Upfronts, Infronts, All-Around-Fronts

This weekend has been full of news about the upcoming U.S. network seasons; it’s traditional for networks to leak news about the shows they will be picking up, renewing and canceling, but this year — thanks to Twitter and other forms of instant communication — the news comes out even quicker and faster. By the time the networks make their official announcements on Monday, they’ll have very little left to announce.

This Sitcoms Online blog post does a good job of summing up which shows (not just sitcoms) are now considered certain to be on the network schedules, which ones are not, and which ones are still up in the proverbial air.

You’ve probably heard that Dollhouse will be renewed for 13 more episodes, at a severely reduced budget. From Fox’s point of view, this decision makes sense despite the show’s poor ratings. Fox never has much success in the first half of the season, before American Idol comes on, so if Dollhouse continues to do badly, it won’t hurt the network that much (and they’ll get good coverage for not canceling it, plus their DVD division will make more money off the second season), and if its ratings improve, then so much the better. The other big fan-favourite bubble show, Chuck, is a likely renewal as well, also with a whopping budget cut.

The only network that seems to be changing its strategies significantly going into 2009-10 is ABC. Recently the network was riding high on a combination of serialized dramas and light dramedies, but with Lost ending next year, and only Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy holding on as big attractions among its scripted shows (I’ve got to respect both shows: despite all their creative ups and downs and absurd storylines and behind-the-scenes problems, they consistently do well), ABC is trying to move toward a more CBS-ish lineup. In particular it’s moving away from a lineup dominated by hour-long shows and going all-out for comedy, even to the point of picking up shows like Scrubs and Better off Ted. (As mentioned in a previous post, Scrubs and Samantha Who may switch to a CBS-influenced multi-camera format.) You’d think the dismal NBC would be the most desperate to change its strategies, but its lineup doesn’t look like it will be all that different; I guess the network is just praying that a hit will turn everything around.

Unluckiest person in TV is Mitch Hurwitz; after Sit Down, Shut Up bombed, he had two pilots rejected by two networks: Fox passed on the Absolutely Fabulous U.S. pilot he produced, and NBC rejected a pilot he co-created with Arrested Development (and Boy Meets World) writer Barbie Feldman Adler. Arrested Development does seem almost like a fluke at this point.