The network fall lineups are starting to take shape. As execs lick their wounds, dust off their failures and prepare to try it again with a whole new crop of shows, this is the time of year when they tell themselves — and more importantly, try to convince advertisers — that next season will be different.
And sometimes it is. Witness ABC's 2004 turn-around year, when Lost and Desperate Housewives hit the air, or the 1994 season, when NBC was blessed with ER and Friends. But those game-changing years don't come along often. As we head into the mid-May network "upfront" presentations (when new series are unveiled to media buyers and bubble shows are fed their fates), here's a network-by-network guide on what to look out for.
Needs: New Sunday dramas to replace exiting Desperate Housewives and pair well with Once Upon a Time. "They didn't find their Housewives replacement," notes one rival, pointing to the disappointing performance of GCB.ABC could also use some help Thursday at 8 and needs to find a suitable sitcom companion to Modern Family.
Potential Big Moves: ABC entertainment president Paul Lee has expressed interest in reviving the network's old Friday night "TGIF" lineup. One option could be moving Tim Allen's Last Man Standing to the night and pairing it with the new Reba McEntire comedy Malibu Country. (Still, such a move isn't a sure thing, as Disney Channel already airs established family comedies on Friday.) Also, ABC could always move Revenge to Sundays at 9 if it wants an established player to replace Housewives. "ABC has more moves they can make and justify to the ad sales community," says an observer.
Question Marks: Does Private Practice get a 13-episode farewell season? Can ABC Studios strike a deal to move Cougar Town to TBS? Will ABC move adult comedies Happy Endings and Don't Trust The B--- In Apartment 23 to Tuesdays?
Hot Pilots: ABC has several new serialized dramas and family comedies (two of its staples) in contention for fall. Marc Cherry's Devious Maids is already staffing writers; the Connie Britton music-set soap Nashville is hot; Mistresses, originally developed for next summer, could sneak into the regular season (much like Missing did this year); the action thriller Last Resort, with Scott Speedman and Andre Braugher; comedy How to Live With Your Parents, starring Sarah Chalke; and Malibu Country.
Needs: With the ends of Two and a Half Men and How I Met Your Mother both on the horizon (neither is expected to go more than two more years), now's the time to cultivate a few more comedy hits to cushion the blow. CBS also needs a Tuesday 10 p.m. show and perhaps a better time slot for The Good Wife, which is being hammered by the sheer volume of competitors on Sunday. Otherwise, CBS is as solid as it comes these days. "They have no needs," sighs a rival.
Potential Big Moves: Just about everyone expects CBS to go with four comedies on Thursday (bumping Person of Interest to 10 p.m.) "They could make a lot of money doing four comedies," a competitor says. Hey 2 Broke Girls, you're moving on up! But warns another rival: "The million dollar question is whether they go four comedies on Thursday. I'm not so sure. They are a piece short, and not one to make big moves without the pieces."
Question Marks: Of the two CSI spinoffs, does CSI: Miami or CSI: NY survive? If The Mentalist or Person of Interest is displaced by more Thursday comedy, where do they go? (The conventional wisdom is Person of Interest moves to 10 and the heavily-DVRed The Mentalist shifts to Friday.)
Hot Pilots: The Sherlock Holmes-themed Elementary, starring Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu; the 1960s Las Vegas-set Ralph Lamb, with Michael Chiklis and Dennis Quaid; and the comedy Partners, from Will & Grace creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick.
Needs: "Any hit, anywhere, any time," quips a competitor. And it's true — outside of The Voice and Sunday Night Football, NBC has deep holes to fill.
Potential Big Moves: "Whatever NBC does will be wild, because they have to be," says an exec at another network. Now's not the time to play it safe, so NBC could very well make some huge change, like moving some of its critically-acclaimed but low-rated Thursday comedies to another night. (Perhaps a four-stack of comedy on Wednesday.) NBC could also change the game by making shorter episodic orders and moving more returning and new series on and off the schedule throughout the year. One thing's all but certain: The Voice will be back in the fall. "Mark Burnett is already going around telling people how much bigger the fall edition of The Voice is going to be," says a reality TV insider.
Question Marks: Does Smash remain behind The Voice? Does NBC keep its low-rated comedy block intact? Will they announce that next year is the final season for The Office?
Hot Pilots: Matthew Perry's half-hour Go On, Ryan Murphy's comedy The New Normal, the Anne Heche sitcom Save Me, the White House comedy 1600 Penn (starring Bill Pullman and Josh Gad), the workplace comedy Animal Practice (starring Justin Kirk) and the J.J. Abrams/Eric Kripke drama Revolution have all been picked up to series, with more to come.
Needs: Fox must solidify New Girl, which has dipped after a strong start, by bringing in a strong companion show. The network could also use another hit drama to fill the House void, given that this year didn't provide a breakout newcomer.
Potential Big Moves: Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly has said he wants a four-comedy Tuesday (and if that happens, Glee likely slides to Thursday at 9). Complicating matters, Fox this fall faces multiple Tuesday pre-emptions for baseball, presidential debates and election coverage. (Plus, with some Wednesday pre-emptions, The X Factor will have to move some episodes to Tuesday as well.) But Fox is said to be figuring out how to still air a four-comedy lineup on the night, including the possibility of launching early. "They are going to have a very tough time launching new shows in fall because there are very few clean runs on most nights," says a competitor. "Some of the bigger pieces may wait until November or January."
Question Marks: Will Fox have a new X Factor judging panel to announce at their presentation next week? (The answer is looking increasingly like "no.")|
Hot Pilots: Mindy Kaling's untitled sitcom is considered a shoo-in to air behind New Girl, while the family comedy Ned Fox Is My Manny could be paired with Raising Hope. And Kevin Bacon's new drama from Kevin Williamson seems like a candidate for Monday nights with Bones. The Cuba Gooding, Jr. legal drama now known as Wicked Smart (but also referred to as Guilty) is another possible pickup.
Needs: The CW is hungry for a channel-defining hit that broadens its viewership beyond its core, extremely narrow, audience.
Potential Big Moves: It's a good thing The CW has so many buzzworthy pilots, because it will likely roll out new shows throughout the year (and finally get out of airing repeats, which have been death for the network). With so many CW viewers watching their shows online, scheduling doesn't matter as much.
Question Marks: Will Gossip Girl end its run with a shortened 13-episode season? And what does Tyra Banks have in store for her long-overdue extreme America's Next Top Model makeover?
Hot Pilots: Sex and the City prequel The Carrie Diaries; DC Comics adaptation Arrow; thriller Cult; and the Hunger Games-meets-The Bachelor drama The Selection.