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The 2013-14 Upfront

ABC, CBS Firm Up Their Fall Schedules

Nets heavy up on comedy, part ways with underperforming legacy series

On the Friday night before the TV world converges on New York for the upfronts, word about their respective orders, renewals and cancelations is starting to trickle in from the ABC and CBS camps.

First, the bad news. As expected, ABC has pulled the plug on freshman series Red Widow, Malibu Country and How to Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life). Also not coming back in the fall are Happy Endings and Body of Proof.

On the other side of the ledger, the network has ordered a slew of new shows, including the Joss Whedon thriller Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and a pair of David Zabel-penned (ER) dramas, Lucky 7 and Betrayal.

All told, ABC has picked up seven new dramas, some more seemingly familiar than others. In what sounds like a Xerox copy of a Xerox copy of USA Network’s Psych, Mind Games stars Steve Zahn and Christian Slater as brothers who use psychological manipulation and the short con to help deliver results to their clients.

The River Styx reverses its course in Resurrection, a spooky drama in which the dead of Arcadia, Mo., begin to return to their loved ones. Produced by ABC Studios, Resurrection represents yet another attempt to tap into the supernatural zeitgeist.

Also cleared for takeoff is the procedural Killer Women (Tricia Helfer) and the spinoff Once Upon a Time in Wonderland.

ABC also heavied up on comedy, committing to five newcomers. The retro family sitcom The Goldbergs tested particularly well, and while CBS last spring passed on the Rebel Wilson pilot Super Fun Night, a second effort with a revamped cast helped earn the show a spot on ABC’s fall roster.

Other new ABC comedies include: Trophy Wife (Malin Akerman), Mixology (Blake Lee) and Back in the Game (Maggie Lawson).

If you were involved with an underperforming CBS series, today was basically Michael Francis Rizzi’s baptism. Freshman series Golden Boy and Vegas were both whacked, leaving Elementary the sole survivor of the class of 2012-13. Also not returning in the fall is the Rasputin-like comedy Rules of Engagement and veteran procedural CSI: NY.

Having already booked a huge chunk of its prime-time lineup for a return engagement, CBS had to clear out a few time slots for its new crop of shows. Among the confirmed series orders are four comedies and a pair of dramas.

The big investment in comedy is a bit of a reversal for CBS, which ordered just one sitcom (the quickly canceled Partners) before last year’s upfront. The four new projects boast an unimpeachable comedic pedigree (Robin Williams, Anna Faris, Will Arnett and Tony Shalhoub are the real standouts), and the producers attached are a veritable murderer’s row: Chuck Lorre, David E. Kelley, Jerry Bruckheimer and Greg Garcia.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, CBS snapped up Lorre’s latest effort; with four series on the air at the same time, Lorre finds himself in the company of prolific producers like Norman Lear and Aaron Spelling. Mom stars Anna Faris as a newly sober woman who moves back home to Napa Valley to try and pick up the pieces with some help from her mom, Allison Janny.

Marking the first time CBS will have a single-camera comedy in the lineup in five years, Kelley’s The Crazy Ones stars Williams as a slightly touched advertising executive and Sarah Michele Gellar as his creative-director daughter. The Millers features Arnett as a recently divorced guy whose parents move in with him for an extended stay, while We Are Men is an ensemble piece starring Shalhoub, Kal Penn and Jerry O’Connell as a bunch of divorced dudes who live in the same short-term rental complex.

On the drama front, CBS has ordered a series that seems to share some DNA with its sophomore hit, Person of Interest. Intelligence stars Josh Holloway as a super-sleuth who has a microchip implanted in his brain that allows him access to the “entire electromagnetic spectrum.” Also booked for the coming broadcast season is Hostages, a conspiracy thriller starring Dylan McDermott and Toni Collette.

As CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves likes to remind investors, it’s not easy to break into the No. 1 network’s prime-time lineup. That said, by the time CBS unveils its fall schedule, it is likely to have picked up another drama or two.

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