Despite early pickups, same old story at upfronts

As they gather in Gotham this week for the upfronts, advertisers know they can count on certain things from the nets.

At least one webhead will declare this “our best development season ever.” And advertisers will suffer frequent bouts of deja vu as networks unveil competing projects that sound a lot alike.

That’s certainly true this year. With the nets making an unusually large number of early pickups, several trends have emerged:

  • The “Lost” effect: Scribes seem fascinated by the idea of strangers coming together and instantly forming a bond, much like ABC’s castaways.

In fact, “Lost” co-creator J.J. Abrams is an exec producer on ABC’s “Six Degrees,” which explores what happens when strangers come together after a robbery. Alphabet’s also got “The Nine,” in which nine folks find themselves caught up in a hostage crisis.

There’s even a comic twist on the idea: NBC’s “The Singles Table,” in which five — wait for it — strangers forge a bond after being seated together at a wedding.

  • Reunited and it feels … familiar: Two laffers bring old schoolmates back together after years apart. ABC’s “In Case of Emergency” focuses on ex-high school chums who get together after a crisis. And CBS’s “The Class” brings together twentysomethings who haven’t seen one another since elementary school.

  • Without a trace: NBC and Fox both have serialized hours about folks who go missing. Peacock’s “Kidnapped” boasts Jeremy Sisto as a hired gun trying to rescue a couple’s son, while Fox’s “Vanished” spends a season investigating the disappearance of a senator’s wife.

Producers of the similar-sounding shows will argue that their shows are unique, despite the thematic overlaps.

But the shows all have one more thing in common: Odds are, by this time next year, most will be canceled.

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