A look at the heavy-hitters to come out of the Upfronts
20TH CENTURY FOX TV
Robin Williams’ biggest commitment to series television since the days of “Mork & Mindy” highlights a 20th TV slate that is deep, even if not necessarily brimming with international star appeal.
Williams is teaming with another recognizable face, Sarah Michelle Gellar, in the single-cam, father-daughter workplace comedy “The Crazy Ones,” from the pen of a scribe with no small amount of global cachet himself: David E. Kelley.
Kelley’s star Stateside hasn’t shined quite as brightly of late — “Harry’s Law” (NBC) lasted only two seasons, while “Monday Mornings” (TNT) didn’t make it past one, and half-hour isn’t exactly where the “Picket Fences” and “Ally McBeal” creator made his bones, but a series starring Williams in an accessible setting is filled with worldwide potential.
A slam dunk for interest is the limited-series return of Kiefer Sutherland in “24: Live Another Day.” The condensed format of 12 episodes and far-off premiere date should hardly discourage buyers.
“Beyond Crazy” and “24,” 20th’s offerings generally depend at least as much on conceit as star power. “Crisis,” starring Gillian Anderson and Dermot Mulroney, features an extended kidnapping saga in Washington, D.C., with international overtones. Los Angeles-set cop drama “Gang Related” could easily translate overseas, as could the high-concept “Sleepy Hollow,” which exports the Ichabod Crane saga 250 years into the future.
Among comedies, it will be interesting to see the reception for “Enlisted,” set at a domestic U.S. Army base that won’t exactly call to mind Guantanamo Bay. There will be a not-insignificant amount of eye candy to go with the laughs, thanks to male starring trio Geoff Stults (“The Finder”), Chris Lowell (“Private Practice”) and Parker Young (“Suburgatory”).
— Jon Weisman
CBS STUDIOS INTL.
With CBS Television Studios involved in a number of co-productions whose international sales will be handled elsewhere, CBS Studios Intl. will have a more focused slate to take to L.A. Screenings shoppers.
Though not part of the fall sked, it’s worth noting CBS will screen ballyhooed summer series “Under the Dome,” a 13-parter based on the post-apocalyptic Stephen King novel. But what’s potentially fascinating is that among drama offerings from the new fall skeins, the most attractive globally might be a CW show, “Reign,” which brings a demo-friendly sensibility to the historical story of Mary, Queen of Scots. Another CW series, Star-Crossed, (co-starring Aimee Teegarden of “Friday Night Lights”) translates the “Romeo and Juliet” saga into futuristic alien-human terms.
Fans of “Mad Men” might recognize Anna Wood, who played scheming Hare Krishna follower Lakshmi, and her onscreen pseudo-beau Michael Gladis when they reappear in Reckless. Wood plays a south-side-of-Chicago-bred lawyer clashing with handsome southern city attorney (Cam Gigandet) over a police sex scandal in Charleston, S.C.; Gladis plays the local deputy police chief. Shawn Hatosy (“Southland”), Gregory Harrison and Kim Wayans are among the co-stars in the Ian Sandler-Kim Moses-Dana Stevens-Corey Miller project, whose pilot was directed by fellow exec producer Catherine Hardwicke (“Twilight”).
In addition, CBS will look to drum up interest in two comedies: “The Millers” and “We Are Men.” Millers, from Greg Garcia, offers the sprightly cast of Will Arnett, Margo Martindale, J.B. Smoove and Beau Bridges and is so highly thought of that CBS placed it after hit “The Big Bang Theory” on its Thursday schedule. “We Are Men,” starring Tony Shalhoub, Kal Penn and Jerry O’Connell, could be buoyed by its focus on the perils of dating.
— Jon Weisman
Disney/ABC Intl. heads into the L.A. Screenings armed with powerful selling points for most of its seven new drama series. But it’ll be a tougher climb in international markets for its two new comedies.
The magic of the Marvel brand name will draw plenty of attention to ABC’s most anticipated new series, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” which is further enhanced by its association with 2012 blockbuster “The Avengers” and Joss Whedon.
Beyond all that, the concept about a group of agents that investigate strange phenomena is tailor-made for international auds who loved such past hits as “The X-Files and Heroes.”
Disney/ABC also has two well-known international stars to fortify another high-concept drama, “Intelligence,” about an elite intelligence agent who has a microchip implanted in his head. Josh Holloway, of “Lost” fame, and CSI alum Marg Helgenberger are marquee names thanks to the global appeal of their past series.
“Drama Killer Women,” produced by Sofia Vergara, will likely be a draw on the strength of star Tricia Helfer (“Battlestar Galactica”) and a concept that transcends borders: a butt-kicking female Texas Ranger. “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland” has a leg up as a spinoff of a property that is already doing well in key overseas territories.
Two other dramas, the reality-bending “Resurrection” and soapy “Betrayal,” have broad appeal elements as genre fare. “Lucky 7,” a remake of a British format about a group of gas-station workers in Queens who win the lottery, may be a tougher sell overseas.
Comedies are often a harder sell to foreign buyers because of the U.S.-centric nature of the humor. Disney-ABC this time around has no big stars, a la Tim Allen two years ago in “Last Man Standing,” to add sizzle to youthful ensembler “Mixology” or domestic vehicle “Trophy Wife.”
— Cynthia Littleton
The folks at NBCUniversal International TV Distribution should have a busy time of it at the L.A. Screenings, with a healthy mix of content.
A big show for NBCU might be “Dracula,” with Jonathan Rhys Myers (“The Tudors”) in the title role and Gareth Neame (“Downton Abbey”) among the exec producers.
Not quite as historical but still recognizable is “Ironside,” a remake of the Raymond Burr series from four decades ago, with Blair Underwood taking on the title role. No obvious roadblocks would seem to prevent its overseas spread, assuming it can stay afloat in the U.S. Meanwhile, “Chicago PD” follows directly in the footsteps of first-year Universal TV and Wolf Films success “Chicago Fire.”
NBCU will try to get international buyers to warm up to the smallscreen adaptation of “About a Boy” with David Walton taking on the role originated by Hugh Grant. Minnie Driver brings an international profile to the role inhabited in movie theaters by Toni Collette.
Not to be dismissed are the creative bonafides behind the series, led by Jason Katims (“Parenthood”) along with fellow exec producers Jon Favreau, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Robert De Niro, among others. The scheduled midseason debut Stateside on NBC could also be a selling point, with buyers recognizing that there’s less risk of a premature cancelation that undermines their investment.
Other NBCU comedies that have their selling points are “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” with Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher; and “Sean Saves the World,” starring and exec produced by Sean Hayes.
— Jon Weisman
Sony Pictures TV has a familiar face to drive traffic at this year’s L.A. Screenings: Michael J. Fox.
Although domestic comedies can be tough to translate for overseas viewers, Fox’s presence is sure to overcome those hurdles in many markets. He remains a global star thanks to the enduring appeal of the “Back to the Future” film franchise and the 1980s NBC comedy that made him a star, “Family Ties.” The multigenerational appeal that NBC is banking on in backing Fox’s return to primetime series work will be applicable in many overseas markets. It’s also further enhanced by his personal story of triumph over the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s disease.
Another Sony TV comedy, ABC’s 1980s-set “The Goldbergs,” has strong buzz for being laugh-out-loud funny, based on the reaction from auds at the upfront presentations. That could be enough to get buyers past the hesitation for U.S.-centric period pieces.
On the drama side, Sony has a pair of high-profile leading men in James Spader (NBC’s “The Blacklist”) and Greg Kinnear (Fox’s Rake), who will be a draw for buyers. Blacklist has momentum coming out of the upfronts as one of the best dramas of the new crop. Rake has international pedigree as a redo of an Australian hit.
Sony’s romantic comedy “Us & Them” is a new spin on the BBC2 comedy Gavin and Stacey.
— Cynthia Littleton
Having a new Chuck Lorre sitcom to market must be like nabbing exclusive rights to Girl Scout cookie sales on your block.
The creator or co-creator of such successful series as “Two and a Half Men,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “Mike & Molly” is back with another new comedy, “Mom,” starring Anna Faris and Allison Janney. The pilot has generated months of positive buzz and should have little trouble generating sales in Warner Bros’ international neighborhood.
WB’s global TV distribution arm also has a potential hit in “Super Fun Night,” which stars Aussie import Rebel Wilson (who also exec produces with, among others, Conan O’Brien) and will get a comfortable launching pad on ABC in the timeslot after “Modern Family.”
The most marketable show among dramas might be Hostages, a 15-episode serialized drama starring Toni Collette and Dylan McDermott. Collette plays a doctor for the president who is taken hostage by McDermott’s rogue FBI agent.
Two other projects, each with Bill Lawrence among the exec producers, feature thesps of recent vintage: “Surviving Jack” with Christopher Meloni (“Law & Order: SVU”) and Undateable with Chris D’Elia (“Whitney”).
WBITD will also ride the spinoff wave with ironically titled “The Originals,” a descendant of CW mainstay “The Vampire Diaries” set in New Orleans. Entering the scene as a backdoor pilot, Originals can draft off of the millennial audience of “Diaries.”
Three dramas high on concept help round out the WB offerings: “The 100,” about a group of humans who struggle to survive 97 years after nuclear war has destroyed civilization; The Tomorrow People, about a group of young people who represent the next phase in human evolution; and “Almost Human,” in which a cop wakes from a coma in 2048 to team up with an android partner.
“Human,” like “Believe,” comes from J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Prods. and WBTV.
— Jon Weisman
AT A GLANCE