Suburgatory, and Last Man Standing. So understanding that there will be anywhere from 8-14 shows selected by ABC, which 11 from that list would you choose?
And now for the Fox prospects:
* The Asset - spy drama that revolves around a female agent (Ali Larter) set in the New York office of the CIA.
* El Jefe - comedy about a rich layabout who gets booted out of his parents' house and moves in his longtime housekeeper and her family.
* The Goodwin Games - comedy about three siblings (Becki Newton, Scott Foley, Jake Lacy) who must heed to the idiosyncratic terms of their father's will to inherit his fortune.
* Guilty - drama starring Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding Jr. as a morally questionable defense attorney who, after being falsely convicted of fraud and stripped of his license, uses his unorthodox methods to solve the cases he's been prohibited from handling.
* Let It Go - comedy revolving around a married couple, his best friend and her sister as they navigate, negotiate and manipulate society's unspoken rules.
* Like Father - comedy about a bombastic dad who, after his wife dies, moves into his son's campus apartment.
* Little Brother - a comedy starring John Stamor (Full House) about a man that finds out that he has a half-brother he never knew about, who also happens to be an ex-con.
* Living Loaded - comedy about a hard-partying blogger who changes his ways when he becomes the host of a radio show.
* Mastermind - drama starring Kevin Bacon as an ex-FBI agent who leads the search to catch a diabolical serial killer who has created a cult of serial killers.
* Mob Doctor - drama about a young female thoracic surgeon (Jordana Spiro) who becomes indebted to the South Chicago mafia is forced to moonlight as a "mob doctor" while also working full-time at Chicago's most prominent hospital.
* Ned Fox Is My Manny - comedy about an uptight single mom whose aimless brother moves in to help her raise her five-year-old daughter.
* Prodigy/Bully - comedy starring Mike O' Malley (Yes, Dear) about a young boy genius who uses his brains and brawn to get whatever he wants.
* Rebounding - comedy starring Will Forte (Saturday Night Live) as a man recovering from the death of his fiance with help from friends on his pick-up basketball team.
* Rogue - drama starring Julian McMahon (Nip Tuck), Rick Schroder (NYPD Blue), and Angela Bassett (ER) about an orphaned 14-year-old daughter of a CIA operative that encounters a mysterious rogue agent/assassin who serves as both her surrogate father and professional mentor in the spy world.
And so concludes the lineup of programs for Fox to consider for their 2012-2013 season - 10 comedies (none of which are animated - a departure for Fox) and 5 dramas. Fox will always have fewer choices due to one less hour of prime each night, so...which 8 shows from the list would you choose?
Understand that the info I have given you is limited and there are multiple variables that television executives take into consideration when choosing their lineups - from which evenings need a new program to how to best pair up a new show with an existing show to which studio is producing to how its received in the test viewing etc. There may be a last minute personnel change in the cast or writing crew or production staff that could either halt production at the last minute or cause the studio to re-schedule but, by in large, these are the candidates for the 2012-2013 seasons for our 2 networks, ABC and Fox.
ABC's challenges lie in replacing their aging hits like Grey's Anatomy, Dancing with the Stars, and the concluding Desperate Housewives. Whereas GA and DWTS are both still airing to some solid numbers, neither garner the overwhelming audience that they saw in their heyday. Although placing in 4th for this season ABC still had a nice year with a handful of successes like Once Upon A Time, Last Man Standing, Revenge, and Suburgatory and it can be said that, for the first time since their watershed year of 2004 (Desperate, Grey's, and Lost) it was their most successful year. But they must grow these modest hits and pair them with some similar shows if they have any hope of finishing higher than 4th in the coming year. All in all, it's not a bad thing to be able to boast that you have television's highest rated comedy in Modern Family, the most watched reality competition show in Dancing with the Stars (with an all-star edition rumored for the fall), and the top new drama of the year in Once Upon a Time...now let's just make some good choices for the fall.
I like the looks of 666 Park Ave, How to Live..., Malibu Country, The Smart One, Devious Maids, Gilded Lilys, Last Resort, Nashville, and The Unprofessional.
Fox, on the other hand, has fewer holes to fill and, therefore, fewer problems to address. Now that The X Factor has already been altered, with more changes to come, that huge target has been subsiding a bit and I'm looking forward to how it all shakes out. But with House retiring and Bones showing some signs of age, it really needs to find a drama or 2 to step on deck. I also like the move to sports on Saturday nights and their commitment to find a comedy or two the buddy-up with New Girl.
The best possibilities I see from their slate are The Goodwin Games, Guilty, Little Brother, Living Loaded, Mastermind, Mob Doctor, Rebounding, and Rogue.
The ABC upfront is scheduled for Tuesday, May 15th so we don't have long to wait before we find out their selections. I'm looking forward to it with a combination of eagerness and slight anxiety.
In my next column I'll report on the programs that were selected by ABC and Fox and the reasoning given by the networks.
The Middle quote:
Brick: I wish I could stay home and watch TV and have you make me soup.
Frankie: Oh, sorry honey. Wrong family.
Brick: Isn't it against the rules for me to be here?
Frankie: Of course not... just keep your head below the window...
For daily TV talk, follow me on Twitter @paulneace.
...is All I'm Sayin'
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