Inreased scrutiny of the process via social media adds to the frenzy
For starters, when the upfronts loom, there’s no such thing as a sure thing. On paper, the TV reboot of “Beverly Hills Cop” seemed about as much of a lock for a pickup as any 2013 development prospect, given the auspices of Shawn Ryan and Eddie Murphy. But CBS made the “pass” call on Friday evening after picking up two other dramas, “Intelligence” and “Hostages.”
“Cop” shop Sony Pictures TV didn’t waste any time sending the pilot out to other networks. There was plenty of competitive bidding for the project when it was shopped last summer, so Axel Foley and Son may not be in the wilderness for long.
This development cycle could mark a banner year for shopping busted pilots and series to other outlets. Certainly, Sony TV has already got the whispers (USA, TBS) going for “Happy Endings” (pictured), its rom-com with a devoted following (a high percentage of which are TV reporters and critics) that was too small for ABC to renew for a third season. But those fans may be vocal enough to get the show a second life on cable or on a digital outlet.
The denouement of the development process this year felt even more frenzied than usual now that social media gives non-pros an easy way to follow the blow-by-blow of the pickup and renewal process. When hundreds, if not thousands of people are tweeting about whether shows like “Suburgatory” or “The New Normal” are going to live or die, it feels like it’s all taking on more urgency. The heightened public scrutiny has certainly forced the nets to try to unveil their orders and cancellations in scorched-earth fashion.
I have no doubt that the threat of “Community” landing at Netflix or some other digi-net helped persuade NBC to invest in another 13 episodes, lest a competitor have a field day as the outlet that “saved” the wildly offbeat show. NBC’s built up the monster over the past four seasons, it might as well make hay with what will probably be billed Greendale Community College’s final go-round (at least until the fanatical fans fire up the “Six Seasons and Movie” campaign again in April 2014).
ABC Studios is also intent on pitching its erstwhile ABC sudser pilot “Murder in Manhattan” to cable — Hello, Nancy Dubuc! There will be more such pledges to come before all the upfront presentations are finished next Thursday.
Among other tidbits gleaned from the blizzard of activity this week:
* Despite the setback for “Beverly Hills Cop,” Sony TV is having a banner selling season, with seven new series greenlit (two on Fox, four on NBC and one on ABC), the most the studio has had in a decade.
* Ryan Seacrest’s banner sold its first scripted series, ABC comedy “Mixology,” about a 10 single people who meet in a Brooklyn bar one night. Call it “24” with Chardonnay and speed-dating?
* There’s a lot of head-scratching about where ABC is going to put all of the shows it has ordered: seven dramas and five comedies.
* Wither “The Neighbors”? ABC initially confirmed that the frosh comedy was renewed, and then hastily asked journos to “hold” on that news. The betting is that the show about an alien family in suburbs will soldier on, but it ain’t over ’til it’s over. (Saturday ayem update: It’s renewed. That screaming you hear is the outrage of ‘Happy Endings’ fans.)
* The cancellation of “Southland” by TNT was heartbreaking, even though it was entirely expected. The loss of Reba McEntire’s ABC comedy “Malibu Country,” not so much, though I’ve no doubt her fans will be vocal in the coming days.
* The curtain fell, formally, on “Smash,” which was entirely expected but still noteworthy. The tuner drama took lump after lump this season from critics. I still say give ’em credit for daring to be different in a sea of cops, docs and lawyers.
* For years we’ve seen comedy writers migrating to drama. This year we’re seeing drama people shifting to half-hours: Jason Katims (NBC’s “About a Boy”), David E. Kelley (CBS’ “Crazy Ones”).
* Bill Lawrence is the over-achiever of pilot season so far with two comedies picked up: Fox’s “Surviving Jack” and NBC’s “Undateable.” And for good measure on Friday he got another one picked up at TBS, “Ground Floor.” That makes him a two-fisted TBS producer with his “Cougar Town” already on the cabler.
* David Zabel is the drama king of ABC, with pickups for “Lucky 7” and “Betrayal.”
* John Davis’ feature-centric Davis Entertainment is breaking into TV in a big way, landing two high-profile pickups in its first year: NBC’s “The Blacklist” and “Ironside.” “Blacklist” pilot, a crimer written by Jon Bokenkamp and helmed by Joe Carnahan, is said to be super-good.
* Sofia Vergara is packing heat as a producer with “Killer Women,” about female Texas Rangers, getting the nod at ABC. And Ben Silverman’s along for the ride.
* The return of “24” is no longer a covert op. Clearly, showrunner Howard Gordon needed to spearhead this tricky limited-series revival for Fox because he doesn’t have enough to do with a new series greenlit at TNT (“Legends”) and “Homeland” heading into season three on Showtime.