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It's a very weird year. That's what everyone in town keeps saying over and over again as the biz gears up for the annual upfront ritual, which will be a little less ritualistic this year.
As we all know, there are a whole lotta pilots that have not yet been shot and are just now setting casts. Most of the chatter, good and bad, about 2008-09 hopefuls this week has centered around the projects that the nets have in hand as pilots or presentations, or at least have significant thesps attached, a la ABC's "Never Better," which landed Damon Wayans (pictured right) as its lead last week.
So with the caveat that it is all spin and conjecture at this moment in time, let's review the buzz out there.
ABC's the hardest to read when it comes to new stuff.
"Bad Mothers Handbook" (ABC Studios), about three generations of femmes living together, has not lensed but has the benefit of Alicia Silverstone (pictured right) and another high-profile name in the offing.
"My Brother's Hot and Other Dilemmas" (ABC Studios) about a girl attracted to her new step brother, has Alyssa Milano (pictured left). It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that either a Silverstone or Milano comedy vehicle could be a nice companion for ABC's frosh hit "Samantha Who?" -- assuming that either pilot satisfies the larger obligation to actually be funny.
"Never Better" (ABC Studios) shot up on the radar after Wayans signed on and Marc Buckland signed on to direct.
Drama-wise at ABC ... I just don't know.
Only "Life on Mars," offbeat time-travel cop drama, is in the can. David E. Kelley and Tommy Schlamme have bowed out of that project, they're looking to move this from 20th Century Fox TV to ABC Studios and retool it under prospective showrunners Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec and Scott Rosenberg.
There's been a lot of chatter in the biz that "Life on Mars" shuffle granted a reprieve to Kelley's "Boston Legal" for another season. (Biz watchers with long memories will recall that two years ago, the same thing happened when ABC was hot for Kelley's "Mars.") But I'm hearing that "Boston Legal's" fate also has a lot to do with Kelley and how involved he intends to be going forward, among other factors.
It seems a safe bet that "Women's Murder Club" is headed for the morgue, though ABC is said to be anxious to stay in biz with star Angie Harmon. Midseason drama "Eli Stone" is said to be 50-50 for a sophomore year. And surprisingly, ABC is said to be considering a pickup for midseason comedy "Miss Guided." Can't swear to this but I heard the actors' options have been extended for a few more weeks.
At CBS, it's always a dangerous game trying to predict what Team Moonves is going to announce at Carnegie Hall on Wednesday. But some chatter about returning shows seems to be firming up.
This just in: "Lost" is coming back to ABC's sked sooner rather than later, even if it won't be in the straight 16-consecutive-week thrill ride we'd hoped for before the strike blues hit. It's bound for a new night, taking over "Grey's Anatomy's" Thursday 9 p.m. slot as of Jan. 31. (Click here for the rundown on ABC's midseason-because-there's-a-strike-sked from Variety's Michael Schneider.)
That's going to make things tough for fans of NBC's "The Office," but I suppose that's what DVRs are for, and sadly, it doesn't look like there's going to be any new "Office" visits for a while, at least not by the time "Lost" bows for what's believed to be an eight- or nine-episode run of segs completed by the time the scribes walked on Nov. 5.
New ABC drama "Eli Stone" gets a big boost by debuting the same night as "Lost" in the 10 p.m. slot.
"Eli Stone," starring Jonny Lee Miller (pictured right) as a young corporate lawyer who suddenly starts hearing things and seeing things, which leads him to believe he's a prophet. Overall the show has a fantasy-light, kinda feel-good touch that may be right in tandem with "Lost." Goodness knows, ABC's had no luck pairing "Lost" with dark-and-brooding dramas, so maybe a 90-degree turn is the way to go. Tip for TV insiders: Note how Miller's Eli Stone character channels some of the mannerisms and speaking patterns of UTA's Dan Erlij (who is a friend of On the Air's) who reps series co-creator/exec producer Marc Guggenheim. Very charming.
In the meantime, as the warm up for full-blown "Lost" fun, check out the "Lost: Missing Pieces" minisodes. They're ultra-cool, full of interesting plot points and intriguing backstory bits, and they're WGA, DGA and SAG approved under deals with the guilds that were cut a long time ago.