Bruckheimer TV chief Jonathan Littman calls it “the craziest 10 days of the TV season.”
Countdown to next week’s upfront announcements starts now — as does the last-minute deal wrangling, the closed-door scheduling strategy sessions, the pleading phone calls from eager agents and the nonstop second-guessing by network suits, studio chiefs and producers.
“Deep breaths, everyone,” Littman urged late last week via Twitter. Among the issues coming down to the wire: Warner Bros. TV’s need to hammer out a new deal with “Two and a Half Men” thesp Charlie Sheen.
An agreement with Sheen will have to be in place by the time Leslie Moonves and Nina Tassler hit the Carnegie Hall stage next Wednesday, or CBS’ schedule will look extremely different next fall.
Over at NBC, the Peacock is still finalizing a deal with Dick Wolf to bring “Law and Order” back for an unprecedented 21st season — along with pacts to renew “Law and Order: SVU” and launch a new Los Angeles edition of the franchise.
Both the Sheen and “Law and Order” issues may be keeping some folks up late at night right now, but there’s still an assumption that new deals will be sealed by next week.
And then there are the handful of remaining bubble shows that still await their fate.
Fewer showrunners are sitting anxiously by the phone this year, as the nets were more aggressive in making early renewals.
At ABC, the decision appears to be coming down to dueling sci-fi dramas “V” and “FlashForward.” “FlashForward” comes from sister ABC Studios, but “V” is showing more ratings promise — and appears to have the edge for a return.
CBS, meanwhile, is still on the fence with Friday night duo “Ghost Whisperer” and “Medium” (with renewals still more likely than not).
The Eye also has several comedies still waiting word — with “The New Adventures of Old Christine” the one most expected to return. “Rules of Engagement” also appears to be performing well enough for a renewal.
At Fox, those behind most shows — except for “Human Target” and “Lie to Me” — already know where they stand. Decisions on those two dramas may have to wait until summer, when the network sees how the remainder of its originals perform. (If “Lie” does come back, it will be without busy showrunner Shawn Ryan, 20th Century Fox TV confirmed Friday.)
The CW is still mulling “Life Unexpected” and “One Tree Hill,” with arguments for and against both. “Life” is new and performs OK, while “Hill” does better — but is older and pricey.
As for NBC, besides “Law and Order,” the Peacock still hasn’t given a firm answer to Monday night sci-fi entries “Chuck” and “Heroes.”
There doesn’t appear to be as much urgency this year on “Chuck” (compared with last year’s Subway sandwich frenzy), partly because NBC needs product; a renewal seems to be a given. (Peacock doesn’t produce “Chuck,” so the renewal delay is likely because of license fee haggling.) “Heroes,” meanwhile, is expected to get a short 13-episode order to wrap things up — but given how disappointing that franchise has become, there’s likely not a lot of enthusiasm among execs at the net to go out of their way to give it a firm go before next week.
Peacock execs also have fallen in love with their crop of new series, continuing plans to get aggressively back in the scripted game by picking up three more series last Friday: drama “The Event,” comedy “Outsourced” and anthology hour “Love Bites.”
None was a huge surprise, as “Love Bites” had been earning strong notices (although, as an anthology series, it faces a marketing challenge), while “Outsourced” also has many fans at the Peacock — and looks to be a strong fit with NBC’s Thursday-night workplace comedies.
“The Event” also reps the kind of promotable, big event (hell, it has the word “event” in its title) series that NBC hopes will light a spark with viewers and pull the Peacock out of its doldrums.
All three shows come from inhouse Universal Media Studios.
“Each of these three series reflects a unique point of view and distinct style of quality that fits perfectly with NBC’s dedication to rebuilding the schedule,” said NBC/UMS primetime entertainment prexy Angela Bromstad.
“The Event,” from exec producer Steve Stark, creator Nick Wauters, incoming showrunner-exec producer Evan Katz and director-exec producer Jeffrey Reiner, centers on a man (Jason Ritter) who winds up exposing a major U.S. cover-up.
“Outsourced,” from exec producer Robert Borden and Ken Kwapis, follows a Midwesterner who moves to India to oversee a call center. And Cindy Chupack is behind “Love Bites,” which follows three stories of love and sex. Chupack exec produces with Marc Buckland, as well as Working Title TV’s Eric Fellner, Tim Bevan and Shelley McCrory.
The three shows joined J.J. Abrams’ “Undercovers” in receiving early nods from the network. And NBC is still expected to order several more new series.
Among the shows still on the hot list are Jerry Bruckheimer’s “Chase” (still seen as a shoo-in for a series order), “The Cape” (superhero-related projects seem to be hot — witness ABC’s “No Ordinary Family”), David E. Kelley’s “Kindreds” and “The Rockford Files.” On the comedy side, Matthew Broderick starrer “Beach Lane” and the Paul Reiser mockumentary “Next” remain strong, among others.
Among other leading buzz contenders: “No Ordinary Family,” “Mr. Sunshine,” “Generation Y,” “Body of Proof” at ABC; “Hawaii Five-O,” “Chaos,” “Bleep My Dad Says” at CBS; “Ridealong,” “Terra Nova,” “Breakout Kings,” “Keep Hope Alive,” “Wilde Kingdom” at Fox; and “Nikita” at the CW.