L.A. Screenings: 2018: What New Series Studios are Highlighting

It’s that time of year again when, after networks have announced their new fall schedule and new television season offerings overall at upfronts, the studios behind the shows present screenings of their hottest properties for the international television market.

Fox co-CEOs Dana Walden and Gary Newman may have boldly declared this year that they would be focusing on programming for the American marketplace — “As other networks are focused on monetizing ownerships of their shows, they need to program with an eye to the international market,” Walden said — but their’s is an outlier approach. All other nets are still developing with the overseas buyers in mind — as are studios who are monetizing through ownership.

Here, Variety lays out the new series priorities for eight studios at this year’s L.A. screenings.

Emotional tales of extended families take top priority for CBS this year, including “A Million Little Things,” “Charmed” and “FBI.” “A Million Little Things” features an ensemble of familiar and advertiser-friendly TV faces, including James Roday, David Giuntoli, Ron Livingston and Romany Malco, as a group of friends who rally together after an unexpected death. “Charmed” puts a new spin on last decade’s mystical drama, still centering on three sisters who discover they descend from a powerful witch bloodline. “FBI” centers on the “work family” of the U.S. domestic intelligence and security service. The auspices behind “FBI” are strong, too — the series comes from acclaimed producer Dick Wolf. Other titles CBS is offering include family comedies “Happy Together,” “Fam” and “The Neighborhood.”

Family and crime are the two hot trends here, across both drama and comedy. For family, coming from executive producer Eva Longoria is “Grand Hotel,” a family drama set in the world of hospitality and starring Demian Bechir and Roselyn Sanchez, while on the comedy side is “The Kids Are Alright,” a period piece set in the 1970s and inspired by the real life of creator Tim Doyle. Crime offerings include “The Fix,” a legal thriller co-written and produced by Marcia Clark; “Take Two,” a procedural starring Rachel Bilson and Eddie Cibrian from the producers of “Castle”; and “Harrow,” an Australian series starring Ioan Gruffudd as a man whose empathy for the dead helps him in his work as a forensic pathologist.

Boasting Nathan Fillion’s return to television is “The Rookie,” which sees him star as a man who has a midlife awakening and joins the LAPD as the force’s oldest rookie. The series comes from writer and executive producer Alexi Hawley and also stars Alyssa Diaz, Richard T. Jones and Mercedes Mason.

From docuseries to a new music reality series, Lionsgate’s unscripted slate comes alive at L.A. screenings. “America to Me” follows students, teachers and administrators over the course of a year in Chicago’s Oak Park and River Forest High School to explore issues plaguing the modern teenager; “Carnage” follows those transforming ordinary vehicles into battle machines in the South African desert; and “Music City” documents the lives of five up-and-coming musicians as they chase fame, success and romance in Nashville.

Nostalgic favorites mix with new blood for both the “Magnum PI” reboot (this time starring Jay Hernandez in the titular role) and “Suits: Second City” (working title), the lawyer drama spinoff starring Gina Torres. But the slate diversifies to also include a feel good medical drama centered on a man out to disrupt bureaucracy and put care first (“New Amsterdam”); a spy-hunting thriller two-hander starring Jennifer Carpenter and Morris Chestnut (“The Enemy Within”); a crime-solving drama with the supernatural twist of its central character being able to communicate with the dead (“The InBetween”); and an extended family drama focused on the residents of a NYC apartment building (“The Village”). On the comedy side, there is a look at modern womanhood with “I Feel Bad” and a tale of a makeshift, backyard bar, its colorful proprietor and regular customers with “Abby’s.” “DreamWorks Where’s Waldo?” brings the classic book to life in 2D animation, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson inspires a new competition series, “The Titan Games.”

Proven performers in the creative space are key for Sony this year. “The Goldbergs” 1990s-set spinoff “Schooled” is a priority for the studio, boasting the expansion of creator Adam F. Goldberg’s world. Also a priority: the Russo Brothers’ “Deadly Class” comic book adaptation. Rounding out its list is the music series “The Launch,” which debuted first in Canada and sees emerging artists work with mentors to record and perform in each standalone episode.

20th is banking big on comedies this year, including the recently-revived “Last Man Standing” starring Tim Allen, and freshmen half-hours “The Cool Kids” with heavy-hitters David Alan Grier, Martin Mull, Leslie Jordan and Vicki Lawrence; “What We Do in the Shadows” from Jermaine Clement; and “Rel” from “Get Out” breakout Lil Rel Howery. Additional comedies on their slate include “Mr. Inbetween” and “Single Parents.” The drama side offers a little something for everyone with the supernatural “The Passage” based on Justin Cronin’s trilogy of the same name, ball culture period piece “Pose” from Ryan Murphy, “Sons of Anarchy” spinoff “Mayans MC” and the legal drama “Proven Innocent.”

Series from Greg Berlanti and Sarah Schechter headline here, including “Red Line,” which examines race relations after a white cop mistakenly kills a black doctor (Ava DuVernay is also an executive producer on the project), and “All American,” a high-school football drama inspired by the life of pro player Spencer Paysinger. But female-led series are also prominent, with the reboot of “Murphy Brown,” starring most of its original cast, including Candice Bergen, and the reimagining from “Roswell, New Mexico,” which draws from the book by Melinda Metz and addresses immigration. Given that “Murphy Brown” is so topical, it may be harder a sell than some of the others, but the nostalgia factor is strong, too. Other offerings include “Manifest,” a supernatural drama about a plane that goes missing, only to return years later with its passengers unaged but exhibiting special abilities; the FBI-CIA spy dramedy “Whiskey Cavalier” starring Scott Foley and Lauren Cohan; and the aspirational “God Friended Me” about an atheist who may rethink his views after God “friends” him on social media.

Cynthia Littleton contributed to this report

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