tv reporter

Rumors in the airwaves as pilot season wraps

Mother's Day is just around the corner, and with it comes the end of another development season. Just like the FDA extensively tests every new food before it hits the market, the broadcast networks for the past week have subjected their pilots to rigorous screenings and focus group testings. At their upfront presentations in New York next week, the nets will announce which projects have been approved to go on the primetime market. But for now, pilot information is guarded more closely than the Coca-Cola recipe, forcing anxious industry folk to feed on rumors. Here is the latest round of pilot gossip:

ABC, which is rumored to pick up four to six one-hour pilots, is said to have started high-level staffing on two dramas, "Pushing Daisies" and the untitled Jon Feldman project — a sign that the shows might be joining the "Grey's Anatomy" spinoff on the schedule next season. Also hot are the dramas "Marlowe," which recently received an order for two additional scripts and is now lining up series directors, and "Dirty Sexy Money." "Cashmere Mafia," "Eli Stone" and "Football Wives" also are believed to be in contention. "Sam I Am," "Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office," "The Thick of It" and "The Middle" are getting buzz on the comedy side.

NBC brass is said to be very high on the dramedy "Lipstick Jungle." Also flying high after extensive retooling is the sci-fi saga "The Bionic Woman," which is staffing along with "Journeyman" and "Life." Josh Schwartz's "Chuck" is also hot. In fact, a scenario being floated has the network picking up all of its one-hour pilots except "Mayor of New York" with 12- or six-episode orders as strike contingency. On the comedy side, "Lipshitz Saves the World," which was filmed months ago, is making a charge alongside "Business Class" and "The IT Crowd."

CBS, which might pick up only three to four new dramas, is said to be high on the untitled Cynthia Cidre project, "Babylon Fields" and "The Man," with "Protect & Serve," "Swingtown," "Skip Tracer" and "Viva Laughlin" also in contention. "Fugly" is making noise on the comedy side.

Fox, which might pick up four to five drama pilots, is said to be seriously considering sci-fi entries "The Sarah Connor Chronicles" and "Them" and cop shows "K-Ville," now staffing, and "The Apostles." Also in the running are "Nurses," "Canterbury's Law" and "The Cure." In the comedy field, "Action News" is considered on the air, and the untitled Victor Fresco project and animated "The Life and Times of Tim" are also getting notice.

The CW is said to be high on Schwartz's "Gossip Girl," "The Reaper" and the untitled South Africa project.

While it's all about pilot buzz in Hollywood these days, at colleges around the country, seniors are sweating their final exams as they prepare to take on the world. For dozens of graduating students from top drama schools, there are a couple of extra finals that could help them take on Hollywood.

For the past couple of weeks, universities have staged showcases in New York and Hollywood. Today and Tuesday, drama students from Carnegie Mellon will audition for agents and casting execs, with the school's alumna, producer Paula Wagner, on hand to introduce the shows.

"It's always been a resource for us," NBC executive vp casting Marc Hirschfeld says of the showcases. "It's exciting to see these actors, many of whom don't know anything about the business but have a lot of poise and confidence and enthusiasm."

2006 Carnegie Mellon graduate Jack Carpenter was a breakout star at the showcase last year. Now he is one of the breakout stars of the pilot season with the title role on NBC's "Lipshitz."

The class of 2007 is looking to follow, but graduates are trying to manage expectations. "These are the people who will open the doors for us, but we're the ones who have to do the work," Melissa Tang said.