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Nets home in on pilot picks

NBC expected to make more early moves as countdown to upfront week begins

After nearly a week of marathon pilot screening sessions at the broadcast nets, speculation about prime pickup prospects has hit a fever pitch as the countdown to upfront week begins.

Bizzers expect NBC to make a move with early pickups for three shows as early as today. The chatter has centered around comedies “The New Normal,” “1600 Penn” and “Save Me,” possibly as candidates for August premieres following NBC’s summer Olympics coverage. NBC and Fox lead off the broadcast upfront presentations on May 14.

“Normal,” “1600 Penn” and “Save Me” shows are all single-camera vehicles, as is Matthew Perry’s “Go On,” which earned a series greenlight late last month. But NBC execs made it clear to creatives this pilot season that the network was in the hunt for more multi-camera comedies, in part to find a companion for “Whitney,” which has been a multi-cam island on the Peacock this season.

Among NBC’s multi-cam prospects, the most polarizing contender seems to be Roseanne Barr’s “Downwardly Mobile.” Some say the show’s noisy blue-collar humor is in step with the harsh economic realities facing viewers in flyover country; others say it feels too retro to work on 21st century NBC. But given the built-in marketing platform of Roseanne’s sitcom comeback attempt and her reunion with former TV hubby John Goodman, no one’s ready to count “Mobile” out yet.

The multi-cam comedy drawing the most uniformly positive buzz is “Guys with Kids,” the ensembler produced by Jimmy Fallon’s shingle. “Table for Three” (fka “Daddy’s Girls”) and Kari Lizer’s “Lady Friends,” toplined by Minnie Driver and Andrea Anders, have generated mixed reactions. Industry insiders say Lizer’s status as an A-list comedy showrunner could tip the scales for her at NBC, or ABC, where she’s also in contention with Mary McCormack starrer “The Professional.”

On the drama side, NBC is said to be sky-high on Jason Katims’ hospital drama “County,” starring Jason Ritter; and “Chicago Fire,” the latest from the Dick Wolf shop. Next in the pecking order is the Jekyll & Hyde-esque “Do No Harm” and mystery-thriller “Midnight Sun.” The 1840s-set Western “The Frontier” has been well-received but there are said to be concerns about whether the net can effectively launch such a show given that it will have a slew of new programming to support in the fall.

At ABC, there’s chatter that sudser “Mistresses,” which was given a series order in March for a summer 2013 run, could now be a fall contender.

The Alphabet’s hot drama pilot prospects include Marc Cherry’s “Devious Maids,” supernatural mystery “666 Park Ave.,” family soap “Americana,” set in the world of fashion; and Navy submarine crew actioner “The Last Resort.” ABC execs are said to have eyed “Resort” as an event series with a limited episode order a la “The River.” But that may not fly with producer Sony Pictures TV as the studio would need 13 episodes minimum to maximize the show’s international revenue.

Other contenders are “Penoza,” about a housewife who takes over a crime ring after her husband is whacked; and “Nashville,” a multi-generational soap set in the country music capital.

ABC is said to be happy with a high percentage of its comedy pilots, which will mean hard choices for execs as the clock ticks down to the net’s May 15 upfront presentation. If there’s a sure thing at ABC, it would seem to be Claudia Lonow’s “How to Live with Your Parents for the Rest of Your Life,” which is buoyed by the strengths of stars Sarah Chalke, Brad Garrett and Elizabeth Perkins.

CBS is inscrutable, as usual, but some info is seeping out. Buddy romcoms “Partners,” from Max Mutchnick and David Kohan, and “Oh Fk, It’s You,” from Greg Berlanti and Greg Malins, seem bound for the schedule. (It’s notable that both were helmed by the Iron Man of sitcom pilots, James Burrows.)

A dark horse that emerged this week is “Super Fun Night,” from Conan O’Brien’s camp. The Rebel Wilson project is said to have undergone significant post-shoot tweaking and has been gaining fans within the Eye, possibly as a companion to “2 Broke Girls.” On the flip side from NBC, CBS may foray into single-cam comedy territory with “Entry Level” from feature scribe Nick Stoller.

The bar for new dramas is high at the Eye, given the depth of its bench. Sherlock Holmes-inspired “Elementary” is this year’s heat-seeker, along with Vegas period piece “Ralph Lamb.” Berlanti seems poised to have a drama and a comedy picked up at the Eye with the buzz good for his cop character drama “Golden Boy.”

Fox’s comedy slam dunks are said to be the untitled Mindy Kaling project (a BFF for “New Girl”), and the guy-centric “Rebounding.” From there, it’s said to be brawl for half-hour real estate between “El Hefe,” “Little Brother,” “Ned Fox is My Manny” and “The Goodwin Games.”

Drama-wise, there’s been a strong response to the femme Mafia doctor vehicle from writers Josh Berman and Rob Wright. Kevin Williamson’s serial killer thriller “Mastermind” is fortified by the power of Kevin Bacon and is expected to land a midseason order (Bacon only committed to 15 episodes).

In the tussle of Fox’s dueling femme secret agent projects (“The Asset” and untitled Karyn Usher), the untitled Karyn Usher is believed to have the upper hand in part because execs are wild about its ingénue star Saxon Sharbino.

Berlanti’s legal-themed “Guilty,” starring Cuba Gooding Jr. as a disbarred lawyer out to clear his name, is still in the mix.

At CW, the consensus on the likely pickups that emerged early last week hasn’t changed much. Stars and producers of “Arrow,” “Carrie Diaries,” “Cult,” “First Cut” and “Beauty and the Beast” seem bound for Gotham week after next. The only lingering question seems to be whether CW will make it a six-pack of pickups if “The Selection” makes the cut.

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