20 May, 2007

US TV Upfronts

Last week at special events in front of prospective advertisers called the 'upfronts', all the US TV networks confirmed which old shows were coming back in the autumn and which new shows had been picked up. For people like me, episodic TV fans (or geeky TV nutters, depending on your point of view) it's one of the highlights of the year.

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ABC

ABC picked up 7 new dramas and four new comedies from the 30 pilots they had made. They got some criticism for investing so much in development but they point out the ludicrous amounts other networks pay for sports rights.

Lost returns for three seasons of 16 episodes and it was obviously wishful thinking that made me believe the rumours that they were going to wrap it up after next season. The development with the Others has certainly given it renewed life but 48 episodes worth of new life?

The biggest disappointment is the cancellation of comedy Knights of Prosperity. A cleaner believes society owes him to be rich and so he gets like minded thieves and decide to rob Mick Jagger's New York apartment. But they are amateurs and haven't a clue how to do it. It's hilarious.

The second biggest disappointment is the cancellation of drama Six Degrees. I sort of understand its limited appeal, it being smart and low concept but hopefully ITV will still show it as it's sheer class.

Notes from the Underbelly, a quite good single camera laffer about a young couple having a baby returns as does October Road a below average drama about a writer returning to his home town to live.

Desperate Housewives returns with a bigger episode order and so does Brothers and Sisters, a quality drama coming soon to C4.


Dramas:

Big Shots - Four competitive but dysfunctional CEOs take refuge in their friendship, discussing business, confiding secrets, seeking advice and supporting each other.

Cashmere Mafia - Four ambitious and sexy women, who've been best friends since business school, try to balance their glamorous and demanding careers with their complex personal lives



Dirty Sexy Money - An idealistic do-gooder lawyer inherits the portfolio of a dubious do-badder family.

Eli Stone - Evil corporate lawyer has a health scare and realises he could be a prophet.

Private Practice - Grey's Anatomy spin-off where one of the doctors (I wouldn't dream of saying who) moves to a private practice in LA. It would have had a successful launch as part of Grey's Anatomy but they spent most of the time introducing the new characters and didn't have a story. It's comforting that even writers on one of the biggest shows in the US can make rookie errors.

Pushing Daisies - A man can bring people back to life temporarily so they can identify their murderer but he brings his highschool sweetheart back to life permanently which causes problems as he can't touch her again or she'll die. Were they inspired by Torchwood? Surely not. Anyway, it's a brave choice but how the hell is that going to last 13 episodes?

It's from Bryan Fuller who as well as being involved with Heroes, created the cult classics Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls.

Women's Murder Club - Based on James Patterson's bestselling novels, The Women's Murder Club, four working women in San Francisco - a detective, a district attorney, a medical examiner and a reporter - use their expertise and unique talents to solve murder cases.

Comedies:

Carpoolers - Less about saving the environment than male bonding, four guys from very different backgrounds relish their daily commute as they commiserate about their lives, jobs and families in the carpool lane.

Cavemen - Inspired by the popular Geico Insurance commercials, the series looks at life through the eyes of the ultimate outsiders - three modern cavemen - as they struggle to find their place in the world.

Miss/Guided - Having navigated the awkward and sometimes traumatic world of high school, Rebecca Freely returns to her alma mater as a guidance counselor, free of the insecurities and orthodontia of her school days. Amidst student behavioral problems and the persistent romantic advances of the male nurse, Gary, Rebecca is certain of one thing - she is interested in the hot auto-shop-turned-Spanish-teacher, Tim. However, much as in high school days of unexpected teenage angst, Lisa, a former cheerleader and nemesis of Rebecca's, returns as the new English teacher determined to make Rebecca relive her unpopular past, setting sights on Tim as well.

Sam I Am - When a terrible accident leaves Samantha "Sam" Newly in a coma for eight days, she wakes up with no recollection of any past experiences, memories or events. Faced with amnesia, Sam must start over. To her dismay she discovers that she wasn't a particularly honest, good-hearted or loving person. In fact she was self-involved, narcissistic and devoid of real relationships - essentially a bitch.


ABC autumn previews


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CBS

The network announced only three dramas and one comedy maintaining its rep as stable and conservative.

Cancellations include my favourite new sitcom The Class, so-so drama Jericho airing on Hallmark right now and Living's Close to Home.

Dramas:

Cane - Epic Sopranos-like drama about the external rivalries and internal power struggles of a large Cuban-American family running an immensely successful rum and sugar business in South Florida.

Moonlight - An "undead" private investigator who uses his acute vampire senses to help the living... instead of feeding on them.

Viva Laughlin - Mystery drama with music about eternal optimist and freewheeling businessman Ripley Holden, whose sole ambition is to run a casino in Laughlin, Nev. Occasionally using upbeat contemporary songs to accentuate the drama and humor and advance the story, the series is based on the BBC show Viva Blackpool.

Congrats to top writer and top bloke Peter Bowker on the show getting picked up.

Swingtown - Peeks into the shag-carpeted suburban homes of the 1970s to find couples revelling in the sexual and social revolution that introduced open marriages, women's liberation and challenged many conventional wisdoms.

Comedy:

The Big Bang Theory - Two genius geeks befriend attractive single woman next door.

CBS autumn previews

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NBC

The network renewed Heroes, obviously, adding a 6 part mini-series called Heroes: Origins for the mid-season break. Each week will introduce a new character -- one of whom will be chosen by viewers through the Heroes website on NBC.com to become a cast regular the following season.

The Office gets a 30 episode order which signifies a general trend of longer seasons to avoid gaps in the schedule.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (coming soon to C4) has been cancelled and I have no real complaints although it's not as bad as some people make out.

Raines (coming soon to ITV4) has been cancelled and I'm a bit pissed off. The pilot was dodgy but they re-tooled and re-cast and re-shot but it was just too smart and left field for a huge audience. One episode had me blubbing like a baby. I'll preview it when it gets a start date.

NBC is the lowest rating of the networks, despite having the best and most popular new show, and they'll be looking to get back to their former superiority. NBC picked up 5 dramas and 1 comedy.

Dramas:

Bionic Woman - Update of classic '70s sci-fi about a woman who gets in an accident and gets bionic transplants for her legs, an arm and an eye. A friend suggested that at least Michelle Ryan is fitter than Lindsey Wagner. Don't worry, he is no longer with us. RIP, mate.




Chuck - comedic spy thriller about a computer geek who is catapulted into a new career as the government's most vital secret agent. When Chuck opens an e-mail subliminally encoded with government secrets, he unwittingly downloads an entire server of sensitive data into his brain. Now, instead of fighting computer viruses, he must fight assassins and international terrorists.

I would have been too embarrassed to pitch that in case someone said to me, "but that's just Jake 2.0 which flopped".

Journeyman - Romantic mystery-drama about a newspaper reporter who inexplicably begins to travel through time and change people's lives. He has to deal with the difficulties and strife at work and home brought on by his sudden disappearances. However, his travels reunite him with his long-lost fiancée which complicates his present-day life with his wife and son.

Life - Drama about a detective who returns to the force after years in prison, serving time for a crime he didn't commit.

Lipstick Jungle - Based on the best-selling novel by Candace Bushnell (Sex and the City), this dramedy follows three high-powered friends as they weather the ups and downs of lives lived at the top of their game.

Comedy:

The IT Crowd - The IT department of a huge corporation. Based on Graham Linehan's disappointing C4 sitcom the initial buzz on this version is good. It includes Richard Ayoade from the original.


NBC autumnn previews

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Fox

The number one network, thanks mainly to reality show American Idol and House, which has just become the number one drama. They will only premiere three unscripted shows this autumn saving the rest until mid-season. They say this gives them time to promote the shows - as if the reason the shows failed last season was because not enough people knew about them.

Prison Break was one of the very best dramas last season, where I genuinely didn't have a clue what was going to happen next. In a possible contract re-negotiation stance the creator said that he would be leaving after two seasons and he was going to wrap up the story. Presumably after the successful negotiations and he's got a lot more money, he is now doing season 3 and says most of the scripts have already been written.

House returns, obviously, and 24 returns for two more seasons, mysteriously. Actually it's not that big a mystery, it has a good enough audience despite the creative problems they had this season. There's no guarantee a new show will get as many viewers, best to stick with what you know.

Dramas:

K-Ville - Police drama set in New Orleans. Two years after Katrina, the city is still in chaos. Many cops have quit, and the jails, police stations and crime labs still haven't been properly rebuilt. But the cops who remain have courage to burn and a passion to reclaim and rebuild their city

New Amsterdam - The story of a New York homicide detective unlike any other. He is brilliant, mysterious, reckless, magnetic, unknowable. And he has a profound secret - he is immortal.

The Sarah Connor Chronicles - At the end of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Sarah vanquished the liquid metal Terminator sent from the future to kill her teenage son, John. Sarah and John now find themselves alone in a very dangerous, complicated world. Fugitives from the law, they are confronted with the reality that still more enemies from the future, and the present, could attack at any moment.

So I'm not the only one who pretends Terminator 3 didn't happen.

Canterbury's Law - A courtroom drama about a rebellious female defense attorney who's willing to bend the law in order to protect the wrongfully accused.

Comedies:

Back to You - They had that elusive quality all news teams need: chemistry ... at least on-screen. Off-screen, Chuck was a bit of a self-centered womaniser, Kelly a bit of an uptight know-it-all. So when Chuck got the call to move up to a larger market, no tears were shed. But after an embarrassing on-air tirade ended up on the Internet, Chuck found himself on the downswing career-wise. So when he got the call to return to Pittsburgh, to reunite with Kelly he said yes.

The Rules for Starting Over - Set in Boston, about a group of newly single friends learning the painful lessons of starting over in their 30s. They'd all love to get remarried, if they could just find their true loves.

The Return of Jezebel James - Can two estranged sisters, polar opposites, live together when one agrees to carry the other's baby?

Fox autumn preview

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The CW

Its veteran series the wonderful "Gilmore Girls" and 7th Heaven, have been cancelled while things aren't looking good for the quality Veronica Mars (Trouble). They seem to be focussing on unscripted next term. Smallville (C4), Supernatural (ITV2) and One Tree Hill (C4) return.

Dramas:

Gossip Girl - Privileged prep school teens learn all the important news from the blog of the all-knowing albeit ultra-secretive Gossip Girl. No one knows Gossip Girl's identity, but everyone in this exclusive and complicated vicious circle relies on her text messages for the latest scoop.

Life Is Wild - Ashley Pharoah's Wild at Heart US reversion gets picked up. Sweet. Ashley is a top bloke so I'm chuffed for him.

Reaper - Supernatural comic drama. Everything in his slacker world changes the day Sam turns 21 and discovers the ungodly reason his parents let him get away with not trying: they sold his soul to the devil before he was born. Satan himself drops by to personally explain that Sam must now serve as his bounty hunter, tracking down evil souls that have escaped and returning them to Hell.

By Kevin Smith, this recalls the themes of his Dogma movie. But it looks to be a comedic re-version of Brimstone.

Comedy:

Aliens in America - About a 16-year-old Wisconsin boy whose mother decides to improve his social status at school by importing an exchange student from Pakistan to be his friend.