ABC warmed the hearts of the creative community this morning with its slew of new scripted series pickups, four comedies and seven dramas, five of which hail from suppliers outside of the Mouse House's tent. The big winner of the upfront sweepstakes is Warner Bros. Television's "Big Shots" (pictured), which lands the plum post-"Grey's Anatomy" launch pad Thursdays at 10 p.m. Variety's hard-working Michael Schneider gives us the skinny on all of ABC's news in this early pre-presentation dispatch.
On paper, "Big Shots" sounds promising just from the intriguing casting of Michael Vartan, Dylan McDermott, Christopher Titus and Joshua Malina as successful but "dysfunctional CEOs who take refuge in their friendship." Might it reflect shades of the friendly competition between ABC programming chief Steve McPherson and his college bud, NBC's Kevin Reilly? We'll see.
Maybe it's the early hour that upfront week demands of all of us who stay behind in L.A. for upfront week but there seems to be a numerology thing going on with ABC adding three shows built around groups of four friends, "Big Shots" being one of them. Wonder what Locke would make of it?
"Cashmere Mafia" (Sony Pictures TV), bound for Tuesdays after "Dancing With the Stars" wraps its fall editions, revolves around four "ambitious and sexy women" in New York who have been best friends since business school. The foursome here is Lucy Liu, Frances O'Conner, Miranda Otto and Bonnie Somerville, who are putting themselves in the capable hands of Darren Star. Let the cashmere fly.
"Dirty Sexy Money" (ABC Studios/Wednesday 10 p.m.) has had a lot of heat throughout pilot season after landing "Six Feet Under's" Peter Krause as its lead. He's an idealistic lawyer who's drafted to take on his father's chores as the legal babysitter of a wealthy and powerful New York family after dad dies as suspicious death (is there any other kind in a drama pilot?). Krause will likely be well matched by a supporting cast that includes Donald Sutherland and Jill Clayburgh. (No idea what role Peter Bogdanovich plays or if it's a guest shot or what but it was among the least stage-y pics available.)
"Eli Stone" (ABC Studios/TBD) is also a lawyer who's career is taking a sudden detour, only for him it's all brought on by a brain aneurysm that leads him to believe he's got to answer to a higher calling. Yes, he works in San Francisco but near as we can tell his hallucinations are brought on by "Stone" scribes/ exec producers Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim, not pyschedelic sugar cubes. Wonder if they'll try to license the Laura Nyro/Three Dog Night hit "Eli's Coming" for the theme?
"Private Practice" (ABC Studios/Wednesday 9 p.m.) is the "Grey's Anatomy" spinoff anchor that likely made ABC comfortable with loading Wednesday up with three new shows. Any character that could parachute into the Meredith-McDreamy romance and not be loathed by rabid "Grey's Anatomy" fans, as Kate Walsh's Addison Montgomery (fka Montgomery-Shepherd) did, has to be worthy of her own hour of primetime. Hopefully, "Practice" will be the one that gives the fabulous Taye Diggs the long run he deserves in primetime. It's also swell to see Amy Brenneman again in a meaty role that's very different from her "Judging Amy"/"NYPD Blue" personas.
"Pushing Daisies" (Warner Bros. TV/Wednesday 8 p.m.) is good news for those of us who fondly remember (even if we never could quite figure it out) Bryan Fuller's "Wonderfalls" from a few seasons back on Fox. This time around Fuller has Barry Sonnenfeld for reinforcement in a show described as a blend of "romance, crime procedural and high-concept fantasy" about a guy named Ned with a mortal Midas touch of being able to bring the dead back to life with one touch. Naturally, a guy like this winds up working with an investigator to crack murder cases -- it's a lot easier when the dead can be brought to life and point the finger at their killer. Lee Pace is our hero Ned, who ought to be ably supported by vets Chi McBride, Swoosie Kurtz and Kristin Chenoweth.
"The Women's Murder Club" (20th Century Fox TV/Friday 9 p.m.) has the challenge of trying to hunt down an audience on Friday nights. ABC is surely hoping that fans of novelist James Patterson will make a point of checking out the small screen rendition of his series of best-selling novels about four women -- a detective, a D.A., a medical examiner and a reporter -- in San Francisco who track down murderers and undoubtedly find time to dish about the men in their lives while they're at it.
"Cavemen" (ABC Studios/Tuesday 8 p.m.) is the most talked-about comedy this development season, based on the series of Geico Insurance ads about proto homosapiens. Kudos will rain down on the six exec producers of this show if they can evolve the joke of cavemen trying to fit in to modern-day Atlanta to still be funny past episode four. ABC's promising "a clever twist on stereotypes" and then some.
"Carpoolers" (ABC Studios/Tuesday 8:30 p.m.) brings us back to the foursome theme, revolving around four very different guys who share a commute. The archtypes are familiar -- the newly divorced playboy, the solid homemaker, the conservative traditionalist and the eager newlywed -- but the cast looks strong and the production auspices include the always-charming Russo brothers, Joe and Anthony, and "Saturday Night Live" vet Bruce McCulloch.
"Miss/Guided" (20th Century Fox TV and ABC Studios/TBD) has Judy Greer going for it. She's been worthy of her own successful show for a long time, hopefully this vehicle about a guidance counselor working at her old high school alma mater can be it. It hails from a writer, Caroline Williams, schooled in "The Office" tradition, which seems a good fit with Greer's particular charms.
"Sam I Am" (ABC Studios/Monday 9:30 p.m.) sashayed to the post-"Dancing with the Stars" slot. That and the TV-friendly familiarity of star Christina Applegate should ensure that the show at least gets some healthy sampling. Premise is interesting, revolving around a woman who wakes up from a bad accident after eight days in a coma to discover that she really is quite a bitch. She'll struggle to fight off her nasty tendencies with help from a TV-friendly supporting cast that includes Jean Smart, Melissa McCarthy, late of "Gilmore Girls," Jennifer Esposito and Tim Russ.
Wow, that's a lot of new shows. And there's even more: ABC also gave the greenlight, not surprisingly, to Oprah Winfrey's feel-good/do-good reality show "Oprah's Big Give," with a time slot TBD.