Nets firm plans as ABC, CW prep for today

The nets set the puzzle pieces of their 2008-09 skeds in place Monday with a flurry of pilot pickups and renewals handed out on the eve of the upfront marathon, which begins today with presentations from ABC and CW.

In preparation for its presentation on Wednesday, CBS handed orders to two comedies and four dramas for its 2008-09 sked.

ABC put the finishing touches on its sked with a nod to its long-gestating remake of Brit TV drama “Life on Mars” and the renewal of midseason drama “Eli Stone.” CW made it official on drama “Surviving the Filthy Rich,” previously titled “How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls,” and it gave a reprieve to its frosh drama “Reaper” with a 13-seg order for midseason.

Fox by Monday had decided to pass on the Bernie Mac-Bruce Helford comedy that had earned a series commitment for Warner Bros. TV last fall. Network, which raises the curtain on its sked Thursday, is said to be eager to develop something new with Mac, who remains in a deal at WB.

NBC is setting out the traditional weeklong marathon of sked presentations, having unveiled its 2008-09 plans on April 2.

On the half-hour side, CBS in preparation for its Wednesday presentation gave a nod to “Project Gary,” starring Jay Mohr as a recently divorced dad trying to navigate his return to the dating scene alongside the demands of his ex-wife and kids. Project, penned by Ed Yeager and Ric Swartzlander for ABC Studios and CBS Paramount Network TV, came on strong last week during CBS’ pilot screenings process.

The other comedy pickup went to “Worst Week,” based on a British format, adapted by scribe Matt Tarses for Universal Media Studios and the U.K.’s Hat Trick Prods. Multi-generation comedy revolves around a young couple in pre-wedding countdown phase dealing with nuttiness from their relatives. Kyle Bornheimer and Erin Hayes star as the couple.

CBS’ most talked-about drama property is 20th Century Fox TV’s “The Ex List,” based on an Israeli series about a woman who is warned by a tarot card reader that she needs to get married soon to a man who she’s already known in her life. Diane Ruggiero penned the pilot, which stars Elizabeth Reaser.

CBS’ drama docket next season will include another Brit TV adaptation, the thriller “Eleventh Hour,” about a government investigator probing cases involving scientific anomalies. Rufus Sewell stars in Jerry Bruckheimer-produced series for Warner Bros. TV. Brit scribe Mick Davis handled the U.S. adaptation.

Also from Warner Bros. TV is “The Mentalist,” from scribe Bruno Heller. It stars Simon Baker as man who uses his innate powers of deduction to aid police.

Murder mystery vehicle “Harper’s Island,” about a group of friends who meet on an island off of Seattle for a wedding, hails from CBS Par and “Jericho” producer Jon Turteltaub. Pilot was penned by Ari Schlossberg. There’s talk that “Harper’s Island” would go for midseason, but CBS execs would not confirm any details Monday.

CW’s “Surviving the Filthy Rich,” about a Yale-educated woman who’s hired to serve as the live-in tutor to two wealthy heiresses, comes from Warner Bros. TV and scribe Rina Mimoun. Project is based on a book from Alloy Entertainment, which is a co-producer with WB on the series.

Still to come from CBS are the verdicts on several returning shows that are on the fence for renewals. Eye was expected to make producers sweat it out until Wednesday morning to learn the official word on their fate. As of Monday, conventional wisdom had Eye renewing comedies “Rules of Engagement” and “The New Adventures of Old Christine” — pickup of Monday laffer “How I Met Your Mother” was seen as a lock — and drama “The Unit.” Picture was less clear on drama “Moonlight” and not looking good for drama “Shark.”

ABC is expected to shine a big spotlight on “Life on Mars” during its presentation at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall. After lengthy negotiations, project has moved from producer David E. Kelley and 20th Century Fox TV to a co-production with ABC Studios and a new trio of showrunners: Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec and Scott Rosenberg.

Series is based on the British time-traveler suspenser about a cop who through various circumstances finds himself transported back to 1973. Speculation is that “Mars” could land the plum Thursday 10 p.m. berth following “Grey’s Anatomy” in the fall, while the time slot’s current occupant, “Lost,” is on its skedded hiatus until early in 2009.

Overall, ABC is expected mostly to stick with its sked as is without making any dramatic moves. It’s a sign that execs were confident in the Alphabet’s overall performance during this season, until the writers strike and the return of “American Idol” halted its momentum.

As for the CW’s sked, net wouldn’t confirm its lineup, but most of it is probably status quo. The major move is expected to come on Tuesday, where the “Beverly Hills, 90210″ spinoff is likely to anchor at 8 p.m., followed by newcomer “Filthy Rich.” With WWE’s “Smackdown” ending its run on CW in September, netlet is expected to fill its Friday slots with comedies “Everybody Hates Chris” and “The Game,” followed by repeats of “America’s Next Top Model.”

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