Studio Trying to Save 'Back to You'
CBS mulling a pickup, as ABC and Fox start putting together their schedules
Fox is getting out in front of the upfront greenlight process, ABC is preparing for "Life on Mars" and CBS is being wooed as a possible new home for the canceled comedy "Back to You."
Meanwhile, the CW is moving forward with two scripted dramas and a new reality show from exec producer Tyra Banks.
Those are among the headlines coming out of New York Sunday as the networks begin their scaled-down upfront week for 2008. Here's a look at some of the details:
—ABC has reached a deal with 20th Century Fox TV and David E. Kelley Productions that likely will result in a series order for "Mars," the Kelley-produced adaptation of the BBC drama. Kelley is expected to depart the project, and in exchange, ABC has renewed Kelley's "Boston Legal" for a fifth season. "Legal" will air in the fall, and it's believed ABC has the right to cut back its episode order on the show to 13, a person familiar with the discussions said.
Kelley would not give his blessing to "Mars" moving forward unless he had a greenlight for "Legal," the source said. Executives at ABC were understandably unhappy about "Mars" being held hostage for "Legal," which has failed to catch fire with audiences (though it does do well with upscale viewers).
As for other upfront buzz at ABC, the game show "Opportunity Knocks" is looking good for a fall or late summer berth, with producer J.D. Roth on board as host. "According to Jim" will be back for another season, while "Scrubs" is moving to ABC from NBC.
—Twentieth has given CBS boss Leslie Moonves episodes of "Back to You" to screen as part of its bid to set up the comedy at the network. Fox canceled the Kelsey Grammer-Patricia Heaton show over the weekend, forcing sister studio 20th to find a new home for the project.
Ironically, CBS had been mentioned as a home for "Back to You" a year ago, before it landed at Fox. Heaton is the former star of CBS' "Everybody Loves Raymond," while CBS several years ago tried to get Grammer to star in a spinoff of "Frasier." The network is hoping to open a new night of comedy beyond its Monday lineup, and a Grammer-Heaton project could be a solid anchor for such an extension.
CBS is expected to make the bulk of its 2008-09 series orders Monday. It also may decide the fate of bubble shows "How I Met Your Mother," "Shark" and "The Unit"—all from 20th Century Fox TV.
—While Fox isn't officially saying anything, the network has given a thumbs up to "Fringe," an "X-Files"-like drama from executive producer J.J. Abrams; the Jason Bateman-directed comedy pilot "The Inn"; and the animated half-hour "Sit Down, Shut Up" from "Arrested Development" creator Mitch Hurwitz. And while "Back to You" was canceled, the network did greenlight a third season of Sony's "'Til Death."