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Dancing with the Upfronts: FOX Makes Several Pickups, ABC Debates Renewals

While FOX isn't due to unveil their fall schedule until tomorrow, the network got a head start this weekend by announcing several series orders, a series renewal, and a surprising cancellation.

FOX is slated to announce their fall slate on Tuesday but word got out about a few expected orders, including J.J. Abrams-executive produced drama Fringe--starring Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble, and Mark Valley--which had received a series commitment from the net last fall. (You can read my original review of the pilot script here.)

Project, from Warner Bros. Television, creators Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (Transformers) and director Alex Graves (Journeyman) is viewed by many as the network's best hope at recapturing the sci-fi audience it once commanded back in the day with The X-Files; the drama revolves around a female FBI agent paired with an estranged father and son team of rogue scientists who investigate cases involving unexplained phenomena.

Joss Whedon's "brilliantly evocative" action drama Dollhouse is on the schedule but sadly not until midseason. It could be paired with 24 (which returns in January 09) on Monday nights. In the meantime, it's thought that Mondays could be filled with Fringe and Prison Break. But I'm crushed that we'll have to wait until next year for the next Whedon oeuvre. Darn schedulers.

Also getting series stripes is comedy The Inn, from writer/executive producer Abraham Higginbotham (Arrested Development), about a posh Manhattan hotel and the Upstairs/Downstairs-like intrigues of the staffers and guests. Helmed by Jason Bateman, the pilot stars Niecy Nash, Jerry O'Connell, Molly Stanton, Jolene Purdy, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Brando Eaton.

FOX has also ordered animated comedy Class Dismissed (fka Sit Down, Shut Up), from creator Mitch Hurwitz (Arrested Development) and featuring the voices of Arrested alums Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Henry Winkler, plus Cheri Oteri, Will Forte, Nick Kroll, Tom Kenny, and Maria Bamford. Project, based on a live-action Aussie series, revolves around the self-absorbed teachers at a high school who are all more invested in solving their own issues than those of their students. (I wish I had liked the painfully unfunny pilot script more but it just left me completely dry.)

For midseason, FOX has granted a cast-contingent pilot order to Inseparable, a Jekyll & Hyde-like project from Shaun Cassidy (American Gothic) about a paralyzed forensic detective whose alter ego is a vicious criminal mastermind. Personally, I loved this script when I read it last fall and am sad that the option on British actor Toby Stephens has expired. I'm hoping that they find a series lead as compelling as Stephens who can do justice to the dual character format.

In a bit of a bait and switch, FOX renewed 'Til Death for a third season but has canceled fellow sitcom Back to You, starring Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton. While many expected both series to return next season in a one-hour block, it was felt that Back to You was too expensive of a proposition to renew it for a sophomore season.

Sadly, The Oaks will not be going forward as a series... at least not at FOX. The network has passed on the drama project, about three couples living in the same house in three different decades linked by a ghostly presence; studio 20th Century Fox Television will pitch it elsewhere.

Over at ABC, Boston Legal has been given a reprieve and WILL return for a fifth season during the 2008-09 season, likely joined by David E. Kelley's new series, a US adaptation of hit British drama Life on Mars, and exiled comedy Scrubs, making the move from NBC.

Also possibly returning at the Alphabet: drama Eli Stone and, in a surprise move, Judy Greer-led comedy Miss/Guided. Definitely not returning: Women's Murder Club. I dare say that not many people will be shedding a tear over that one.

Given the stability of ABC's lineup--and the fact that most of its series, including dramas Pushing Daisies, Private Practice, and Dirty Sexy Money, will be returning next season--the network is only expected to pick up Life on Mars at this time and will shoot several pilots during June and July for possible midseason consideration.

CBS is eying Eleventh Hour, the US adaptation of yet another British series which stars Rufus Sewell and Marley Shelton (replacing the original's Patrick Stewart and Ashley Jensen) and The Mentalist. I quite liked Eleventh Hour (then again, I liked the original mini-series), though I found The Mentalist--written by Rome's Bruno Heller--to be utterly insufferable.

Other contenders for pickup include Mythological Ex, Can Openers, and murder-mystery/horror hybrid Harper's Island, none of which I really cared for in the script stage. I would be amazed if all three ended up on the lineup though Mythological Ex--from Veronica Mars scribe Diane Ruggiero--is definitely the strongest of the three, though definitely the most female-oriented.

On the comedy side, My Best Friend's Girl, Worst Week, and the untitled Ed Yeager comedy (starring Jay Mohr) have all been gathering steam the past few days. I think all three pale in comparison to the comedies that CBS currently airs so they will definitely have to work on improving scripts should any of them get ordered to series.

Look for The Unit to return for another season and for Shark to swim into the sunset.

Over at The CW, the netlet has ordered the Tyra Banks fashion-based reality competition series Stylista as a companion series for America's Next Top Model and given a series order to Beverly Hills 90210 spinoff--which original actress Jennie Garth has signed on for (ending several months of annoying speculation, given the fact that Kelly Taylor appeared in the pilot script).

I'm thinking that 90210 will end up on Mondays with Gossip Girl but that could change. I'm very curious to see what MRC (Media Rights Capital) will do with the Sunday night block it has bought from the netlet; it is expected to program two comedies and two dramas in primetime, rather than the second-window repeats the CW has aired this past season.

Also looking like a likely order is How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls.


The CineManiac said…
The Oaks isn't moving forward?!?!?!?!? I"m sooooo disappointed as this is one I've been waiting for based on your blogs about it. Very sad.
Also, is Dollhouse really going to be pushed to Mid-Season??? What a croc.
Anonymous said…
FOX really could have had an unbeatable lineup had they moved forward with The Oaks...I'm very pissed about them passing on it. Fringe, Dollhouse, The Oaks, Inseperable, and The Inn all in one season? That would be excellent. And then considering some of their returning shows: Bones, House, Terminator, etc.

I've read elsewhere Eli Stone's renewal has been confirmed already, which is excellent. I'll love ABC forever if they renew Miss/Guided.

I think ABC will once again be my favorite network (well, tied with FOX) next season just based on the amount of shows I like...Lost, Pushing Daisies, Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty, Eli Stone, Miss/Guided, Brothers & Sisters are all some of the best shows on TV in my opinion.
Anonymous said…
What?? What about Rob Thomas' two new pilots? Neither one is going to get a fall pick-up at ABC? After your script review, I was really looking forward to Good Behavior...
Jace Lacob said…
Anonymous, neither of Rob Thomas' projects have even shot their pilots yet and won't until this summer. ABC is expected to do another round of series orders in June or July for midseason. Both of Thomas' projects (Cupid and Good Behavior) are in contention for a midseason slot.
No Dollhouse until mid-season?! Grr...argh.
Anonymous said…
Thanks for the great run down, Jace. I feel so "in the know" after reading your blog!

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