L.A. Screenings kick into gear

Fox, CBS presentations connect with buyers

Hollywood's desperate scramble to have something solid to show TV buyers from around the world at the L.A. Screenings had a happy ending during the weekend.

There were fears that the dearth of pilots resulting from the WGA strike would make the annual international event a washout. But screenings held by at least two major studios, Fox and CBS Paramount, had usually cautious buyers applauding.

The complex set for one of Fox's big pushes at the Screenings, Joss Whedon's sci-fi fantasy "Dollhouse," went up in less than two weeks. Footage for a pilot was in the can in as much time. And yet the series created considerable buzz among buyers this weekend based on an eight-minute showcase.

Over at CBS Paramount, producer Jonathan Prince was working until the last minute on tweaks to a full pilot for the new Benjamin Bratt series "The Cleaner," based on the true story of a man who dedicates his life to rescuing addicts. The pilot drew applause from Latin American buyers Saturday and a thumbs up from Venesion's international acquisitions manager Soledad Leiva Garcia.

Disney-ABC International Television held a screening Sunday for "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" for about 400 of its international clients and announced international launches for the sitcom "Project Gary," the sci-fi drama "The Middleman," Steven Bochco's drama "Raising the Bar" and the ensemble comedy "Roommates," among others.

Canadian buyers wrapped up a lot of business in the first few days. CTV picked up a slate of Warner Bros. International Television series, including the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced "Eleventh Hour," based on a U.K. format; the midseason procedural "The Mentalist"; and J.J. Abrams' "Fringe," the Fox sci-fi drama series. CTV did not buy new U.S. series sight-unseen, only fall shows for which there was a pilot.

Rival CanWest Media picked up Fox's "Dollhouse," the CW's "Beverly Hills, 90210" spinoff and CBS Par's murder mystery "Harper's Island," among others. (partialdiff)