Buzz builds for ABC pilots


While most of Hollywood is getting into vacation mode as mid-August approaches, it's crunch time at ABC, which shifted its pilot production to early summer as a result of the writers strike. Screenings are scheduled for next week, but already there is early buzz on some pilots that are completed.

On the comedy side, three single-camera half-hours —the untitled Victor Fresco project, "Never Better" and the untitled Kristin Newman project (aka "Single With Parents") — are considered strong contenders for series pickup.

In a vote of confidence for the Victor Fresco office comedy, starring Jay Harrington and Portia de Rossi, ABC's sister studio ABC Studios recently inked an overall deal with Fresco. Family comedy "Never Better" would mark the return to ABC of "My Wife and Kids" star Damon Wayans, while the Kristin Newman project stars Alyssa Milano as a thirtysomething woman trying to break free of her overbearing family.

On the drama side, "The Castle," starring Nathan Fillion as a horror novelist working for the NYPD, and Rob Thomas' "Good Behavior," toplined by Catherine O'Hara as the matriarch of a family of criminals, have tested well, while the large-cast Shakespearean drama "Prince of Motor City" is said to have potential.

A few high-profile pilots, including the Max Mutchnick/ David Kohan comedy and "Captain Cook's Extraordinary Atlas," have not been delivered. ABC has been taking its time, asking for episodic story lines for most of the pilots before making series pickup decisions. (partialdiff)