I don't know if you've heard, but various television networks are having these upfront presentations, and they range from entertainingly professional industry demonstrations with some expensive production flourishes to utter bacchanals.
The broadcast networks follow a fairly rigorous formula, but on cable it's either a presentation that says, "Look, we're different," or a crazy tribute fete following some breaking news announced earlier in the day. And now, of course, we have digital companies like Yahoo, AOL and YouTube trying to get in on the action, so there's even more to cover.
Bones: Yes, David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel are back for an eighth season in a pretty solid odd couple comedy-drama police procedural, which is about as safe a bet as you can get on broadcast unless it was somehow also a doctor show. Which it kind of is. A dependable cop show with some good laughs is not at all a bad investment. We'll see where it shows up on the schedule.
Real Time With Bill Maher: Bill Maher is one of those comedians I wish I agreed with less. It's not that he's not funny; it's that his total sneering certainty about subjects like religion and tired libertarian saws such as, say, legalizing prostitution, make it kind of painful to listen to him even when you believe he's onto something. That, I suppose, is why HBO is glad to have him back. For all its artisanal stylings, the king of pay cable networks gets subscriptions (and ink from saps like me) by creating controversy, and Maher's much-publicized denigration of Sarah Palin—recently newsworthy because a bunch of fools thought that calling a politician a dirty word is the same as telling a grad student you want to watch her have sex—is probably a reason to hire him, as opposed to a reason to get rid of him, as it would be anywhere ad-supported. He'll be at it through 2014, at least.
Underemployed: This is a show on MTV that looks like what would happen if Girls was trying for a much more commercial berth. It's about recent college grads (who admittedly are from a different place on the fiscal continuum than the Lena Dunham crew) who can't find jobs, have lots of sex and need to grow up. Here's an old joke: Q. How do journalists count? A. One, two, trend. If there is one, just one more TV show about overeducated twentysomethings trying to find meaningful direction, you will see the development floodgates open.
Girlfriend Confidential: There was a lot written about how The Glee Project barely moved the needle when it debuted last year, but the fact is that through some careful care and feeding, the network managed to get it a decent audience of Glee fans by the time the season ended. Now, ratings for Glee are circling the drain, and Oxygen can't exactly afford to cross its fingers and hope for the best in the new season. So it's doing what more or less keeps Bravo on an uphill slope. It's trying to create a franchise, and fast. Girlfriend Confidential is two shows, not one; there are Los Angeles and New York versions. Daniel Soiseth, who signed an exclusive deal with Discovery last year, is producing Girlfriend Confidential: LA, so this is actually a get for Discovery, too, in that it justifies at least one of the big overarching deals that company signed by the bucket load with popular reality producers.
Dancing With Myself: This is something I'm both really happy about and kind of can't believe exists. Hair band jukebox musical Rock of Ages is—I know the bar is set high for this honor—the tackiest thing on Broadway, and it's being rewarded for this magnificent achievement with a big-screen adaptation coming out next month. That was not enough, however, and now Yahoo, in its never ending bid to squeeze some of that good TV money out of advertisers, is buying a hair band jukebox musical set in high school from the same guys who created Rock of Ages. The footage at the Yahoo NewFront seemed to be mostly a sizzle reel, but the haircuts were exactly as good as the choice of music. Its entirely up to you to decide whether that's a compliment or an insult. I'm going to watch it, that's for sure.
Eyes of the Dragon: I get screeners from a lot of places, but few make it home with more regularity than the Syfy original movies, if only so I can show my wife the Eddie-Izzard-IS-Long-John-Silver-IN-Treasure-Island cover. (Seriously, that arrived just this week. It's an acquisition from RHI, but does that make it less awesome?) Stephen King is, despite what Harold Bloom thinks, a great writer, and Eyes of the Dragon is a good book. Here's hoping they don't pull an Earthsea with it, but it's really cool to see talent like Battlestar Galactica's Michael Taylor attached to it. Which reminds me: it's been an entire post without a conspiracy theory, so here's one: Syfy is scheduled to start bringing out actual see-them-in-the-theater feature films sometime this year. Are some of these "long-form scripted development" going to show up at Syfy Films if they have enough zip?
Also, look for little-brother network Chiller to have some really cool indie horror movies sometime soon, now that the horror boom caused by the Saw movies is over and people are still making too many interesting movies for one Halloween.
Lindsay Lohan will play Elizabeth Taylor in Lifetime's Liz & Dick: You may weep now.
Upstairs Downstairs: The BBC will not order another season of its revival of the classic period soap about upper-class Brits and the servants who do not necessarily love them. This reminds me of another U.K. property: Highlander. Why Highlander, you say? Because in the end, there can be only one.