'Bernie,' 'Jake' back as nets set skeds

It was a good weekend for big stars and underdogs as ABC, Fox and the WB all moved one step closer to setting their fall skeds.

Three webs all but wrapped up their series orders for the 2005-06 season, with new Fox Entertainment topper Peter Liguori moving with particular speed, picking up much of his first crop of shows nearly a week before the net’s Thursday upfront presentation.

News was particularly good for many (but not all) skeins that had been hanging by a thread.

Fox told 20th Century Fox and Imagine TV that “Arrested Development” will be back for another season, while “The Bernie Mac Show” also got a surprise renewal. ABC had good news for 20th’s John Stamos laffer “Jake in Progress,” which is headed back for a second season, and vet comedy “Less Than Perfect,” which many had written off as dead. Alphabet also ordered another season of “The Bachelor,” which is expected to return sometime in 2006.

News was not so good for the WB’s “Jack & Bobby”: It’s been killed after one low-rated season.

As for what’s new, ABC had a busy weekend, picking up a hefty six dramas and five comedies.

Orders on the Alphabet drama front included Touchstone’s “Commander-in-Chief,” starring Geena Davis as the country’s first female president, as well as John Wells’ Warner Bros. TV buddy cop procedural “Evidence.”

Also at the net, the Touchstone entry “In Justice” — which revolves around investigators who work to free wrongfully convicted prisoners — got the nod, as did supernatural thriller “Invasion,” Warner Bros. TV’s take on bizarre occurrences in a small town.

Then there’s the Touchstone update of “Night Stalker,” about journalists who investigate unusual phenomena, and J.J. Abrams’ “What About Brian,” also from Touchstone, which stars Barry Watson as a thirtysomething man who realizes all of his friends have gotten married.

Alphabet comedies scoring orders include the Tollin-Robbins entry “Crumbs,” from Touchstone TV, about two brothers who end up running the family business when their parents die, and Sony Pictures TV’s “Emily’s Reasons Why Not,” based on the book about a self-help author who doesn’t take her own advice.

Also new are “Freddie,” the Warner Bros. TV laffer starring Freddie Prinze Jr. as a young man raised by women; Warner Bros.’ “Hot Properties,” about four women in a real estate office; and NBC Universal TV Studio’s “Sons and Daughters,” about siblings and their families.

Bubble shows making a comeback include “Rodney,” “George Lopez,” “Hope & Faith” and the aforementioned “Jake” and “Less Than Perfect.” Gone are “8 Simple Rules” and “My Wife and Kids.”

In addition to “The Bachelor,” ABC also has renewed frosh unscripted skeins “Wife Swap” and “Supernanny.”

Over at Fox, drama pickups include “Deviant Behavior,” from Regency TV, starring Johnny Messner as the leader of a team that investigates deviant criminals. Fox also nabbed “Reunion,” from Warner Bros. TV, which looks year-by-year at the lives of high school pals returning for their 20th reunion.

Also at Fox, “Bones,” from 20th Century Fox TV, stars Emily Deschanel as a forensic anthropologist, while in “Head Cases,” also from 20th, Chris O’Donnell plays a lawyer who has a nervous breakdown (Daily Variety, May 13).

As for Fox comedy orders, Darren Star’s “Kitchen Confidential,” based on the book by bad-boy chef Anthony Bourdain, revolves around the world of New York restaurants. Bradley Cooper plays the lead character in the laffer from 20th Century Fox TV and New Line TV.

“The War at Home,” from Warner Bros. TV, stars Michael Rapaport and Anita Barone as parents attempting to raise their teenage kids. “The Loop,” from 20th Century Fox TV, stars Bret Harrison as a recent college grad who gets a corporate job and is forced to grow up.

Then there’s improv laffer “Freebirds,” produced by alternative shingle Fox 21, which shows the flipside of “The Loop” — an unmotivated college grad who moves back in with his folks. “Freebirds” is an out-of-left-field pickup of a presentation shot for the virtually unheard-of sum of $50,000 and could be a sign of Liguori’s willingness to embrace the experimental.

In addition to “Arrested” and “Bernie,” Fox has renewed midseason laffer “Stacked.” News doesn’t appear to be good for laffers “Quintuplets” or “Life on a Stick.”

At the WB, Frog is moving forward with Warner Bros. TV’s “Supernatural,” the spooky road-trip drama starring Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles as brothers who encounter unusual phenomena on the back roads of America; as well as the studio’s “Related,” about four sisters (Laura San Giacomo, Lizzy Caplan, Jennifer Esposito and Laura Breckenridge) in Manhattan.

Frog has also picked up the Jerry Bruckheimer drama “Just Legal,” from Warner Bros. TV, about a teenage lawyer in Venice, Calif. And on tap, possibly for midseason, is “Pepper Dennis,” from 20th Century Fox, with Rebecca Romijn as a news reporter in Chicago.

Net also is bringing back the Fran Drescher comedy “Living With Fran,” with more comedy orders to come.

Meanwhile, the WB passed on its Ron White comedy project, which likely signals it won’t schedule a “blue-collar comedy night,” as had been expected. Frog also may be mulling a return to comedies on Sunday night.

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