Last-minute pickups keep tube biz abuzz

CBS bets on star power; Fox renews 'Arrested,' 'Calling'

This article was updated at 10:00 p.m.

In the game of who’s-got-the-more-stable-sked, CBS execs may be ready to trump NBC.

Elsewhere, Fox has given good news to a pair of struggling frosh, renewing “Arrested Development” and “Tru Calling” for next season. John Wells-produced action drama “Jonny Zero,” “21 Jump Street”-like skein “The Inside” and laffer “Related by Family” have also been given series greenlights for fall, along with the previously ordered medical hour “House” (Daily Variety, May 14).

Over at UPN, the Mel Gibson drama “Kevin Hill” and the Joel Silver-produced “Veronica Mars” both seem headed for series orders. If “Hill” gets the official order, it will cement Gibson and Bruce Davey’s status as the golden producers of the 2004 development season, with Icon going three-for-three in pilot pickups.

Eye won’t unveil its new lineup until Wednesday, but it now seems likely the net will roll out just five new scripted shows this fall, according to industry insiders — three dramas and two comedies, the same as NBC. A couple of new reality skeins may also be in the mix, perhaps on Saturday night.

As for the scripted fare, CBS chairman-CEO Leslie Moonves is betting big time on star power: Each of the frosh five features a star who’s appeared in a previous hit television show. The big names headed to the Eye this fall include Jason Alexander (“Seinfeld”), John Goodman (“Roseanne”), Melina Kanakarades (“Providence”), Dean Cain (“Lois & Clark”) and Rob Lowe (“The West Wing”).

The CBS series picked up for fall include the following:

  • “Center of the Universe” features Goodman (“Roseanne”) and a celeb-heavy cast of Oscar, Golden Globe and Emmy winners, including Jean Smart, Diedrich Bader, Ed Asner and Olympia Dukakis. Goodman plays a Chicago dad with a freaky family; skein’s from WBTV and CBS Prods.

  • Alexander laffer, from Regency and CBS Prods., features the former “Seinfeld” sidekick playing an outspoken dad. Skein’s inspired by the columns of Washington Post scribe Tony Kornheiser.

  • “CSI: New York” is the third installment in the blockbuster franchise from Jerry Bruckheimer Television, CBS Prods. and Alliance Atlantis. Gary Sinise and Kanakarades star.

  • “Clubhouse,” from Spelling Television and Gibson’s Icon Prods., is a coming-of-age drama about a 15-year-old batboy for the New York Yankees. Cain, Christopher Lloyd and Mare Winningham star.

  • WBTV’s “Dr. Vegas” features Lowe as the house doc for an old school Las Vegas casino. Joe Pantoliano also stars, and Jack Orman has come on board as exec producer-showrunner, industry insiders said.

CBS has few holes to fill — Wednesdays at 10, Fridays at 10 and Saturday night. There’s been speculation that “Yes, Dear” could be going away to make room for a new comedy on Monday, though industry insiders said Monday the show wasn’t 100% dead yet.

One possible scenario has CBS trying a four-comedy sked on Wednesday by shifting “Yes, Dear” to that night and pairing it with a reality sitcom such as “Liar” or “Fire Me, Please.” The safer route has “60 Minutes II” staying put on Wednesdays and a single new comedy bowing at 9:30 after “King of Queens.”

“Clubhouse” could be headed for Friday after “Joan of Arcadia,” while “Dr. Vegas” would seem a good fit for Tuesdays.

There continues to be buzz about reality and newsmags airing on Saturday; as always, the fate of “48 Hours” remains somewhat in the air — though at worst, the net would keep the franchise alive with specials or in midseason.