Big TV producers staying in familiar genres

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Abrams, Rhimes among those sticking with what works

Many big TV producers are back with new projects this pilot season, and most of them are sticking to the genre that made them successful.

After venturing into the world of TV reporters last pilot season with "Inside the Box," "Grey's Anatomy" and "Private Practice" creator Shonda Rhimes is staying in the medical soap field this year with the ABC pilot "Off the Map."

John Wells, the producer behind another top medical drama, the recently departed "ER," returns to the genre after dabbling with cop shows ("Southland"), thrillers ("Smith") and crime procedurals ("Evidence") during the past three years. He is behind an untitled medical drama pilot at CBS.

"The Shield" creator Shawn Ryan also is back on the cop-drama beat with Fox's pilot "Ridealong," which, like "Shield," has a tough cop at the center.

Similarly, "The Practice," "Boston Legal" and "Ally McBeal" creator David E. Kelley is returning to the legal genre with "Kindred," at NBC. The show is a more of a straightforward legal drama than "Legally Mad," his effort last year.

After sci-fi shows "Lost" and "Fringe" and relationship dramas "Six Degrees" and "What About Brien," J.J. Abrams is returning to the spy-drama genre that landed him his first mainstream success. Nine years after the launch of "Alias" on ABC, he is fielding "Undercovers," a spy show for NBC.

Meanwhile, "How I Met Your Mother" creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas are back with their first post-"Mother" show, another ensemble comedy about young single friends.

"Obviously, the networks are going to the tried-and-true creative talents, especially in their most successful genres," said Bill Carroll, vp and director of programming at Katz TV. "Although it does not guarantee success, the odds are always better when experienced hands are at the helm."

A studio topper called this year's unusually high number of A-list creators going back to the well for more of the type of shows that have worked for them "a little bit coincidental."

But overall, "I think by and large successful creators tend to have a wheelhouse, and I think they frequently go to their wheelhouse for their new ideas," the executive said.