Upfront 2.0 has the nets scrambling


This weekend, Fox ordered pilots to series, renewed and canceled existing shows while also casting Alfred Molina as the lead of a pilot, tapping Peter Berg to direct another and picking up a piece of development for midseason.

Welcome to post-strike upfront season 2.0, where the traditional pilot cycle has been turned on its head and network executives are readying fall schedules in between pilot casting sessions and development meetings.

Fox's new series orders went to J.J. Abrams' sci-fi drama "Fringe" and the Jason Bateman-directed comedy "The Inn," along with Mitchell Hurwitz's animated comedy "Sit Down, Shut Up." The pickups stage a big "Arrested Development" reunion at Fox for creator Hurwitz and star Bateman, who also voices "Sit Down" with "Arrested Development" alums Will Arnett and Henry Winkler.

"Fringe" appears headed to fall, while Fox's other marquee new sci-fi series, Joss Whedon's "Dollhouse," which has a seven-episode order, is expected to launch midseason.

Meanwhile, the Bernie Mac starrer "Starting Under," which had a series commitment, seems unlikely to land on Fox's fall schedule. It wasn't clear Sunday whether the network intends to retool the show for midseason consideration.

On the renewal front, Fox picked up" 'Til Death" while it opted not to bring back "Back to You" for a second season. The two sitcoms run in a block this season to similarly respectable but not spectacular ratings. However, "Back to You" is far more expensive as it boasts marquee talent in front of and behind the camera, with stars Kelsey Grammer and Patrica Heaton and creators Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd.

Also canceled are midseason entries "New Amsterdam" and "Canterbury's Law."

"Back to You," as well as the animated project "The Pitts," are being shopped by 20th TV to other networks.

In pilot castings, Fox tapped Molina to star in Paul Attanasio's one-hour "Courtroom K," a darkly comedic courtroom drama that revolves around a judge (Molina), a prosecutor and a public defender (Megan Dodds).

On the development side, Berg is set to direct and executive produce "Virtuality," the two-hour sci-fi pilot from UMS and BermanBraun. Additionally, Fox handed out a cast-contingent pilot order to Shaun Cassidy's drama "Inseparable" for midseason.

"Inseparable," from ABC Studios, originally cast Toby Stephens during the strike in anticipation of a pilot pickup contingent on a script. By the time the network picked up the pilot on Friday, the studio's hold on Stephens had expired, so the pilot is cast-contingent.

ABCThe stalemate between the network and "Boston Legal" creator David E. Kelley is headed to a resolution.

After intense negotiations, ABC on Sunday reached an agreement with Kelley to bring "Legal" back in the fall. The network had originally intended to hold "Legal" for midseason.

The deal on includes a reduced license fee for the show and is said to be subject to David E. Kelley Prods.' ability to make deals with the cast under the new fee. Like last year, cast reductions are likely. (In a seperate development, co-star Saffron Burrows is transitioning to NBC's "My Own Worst Enemy.")

The pact on "Legal" also opens the door for a series pickup of Kelley's drama pilot "Life on Mars."

The network had been zeroing in on a series order of the project starring Jason O'Mara, with "October Road" creators Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec and Scott Rosenberg coming in as executive producers and ABC Studios as a co-producer with 20th TV.

But such a deal had to be blessed by Kelley, who owns the rights to the property, an American version of the BBC series about a 21st century cop transported to the 1970s.

Now such a pact appears very likely.

This is the second time the fates of "Mars" and "Legal" have been tied together. Two years ago, ABC's "Mars" pickup helped clinch a renewal of "Legal."

Upon completion of the deal, "Mars" is expected to be one of handful new additions to ABC's fall schedule, along with import "Scrubs" and the Ashton Kutcher-produced reality series "Opportunity Knocks."

"Mars" is been rumored for the plum post-"Grey's Anatomy" Thursday 10 p.m. slot.

"Legal" is expected to stay put in its Tuesday 10 p.m. time slot. The modestly rated freshman "Eli Stone," which appears all but picked up, had been eyed for "Boston's" Tuesday berth in the fall but now may be held for midseason or move elsewhere.

Wednesday is expected to be a do-over of last fall's rookie lineup of "Pushing Daisies," "Private Practice" and "Dirty Sexy Money," with "Money" also a possibility for the Thursday 10 p.m. slot.

Another freshman series, "Miss/Guided," is said to still be in the mix, while the drama "Women's Murder Club" is not expected to come back.

The CW

The CW on Sunday picked up the "Beverly Hills, 90210" spinoff and renewed the comedy "The Game" with a 22-episode order. Also close to a series pickup was "How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls."

The network also went for a full night of Tyra Banks/Ken Mok fashion-themed reality shows with the pickup of "Stylista." There was no word on the freshman "Reaper," while freshman comedy "Aliens in America," which has been canceled.

Original "90210" cast member Jennie Garth has signed on to recur on the spinoff, reprising her role as Kelly Taylor, who now will be a guidance counselor at her alma mater, West Beverly Hills High.

Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah, who rewrote the pilot script and are exec producing the pilot, are staying on as showrunners.

"Sylista," described as a reality version of "The Devil Wears Prada," features 11 aspiring fashion writers working as assistants to Elle's Anne Slowey and competing for an editorial job with the magazine.

The project, which is expected to serve as a companion piece to Banks' and Mok's "America's Next Top Model" on Wednesday, was originally greenlighted to series in January. It hails from 10 by 10, Bankable, Magic Molehill and Warner Horizon.

The CW's Monday and Thursday lineups are expected to remain the same, with "Gossip Girl"/ "One Tree Hill" and "Smallville"/ "Supernatural," respectively.

"Girls" is being eyed as a companion to "90210," which is expected to anchor the CW's Tuesday night.

Fridays are expected to feature repeats and possibly house comedies "Everybody Hates Chris" and "Game," while Sunday is being programmed by MRC.


"Eleventh Hour" and "The Mentalist" look like a lock to get series pickups today, with "Mythological Ex," "Can Openers" and "Harper's Island" also considered likely.

The field is wide open on the comedy side, with the untitled Ed Yeager and Mike Birbiglia projects, "Worst Week" and "My Best Friend's Girl" still in contention.

Among bubble series, "The Unit" looks good to return, while "Shark's" chances to do so are considered slim. (partialdiff)