Nets drive pickups

ABC, Fox putting pickups in gear

Heading into network upfront week on Monday, NBC kept a tight lid on its fall schedule — although some particulars had trickled out by late Sunday.

Meanwhile, ABC and Fox went on a pickup binge Friday, ordering six and three more shows, respectively, while several bubble shows earned last-minute reprieves at the nets. And at CBS, insiders confirmed the net’s long-running Sunday movie franchise will indeed end after this season.

At the Alphabet web, execs gave series orders to dramas “Ugly Betty,” “Traveler,” “Brothers & Sisters” and “Men in Trees,” as well as comedies “Big Day” and the untitled Burnett/Beckerman project. Fox ordered the comedy “Happy Hour” and drama “Wedding Album,” while giving a limited midseason OK to laffer “The Winner.”

NBC also officially ordered its Tina Fey/Alec Baldwin laffer, now titled “30 Rock” (the same name given NBC’s Gotham HQ).

At the Peacock, despite speculation to the contrary, “ER” will not move out of its 10 p.m. Thursday slot, insiders insisted. (Net could still take the show off for several weeks at midseason to launch a new show.)

New drama “Friday Night Lights” looks to be a lock for Monday nights, most likely at 8 p.m. as part of a lineup that should include “Medium.” Net will promote the pigskin-themed program during “Sunday Night Football.”

One or two installments of “Deal or No Deal” will make it on the NBC sked, perhaps on Monday and Friday nights. Net also has “The Apprentice: Hollywood” and “The Biggest Loser” in its unscripted arsenal.

“Loser” seems a good bet for 8 p.m. Tuesday, while there’s been buzz “Apprentice” could be held for midseason. “Scrubs” will be back for another season of 22 episodes on NBC, but it may be held for midseason once again.

Given NBC’s need to launch new shows, there’s continued speculation that either “Law & Order” or “Law & Order: SVU” could shift to a 9 p.m. slot. “L&O” maven Dick Wolf has stated his desire to have “L&O: Criminal Intent” return in January.

The debate inside NBC last week was whether to air four comedies on Thursday or slot Aaron Sorkin’s “Studio 60” on the night, pairing it with “My Name Is Earl” and “The Office.” In another scenario, “Studio 60” could launch in the “ER” spot, airing for four to six weeks until the veteran medical drama returns in November.

Most outside analysts think the Peacock would be wise to stick to half-hour comedies on Thursday, perhaps putting “Studio 60” on Wednesdays at 9 or 10 p.m. Buzz on new laffer “20 Good Years” could make it a Thursday contender.

Assuming “Deal or No Deal” and “Las Vegas” stay on Fridays, it seems logical that “Crossing Jordan” could relocate to the night. Jeff Goldblum starrer “Raines” might make sense there, too.

Observers also are curious where and when NBC will launch “Kidnapped,” a serialized hour with some similarities to Fox’s “Vanished.” A summer launch could be required if Fox decides to go early.

New shows ordered for next season at the Peacock include the dramas “Heroes” and “The Black Donnellys,” while laffers include “The Singles Table.” With football set for Sunday and repeats on Saturday, not all new shows — or even some returning ones — will make the fall cut.

Meanwhile, the surprise pickup of so many bubble shows left some industry wags wondering what that says about the state of this year’s pilot crop.

Biggest bolt came from the return of “7th Heaven,” which apparently has nine lives. In January, WB chief exec Garth Ancier said the show couldn’t return because even at a reduced license fee, it was a money loser: Frog stood to lose $16 million on the show this year.

The WB marketed the show’s season ender last week as its series finale; workers were even seen emptying the show’s production offices last week. Fledging net the CW, where the show will now migrate, declined comment.

The sticking point: Hammering out new deals with the current cast of “7th Heaven,” who have been asked to take a pay cut. But most insiders expect those hangups to be resolved soon, returning the show for an 11th season.

Skein was the longest-running show on the Frog, as well as the longest-running family drama in TV history.

ABC’s decision to bring back the Barry Watson starrer “What About Brian” for a second season also was a bit of a surprise; show received a 13-episode pickup, as did another midseason entry, Fox comedy “The Loop.”

Not so lucky: ABC’s “Invasion” and “Freddie,” the frosh comedy starring Freddie Prinze Jr. Both skeins have been canceled.

Over at NBC, the net has given up on “Conviction,” the midseason legal drama from “L&O’s” Wolf.

As recently as a few weeks ago, NBC brass were still hopeful that “Conviction” could be saved. Having seen Friday night ratings take a big hit following last year’s cancellation of “Law & Order: Trial by Jury,” net wanted to be patient with Wolf’s latest outing, figuring the show could grow in a second season.

But another poor performance this week may have sealed the show’s fate. “Conviction” lost a big chunk of its “Las Vegas” lead-in this Friday and, worse, dipped at the half-hour.

As for the pickups, ABC’s “Ugly Betty” stars America Ferrera as an unattractive magazine staffer. Touchstone TV show, based on the hit telenovela “Betty la Fea,” also comes from Reveille.

“Traveler” is a thriller about three pals, one of whom winds up framing the other two for a terrorist attack. Warner Bros. TV produces.

Anne Heche stars as a relationship coach who moves to Alaska in Warner Bros. TV’s “Men in Trees.” Then there’s “Brothers & Sisters,” which marks Calista Flockhart’s return to TV. Touchstone sudser, which also stars Rachel Griffiths, revolves around adult siblings.

As for comedies, “Big Day,” from Sony Pictures TV, follows the events of a single day’s wedding over the course of 22 episodes. Josh Cooke and Marla Sokoloff star as the groom and bride.

The Burnett/Beckerman pilot –also known by its working title, “Let’s Rob Mick Jagger” — stars Donal Logue as a loser who hatches a plan with his pals to rob the Rolling Stones front man’s apartment. Touchstone TV and Worldwide Pants produce.

ABC laffers scoring a renewal include “According to Jim” and “George Lopez.”

Over at Fox, 20th Century Fox TV’s “The Winner” has snagged a six-episode midseason order. Rob Corddry plays an aimless man in his early 30s still living with his parents.

It’s a reversal of fortune for the project, which was considered one of the net’s hottest prospects during development season. While Fox still believes in the show, it got only a small midseason commitment, so the net obviously considers it far from a sure thing.

Also, Fox celebrated “Happy Hour,” which revolves around a pair of roommates — one in love, the other cynical about it all. Series comes from Warner Bros. TV and Werner-Gold-Miller.

And “The Wedding Album” got a thumbs-up. Show comes from Fox TV Studios and the Greenblatt-Janollari Studio — which scores a series order even though the shingle hasn’t actively developed in several years. Project was first developed five years ago but was resurrected by eager Fox execs this season and now will get on the air.

“Wedding Album” stars Bruno Campos as a wedding photographer who, along with his assistant, tries to find romance while shooting the marriages of New York hotshots.

As expected, Fox also greenlit new seasons of “The OC” and “The War at Home.”

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