Ten rookies make cut for ABC
Network orders six dramas, four comediesAfter adding five new scripted series during the strike-impacted 2008-09 season, ABC is back in a reboot mode, ordering 10 new series -- six dramas and four comedies -- and keeping several more pilots for midseason consideration.
ABC's high concept-heavy drama slate include two new crime dramas -- the Bruckheimer-produced amateur sleuths show "The Forgotten" and murder mystery "Happy Town," from the creative team behind "October Road"; legal drama, "The Deep End"; as well as two 1980s adaptations, "Eastwick," based in the movie with Jack Nicholson and "V," based on the NBC miniseries.
In preparation for the upcoming exit of "Lost," ABC is betting heavily on action drama "Flash Forward" as its successor. "Flash," which already was promoted on "Lost" this season, is expected to launch in the fall, filling in for the Emmy-winning island mystery drama while it's on hiatus.
ABC's drama picks feature a first and an unbroken streak.
"Forgotten" marks the first scripted series on ABC by Bruckheimer, while the order for "Eastwick" extends the perfect record for director David Nutter, who has gone 15-for-15, with every pilot the has directed so far picked up to series.
On the half-hour side, ABC went for big sitcom stars in family comedies, a genre that once thrived on the network but has been absent in the past few years.
Its new series picks include two family shows toplined by Emmy-winning veterans -- the multi-camera "Hank," starring Kelsey Grammer, and single-camera "The Middle," starring Patricia Heaton. They're joined by multi-family mocumentary "Modern Family" and the newly single mom comedy "Cougar Town" starring Courteney Cox.
That is contrast with the two comedies that ABC opted to bring back -- veteran "Scrubs" and freshman "Better Off Ted," both workplace laughers. The order for "Scrubs" came on the heels of most core cast members signing deals to return.
Star Zach Braff is set to do six episodes to transition the show to its new set-up. It is still unclear if Sarah Chalke, who has been approached with a similar deal, will be rejoining the series. (She has a recurring role on another comedy, CBS' "How I Met Your Mother.")
Donald Faison, John C. McGinley and Neil Flynn have all closed deals to continue as regulars in second position to their pilots. Flynn's pilot, "Middle," was picked up, so he won't be able to be a regular on "Scrubs."
In addition to "Ted," the other freshman ABC series to clinch a renewal Friday was the Nathan Fillion-starring detective dramedy "Castle," with midseason entries "The Unusuals," "Cupid" and "In the Motherhood" joining "Life on Mars" as one-season series. ("Ted" is rumored to stay paired with "Scrubs.")
Also renewed was reality series "True Beauty," exec produced by Ashton Kutcher and Tyra Banks, while sophomore comedy "Samantha Who?" is still in serious consideration for a pickup on a smaller budget.
Months after he took over the combined network-studio unit, ABC's entertainment chief Stephen McPherson opted for a new series slate dominated by outside suppliers, who produce seven of the 10 picked up series (70%) -- "Eastwick," "Forgotten," "V," "Middle" and "Hank" (WBTV) and "Modern Family" and "End" (20th TV). The pickups for "V" and "End" came after hassling between the network and the studios over the size of the orders. At the pilot stage, non-ABC Studios-produced projects' share was 44%.
ABC Studios' tally could rise, with several of its comedy pilots, the single-camera "The Law," toplined by Cedric the Entertainer, and multicamera untitled Jeff Strauss and "This Little Piggy" still considered a possibility for midseason.
The network also has an outstanding 22-episode pickup deal for CBS' multi-camera veteran "The New Adventures of Old Christine" should it fail to earn a renewal at CBS, something considered unlikely as the show and its Wednesday companion, freshman "Gary Unmarried," look good to return.