TV Upfronts By the Numbers: Dramas Up, Comedies Down and Comic Books Reign
Total scripted series hold steady year-over-year as the freshman class of 2013-14 returns only 13 series, as well as more trends from upfronts.
Following a challenging 2013-14 season that saw the Big Five return (at least) 10 of the 54 new comedies, dramas and limited fare ordered to series, the broadcast networks held steady this year as ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and The CW ordered another 54 series as they start their search for the next big hit all over again.
New this year is an increase in dramas -- up four year-over-year -- as limited series continue to rise, with networks "eventizing" their offerings in a bid to turn them into must-see live TV. Also seeing an uptick were the number of dramas (five) and comedies (three) ordered straight to series (up two from a year ago). Meanwhile, the overall number of new comedies took a slight hit, down three from 2013 after only five of the 23 ordered went on to second seasons. (Eight of the 30 dramas ordered last year will return.)
Here's a look at how the Big 5 networks are preparing for the 2014-15 season.
Total scripted series orders 2014: 54 (even with 54 in 2013)
Of the total, dramas are up four from a year ago, while comedy is off three. Of the latter, both single-camera and multicamera took a hit. Redeveloped fare was also pretty prevalent this season, with CBS' The McCarthys and Battle Creek, Fox's Backstrom and Mulaney as well as NBC's Mr. Robinson all retooled. For a look at how the studios fared, check out our 2014 Studio Scorecard here.
Dramas: 34 (vs. 30 in 2013)
Comedies: 20* (vs. 23 in 2013)
Single-camera: 14 (vs. 16 in 2013)
Multicamera: 5 (vs. 6 in 2013)
*Includes Fox's animated Bordertown.
Returning only two dramas and one comedy from last year's freshman class and saying farewell to The Neighbors and Suburgatory, ABC pretty much held steady year-over-year. After watching Shonda Rhimes' Scandal achieve mega-hit status, the network is betting big on diversity this season. Among its 14 orders are comedies revolving around black, Asian-American and Latino families, while Rhimes will also executive produce Viola Davis starrer How to Get Away With Murder. Also joining the schedule is racially charged legal drama American Crime. Elsewhere, ABC will expand its relationship with Marvel, giving a straight-to-series pickup to super-secret Captain America spinoff Agent Carter.
Series orders 2014: 14 (up 1 vs. 13 in 2013)
8 dramas (even with 8 in 2013)
6 comedies (up 1 vs. 5 in 2013)
Single-camera: 5 (even vs. 5 in 2013)
Multicamera: 1 (up 1 vs. 2013)
While TV's No. 1 network among total viewers renewed the bulk of its primetime lineup, the network was a weak 2-for-9 with its rookie class and did not see a single one of its freshman dramas earn a second cycle. In a bid to prevent that from happening again, the network picked up spinoffs of proven hits NCIS and CSI as it tripled the number of drama pickups year-over-year. The network also seems to be abandoning single-camera comedy after renewing only multicamera rookies Mom and The Millers. Meanwhile, How I Met Your Mother spinoff How I Met Your Dad did not make the cut and is being shopped elsewhere.
Series orders 2014: 8 (down 1 vs. 9 in 2013)
6 dramas (up 3 vs. 3 in 2013)
2 comedies (down 4 vs. 6 in 2013)
Single-camera: 0 (down 3 vs. 3 in 2013)
Multicamera: 2 (down 1 vs. 3 in 2013)
With room on the schedule after cancelling The X Factor and declaring pilot season dead, Fox looked to event series and social experiment Utopia to help fill its fall hours. Of its 10 pickups, five were ordered straight to series and only three went through the more traditional development process (Gotham, Red Band Society and Empire). (Not counting Wayward Pines, which was picked up a year ago and counted among the 2013-14 tally.)
Series orders 2014: 10 (down 2 vs. 12 2013)
6 dramas (even vs. 6 in 2013)
4** comedies (down 2 vs. 6 in 2013)
Single-camera: 2 (down 2 vs. 4 in 2013)
Multicamera: 1 (even with 2013)
* Includes Gracepoint but not Wayward Pines, which was in last year's tally.
** Includes animated Bordertown.
The No. 1 network among adults 18-49, NBC had a largely forgettable freshman class after only three of its 14 new shows were picked up for sophomore seasons. With comedy and drama orders each up two from a year ago, the network has a diverse slate filled with romantic comedies (A to Z, Marry Me), quirky fare (Bad Judge, Kimmy Schmidt), conspiracy thrillers (State of Affairs, Odyssey) and procedurals (Mysteries of Laura, Constantine) to go with event series including A.D., Heroes: Reborn and Emerald City, among others.
Series orders 2014: 18* (up 4 vs. 14 in 2013)
8 comedies (up 2 vs. 6 in 2013)
10 dramas (up 2 vs 2013)
Single-camera: 7 (up 3 vs. 4 in in 2013)
Multicamera: 1 (down 1 vs. 2 in 2013)
*Includes acquisition Working the Engels and event series Heroes: Reborn, A.D., The Slap and Emerald City.
The youth-skewing network picked up its second spinoff in as many years, ordering DC Comics-inspired and Arrow offshoot The Flash to series. Joining it is another DC adaptation, Rob Thomas' iZombie and the similarly sci-fi The Messengers. Replacing coming-of-age dramedy The Carrie Diaries is Venezuelan telenovela adaptation Jane the Virgin, which reunites the network with Emily Owens, M.D. and 90210 grad Jennie Snyder Urman and marks the network's biggest swing of the season. Left out of the pickups was the network's buzzy Supernatural spinoff Bloodlines, keeping the network from having spinoffs of its three biggest shows.
Series orders 2014: 4 (down 1 vs. 5 in 2013)
WHO RENEWED THE MOST OVERALL SHOWS
The CW: 10
HOW THE FRESHMAN CLASS FARED
Of the 34 dramas ordered last year, only eight will be back. On the comedy side, only five of the 23 will return for second runs.
11: ABC 3-for-14 (.214) (Returning: The Goldbergs, Agents of SHIELD, Resurrection)*
11: NBC 3-for-14 (.214) (Returning: About a Boy, The Blacklist, Chicago PD)**
9: Fox 2-for-10 (.200) (Returning: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Sleepy Hollow)***
7: CBS 2-for-9 (.222) (Returning: No dramas and comedies The Millers, Mom)****
2: The CW 3-for-5 (.600) (Returning: The Originals, The 100, Reign)
* Assuming The Black Box won't return.
** Awaiting word on Crossbones, The Night Shift, Undateable
***Awaiting word on Gang Related
**** Awaiting word on Reckless
16 SCHEDULING MOVES
CBS will shuffle its Monday and Thursday lineups around football. The CW's sophomore entry The Originals will open the week on Mondays. ABC created a Shondaland Thursday lineup with both Grey's Anatomy and Scandal inching up an hour to make room for How to Get Away With Murder. And Fox moved Andy Samberg's Brooklyn Nine-Nine to Sundays, pairing it with its male-leaning animated comedies. All told, 16 shows moved time slots compared with 14 a year ago.
Of the whopping 14 foreign adaptations ordered to pilot this year, five shows made it on the air: Secrets and Lies (Australian), Fox's Red Band Society (Spanish), NBC's The Slap, Mysteries of Laura (Spanish) and The CW's Jane the Virgin (Venezuelan). Overall, however, the schedule is jam-packed with other adaptations including CBS' The Odd Couple, ABC's Astronaut Wives Club, Fresh Off the Boat and Selfie; Fox's Backstrom, Gotham and Gracepoint; NBC's Constantine, Emerald City and A.D.; as well as The CW's The Flash and iZombie.
COMICS, COMICS, COMICS
In addition to The CW's Arrow and ABC's Agents of SHIELD, the broadcast networks further invested in fanboys this season. Fox picked up DC's Batman prequel Gotham, NBC is remaking DC's Hellblazer with Constantine and The CW adapting DC's iZombie and giving The Flash its own hour. For Marvel, meanwhile, ABC doubled down and renewed SHIELD and ordered Captain America spinoff Agent Carter straight to series.
Following a largely forgettable season, the broadcasters looked to capitalize on three existing fan bases by spinning off some of TV's biggest hits. CBS surprised industry trackers and picked up both NCIS: New Orleans and CSI: Cyber. The CW also nearly had spinoffs of its three biggest hits, adding The Flash to a schedule that already includes The Originals. Supernatural: Bloodlines, however, missed the cut. Also missing from the list: CBS' How I Met Your Dad.