Most Likely to Succeed

Our picks for the most promising new shows on networks this fall

Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell reunite for Fox's The X Factor. | Photo by Todd Williamson/WireImage


In the unlikely case you haven’t heard, it’s upfront week. But sometimes lost in the talk of dollars is the fact five broadcasters will unveil their fall prime-time lineups. NBC spills the goods first, followed by Fox, ABC, CBS, and The CW. Expect hyperbole to come in heaps.

Extravagant claims of “break-out shows” and “star casts” are no surprise given the money at stake. The same claims are always made. But of the 24 freshman series in fall 2010, only a handful are returning. As with creatures in the jungle, most new series don’t survive. And with a majority of midseason entries also blatant failures, and aging stalwarts like Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy on ABC, Law & Order: SVU on NBC, House on Fox, and the CSI franchise on CBS (expected to be pared down) continuing to lose steam, the networks naturally are feeling the heat.

There are an estimated 88 scripted pilots and 10 nonscripted projects vying for positions. Skulduggery still draws a crowd so there is no shortage of catch-the-bad-guy thrillers—also supernatural/occult-themed scripted hours, particularly on The CW.

Interestingly, there are 41 sitcoms in development—a higher number than usual. As sometimes happens, that could be a crappy bet. (For the pilot crowd, this is a brutal week.)

Two of the higher-profile projects—Charlie’s Angels for ABC and Prime Suspect for NBC—are revivals, and both are expected to make it to prime time. Several shows are set in the 1960s and earlier (including The Playboy Club, an NBC drama). There is also one confirmed spinoff (The Finder from Fox’s Bones), and an unusually high number of projects based on books, with Good Christian Bitches from Darren Star for ABC considered a lock.

What follows is a breakdown by network including the projected return rate for the fall 2010 entries; the estimated hours in prime time in need of repair (excluding Saturday, which no one aggressively programs); the new series most likely to land on the schedule; and the one quivering foal of a series that is most likely to succeed. 

Minus any confirmed time periods, our odds of survival for the standout new entries (based on 1-1, the best, to 10-1, the worst) are determined by the concept itself and any early buzz factor.

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