Australian networks go home happy

Ten excited about 'Dollhouse,' 'Do Not Disturb'

SYDNEY — While some countries bought few Yank product at the L.A. Screenings last month, the Aussie free-to-air networks have come back pleased with their purchases.

Network Ten is the most bullish of the webs, calling the Screenings “its best U.S. lineup in more than 10 years.”

Ten is particularly excited about Josh Whedon’s “Dollhouse” toplining Eliza Dushku, Fox’s “Do Not Disturb” and its adaptation of Beeb time-travel skein “Life on Mars” as well as CBS’ new take on “90210” and laffer “Worst Week.”

“This has been by far one of our most successful trips to the U.S. in terms of the caliber and volume of shows,” says Ten programming topper David Mott. “Our output arrangements with 20th Century Fox Television and CBS Television Network — both prolific studios — have proved particularly lucrative.”

Before the Screenings, Ten’s Beverly McGarvey expressed concern at not being able to view many pilots due to the delay caused by the writers’ strike. The concerns had some foundation. While some shows had clips to offer buyers, many more had only script readings or discussions about the proposed skeins.

Seven’s Tim Worner says the Screenings themselves were worse than expected when it came to meetings.

“There was a great deal of padding, including many mind-numbing PowerPoint presentations, and there were very few pilots to be seen in full,” Worner says.

But what product there was was positive for leading web, Seven. Its major supplier, Disney, “is making by far the most number of pilots of any studio this season and the vast majority of these are still in their production,” Worner says. “With their enviable (success) rate, we’re optimistic about what we’ll get from them.”

Worner was impressed with laffer “Project Gary.” Seven will also get NBC Universal’s “My Own Worst Enemy” starring Christian Slater, and should benefit from returning hits “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives.”

Les Sampson from the Nine Network may not have rated the event as a high, but says he was impressed with the content coming to the web, particularly from supplier Warner Bros.

Sampson cited WB’s “The Mentalist,” toplining local talent Simon Baker (“The Guardian”), as a skein he thought would bring Nine eyeballs.

“We saw five complete shows and were very pleased with it, and with Simon Baker being Australian, it will be a very good fit for us,” Sampson says.

He also had high hopes for the Patrick Swayze vehicle “The Beast,” which has Swayze as an undercover FBI agent teamed with another Aussie, Travis Fimmel (“Tarzan”), as his young partner.

For all the problems besetting the yearly market, Seven’s Worner says, “I would much rather be reading a great script than watching a lame pilot.”

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