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TV Column
Posted at 10:13 PM ET, 05/08/2013

Fox orders J.J. Abrams’ android cop, Seth MacFarlane guy-com, Ichabod Crane as action hero


Greg Kinnear in “Rake.” (Jaimie Trueblood - AP)
Fox got a jump on Broadcast Upfront Week late Wednesday night when it announced it had, to no one’s surprise, picked up its JJ Abrams android buddy cop pilot “Almost Human” for next season, as well as a  “House”- esque Greg Kinnear starrer called “Rake” (brilliant, charming, self-destructive criminal defense lawyer lacks self-edit gene), and Seth MacFarlane’s new live-action comedy, “Dads,”  about two successful guys (Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi) whose dads move in with them.

 Also ordered is a “thrilling new action adventure” — about Ichabod Crane. You know, the superstitious, cowardly schoolmaster who fled town when his rival for the hand of a wealthy guy’s daughter dressed up like a ghost of a legendary Revolutionary War soldier who’d had his head blown off by a cannonball and lobbed a jack-o-lantern at poor Ichabod, which he mistook for the head?   

The Ichabod Crane of Fox’s thrilling new “Sleepy Hollow” action adventure series, however, has been pulled two and a half centuries through time to find that the world is on the brink of destruction. But, does this Ichabod crawl into bed and pull up the covers? No siree! Ichabod rises to the occasion and teams with a contemporary cop “to unravel a mystery that dates all the way back to the Founding Fathers.” I swear, I’m not making this up. It’s from Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci of “Star Trek” and “Transformers” franchises fame, who we guess wouldn’t admit it unless they knew it could be proved against them.

Drama-wise, Fox also announced it had ordered to series “Gang Related,” about a rising star in Los Angeles’ elite Gang Task Force, led by — you’ll never guess — Terry O’Quinn. This one was created and written by Chris Morgan (“Wanted,” “Fast Five”).

  On the comedy front, Fox also ordered “Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ starring Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher as adetective who takes nothing seriously, and a by-the-book boss, respectively.

  “Us & Them,” based on the popular BBC3 series “Gavin and Stacey,” stars Jason Ritter and Alexis Bledel as a couple and “the screwed-up circus of people closest to them.” This is not to be confused with new “Enlisted” about three brothers and “the…misfits who surround them” on a small Florida army base.  That one stars Geoff Stults.

 Those cockeyed-optimists at Fox also ordered a new comedy from the guy who created CBS’s based-on-a-blog flop “$#*! My Dad Says.” This one’s called “Surviving Jack” because, we assume, the Fox sales department argued it could not sell the original name, “I Suck at Girls” to advertisers.

 Fox explains that “Surviving Jack” stars Christopher Meloni as “a man becoming a dad, as his son is becoming a man, in a time before ‘coming of age’ was something you could Google.” We’ll give you a minute to figure that out.

 We assume Fox was compelled to announce its pick-ups well in advance of its Monday new-schedule unveiling to advertisers in New York, because once decisions are made, there is absolutely no way to keep Fox staffers, or those involved in the new shows getting the glad tidings, from tweeting news of the pick-ups.

 That said, in announcing its pickups, days in advance of its Monday new-schedule unveiling to advertisers, Fox finally got the last laugh on NBC. For the past several years, the two networks have both unveiled their new schedules to advertisers on Monday — NBC in the morning and Fox in the afternoon.

 And, for years, NBC has given its new schedule to the press on Sunday afternoon, to make sure it — not Fox — got the Monday headlines.

  Broadcast Upfront Week, for the uninitiated, is that annual rite, in which TV-station execs slip their collars across the country to come rub shoulders with Madison Avenue suits as ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and CW unveil next season’s crop of new, can’t-miss prime-time series.

 After each presentation, those station and ad execs are carted off to parties, to dine on dubious sushi platters, drink exotic new cocktails that taste like gym socks soaked in vodka, and ogle Hollywood starlets who’ve been cast in the new shows.

 Meanwhile, the boys’ club behind the new shows are off in some Male Progeny of Old Hollywood Bigwigs bunker, issuing carefully crafted off-the-cuff tweets about their new-show pickups, which will be quoted by the herd of bloggers, critics and reporters who’ve come to town to cover Broadcast Upfront Week.

  It’s with some trepidation that all the broadcast networks are heading to Upfront Week, which officially kicks off Monday. The broadcast nets have had, to varying degrees, the ratings stuffing pounded out of them and, without a single new hit to point to from this current TV season, they’re all feeling the pressure to crack one out of the park this fall.

  They’ll tell you they swung for the fences as they developed the new shows for next season.

 And I’m the Queen of Freedonia

  The Reporters Who Cover Television drank especially deeply of this Kool-Aid this year, writing breathlessly about the new trends for next season: conspiracy dramas, morally ambiguous heroes, the daring casting of such big-name stars as Robin Williams, Michael J. Fox, and Eddie Murphy, the daring exhumation of Wonder Woman and “Have Gun Will Travel,” and even Ichabod Crane.

  TRWCT have marveled at how single chicks are sizzling hot for next season, and how The Boys’ Club That Produces The Series are trying something really different this time in creating shows about that which they know best — themselves!

  This is also the Year of the Black Friend, report execs. In this year’s crop of new series pilots, “black friend” is the new “gay.”

  CBS is the prettiest dress in the shop this year: It is on the verge of finishing the current TV season in first place among younger viewers, who are the BeDazzled unicorns of Madison Avenue.

  It’s the first time that CBS — often dismissed as the old-fogey network — has finished first among 18-to-49-year-olds since the 1991-92 TV season. Not coincidentally, Fox sank to second place in the age bracket, learning the hard way what happens when you cast brain-dead popster Britney Spears as the star of a competition series that consumes three hours of your prime-time schedule in the fall, and then follow that with the casting of polarizing Nicki Minaj on your competition series that props up three hours of your prime-time schedule in the spring.

 CBS has already announced the return of 19 existing series next season — pretty much everything except cancelled “The Job,” “Made in Jersey,” “Partners,” the DOA “Friend Me,” and the still awaiting their fate “CSI:NY,” “Golden Boy,” “Rules of Engagement,” “Vegas” and the still-waiting-at-presstime “Criminal Minds.”

  (And, about “Rules of Engagement”: When your own network has cast one of your lead actors in a new comedy, it’s pretty over; one of CBS’s pilots during development starred “RoE’s” Patrick Warburton.)

  That means CBS has a whole lot of pilots — it ordered more than last year — vying for very few available time slots. And on Wednesday, one of those time slots was handed over to Chuck Lorre for his fourth CBS comedy, sources say — the first pilot to get a series order.

  Lorre’s new sitcom, “Mom,” is about a recovering-alcoholic single mom living in Northern California’s wine country. The odds favor “Mom” getting the Monday-at-8:30 p.m. time slot, to take advantage of the expected increased ratings for the final (and this time CBS means it!) season of “How I Met Your Mother.”

  “Mom” fulfills both the “single women are sizzling hot” and the “semi-autobiographical new series” trends --  Lorre having referenced his own recovering status in the past.

  “Mom” joins the Lorre Library of CBS Comedies that include “The Big Bang Theory,” “Mike & Molly” and “Two and a Half Men.”

  NBC, which is the first network to formally unveil its new primetime schedule to ad execs, Monday morning at Radio City Music Hall, had a great fourth quarter — jumping from fourth place to first among 18-to-49ers who are the currency of prime-time ad sales. But, after that, NBC, like Persephone, slipped back to the bad place when football went away and “The Voice” took a breather.

 Good thing NBC’s got one of the most-talked-about new series for fall to trot out Monday morning; it stars Michael J. Fox in one of those semi-autobiographical comedies, about a husband/dad-of-three, living in New York. His challenges include living with Parkinson’s disease. To win the project in a bidding war, NBC promised it a 22-episode series order for fall.

 After attending that orgy of spin-doctoring Monday morning, it’s off to the Upper West Side’s Beacon Theatre in the afternoon, to hear Fox programming and ad-sales execs talk up the above mentioned new dramas and comedies, and explain how much they learned this season when they hit that iceberg and sank like the Titanic — plunging 20 percent in overall audience, and 22 percent in that younger age bracket that advertisers covet.

 Monday should be quite a day at the upfronts.

 Tuesday, ABC will put on its dog-and-pony-show, at Lincoln Center. No matter how fourth-placed its season finish among 18-to-49-ers looks to be, ABC will once again boast advertisers’ favorite seventh-inning-stretch entertainment of Upfront Week: Jimmy Kimmel. You have no idea what Kimmel does for advertisers’ outlook on ABC’s schedule.

  For the past few days, Hollywood has been buzzing in re whether ABC would get out of the “Dancing with the Stars” business in the fall and run the franchise just once a season after it struggled in the ratings this season.

 Another ABC head-scratcher: where to schedule and how to launch Joss Whedon’s sure-to-be-picked-up action drama pilot “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” (based on the Marvel comic books and “The Avengers” flick) in the sea of chick-ness that is ABC’s primetime these days.  

By  |  10:13 PM ET, 05/08/2013

Tags:  2013 upfronts, Fox upfronts

 
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