Upfronts 2009: Fox announces fall schedule

[This is the FOX press release.  My thoughts on this schedule are at the bottom]







“SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE” Returns in the Fall

“HUMAN TARGET” and “24” Premiere Sunday, January 17 Following NFC Divisional Playoff Game

New York (Monday, May 18, 2009) Peter Rice, Chairman, Entertainment; and Kevin Reilly, President, Entertainment, Fox Broadcasting Company, today unveiled the FOX primetime schedule for the 2009-2010 television season to the national advertising community during its annual Programming Presentation at New York City Center.

“As the No.1 network for the last five years, FOX is the first place viewers go to connect with the stories and characters they love,” said Rice. “With next year’s slate of distinctive shows, we’re continuing to invest in creativity to give viewers the rich, emotional experience they can only get on television.”

Reilly added, “The strategic moves we made last year to build off of our biggest assets are paying off. We’ve created stability and consistently strong performance across the week. Next season, we’re bringing back two top-rated sophomore dramas and using our hits to introduce a broad and compelling slate of new shows that will make our air even more vibrant and alive.”

After a special preview event airing Tuesday, May 19 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT), GLEE, the distinctive new comedy from Ryan Murphy (“Nip/Tuck”) starring Jane Lynch (“The 40 Year Old Virgin”) and newcomers Matthew Morrison (Broadway’s “Hairspray”), Lea Michele (“Spring Awakening”) and Cory Monteith (“Kyle XY”), will enter its freshman year this fall. Combining biting humor with a soundtrack of hit music from past to present, the inventive series follows an optimistic high school teacher who against all odds attempts to restore McKinley High’s fading Glee Club to its former glory, while helping a group of underdogs realize their true star potential.

Two additional new comedies will premiere this fall. From the producers of FAMILY GUY, comes THE CLEVELAND SHOW. The new Sunday night animated comedy follows everyone’s favorite soft-spoken FAMILY GUY neighbor, CLEVELAND BROWN (Mike Henry), who moves with his son back to his hometown in Virginia and settles down with his high school sweetheart and her unruly kids. Copy/pasted from The Futon Critic BROTHERS, starring Michael Strahan (“FOX NFL Sunday”) and Daryl “Chill” Mitchell (“Ed,” “Veronica’s Closet”), is a new half-hour comedy about a former big-city NFL hot shot who returns home to his family and his mother’s house to get his life back on track.

On Saturday, Nov. 7 (11:00 PM-Midnight ET/PT), late night will never be the same when Emmy Award winner Wanda Sykes returns to FOX to host THE WANDA SYKES SHOW (working title). The irreverent Saturday late-night series will feature Sykes’ outspoken comedic perspective on current events along with topical, high-energy roundtable discussions.

The new event drama, HUMAN TARGET, premieres with a special preview Sunday, Jan. 17 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) following the NFC Divisional Playoff game. HUMAN TARGET is a full-throttle, action-packed thrill ride from executive producers McG (“Terminator Salvation”) and Simon West (“Con Air,” “Tomb Raider”). Based on the popular DC Comics graphic novel and starring Mark Valley (FRINGE), Chi McBride (“Pushing Daisies”) and Academy Award nominee Jackie Earle Haley (“Watchmen”), the series follows CHRISTOPHER CHANCE (Valley), a unique private contractor who will stop at nothing even if it means becoming a human target to keep his clients alive.

The other drama for midseason is PAST LIFE, a fast-paced emotional thriller inspired by the book “The Reincarnationist.” The series stars Kelli Giddish (“All My Children”) as a gifted psychologist and Nicholas Bishop (“Home and Away”) as a former NYPD detective who work together to explore and unravel mysteries that must be solved in both the past and the present.

One new comedy is scheduled to premiere in midseason. From three-time Emmy Award winner Todd Holland (“Malcolm in the Middle”), the non-traditional family comedy SONS OF TUCSON stars Tyler Labine (“Reaper”) as a charming but wayward schemer hired by three young brothers whose father is in prison.

Summer sensation SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE moves to the fall with its sixth season. Hosted by Cat Deeley and featuring renowned judges Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy, the original dance competition series will continue to inspire and amaze viewers as dancers skilled in styles ranging from hip-hop to ballroom compete to be named America’s Favorite Dancer.

It was also announced that the eighth season of 24 will return to the FOX schedule with a two-night, four-hour premiere as part of a special extended primetime on Sunday, Jan. 17 (9:00-11:00 PM ET/PT), immediately following the premiere of HUMAN TARGET. The next installment of the Emmy Award-winning series starring Kiefer Sutherland will unfold in New York City, amidst the shadows of the Statue of Liberty and the United Nations.


Following are the FOX primetime schedule for 2009-2010 and synopses of the new series:


8:00-9:00 PM HOUSE
9:00-10:00 PM LIE TO ME

8:00-10:00 PM SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE Performance Show

8:00-9:00 PM SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE Results Show
9:00-10:00 PM GLEE

8:00-9:00 PM BONES
9:00-10:00 PM FRINGE

8:00-8:30 PM BROTHERS
8:30-9:00 PM ‘TIL DEATH
9:00-10:00 PM DOLLHOUSE

8:00-8:30 PM COPS
8:30-9:00 PM COPS
11:00 PM-Midnight THE WANDA SYKES SHOW (working title)

7:00-8:00 PM THE OT (NFL post-game)
9:00-9:30 PM FAMILY GUY
9:30-10:00 PM AMERICAN DAD


8:00-9:00 PM HOUSE
9:00-10:00 PM 24

8:00-9:00 PM AMERICAN IDOL Performance Show
9:00-10:00 PM PAST LIFE

8:00-9:00 PM AMERICAN IDOL Results Show
9:00-10:00 PM HUMAN TARGET (January) / GLEE (spring)

8:00-9:00 PM BONES
9:00-10:00 PM FRINGE

8:00-8:30 PM BROTHERS
8:30-9:00 PM ‘TIL DEATH
9:00-10:00 PM DOLLHOUSE

8:00-8:30 PM COPS
8:30-9:00 PM COPS
11:00 PM-Midnight THE WANDA SYKES SHOW (working title)

9:00-9:30 PM FAMILY GUY



The following new comedies will premiere this fall on FOX:


McKinley High School’s Glee Club used to be at the top of the show choir world, but years later, it has turned into a haven for misfits and social outcasts. But at McKinley, things for the Glee Club are about to change. From Ryan Murphy, the creator of “Nip/Tuck,” comes GLEE, an uplifting comedy musical series with biting humor that features a soundtrack of hit music from past to present. The show follows an optimistic high school teacher as he tries to refuel his own passion for singing while reinventing the school’s glee club and challenging a group of underdogs to realize their star potential. WILL SCHUESTER (Matthew Morrison) has offered to take on the Herculean task of restoring McKinley’s Glee Club to its former glory with the help of fellow teacher and germaphobe EMMA PILLSBURY (Jayma Mays). It’s a tall order when the brightest stars of the club include KURT (Chris Colfer), a nerdy soprano with a flair for the dramatic; MERCEDES (Amber Riley), a dynamic diva-in-training who refuses to sing back-up; ARTIE (Kevin McHale), a geeky guitarist who spends more time avoiding bullies than chasing girls; and TINA (Jenna Ushkowitz), an awkward girl who needs to suppress her stutter before she can take center stage. Will’s only hope lies with two true talents: RACHEL BERRY (Lea Michele), a perfectionist firecracker who is convinced that show choir is her ticket to stardom; and FINN HUDSON (Cory Monteith), the popular high school quarterback with movie star looks and a Motown voice who must protect his reputation with his holier-than-thou girlfriend and head cheerleader, QUINN (Dianna Agron), and his arrogant football teammate, PUCK (Mark Salling). Driven by his secret past, Will is determined to do whatever it takes to make Glee great again, even though everyone around him thinks he’s nuts. He’s out to prove them all wrong from his tough-as-nails wife TERRI SCHUESTER (Jessalyn Gilsig) to McKinley’s scheming cheerleading coach SUE SYLVESTER (Jane Lynch) to an ber-hip world that thinks jazz hands and sequined tuxedos litter the road to infamy rather than pave the way to Hollywood dreams.

PRODUCTION COMPANIES: 20th Century Fox Television, Ryan Murphy Television

EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Dante Di Loreto

CO-EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Ian Brennan, John Peter Kousakis

DIRECTOR: Ryan Murphy

CAST: Dianna Agron as Quinn, Chris Colfer as Kurt, Jessalyn Gilsig as Terri Schuester, Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester, Jayma Mays as Emma Pillsbury, Kevin McHale as Artie, Lea Michele as Rachel Berry, Cory Monteith as Finn Hudson, Matthew Morrison as Will Schuester, Amber Riley as Mercedes, Mark Salling as Puck, Jenna Ushkowitz as Tina


THE CLEVELAND SHOW is a new animated series that follows everyone’s favorite soft-spoken neighbor, CLEVELAND BROWN (Mike Henry), to his hometown in Virginia as he settles down with his high school sweetheart, her unruly kids and his own 14-year-old son, CLEVELAND JR. (Kevin Michael Richardson). Many years ago, Cleveland was a high school student madly in love with a beautiful girl named DONNA (Sanaa Lathan). Much to his dismay, his love went unrequited, and Donna wound up marrying another man. Cleveland once told Donna he would always love her, and if this man ever done her wrong, he’d be there when she called. Well, this man done her wrong. Donna’s husband ran off, leaving Donna with a teenage daughter and a young son. Now she’s open to Cleveland and has offered him another chance at love. Unattached after the Loretta-Quagmire debacle and true to his word, Cleveland joyously reunites with Donna, and he and Cleveland Jr. move to Virginia to join their new family. Once in Virginia, there are a few surprises in store for Cleveland, including ROBERTA (Reagan Gomez-Preston), a rebellious new stepdaughter; RALLO (Henry), his new 5-year-old stepson who loves the ladies; and a collection of neighbors that includes a loudmouth redneck, LESTER (Richardson); a hipster wanna-be, HOLT (guest voice Jason Sudeikis); and a religious pair of talking bears, TIM (Seth MacFarlane) and his wife ARIANNA (guest voice Arianna Huffington).

PRODUCTION COMPANY: 20th Century Fox Television

CO-CREATORS/EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Seth MacFarlane, Rich Appel, Mike Henry

VOICE CAST: Mike Henry as Cleveland Brown, Rallo and others; Sanaa Lathan as Donna Tubbs; Reagan Gomez-Preston as Roberta Tubbs; Kevin Michael Richardson as Lester and Cleveland Jr.

GUEST VOICES: Arianna Huffington as Arianna, Jason Sudeikis as Holt


Starring Michael Strahan (“FOX NFL Sunday”) and Daryl “Chill” Mitchell (“Ed,” “Veronica’s Closet”), BROTHERS is a new half-hour comedy about a former NFL hot shot who learns that even though you can always go home again, the trip back might be tougher than you think. MIKE TRAINOR (Strahan) seemingly has it all he’s a good-looking, wealthy and recently retired NFL player living the high-life in New York City, but he’s about to get sidelined. When Mike gets a phone call from his MOM (CCH Pounder, “The Shield”) who orders him home to Houston, he quickly realizes the more his life has changed, the more his family has stayed the same. His brother CHILL (Daryl “Chill” Mitchell), whose life was altered drastically after a car accident left him in a wheelchair, is struggling to keep his restaurant afloat with the help of his loudmouth associate, ROSCOE (Colton Dunn, “MADtv”). The dynamics between Mike and Chill are the same as when they were kids, and their sibling rivalry hasn’t lessened with age. If they can stop their bickering, put aside their differences and learn to be teammates, the brothers might just turn out to be each other’s biggest asset. Copy/pasted from The Futon Critic Wedged between Mike and Chill are their parents. Their father, whom everyone refers to as COACH (Carl Weathers, “Rocky”), is the local high school football coach and the conservative, opinionated alpha male of his clan. Coach thinks he runs the show, but really it’s Mom who calls the shots. Saucy, stern and a schemer, she is the mastermind of the family. And when she learns that Mike’s business manager took off with all his money, she orchestrates a plan to keep Mike in Houston, save Chill’s restaurant and bring the family back together under one roof again all without anyone realizing what she’s up to. Mom’s plan helps Mike realize that his family however dysfunctional they may be is the only family he’s got. And although he may not have a penny to his name, as long as he’s surrounded by people who love him, he’ll always be a rich man.

PRODUCTION COMPANIES: Sony Pictures Television; Tantamount Studios; Impact Zone Productions, Inc.

EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Eric Tannenbaum, Kim Tannenbaum, Mitch Hurwitz, Don Reo


CAST: Michael Strahan as Mike, Daryl “Chill” Mitchell as Chill, CCH Pounder as Mom, Carl Weathers as Coach, Colton Dunn as Roscoe

The following new late-night series will premiere this fall:

THE WANDA SYKES SHOW (working title)

Emmy Award-winning actress, comedian and author Wanda Sykes returns to FOX to host the innovative and irreverent new Saturday late-night series, THE WANDA SYKES SHOW (working title). The high-energy one-hour show will feature biting commentary on topical issues and heated panel discussions with recurring personalities. The series’ unique format will highlight Sykes’ outspoken comedic perspective on current events and will also allow her to leave the studio to shoot segments in the field.

PRODUCTION COMPANY: Fox Television Studios

HOST: Wanda Sykes

The following new dramas are slated for a midseason launch:


It takes a brave, selfless man to make himself a “human target” in order to save the lives of those in danger. Based on the popular DC Comics graphic novel, HUMAN TARGET is a full-throttle action drama centered on CHRISTOPHER CHANCE (Mark Valley, FRINGE), a unique private contractor/security guard hired to protect. Call him what you like, because for Chance, it’s about one thing only: saving his clients’ lives. When there is an unusual or imminent threat that can’t be solved through “normal” means of protection, Chance is hired to completely integrate himself into his clients’ lives to become the human target. If you’re a corporate manager whose disgruntled employee has gone violently off the deep end, Chance is your new auditor. If you’re the president of a bank who’s been tipped off to a potential heist, Chance is your unassuming bank teller. During each job, Chance, assisted by his business partner WINSTON (Chi McBride, “Pushing Daisies”) and hired gun GUERRERO (Jackie Earle Haley, “Watchmen”), puts himself directly in the line of fire as he races against time to save his client, while unraveling the truth behind the mission. With every new danger, Chance’s dark history will also unravel. Does anyone know who Christopher Chance really is, or what secrets lay buried in his past? What would make a man willingly become a HUMAN TARGET?

PRODUCTION COMPANIES: Bonanza Productions Inc., Wonderland Sound and Vision, DC Comics, Warner Bros. Television

EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Jon Steinberg, McG, Simon West, Brad Kern


DIRECTOR: Simon West

WRITER: Jon Steinberg CAST: Mark Valley as Christopher Chance, Jackie Earle Haley as Guerrero, Chi McBride as Winston


Have you ever experienced dj vu or met someone you thought seemed familiar? Do you believe in karma, fate or love at first sight? From writer David Hudgins (“Friday Night Lights”), and inspired by the book “The Reincarnationist” by M.J. Rose, comes PAST LIFE, a new drama series about an unlikely pair of past-life detectives who investigate whether what is happening to you today is the result of who you were before. DR. KATE MCGINN (Kelli Giddish, “All My Children”) is not your typical psychologist. Confident, outspoken and highly educated, she works at The Talmadge Center for Behavioral Health in New York City, a world-renowned institute dedicated to the study of the science of the soul. After experiencing a past-life regression in her 20s, Kate became a believer in reincarnation. Using regression therapy and her natural gift for reading people, Kate helps solve the mysteries of her troubled clients who suffer from present-day problems caused by past-life traumas. She believes there are levels of consciousness and explanations for human behavior that science can’t begin to explain. Accustomed to skeptics, but not bothered by them, Kate is an unapologetic believer and a force of nature who marches to the beat of her own drummer. Her partner, PRICE WHATLEY (Nicholas Bishop, “Home and Away”), is a different story. A former NYPD homicide detective, pragmatic and cynical, Price is a damaged soul who constantly battles grief and guilt over the accidental death of his wife. Price feels that Kate, though not certifiable, certainly operates on the fringes of science. It’s a volatile relationship, but with Price’s solid detective skills, and Kate’s penchant for out-of-the-box thinking, together they make a formidable, if somewhat dysfunctional, team. A fast-paced emotional thrill ride, each episode finds Price and Kate working with their colleagues to unravel a new mystery involving the past-lives of their clients. DR. MALACHI TALMADGE (Richard Schiff, “The West Wing”) is Kate’s mentor and the center’s namesake, an avuncular but gruff elder statesman who is a legend in the field of cognitive research. DR. RISHI KARNA (Ravi Patel, “Scrubs”) is the rookie of the group, a baby-faced therapist from Calcutta who loves bad American TV, Cuban jazz and driving everyone crazy.

PRODUCTION COMPANIES: Bonanza Productions Inc., Warner Bros. Television

EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: David Hudgins, Lou Pitt

DIRECTOR: Deran Sarafian

WRITER: David Hudgins

CAST: Kelli Giddish as Dr. Kate McGinn, Nicholas Bishop as Price Whatley, Richard Schiff as Dr. Malachi Talmadge, Ravi Patel as Dr. Rishi Karna

The following new comedy is slated for a midseason launch:


In the tradition of “Malcolm in the Middle” and “The Bernie Mac Show,” SONS OF TUCSON is a family comedy about three brothers who hire a charming, wayward schemer to stand in as their father when their real one goes to prison. What begins as a business relationship evolves into something more complex and compelling: a family unlike any we’ve ever seen. The three brothers find their dad-for-hire, RON SNUFFKIN (Tyler Labine, “Reaper”), at the local sporting good store. Ron will be forced to draw on a wide array of skills and a vast bag of tricks as he steps into the patriarch role to take care of the boys of the Gunderson family. ROBBY GUNDERSON (Davis Cleveland, “How I Met Your Mother”), 8, is a loose cannon who doesn’t respond well to authority; GARY GUNDERSON (Frank Dolce, “Doubt”), 11, is a bright and street-savvy leader who is every bit the con man his father is; and BRANDON GUNDERSON (Troy Gentile, “Entourage”), 13, is a gentle free spirit who simply goes along for the ride. MAGGIE MORALES (Natalie Martinez, “Saints & Sinners”), Robby’s second-grade teacher and the object of Ron’s affection, might just be the only stable figure in the lives of this quirky quartet. While SONS OF TUCSON is grounded in the day-to-day challenges of a single-parent home, nothing in the Gunderson household is quite what it seems. An ongoing chess match between Ron and the boys will keep both parties on their toes, as neither side can afford to give up too much power or independence.

PRODUCTION COMPANY: 20th Century Fox Television

EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Justin Berfield, Jason Felts, Harvey Myman, Todd Holland

DIRECTOR: Todd Holland

WRITERS: Tommy Dewey, Greg Bratman

CAST: Tyler Labine as Ron Snuffkin, Davis Cleveland as Robby Gunderson, Frank Dolce as Gary Gunderson, Troy Gentile as Brandon Gunderson, Natalie Martinez as Maggie Morales

My thoughts:

The Good: Dollhouse gets another shot at gaining audience.  Fox looks committed to keeping genre shows alive!  Shawn Ryan (The Shield) takes over showrunner duties on Lie to Me.  That is all kinds of good for that show.

The Bad: Goodbye, Sarah Connor.  You will be missed.  Til Death got renewed?  Really?

Bottom Line: This is a solid schedule for Fox.  They already had a pretty strong slate going into this season, and it looks like that strength will continue.  Of course, it would have been nice to see Fringe and Dollhouse on the same night, but it was assumed that Dollhouse would stay a Friday night show (and Fringe is most definitely NOT a Friday night show).  We’ll have to see how this schedule stacks up against the other nets as the week goes on.  The other networks can’t be happy that So You Think You Can Dance will be on in the fall…


Still viable Specs: N/A

Possibly too old to start a new spec: Bones, House

Posted under analysis, tv news

This post was written by Shawna on May 18, 2009

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So Now What?

That’s certainly what I was thinking after reading all of the news coming out of the networks last night.  Genre fans should be happy (I among them) that there will be plenty of new genre shows to look forward to next season ranging from young skewing (Vampire Diaries) to epic (Day One) to generally intriguiging (Eastwick, Hard Target, Past Lives, V). 

But then there were a few shows given pick-up orders that really beat the odds.

Dollhouse ended its season with a 1.0 rating.  By anyone’s calculation, it should be toast.  But Fox decided to give it more time.  Same with ABC and Better off Ted and Scrubs — by anyone’s calculation of the ratings these shows should have been kicked to the curb, but they too are being given more time on the air (in the case of Scrubs, this is like it’s 3rd life…I swear it’s the cat of network tv).  If NBC isn’t completely stupid, they’ll do the same for Chuck.

So this brings us to the question at hand — “So now what?”  Of course, I say this from a writing perspective, thinking about what new specs to write.  Suddenly shows I wasn’t sure I’d have a shot with (Castle, Dollhouse, Lie to Me) are viable specs.  Comedy folks should consider ‘Better off Ted’, which I think is quite funny and deserves its second season, by the way.

But will anyone READ these specs?  Generally you want to spec good shows which you know people are watching.  If there is a large audience for the show, it’s more likely someone who might read your spec would be familiar with it and be able to compare your spec to the show generally.  But that paradigm has changed a bit, since there are a lot of good shows on the air that not quite as many people are watching — Breaking Bad, Big Love, Damages, etc.

So what makes a show truly spec-worthy?  Is being a good show or being a popular show enough to qualify?

Obviously, if it meets both criteria, i.e. is House, Grey’s Anatomy, Law and Order: SVU it is a no brainer.  But we’ve shows like Mad Men and Dexter, which by network standards have small audience — but are quality shows — become the popular specs.  Other shows due to format are very difficult, nay impossible to spec (not to say some don’t give it a good try); I’m thinking of Lost and 24 in this category.  We also have shows like NCIS which have been very popular with TV audiences, but Hollywood agents, writers and managers seem averse to watching because of perceived lack of quality or whatever (so a spec would be a waste of time).

But what is a spec?  It’s a sample of your writing.  You want someone to be able to read it and be able to judge if you can write a good story, interesting dialog, and do it in the mold/style of the show you are speccing)

Every year I try to get a bead on what are the popular specs — what are people writing and what are agents/managers/showrunners/contests looking to read?  This year it has been all over the map.  I know a lot of folks who latched on to Pushing Daisies last year (and understandably so) who may be able to get another few months out of that spec…but now that the show is canceled, how long can you milk a spec for the show (usually about a year after it ends, from what I understand).  My House spec was good for about 3 years, almost 4 as I think I was forgiven for not having the new team in my spec at the time I wrote it.  But now it’s old, outdated.  If I want to keep using a House spec, I need to write a new one or completely rewrite the old one to include the newer characters and their relationship dynamics.

Right now I’m praying that NBC picks up Chuck so I can polish that script and send it out.  I started looking at my old specs to see what plots I could recycle into new ones — right now I have a Cold Case that may become a really interesting Castle spec (thank you ABC!) 

Oh and we’re still told having pilots is good.  So get on that if you haven’t.

Networks present their proposed schedules at upfronts this week.  Stay tuned.

Posted under analysis

This post was written by Shawna on May 16, 2009

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The Spec Picture right now

Based on how things are faring right now, I would recommend holding off on a Pushing Daisies or a Terminator spec.  Both those shows are suffering badly on their second season returns. (Or, if you are going to write them, get them out FAST, because you may not be able to use them for more than a few months).

I feel better about my CHUCK spec now.

I don’t think anyone will have to write a KNIGHT RIDER spec.  Thank goodness.

Remember when I said BONES probably isn’t a good spec?  I’ve changed my mind.  The show is popular and gaining momentum in town I think.


I have a feeling I’ll be seeing THE MENTALIST specs by next spring.  I have no feeling one way or the other about this.

Cable is still the place to spec right now — DEXTER, MAD MEN, THE CLOSER.  I’m even contemplating a BURN NOTICE spec myself, which I would never have thought to do a few months ago.

Posted under analysis, writing

This post was written by on October 2, 2008

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Comic Con Analysis for TV Watchers and Wannabes Part One

You’ve probably seen all of the news smothered over the internet like Smuckers raspberry preserves (yum), and you may have even seen some of the panels.

Now I want to pick it apart and analyze it all. What does all of this MEAN?

The week before Comic Con a little event called the TCA Fall Press Tour happened…not that’d you’d know, because it got a thimble-size of the press Comic Con received. Anymore the networks realize that connecting with fans is as important (if not moreso) than chattering at TV critics and reporters who cover this stuff for a living. Granted, most critics are also TV fans, and it becomes evident as they pick good quality shows to support which just don’t get the ratings they need to survive. It happens every year.

Still, getting fans engaged, the kind who go to big events like Comic Con can be “make or break” for a film, and now for TV shows too. Lost set the precedent (though I’m sure other shows have visited before that show launched) for launching at Comic Con and getting fan support early. If the fans like you, buzz builds online and people get excited for the show.

The lesson learned in 2007 was it is not enough to hype the pilot. Too many shows (See: Invasion, Surface, Bionic Woman and Journeyman) placed too much emphasis on the pilot and not on the whole show. The good news, is that for the shows that approach the marketing of their shows with creativity and flair (and let’s be fair, we’re talking mostly ‘genre’ shows here), it can pay great dividends. Two years ago Heroes was the belle of the ball. Last year the big buzz was around Pushing Daisies and Sarah Connor Chronicles. All of those shows saw good sampling based in part on their launches at Comic Con.

So what about this year? Who has benefited the most from their appearances at Comic Con. Let’s give each network a grade.

ABC presented panels for Lost and Pushing Daisies, both returning shows. ABC hasn’t picked up their midseason shows yet, and their new fall shows don’t really qualify as ‘genre’. Both panels were packed and response was very positive. The “Lost” panel gave away some fun prizes to people who asked questions and showed a short teaser video tieing into the new ARG running this year. They put the panel in the largest room (Hall H) which shows just how much demand there is for the show at Comic Con. “Daisies” also got good buzz going again with some clips for next season (the benefit for returning shows this year is that most have already started shooting at least a couple of episodes, so there was stuff to show). ABC did a good job with their show promotion, though I think “Daisies” could have used a stronger push. Overall, a good job. Grade: A-

CBS had no presence at Comic Con this year. Their only new genre show is Harper’s Island which was nowhere to be seen. Viacom makes up for this shortcoming with its Showtime offerings, which we’ll get to later. Grade: D

Fox pulled out all the stops for its shows. Not only did the new J.J. Abrahms show Fringe get lots of viral marketing, a panel and a screening of the pilot, but Fox was there to strongly promote Season 2 of Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles and other returning shows. Offerings ranged from the obvious (The Simpsons, Family Guy, 24) to the surprising (Bones, Prison Break, American Dad. And then there was Joss. Of course, nothing could hold back the hordes of Whedonites who needed their fix of Dollhouse. The panels were all well attended (although Fringe was less full than I expected), the marketing was really great for the fall premieres, and definitely buzz was built for the new shows. I think Fox knows how to promote their genre offerings. Grade: A

NBC After mixed results from their Comic Con promotion last year, I was glad to see that NBC bounced back and charged ahead aggressively. They too presented some unusual offerings — The Office writers panel? (A dream for us!) But they were in full force for freebies and viral campaigns for Knight Rider, Chuck, The Office, and Heroes. They also did well to give lots of early info on midseason show Kings which got some good buzz and attention at the Con. Disappointments: No Merlin or Crusoe news. Their booth in the exhibit hall was similar to last year, but the giveaways were good, and the Comic Con exclusive merchandise was very popular. Grade: A-

The CW Okay, so I know Supernatural and Smallville were both there, but where the heck was Reaper?? Grade: C- (Kudos to WB for promoting their studio backed shows — they had the Nerd Herd car giveaway/drawing)

Hard to believe that was just the network presence! Next post: The cable nets, and how does this impact writing specs?

UPDATE: A myriad of panels!

NBC’s Show Panels

Posted under analysis, tv news

This post was written by Shawna on August 6, 2008

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The Hot Specs of 2008 – The Dramas

This is a work in progress. I encourage everyone to submit their opinions and any information they have regarding the viability of specs for shows I’ve listed or those I haven’t. I will update with your suggestions if it appears reasonable.

It’s time again for my annual list of the “hottest” shows to spec for TV writers. Keep in mind, that is very important now to not only have a couple of good episode specs, but also a spec pilot, a spec feature or a play, to show how you can create your own “universe” and story. Showrunners/agents/managers today want to see both.

But, the traditional TV Spec is far from dead. It’s still a valuable tool many showrunners use to assess new writers, and agents/managers like specs because it gives a good indicator of how well you can mimic voice and tone of a show, important for getting you staffed.

So, without further ado, here are the hottest specs this year, in order of perceived “hotness”:

1. Dexter

Everyone I know is writing a “Dexter” spec. This could be good or bad, depending on your viewpoint. The feeling is you can do a lot of edgy stuff with Dexter you can’t really do with even, say, “Criminal Minds”. Like “House” last year, it runs the risk of being over-specced, but for now, this is a good bet if you have a great idea you can execute for the character and the show.

2. Mad Men

It’s weird — this show is probably the least seen of all the ‘hot specs’ and yet I continue to hear people talking about how this is *the* show to spec. I am a bit dubious, but since so many people are doing “Mad Men” specs, I feel it has to be this high on the list.

3. Pushing Daisies

It’s rare to see a first year show so far up the list, but because this show has such a distinct voice, a lot of people feel like they want to give it a try. How showrunners will respond to a “Pushing Daisies” spec is the question, as there is so little else on the air like it, what would it really help a showrunner understand about your type of writing. I suppose “Ugly Betty” or a couple of other shows with some ‘whimsy’ to them would be plausible.

4. House

It’s still a ‘go-to’ spec for most procedural type shows. It’s more fun to read than your standard CSI/L&O/Criminal Minds spec, but still shows you can do procedural. This has been so popular for so long, I wouldn’t be surpised if it wears out its welcome this year, so write it fast and use it quick before it goes stale.

5. The Closer

Also good for showing chops at witty lead character and procedural elements, it seems to have really gained in appreciation the last year or so.

6. Ugly Betty

Only in its second year, it’s still fresh enough. If the ratings continue their downward slide however, it may not last longer than another year. Time will tell.

7. Brothers & Sisters

I had a tough time determining whether this was #6 and UB was #7, but ultimately, I think this one has longer term potential, but there’s still a lot of people out there who haven’t seen it. Still, if you need a serialized spec to go with a procedural for your portfolio, this one might meet your needs but if you like writing teens…

8. Gossip Girl

Another first year show with some upside. This will continue to gain in popularity. You might wait until summer to write this one — just to see what kind of changes are in store for next year. (of course, if you can suss out any show changes, it’s a good thing for any of these).

Lukewarm They aren’t as hot as they used to be, but they still get some mileage:

Desperate Housewives
Rescue Me
Big Love
Grey’s Anatomy (the love affair is waning)

The Wildcards These shows may become popular specs this year, but right now I can’t find many people willing to take on the challenges they present. Still, I think this category of specs should be considered:

The Riches
Friday Night Lights
Burn Notice
The Sarah Connor Chronicles (now that it has been renewed)
Dirty Sexy Money
Life (I have a great idea for this one, but I don’t know that the popularity of the show is high enough to rate)

The Aged and Infirm These specs are nearing or past their expiration date. Even if you have a great one of these, it may be time to consider writing a new spec. An agent or manager might read it, but you know, it pays to stay timely:

Criminal Minds
L&O, L&O: SVU and L&O: Criminal Intent
Cold Case
The Sopranos (seriously? it’s over! move on)
Without a Trace
Boston Legal

AVOID AT ALL COSTS! You may love the show, or think you have a great idea for it, but I can assure you, no one will read it if it is for any of these shows:

The Ghost Whisperer
Prison Break
Battlestar Galactica (unless you are trying to get staffed on ‘Caprica’)
Men in Trees
The Unit (all but cancelled)

Other thoughts or opinions on the dramas? I’ll post the comedies tomorrow.

Posted under writing

This post was written by Shawna on April 28, 2008

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It’s that time again….

Yes, spec season AND contest season are here. And I realized this morning I need a new spec.


So, I guess I’ll do a new post on ‘what to spec’, just as soon as I figure that out…

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This post was written by Shawna on April 2, 2008

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Writing while the WGA pickets…

So, I’m contemplating my own future during the strike. Mystery project which had just gotten some MAJOR MOJO is now in limbo as we wait it out. There will be no joy in Mudville, and certainly no selling.

So, off I go to contemplate other projects. There is of course the new spec pilot I’m writing, which I will continue to crank on. Then there’s the graphic novel I’m seriously considering. Oh, and I’m thinking of trying out another pilot as a longish narrative story first, just to help figure out the beats. And then there’s the web series.

I’m very much looking forward to getting the web series off the ground as I think it’s a cool idea and unlike most series which seem to be talking heads, this one might actually be interesting to some people. But here’s my question of the day…

…if you were to watch a web series, what is the longest an episode could be before you’d get distracted/bored/stop and need to watch the rest of it later? My thought is 5 minutes is about the most someone will take in a sitting. But maybe it’s less, maybe it’s more. I know pacing and the goodness of the material accounts for a lot and can help the time fly by. But I’m interested in any other opinions.

Posted under writing

This post was written by Shawna on November 2, 2007

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Irrational Anxiety

So far, I’ve had no luck with any of the contests I’ve entered specs in this year. Austin — didn’t even make it to the second round. Expo — no dice. Scriptapalooza — QF one script. PAGE — nada.

It makes me incredibly nervous about ABC and WB, the two I really want to do well with (obviously). It’s starting to make me wonder where I’ve gone wrong with these specs.

Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s subjective. My scripts could be so brilliant they are blinding the readers to their brilliance. Or, maybe I’m just missing something…

Keeping my fingers crossed for the big 2 “contests” left…

Posted under Uncategorized

This post was written by Shawna on October 4, 2007

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Dink, dink, goose.

The Medium and the House spec got dinked at Austin. The House made it to 2nd round last year.


Meanwhile, this doesn’t change anything with all of my super secret happenings…

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This post was written by Shawna on August 30, 2007

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Starting from scratch

I know you’ve been there. You’re working on an idea, you’ve even got it vaguely sketched out in your head. It’s a BIG IDEA, and it’s daunting. And then you try to cobble it together quickly so you can get some feedback, figure out if you are going in the right direction…

…and you confuse everyone. They barely get it. It’s frustrating.

That’s where I am right now on the new pilot I’m writing. For some reason, I can’t just write a simple little cop show or maybe a nice dramedy. No, I have to go EPIC. It has to be ginormous scope, and little me trying to rein it in, tackle it to the ground and make it do my bidding. I went through hell and back with the last one, and this one looks like it is going to be the same process. The only good news is I went through the wringer once, so at least I know what to expect.

Oh, and by the way this is the *third* pilot idea I’ve started in a month. The first one wasn’t working, the second one was too similar to someone else’s, so now here I am, third idea. I was saving this one back because I felt like I needed more time to envision it before putting it on paper.

Looks like I was right. Another high concept idea, comin’ right up.

Posted under writing

This post was written by Shawna on August 10, 2007

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