Most Likely to Succeed

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

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.

 

CW

Return Rate for fall 2010 starters: 1|2

Hours in need of replacement: 4

New shows expected to make the cut: Hart of Dixie, Heavenly, Secret Circle

Most likely to succeed: Secret Circle

The ongoing home of serialized dramas targeted to young females, The CW is hoping to capitalize on the success of The Vampire Diaries with Secret Circle, which reunites writer-producer Kevin Williamson with The Vampire Diaries author L.J. Smith.

Secret Circle centers on a young woman (Brittany Robertson) who moves to her mother’s hometown and discovers she’s a witch. She has a cute love interest (played by Thomas Dekker), who happens to be the oldest member of the “secret circle.” Natch.

It’s expected to follow The Vampire Diaries, which makes for great flow. And the benchmark for success is low given the lackluster performance of current time period occupant Nikita and the network overall.

Indeed, while The CW doesn’t offer the most eyeballs, it does offer new series a greater chance to succeed simply because the place is a shambles. 

Odds of Success for Secret Circle: 2-1

OK, we’re being cautiously optimistic at 2-1 odds. But witches leading out of vampires seems like a safe bet for the network’s demo target.

 

CBS

Return rate for fall 2010 starters: 3|5

Hours in need of replacement: 4