Welcome to post-strike upfront season 2.0, where the traditional pilot cycle has been turned on its head and network executives are readying fall schedules in between pilot casting sessions and development meetings.
Fox's new series orders went to J.J. Abrams' sci-fi drama "Fringe" and the Jason Bateman-directed comedy "The Inn", along with Mitchell Hurwitz's animated comedy "Sit Down, Shut Up". The pickups stage a big "Arrested Development" reunion at Fox for creator Hurwitz and star Bateman, who also voices "Sit Down" with "Arrested Development" alums Will Arnett and Henry Winkler.
"Fringe" appears headed to fall, while Fox's other marquee new sci-fi series, Joss Whedon's "Dollhouse", which has a seven-episode order, is expected to launch midseason.
Meanwhile, the Bernie Mac starrer "Starting Under", which had a series commitment, seems unlikely to land on Fox's fall schedule. It wasn't clear Sunday whether the network intends to retool the show for midseason consideration.
On the renewal front, Fox picked up" 'Til Death" while it opted not to bring back "Back to You" for a second season. The two sitcoms run in a block this season to similarly respectable but not spectacular ratings. However, "Back to You" is far more expensive as it boasts marquee talent in front of and behind the camera, with stars Kelsey Grammer and Patrica Heaton and creators Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd.
Also canceled are midseason entries "New Amsterdam" and "Canterbury's Law".
"Back to You", as well as the animated project "The Pitts", are being shopped by 20th TV to other networks.
In pilot castings, Fox tapped Molina to star in Paul Attanasio's one-hour "Courtroom K", a darkly comedic courtroom drama that revolves around a judge (Molina), a prosecutor and a public defender (Megan Dodds).
On the development side, Berg is set to direct and executive produce "Virtuality", the two-hour sci-fi pilot from UMS and BermanBraun. Additionally, Fox handed out a cast-contingent pilot order to Shaun Cassidy's drama "Inseparable" for midseason.
"Inseparable", from ABC Studios, originally cast Toby Stephens during the strike in anticipation of a pilot pickup contingent on a script.
Under the seven-figure pact, which has an option for a third year, Harris will continue on "Mother", where he serves as a co-exec producer, and also will take first crack at developing his own shows.
"I'm excited to go into a long producing relationship with 20th TV, at least for the next week and a half at which point I hope they don't force majeure me," Harris quipped, referring to the looming writers strike. "I started working here four years ago, and I find it a great place for nurturing fresh ideas and getting them on the air."
Harris was brought to the attention of 20th TV brass four years ago by veteran comedy producer Steve Levitan. At the time, Levitan was exec producing the studios' comedy series "Oliver Beene" and Harris had only one writing credit on his resume, CBS' "Late Show With David Letterman". Levitan gave Harris his first primetime gig as a staff writer on "Beene" and, impressed with his skills, recommended him to 20th TV executives.
The multi-camera comedy starring Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton received a full-season pickup Wednesday, when the network ordered 11 additional episodes, bringing the total to 24 half-hours, two more than a regular 22-episode order.
Back, from comedy veterans Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd, stars Grammer and Heaton as co-anchors at a local TV station reunited after an acrimonious breakup years ago.
While short of the blockbuster status of Grammer and Heaton's former series Frasier and Everybody Loves Raymond, Back has been a solid performer for Fox in the Wednesday 8 p.m. time slot, opening a night that has been traditionally challenging for the network.
Last week, the series drew 7.0 million viewers and a 2.4 rating/7 share among adults 18-49.
The 20th TV-produced Back is the first new Fox scripted series to receive a full-season order. The network also picked up another cycle of another new Wednesday show, the unscripted Kitchen Nightmares, and ordered additional scripts from rookie drama K-Ville.
Under the pact, which has an option for a second year, Grammer and his development team, led by president Steve Stark, will develop new series projects for 20th TV. The deal begins in June, when Grammnet's current pact with CBS Paramount Network TV is up.
Grammer already is in business with 20th TV, starring opposite Patricia Heaton in the studio's comedy "Action News". The multicamera project from Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd recently landed at Fox with a series commitment (HR 2/9).
Grammer worked with 20th last year as the director of a comedy pilot the studio produced for CBS with writer Rich Appel. 20th president Dana Walden said studio execs were impressed by his "strong instincts for casting, performances and material." After "Action News" came together with Grammer this year, Walden said it "made all the sense in the world for us to be in business with Grammnet."
Walden said she was impressed at the eclectic range of projects that Grammnet has in development.
The multicamera comedy, from 20th Century Fox TV, is set at a local TV station and revolves around the reuniting of a male and female anchor team (Grammer, Heaton).
Levitan and Lloyd penned Action News on spec. Despite a steep license fee commanded by the project's marquee stars, ABC, CBS and Fox bid on it.
Fox entertainment president Peter Liguori called Action News "a triple threat." "We have a good script, two terrific, proven writers and two leads with proven, outstanding comedy chops," he said.
Action News, which is targeted for fall, is the first project to come out of the rich three-year deal "Just Shoot Me!" creator Levitan and Frasier showrunner Lloyd inked with 20th TV in July.
"Bringing Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton back to television together is a remarkable opportunity," 20th TV president Gary Newman said. "It also makes us feel very good about making the deal with Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd, who have done so much great television over the years."
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