Another upfront week is in the books, heralding a fall featuring 28 new series on the five English-language broadcast networks.
Among the more interesting trends are examples of convergent evolution — two networks birthing similar concepts — with ABC and NBC each launching shows tied to fairy tales (“Once Upon a Time,” “Grimm”) and set in the early 1960s (“Pan Am,” “The Playboy Club”).
In case the world really does end Saturday like some Rapturists are predicting, we’ll reserve watching any full pilots until next week. And with the disclaimer that finished products can obviously alter assessments, here are preliminary grades based on the upfront presentations:
CBS: “Dammit, we’re stable.” After a stretch where most CBS drama development began with an existing title followed by a colon, “Unforgettable” and “Person of Interest” seem to stretch those creative parameters, while still offering the chalk-outline crowd material within their comfort zone.
Turning to comedy, “2 Broke Girls” actually contained a couple of legitimate laughs — which, based on the presentations, puts it ahead of most sitcoms previewed.
CBS engages in chest-thumping like nobody else, constantly reminding ad buyers how stable its lineup is. Translation: Let those losers at NBC and ABC throw tons of stuff at the wall hoping something sticks. Our viewers are less likely to turn (or clap) us off. – B+
CW: Don’t hate us ’cause we’re beautiful. Perhaps appropriately bringing up the rear among the upfront presentations, CW’s dramas aren’t aimed at my demo, but the new pieces fit together nicely, and if anything, the network’s acting pool has gotten even better looking, which didn’t seem possible. Give the netlet demerits only for a goofy reality concept, “H8R,” Tyra Banks’ annoying spiel, and trying to coin the term “view-niverse.” – B
Fox: A bigger ‘Factor’ in the fall. Fox looks to be playing from a position of relative strength and uncharacteristic stability, with “X Factor” set to occupy the same swatch of time “American Idol” fills in the second half of the season. That allowed Fox to focus its development on shoring up targeted areas, including two intriguing dramas — the sci-fi concept “Terra Nova” and J.J. Abrams-produced mystery “Alcatraz” — as well as a few comedies, the most promising of which was clearly “New Girl,” starring Zooey Deschanel. – B
ABC: A tale of two genres. With a few exceptions, ABC’s dramas looked promising. Moreover, most of the fall contenders have been given logical timeslots, such as the “Charlie’s Angels” revival Thursdays. By contrast, with the notable exception of Tim Allen’s return in “Last Man Standing,” at first glance the Alphabet web’s sitcoms look like the wrong Disney movie — as in “Modern Family” and the Seven Dwarfs. – B-
NBC: Wait till January. New NBC Entertainment chief Robert Greenblatt said all the right stuff. A new attitude. Patience. No more Zucker-like pronouncements about “managing for margins.”
But based on what the network has lined up for fall, patience is going to be required — at least until “The Voice” and musical drama “Smash” arrive in the winter, along with the Super Bowl (provided there is one).
Indeed, the renewal of low-rated dramas like “Parenthood” and “Chuck” suggests NBC is biding its time until the network can be more aggressive.
Greenblatt spoke about putting on “original, attention-getting shows,” but precious little in the fall crop appears to fit that description. The most intriguing of those new entries, “The Playboy Club,” could be a tough sell for a mass audience, but like ABC’s “Pan Am,” merits a look (and perhaps a royalty to “Mad Men”). – C+