L.A. Screenings all but over days before end

By Tuesday most buyers got final H'wood overview

If you blinked, you missed it.

There might be a handful of international TV buyers out there who still don't know the hottest series from the studios on offer at the Los Angeles Screenings. But for most, their work will be done by Wednesday.

With just 18 full pilots showing this year, along with well-honed shorter presentations, the word was out among buyers by the weekend what was in the bidding zone. In previous years buyers were marking off tick sheets up until the final day of the Screenings, which this year run through Friday.

"I think we all pretty much knew coming in what to look out for, and some of us even went ahead to the New York upfronts the week before to get a preview," said Richard Sattler, a veteran international acquisitions consultant who represents numerous European TV stations.

Fox began screenings Friday when a coterie of Australians, British and other European buyers was on hand. By Sunday, word was out that Fox's Joss Whedon drama "Dollhouse" was a contender for bidding. The series already had been tagged by Canada's CanWest.

CBS Paramount's screening the following day had Latin American buyers rolling in the aisles for the sitcom "Worst Week" while marking the Benjamin Bratt drama "The Cleaner" as a hot-ticket item. Monday saw Warner Bros. set the pace with buzz aplenty for J.J. Abrams' "Fringe" and Jerry Bruckheimer's "Eleventh Hour." Tuesday had buyers notching up NBC Universal's Ian McShane drama "Kings" and Christian Slater starrer "My Own Worst Enemy."

By Tuesday, most buyers were in a position to take an overview of what Hollywood is offering to the pilgrimage of international TV program buyers from around the world who come to view and to purchase the latest crop of potential megahit TV series each May.

TV2 Norway head of acquisitions John Ranelagh gave "The Cleaner" a positive nod. "It has great shock value, and it has former 'Law & Order' co-star Benjamin Bratt," he said, adding that it was good to be able to see a full pilot for the series.

Olle Mirme, director of programming and acquisitions at Kanal 2 in Estonia, liked the new Steven Bochco-produced legal drama "Raising the Bar" and the edgy new WBITV dramedy "Truth in Advertising" with Eric McCormick, both of which will debut on TNT this summer.

Said Sattler, "The shows which are obviously head and shoulders way out in front of the pack are 'Dollhouse,' which is resonating with foreign buyers, alongside Warner Bros. 'Eleventh Hour' and 'Fringe.' "

Said another buyer from the U.K. who did not want to be named: "We came not expecting really to see an awful lot in the wake of the WGA strike. But the fact is that we really have been impressed by the fact that the studios did manage to field 18 full pilots and by the fact that the presentations were very thorough. We definitely have some solid ideas about what we want in terms of acquisitions -- though it's not nearly equal in volume to what we might have looked at in a normal year."
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