Screening rooms abuzz with pilots
With a week to go before the Big Six begin their upfront presentations, webheads find themselves facing facts about pet projects.In some cases, the operative emotion is relief. NBC’s “Joey,” for example, was going on the schedule no matter what. But with the finished product drawing raves from screening rooms — and solid reviews from independent sources — Peacock brass can rest a little easier. Likewise, ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” has been a favorite child since it was bought as a spec script and then-Touchstone prexy Steve McPherson — who now runs ABC — said the sudsy hour about suburban schemers boasts “such a point of view, it just jumps off the page” (Daily Variety, Oct. 22). Now that it’s done, Alphabet insiders continue to gush about the Marc Cherry/Chuck Pratt creation. Then there are reversals of fortune. Once considered a strong contender for the WB’s fall schedule, the Frog’s new take on “Dark Shadows” has turned into a longshot. Odds have also grown longer for “The Robinsons: Lost in Space,” which the WB won after a heated bidding war among several nets. Instead of franchises, it seems the Frog is going back to its four-hanky roots, ordering the coming-of-age drama “Jack & Bobby” to series and preparing to do the same with the sudsy “The Mountain.” On the comedy side, heat-seekers at the WB include the Fran Drescher vehicle “Shacking Up” and the Mark Burnett-produced nanny laffer “Miles to Go.” Net’s laffer based on the “Blue Collar Comedy Tour” is expected to start in summer and could stay on through the fall. As for buzz from other nets:
- Fox: “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane’s animated laffer “American Dad” is getting big laughs in screening rooms. On the drama tip, the supernatural sudser “Point Pleasant” has scared up positive reactions, while medical mystery drama “House” has some big fans (even if its serious tone and older lead make it a tough fit for Fox). There’s also buzz around “On the Inside,” the high school-based undercover cop show from Glenn and Todd Kessler.
- CBS: The Eye keeps a tight lid on its screening process, making early speculation risky. That said, the Ricki Lake/Kirstie Alley laffer from Dan Staley and Rob Long is an early fave, while comedies toplined by Chris O’Donnell, Jason Alexander and John Goodman are all in the mix. On the drama side, “CSI: New York” is already a go, leaving little room on the Eye’s sked for new hours. Both cop shows from Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly’s 25C Prods. — “Wanted” and “The Webster Report” — screened well, sources said. Supernatural-tinged “Sudberry” also has its fans, as does Mel Gibson’s “The Clubhouse” — and neither show is a crime franchise!
- ABC: As previously reported, Rodney Carrington’s half-hour is hot, as is the Jessica Simpson half-hour (the latter because of its star, rather than the substance of the pilot). John Stamos’ serialized romantic comedy is being called “cute” by many who’ve seen it, while Joel Stein’s autobiographical comedy about his days as a Time columnist is on several shortlists. Drama-wise, Steven Bochco’s cop hour “Blind Justice” is generating buzz, as is Shonda Rhimes’ medical drama “Under the Knife.” The first hour of J.J. Abrams’ “Lost” will be screened this week. “Housewives” and “Eyes” are also major players (Daily Variety, May 7).
- NBC: Comedy and drama faves remain the same as reported Friday, though the Heather Locklear-led “HUB” could be making it back on to the buzz radar.
- UPN: Two drama players include the fashion industry hour “Beck and Call” (can you say “Top Model” companion?) and the Taye Diggs daddy drama “Kevin Hill.” Crime-themed “Veronica Mars” and “Silver Lake” also have fans, though it’s hard to imagine UPN launching four dramas. Comedy-wise, “One on One” spinoff “Splitting Hairs” is buzz-friendly, as is Jenny McCarthy’s “Bad Girls Guide.”