Network Upfront Slates: The Good and the Ugly

Comedy pilots look promising

When the last trumpet sounds, the Big Five networks will ring up around $9.5 billion in 2011-12 upfront commitments, a remarkable feat considering that (a) broadcast television is dead; (b) the 30-second spot is dead; and (c) the upfront itself is dead.

Nonsense. Were broadcast nearly as lifeless as the doomsayers would have you believe, the upfronts (May 16-19) would resemble nothing so much as a series of well-catered hauntings—which isn't to say programmers aren't pebbled with goosebumps. NBC is in desperate need of a big score, and even mighty CBS could use a new hit.

The good news is, the pilot slate looks promising. It almost always does; trouble is, nothing quite matches a pilot for its capacity to disappoint. Of the 101 projects ordered for the upcoming season, the following are the most likely hits and flops:

ABC: A reboot of Charlie's Angels starring Minka Kelly, another Shonda Rhimes drama, and the dubiously titled Good Christian Bitches seem like sure things, although the latter's title is a nonstarter. The head-scratcher here is Poe, which casts the dipso author as a private dick. Quoth the Raven: WTF?

CBS: J.J. Abrams reunites with Lostie Michael Emerson (Person of Interest), Sarah Michelle Gellar returns to the tube in Ringer, and Robert De Niro’s Rookies could pair nicely with on-the-bubble Blue Bloods. A comedy developed by ranty ESPN Radio jock Colin Cowherd? No shot.

NBC: The nerd herd squawked about Adrianne Palicki’s duds, ensuring buzz for David E. Kelley’s Wonder Woman. Period piece The Playboy Club will get sampling, and word on My Life as an Experiment has been terrific. A detective show based on a book of old fairy tales sounds Grimm indeed.

Fox: Kiefer Sutherland returns with the supernatural drama Touch, while Steven Spielberg's sci-fi epic Terra Nova has fanboys licking their chops. Simon Cowell's The X Factor is as close to a sure thing as you’ll see all year. Meanwhile, despite not having much luck with live-action comedy (Raising Hope is the exception), Fox has ordered a slew.

The CW: Zombies get the Twilight treatment in The Awakening, Kevin Williamson gets witchy with Secret Circles, and The O.C.'s Rachel Bilson relocates to Mayberry (Hart of Dixie). The angelic attorney strip Heavenly? Hellish.