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The 2013-14 Upfront

Fox Spills the Beans on Upfront Slate

Network orders up four dramas and five comedies

Karl Urban and Michael Ealy star in J.J. Abrams’ upcoming Fox series.

Having finished the process of selecting its new original series for the upcoming broadcast season, Fox on Wednesday evening took the unconventional step of revealing its picks ahead of next week’s upfront presentation.

The network has committed to four new dramas and five comedies, nearly doubling its five-series order of a year ago. 

The four freshman dramas include the sort of big genre exercises Fox steered clear of this year. (No doubt the failure of pricey fare like Terra Nova and Alcatraz dampened the network’s enthusiasm for big-risk development.) 

Bound to attract the most attention is J.J. Abrams’ Almost Human (working title), a cop show set 35 years in the future, when flesh-and-blood police officers are paired off with androids. The cast includes Karl Urban, Michael Ealy and Lili Taylor.

With fairy-tale diversions in vogue (see also: ABC’s Once Upon a Time and its pilot spinoff Once: Wonderland), Fox takes a stab at the fantastic with Sleepy Hollow. From co-creators/executive producers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (Star Trek, Fringe), Sleepy Hollow is being billed as a modern-day retelling of the Washington Irving story

Next up is Rake, which tested extremely well with Fox execs and the rank-and-file. Starring Greg Kinnear as a cantankerous attorney/degenerate gambler, Rake is a nod to the Fox tradition of constructing dramas around male antihero types.

Lastly, executive producer Brian Grazer top-lines Gang Related, a gritty procedural starring Terry O’Quinn as the leader of a task force designed to quash gang activity in Los Angeles. Working alongside Quinn is the Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA, who made his bones in indie films like Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai and Coffee and Cigarettes.

Fox announced its drama slate just hours after News Corp. chief operations officer Chase Carey told investors that the network would return to taking bigger swings with its content. “There’s no sure things in the creative business, but we feel great about the strength of our operations,” Carey said during the company’s earnings call. “We are looking forward to taking some pretty creative risks that offer audiences fresh and engaging entertainment…and look forward to sharing our new lineup of shows next week with the Fox upfront.”

On the comedy front, many of the pilots that generated the most buzz during the last week of screenings have been picked up to series.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine features Saturday Night Live alum Andy Samberg as a genial goofball detective who needs to straighten up his act when a new hardass police chief (Andre Braugher) is transferred to the precinct house. The cop caper is the brainchild of Dan Goor and Michael Schur, the writers/producers of NBC’s Parks and Recreation.

Based on the UK fave Gavin & Stacey, Us & Them is a single-camera ensemble comedy  starring Jason Ritter and Alexis Bledel. It joins the military sitcom Enlisted and the project formerly known as I Suck at Girls, Surviving Jack. The show is the second broadcast comedy to be adapted from a Justin Halpern book; it follows on the heels of the 2010 CBS outing, $#*! My Dad Says.

Finally, to the surprise of absolutely no one, Fox has given the green light to Seth MacFarlane’s  live-action, multi-camera comedy, Dads. Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi star in a pilot that is said to have been met with mixed reviews during in-house screenings. (Early reception aside, it’s difficult to imagine that Fox would reject MacFarlane’s latest effort—after all, entertainmnet chief Kevin Reilly only last year turned down the triple-threat’s initial draft of a Flintstones refresh.)

Dads is created and written by the people who brought you the feature film Ted: MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild.

Fox will present its 2013-14 schedule Monday afternoon in New York’s Beacon Theater. While the network revealed much of the meat of its presentation, there will be plenty of other surprises for buyers and clients when Reilly makes his spring pitch.

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