Upfront About Upfronts
By Devin D. O'Leary
It's “upfront” week in Los Angeles and, while the term may not mean much to the average Idiot Boxer, it's one of the most important words in the Hollywood lexicon. Upfront week is when the networks place their orders for new shows. For the past month or so, networks have been looking over the new crop of pilots, testing some of them in front of audiences and generally trying to guess which ones will be hits. This is the week that the networks put their money on the line, shelling out the dough for a full or half season worth of episodes.
While there's no absolute guarantee that these shows will make it on to the fall schedule, odds are pretty good that they'll at least air in sweeps before being dumped. Some shows are surefire hits (like the “Friends” spin-off “Joey”), but most are pure crap shoots. So, what are the networks hoping will bring in the big ratings this fall?
NBC was the first out of the gate, adding the ensemble cop drama “Hawaii,” the ensemble airport drama “HUB” and the ensemble doctor drama “The Cure.” In addition to “Joey,” upfront sitcoms include “The Men's Room,” “Hooked” and the ludicrous “Father of the Pride,” a computer-animated sitcom about a family of white lions working for Siegfried & Roy. (Yes, the very ones who mauled Roy into a coma.) It's reportedly the most expensive sitcom ever made. The much-touted American remake of “The Office” seems to have tested very badly and may be pushed to midseason.
Ratings stinker ABC is banking on untitled new sitcoms from John Stamos, Rodney Carrington and Jennifer Love Hewitt. Despite the success of the recent “Nick and Jessica Variety Hour,” the network has reportedly cooled to the idea of a Jessica Simpson sitcom. The suburbia-based black comedy/drama “Desperate Housewives” (starring Teri Hatcher and Felicity Huffman) is reportedly doing great with test audiences and will join “Eyes,” (a “vigilante risk management company”) “Blind Justice,” (a blind detective) and “Life as We Know It” (sexy coming-of-age teens) in the drama category. David E. Kelly has recruited his “Practice” star James Spader for a new, as-yet-unnamed legal drama.
CBS is banking on star power with John Goodman in “The Center of the Universe,” Chris O'Donnell in “The Amazing Westerbergs” and Jason Alexander in an untitled sitcom. Dramawise, CBS is pushing “Dr. Vegas” (Rob Lowe as a doctor in Vegas), “The Webster Report” (Stanley Tucci as a cop in New York), “Cauldron” (Kim Delany and Jeri Ryan in a small screen version of the Sandra Bullock/Nicole Kidman movie Practical Magic) and “The Clubhouse” (teen gets a job as the Yankees' bat boy).
FOX is launching a lot of shows over the summer, but will probably get “American Dad” (a wacky animated sitcom from the creator of “Family Guy”), “Johnny Zero” (ex-con becomes a private eye), “House” (college frat drama) and “Point Pleasant” (described as “Peyton Place meets The Omen”) come fall.
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