Upfronts: Fox goes for “Fringe” and back to school with “Sit Down, Shut Up”


Fox just made it official: It’s a go for J.J. Abrams’ “Fringe.”

Two-hour pilot produced by Abrams’ Bad Robot and Warner Bros. TV, stars Aussie thesp Anna Torv as a femme FBI agent who tackles cases involving spooky unexplained phenonena with the aid of an out-there scientist and his neer-do-well genius son. Yes, it does sound like “X-Files Redux” but because “Lost” is perhaps the Greatest Show Ever we’ll give Team Abrams (whose fearless leader is pictured at left) the benefit of the doubt that they can put a fresh spin on the genre.

“Fringe” pilot was penned by frequent Abrams’ collaborators Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci and helmed by Alex Graves.

Speculation is that “Fringe” will be Fox’s Big New Fall Launch series while Joss Whedon’s “Dollhouse,” which already has a seven-episode order, will be the Big New January Launch series. With these two shows plus “Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles” returning, there’s gonna be a lotta reality-bending going on at Fox next season.

Earlier today, Fox handed pickup to animated comedy “Sit Down, Shut Up,” from Sony Pictures TVJasonbateman_2  and 20th Century Fox TV, insiders said. “Sit Down” is exec produced by “Arrested” maestro Mitchell Hurwitz and features the vocal talents of “Arrested” thesps Jason Bateman (pictured right), Will Arnett and Henry Winkler, along with comic Nick Kroll. That greenlight comes on the heels of Fox’s order dispensed late Friday for live-action comedy “The Inn,” whose pilot Bateman directed.

“Sit Down” is based on a live-action Oz comedy and revolves around the dysfunctional faculty at a high school. Pickup had been expected. Toon vets Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein were already recruited as showrunners last month (Daily Variety, April 28).

No official word yet on anything from Fox, but it’s understood that in addition to “The Inn,” Fox has have given the nod to a third season of Sony sitcom “Til Death” and has pinkslipped the Kelsey Grammer-Patricia Heaton starrer “Back to You” after one season.

Meanwhile, CW execs are expected to make their official pickup calls later today. It’s a no-brainer that the spinoff of “90210,” from Rob Thomas and CBS Paramount Network TV, gets the go-ahead. Warner Bros. TV’s young femme-friendly drama “How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls” is also considered a safe bet.

Niecynash_3“Inn” stars Niecy Nash (pictured left) and Jerry O’Connell in a multi-camera comedy set in a hip Gotham hotel. It hails from scribe Abraham Higginbotham (who is yet another “Arrested Development” alum), 20th Century Fox TV, Reveille and Principato-Young Entertainment.

Meanwhile, rumblings from the Fox screening room is that execs very much want to be in biz with Bernie Mac (pictured right), whose Warner Bros.TV  project “Starting Under” has a 13-seg commitment, but they were only lukewarm about the execution of pilot, revolving around a down onBerniemac_2  his luck guy who’s forced to move in with son, by comedy vet Bruce Helford.

So the project still seems likely to get a greenlight but it will undergo some major renovations, perhaps with another scribe brought in to work alongside Helford.

Biz watchers today are also intently focused on ABC and what it may or may not be announcing Tuesday ayem as it moves into the leadoff slot normally occupied by NBC (which already lifted the curtain on its sked last month).

Chatter late Friday was that the fate of a renewal of David E. Kelley’s “Boston Legal” was still wrapped up in the prospect of Kelley and 20th Century Fox TV reaching a deal with ABC Studios to move the Kelley cop pilot “Life on Mars” from 20th to ABC Studios under the direction of new showrunners Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec.

Drama “Women’s Murder Club” appears to be officially K.O’d after one season, but as of late Friday there still seemed to be some hope for renewals for ABC midseasoners “Eli Stone” and “Miss Guided.”

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