Upfront week marks unveiling of TV's new fall crop
This image released by NBC shows Justin Kirk as Dr. George Coleman from the NBC comedy "Animal Practice." The series, which premiered last fall, was canceled by the network. (AP Photo/NBC, Chris Haston)
NEW YORK (AP) — Right now the broadcast networks are feverishly fashioning their fall prime-time schedules. Some 104 pilots are being screened by execs and test audiences, with just one-third expected to pass muster and become series for the 2013-14 season.
Once they premiere, maybe a dozen will actually click with viewers and win a second year.
"Then how many series make it to the magic four-year mark, where they really make money? Maybe half of that," says analyst Brad Adgate of media-buying firm Horizon Media.
Extravagant? Wasteful? Maybe. But the program development process at the broadcast networks is also well-entrenched. And even profitable.
"When you get a show like 'The Big Bang Theory,' it pays for a lot of missteps," notes Adgate with a laugh.
Anticipating the "upfront week" of May 13 (when ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and the CW unveil their lineups for advertisers and the world), industry analysts and media writers have been handicapping each network pilot, described for them but sight unseen, as a familiar springtime guessing game: Which will be among the chosen few? Which are doomed to oblivion?
Adgate likes the sound of "Marvel's S.H.I.E.L.D," a comic-book adventure brought to the TV screen by hitmaker and fan-boy fave Joss Whedon for ABC.
He also likes Fox's "Rake," starring Greg Kinnear as a lawyer who is brilliant but flawed (it's one of four pilots with a "House"-esque brilliant-but-flawed hero). And then there's CBS' comedy pilot, "Mom," produced by sitcom legend Chuck Lorre (whose credits include CBS' "Two and a Half Men" and the aforementioned "Big Bang Theory").
Already a lock is Michael J. Fox's sitcom (with a guaranteed NBC order of 22 episodes). Almost as much of a sure thing would seem to be "NCIS: Red," a spinoff of CBS' ratings juggernaut "NCIS: Los Angeles" (itself a spinoff of ratings juggernaut "NCIS").
Needless to say, CBS (with its murderer's row of sitcoms and its finely wrought portfolio of procedurals) is in better shape as next fall looms than other networks you might mention, such as NBC, whose February plunge to an unprecedented sixth place in the ratings (behind Spanish-language Univision) after having been on top last fall has become part of TV lore.
Even so, NBC can claim last fall's closest thing to a hit, "Revolution." This stylish, apocalyptic drama has already won a second-season pickup.