ABC loads slate with comedy, stars

CBS still in drama mode with new series picks

ABC has loaded up its slate of skeins for the 2009-10 season with high-concept dramas and comedies with high-profile stars, including Courteney Cox, Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton.

Meanwhile, CBS is going drama-heavy again in its new series picks. The Eye, which unveils its lineup on Wednesday, gave the OK on Saturday for staffing to begin on three hot drama prospects: Julianna Margulies starrer “The Good Wife”; “Three Rivers,” toplined by “Moonlight” alum Alex O’Loughlin; Medical drama ‘Miami Trauma’; the untitled U.S. Attorneys drama from scribe Frank Military; and the “NCIS” spinoff with LL Cool J and Chris O’Donnell.

CBS’ formal pickup calls are expected to be made today. So far, the standout comedy on the Eye’s pilot slate is Jenna Elfman starrer “Accidentally on Purpose.”

There’s chatter that the Eye may go light on new laffers in favor of renewing bubble sitcoms “Gary Unmarried” and “Rules of Engagement.” Eye sealed a deal late Sunday to renew drama “Cold Case” for a seventh season. The renewal chances for another returning drama that has been on the fence, “Without a Trace,” seemed to improve slightly during the weekend. And the talk of a pickup for “The Unit” heated up during the weekend but cooled off just as quickly.

Also at the Eye, speculation was flowing late Sunday that the net may wind up inheriting the drama “Medium.” NBC and producer CBS TV Studios haven’t yet come to a renewal deal; as a result, it’s possible that the show could instead go to sister net CBS. Show would then likely end up on Friday night, where it’s a natural companion to “Ghost Whisperer.” Both shows, after all, deal with the undead.

Alphabet brass worked late into the night Friday handing out series orders to five dramas and three comedies as they prepped for the network’s presentation on Tuesday. ABC also gave renewals to frosh dramedy “Castle” and laffers “Scrubs” and “Better Off Ted,” and it greenlit a second cycle of reality skein “True Beauty.”

These are the drama pilots ABC picked up on Friday:

  • ABC Studios’ “Happy Town,” a small-town murder mystery from scribes/co-showrunners Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec and Scott Rosenberg

  • 20th Century Fox TV’s “The Deep End,” a legal dramedy from scribe Dave Hemingson

  • Warner Bros. TV’s “The Forgotten,” a Jerry Bruckheimer TV vehicle about amateur detectives devoted to solving the murders of unidentified victims, from scribe Mark Friedman

  • Warner Bros. TV’s “Eastwick,” a redo of 1987 pic “The Witches of Eastwick,” from scribe Maggie Friedman

  • Warner Bros. TV’s “V,” a “reimagining” of the 1980s mini revolving around aliens infiltrating Earth, penned by Scott Peters. It’s expected to be presented as a 13-episode limited-series “event.”

Those five join fantasy-thriller “Flash Forward,” which was picked up earlier this month, on ABC’s frosh drama slate (Daily Variety, May 11).

These are the comedies joining the already-ordered “Modern Family” (Daily Variety, May 8) on ABC’s slate:

  • ABC Studios’ “Cougar Town,” featuring Cox as a newly single mom with a 17-year-old son, from scribe Bill Lawrence

  • Warner Bros. TV’s “The Middle,” starring Heaton as a middle-class Midwestern mom, from writers DeAnn Heline and Eileen Heisler

  • Warner Bros. TV’s “Hank,” starring Grammer as a once-hotshot Wall Streeter who is forced to return to his small-town home, from writer Tucker Cawley.

Renewals of ABC Studios’ “Castle” and 20th Century Fox TV’s “Better Off Ted,” which were part of ABC’s contingent of late-midseason bows this spring, were not unexpected, though both show’s chances of seeing a sophomore season were seen as 50-50 just a week ago.

ABC Studios’ “Scrubs,” which moved to ABC this season after seven seasons on NBC, had been expected to wrap its run this spring, but renewal chatter began about a month ago. A renewal deal is also in the works for ABC Studios’ “Samantha Who?,” which will shift production formats from single-cam to multicamera as a cost-cutting move.

The hefty load of comedy pickups and renewals suggests that ABC intends to stock its fall sked with half-hours on more than one night of the week.

Execs at CW, which closes out upfront week with its presentation on Thursday, signaled their pickup intentions late last week by starting the staffing process on the “Melrose Place” revival and drama “Vampire Diaries.” Also looking good for pickups are male-models drama “A Beautiful Life” and family drama “Light Years,” while the “Gossip Girl” spinoff was said to still have a shot at a midseason order.

NBC, which unveiled the bulk of its new shows two weeks ago, wasn’t completely out of the pickup game this weekend, greenlighting latenighter “Last Call With Carson Daly” for a ninth season.