The U.S. broadcast network Upfronts concluded last week with 31 cancellations and a total of 41 shows ordered to series, out of 92 network pilots and 15 for the cable nets, including mid-season and back ups. The percentage of pickups was around 45 percent, down considerably from last year’s 70 percent. While 2010 was drama heavy, dramas and comedies were almost in perfect balance this time around, with 21 and 20 respectively (of the comedies, two are animated). The grand total of pickups was down slightly from last year’s 42 series, of which 21 were dramas, 14 were comedies, three were dramedies, three were reality shows and one was an animated series. NBC kicked things off with its presentation the morning of Monday, May 16 and Fox followed suit with an afternoon screening the same day. ABC, CBS and CW made their announcements on the 17, 18 and 19.
Where trends are concerned, female driven comedies, mystery-based thrillers and dramas incorporating elements of fairy tales emerged as the hot properties. Below is a wrap-up of 2011 pilots ordered to series. For a complete list, please check out VideoAge’s website: http://videoageinternational.com/screenings/screen-new-series-11.htm
ABC led the networks in pickups with 13 new shows. Its new series skew drama heavy, with seven dramas to five comedies. Serious fare includes Pan Am, about the glamorous lives of stewardesses and pilots, as well as the much buzzed about Charlie’s Angels reboot, both from Sony Pictures TV International. In the drama department, ABC also picked up one of two fairy tale themed series that will premiere in the fall: Once Upon a Time (Disney Media Distribution), about a town where magic is possible. Another big trend this year was female driven comedies, like the Alphabet Net’s Apartment 23 (Twentieth Century Fox TV Distribution), which centers on a mismatched pair of girls living together in New York.
CBS was a bit more conservative, with three dramas and three comedies for a total of six new series. In keeping with the female comedy trend, The Eye Network gave the green light to 2 Broke Girls (Warner Bros. International TV) about two penniless 22 year-old girls taking on life in Brooklyn. On the darker side, CBS has Person of Interest (Warner Bros), a CIA thriller from Lost mastermind J.J. Abrams, and The 2-2 (CBS Studios), a cop drama from Robert De Niro.
Teen-skewing net the CW picked up three soapy dramas. From CBS Studios, it green lit Ringer, a thriller starring Sarah Michelle Geller. Plus, there’s Warner Bros.’ doctor series Hart of Dixie and The Secret Circle.
For its part, Fox picked up seven new primetime shows, in addition to the highly anticipated U.S. version of reality show The X Factor. The four new comedies are female-driven New Girl starring Zoey Deschanel, family laugher I Hate My Teenage and animated titles Allen Gregory and Napolean Dynomite, all distributed by Fox. Of note among its four dramas is Alcatraz (Warner Bros.), yet another thriller from J.J. Abrams, which will makes its debut in midseason.
After faltering last year with its Jay Leno fiasco, NBC was aggressive, with the second most pickups. The Peacock Net’s series orders totaled 11, made up of six comedies and five dramas. Comedy highlights include Up All Night, which stars Christina Applegate as an acerbic working mom as well as Whitney, from executive producer and star Whitney Cummings about the ups and downs of a committed relationship. Both female centering on female leads, they are distributed by NBC Universal. Where drama is concerned there’s Smash (NBC Universal), executive producer Steven Spielberg’s answer to Fox’s hit musical series Glee. Smash centers on a group of characters who come together to put on a Broadway show. Also on the drama side is Grimm (NBC Universal), a cop drama set in a world where fairy tales exist; The Firm, from Entertainment One, based on the John Grisham novel of the same name; and Prime Suspect from ITV Global.