Get those season passes ready. The networks have announced 39 new series for 2012-2013, spanning virtually every kind of drama (procedurals, serials, thrillers) and comedy (family, workplace, romantic). And while new X Factor judges Britney Spears and Demi Lovato threaten to dominate the media's attention this fall, even they may be no match for Dr. Zaius, the monkey M.D. on NBC's Animal Practice, or the drippy aliens on ABC's The Neighbors. Here's a look at what viewers will encounter next season.
Small Screen, Big Star
Kevin Bacon becomes the latest movie star to join prime time, headlining Fox's mid-season drama The Following (with one stipulation: He'll only do 15 episodes a season). "It really was the casting coup of the year," says Fox Entertainment president Kevin Reilly. Adds Warner Bros. TV president Peter Roth, whose company is producing: "Getting Kevin Bacon was one of the joys of the year." Also new to series TV is Dennis Quaid, who's starring in CBS' 1960s mob drama Vegas with The Shield's Michael Chiklis. Other big names headlining new shows are Friday Night Lights and American Horror Story star Connie Britton in ABC's musical Nashville; Friends' Matthew Perry in NBC's comedy Go On; and ER's Anthony Edwards in ABC's mid-season drama Zero Hour.
Hooked on Classics
This year's remakes come with a twist, tweaking familiar characters. CBS' Elementary, a modern retelling of Sherlock Holmes, stars Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu; NBC's thriller Do No Harm takes the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and transports it to a present-day medical setting; NBC's Hannibal looks at the early days of the Silence of the Lambs serial killer; The CW's The Carrie Diaries is based on Candace Bushnell's Sex and the City prequel; Arrow gives a new spin on the origins story of DC Comics character Green Arrow. "[Executive producer] Greg Berlanti came up with a brilliant idea of combining the best of Jason Bourne, Castaway and Batman Begins," Roth says of Arrow. "It's interesting, new and fresh."
The networks are adding 16 comedies to the mix, but for many attending the upfronts, laughs were hard to find. "Everyone ought to take a look at the full pilots before evaluating whether comedy is back," says one studio executive. "I've been very underwhelmed." Of course, there are some new sitcoms to keep an eye on. CBS is hot on Partners, from the creators of Will & Grace (and based on their own friendship); Fox could have a hit with its post—New Girl entry The Mindy Project; NBC hopes to charm with the monkey at the heart of Animal Practice; and ABC is going high-concept with the aliens on the post—Modern Family show The Neighbors.
The Short Goodbye
NBC's 30 Rock, Fox's Fringe and The CW's Gossip Girl will be given a limited amount of episodes this fall to wrap things up. (It's similar to how NBC ended Chuck this year.) "Fringe producers pitched just a great, propulsive 13-episode conclusion," Fox's Reilly says of giving the show a final hurrah. The decision to end 30 Rock after 13 more episodes came as stars like Alec Baldwin made rumblings about its end, while Gossip Girl will get a proper send-off with a final (approximately) 11 episodes. "I'm a big believer that shows that have lasted a long time, and have had real iconic growth on the network, should have some closure for fans," says The CW president Mark Pedowitz.
The May 8 finale of CBS' Unforgettable was watched by 10.8 million viewers (more than that week's Modern Family or The Voice), but it wasn't renewed. Neither was Harry's Law, the most watched scripted show on NBC. The cancellations highlight the cruel truth about ad-supported TV: Viewers over 55 are less valuable than younger demos. (The median age for Unforgettable's audience was 58.7; for Harry's Law, it was 61.7). "We're not against an older audience," says NBC broadcasting chairman Ted Harbert, but "we didn't do enough of a good job getting in the younger audience." At CBS, "it was more about what went right with the pilots," says senior executive vice president Kelly Kahl. Making room for new shows meant axing one CSI spin-off (CSI: Miami). Execs decided to keep CSI: NY in its Friday slot rather than replace it with Miami. No word if NY star Gary Sinise will now wear shades.