With 2011 in the books, cablers are looking ahead. Mining the next “Falling Skies” or “Teen Mom 2” — highly successful scripted and reality skeins, respectively, that premiered last year — remains a No. 1 priority.
Here is a look at some of the key freshman series being offered by cable nets over the next 12 months:
With Westerns resurgent, A&E jumps aboard with “Longmire.” Exec produced by, among others, “The Closer” team of Greer Shephard and Michael Robin and starring Robert Taylor, Katee Sackhoff and Lou Diamond Phillips, “Longmire” will look to become the net’s third successful scripted series, following “The Glades” and “Breakout Kings.”
AMC will be focusing much of its efforts on reality in the new year. Writer-director Kevin Smith will premiere his “Comic Book Men” in February, and “The Pitch” — a real-life “Mad Men” in which agencies compete to sell and pitch their wares to media outlets — will arrive sometime in the spring.
Trying to keep hold of its “Top Chef” aud, Bravo premieres “Around the World in 80 Plates” — the network’s foodie version of “The Amazing Race.” Chefs will test their skills in some of the most challenging restaurants around the globe.
“The Nick Show Kroll”will focus on sketch material, with Kroll — a regular on FX’s “The League” and HBO’s toon “The Life and Times of Tim” — playing a variety of crass characters. Also coming from Comedy Central is an untitled two-man sketch show from “Mad TV” alums Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele.
Net brings a pair of reality shows to the fold: “Bering Sea Gold,” where salty characters hunt for treasures, and “Frozen Planet,” an in-depth look at Earth’s polar regions. Seven-part series will be narrated by Alec Baldwin.
While History has a few new reality series arriving — “Cajun Pawn Stars,” “Full Metal Jousting” and “Mudcats” — network topper Nancy Dubuc is making a bold move by shifting into scripted fare with miniseries “The Hatfields and McCoys.” Starring Kevin Costner, Powers Boothe and Bill Paxton, “Hatfields” will be a big litmus test for the surging net.
Feeling buoyed by the success of toon “Archer,” FX returns to the animated fold with “Unsupervised.” Series, about a pair of teenage boys trying to do what’s right without any parental guidance, comes from the writers of the net’s long-running comedy “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
On the drama side, HBO has lined up a handful of high-powered writers, with David Milch penning horse-racing skein “Luck” and Aaron Sorkin examining the personalities who toil at a politically centric cabler in “The Newsroom.” Half-hour laffers “Girls” — from writer, director and actress Lena Dunham — and Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ “Veep” will look to fill the comedy void left by the recently canceled “Hung,” “Bored to Death” and “How to Make It in America.”
Telepic “The Client List” will serve as a backdoor pilot for a series, and the femme-focused net could really use a breakout hit. Net is hoping “Ghost Whisperer” star Jennifer Love Hewitt still has enough appeal to bring new, younger viewers to the struggling cabler.
Will auds who may be tiring on “Jersey Shore” antics tune in to spinoffs starring Pauly D, Snooki and JWoww? MTV is betting on it and is simultaneously hoping “I Just Want My Pants Back,” which premiered after the “Video Music Awards,” and U.K. import “The Inbetweeners” could raise the scripted bar for 2012.
Having scored with 2011 freshman series “Homeland,” the pay cabler would be happy to see new Don Cheadle laffer “House of Lies” generate some of that good will as well. Reality series “Inside Comedy,” in which David Steinberg sits and chats with masters of the genre, looks to have great potential.
Starz made a big bet on “Boss,” giving it a two-season order before it even launched, and now the Chris Albrecht-led net has high hopes for “Magic City” as well. Starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan as a hotel owner with ties to the mob, the series is produced by Starz — unlike “Boss,” which is from Lionsgate — meaning “Magic’s” success or failure will be amplified bigtime.
The first wholly owned scripted series in the net’s history, “Rectify” is from creator-writer Ray McKinnon (known for his roles on “Deadwood” and “Sons of Anarchy”). The six-episode series examines the life of a man released after serving 19 years on Georgia’s death row, and his assimilation into society even as some still believe he is guilty.
No net may be in more need of a hit than struggling TBS, and it’s hoping “The Wedding Band” may stem the viewer erosion. Skein, about a group of guys who look to escape the stress of life by picking up instruments, stars Brian Austin Green and “Lost” vet Harold Perrineau.
This year will be a busy one at TLC, which has a slew of programs on tap. A docuseries on Niecy Nash will generate some headlines, and there’s also an U.S. adaptation of “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding,” the Southwest Airlines skein “On the Fly” and “Randy to the Rescue,” about bridal guru Randy Fenoli.
Nobody will be asking who shot J.R. this time around, but Larry Hagman will be co-starring in the Turner net’s revamped and anticipated “Dallas,” which will premiere in summer. Other scripted series newcomers are “Perception,” in which Eric McCormack plays an eccentric neuroscientist, and “The Closer” spinoff “Major Crimes,” starring Mary McDonnell. It could be a big year for TNT, which is looking to expand on an already-strong scripted slate.
The No. 1 entertainment cabler has high expectations for buddy cop dramedy “Common Law,” which the net moved to summer from a planned debut in January. And a shift to comedy and reality is also in the works, with a Nathan Lane starrer from creator Doug McGrath and “Paging Dr. Freed” likely to debut later this year.