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The networks’ latest lineup is all about fantasy

Doctors and a bit of fantasy (a la Lost, Heroes, Twin Peaks etc) dominate the programs picked up by Australia’s three commercial networks in the Los Angeles screenings of new network offerings for later in the year and 2010.

The deals were done by the local networks at the weekend under production deals with either the networks (FOX and CBS for Ten), or producers, Warners for Nine, Disney (ABC) and NBC with Seven. Some producers sold shows to networks where other Australian networks have deals, such as the new Jerry Bruckeimer program The Forgotten. Seven has the deal with NBC, Nine has the relationship with Bruckheimer through Warners.

The US TV Networks conducted their “upfronts” and screenings last week in New York and Los Angeles and fantasy dominated the list of new programs that made it into the US network’s 2009-10 line ups. (Salon has a great run down of what they dub the “puzzling” fall line-ups.)

After the poor performance here of programs like fantasy shows Ten’s Life On Mars, Lie To Me (although it’s slightly better in recent weeks), Harpers Island on Ten (it was canned from Sunday nights last night after barely a month on air) and Life on Ten, we shouldn’t expect much in the way of an improvement, judging by the early publicity for the new US shows.

Nine’s The Mentalist was the best performed new show on US TV for the season which finished on the weekend. It’s a ‘fantasy’ style program. Its star is Australian Simon Baker and it’s a moderate performer here on Wednesday nights at 8.30 pm.

Seven has gone for doctors (and nurses, of course), Nine for fantasy, Ten, for a mixture.

A total of 27 new programs were picked by Nine, Seven and Ten under their various production deals. Ten took the most, 10, from CBS, Fox and CW; Nine took nine, mostly from ABC and Fox, Seven took eight new shows, mostly from NBC and ABC.

Overall, more medical dramas (despite ER ending in the US, and House tanking here on Ten and Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice underwhelming for Seven) made it to prime time in the US.

Two go to Seven, Trauma and Mercy which are both on NBC. Three Rivers goes to Ten. It stars Australian actor, Alex O’Loughlin, Miami Trauma was picked up by Nine. Their storylines need no describing except: think white/blue gowns, lots of young people, drama, trauma, dialogue, but none of the drama of ER in its early days or the wit of Scrubs.

Seven will have (assuming they aren’t cancelled before they get to air or remain on air after the first couple of programs) five US-based medical dramas: in addition to the two new ones, it will have Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice, plus Scrubs (which is a medical comedy which is doing a bit better on Seven since moving to Monday nights at 8 pm and being used at least three times a week).

Medicine is a rich TV tradition in the US (Dr Casey, Dr Kildare, Marcus Welby, St Elsewhere, even MASH). But outside of medicine is the genre Lost bred: what US writers call the Comic/Fantasy program. At the moment, besides Lost there’s Fringe on ABC in the US, Dollhouse on Fox, NBC’s Heroes and the CW’s Smallville and Supernatural. And don’t forget Medium or Life On Mars (now dead) or Ghost Whisperer. These programs don’t last well in Australia. Smallville, Lost and Heroes all blossomed early and then faded as viewers tired of the confusing storylines and late night time slots. So get ready for new flights of fantasy, however improbable, even for Fantasy.

Of the 23 new dramas for the new US season unveiled last week, (the extra network is CW) seven were similar fantasy shows.

ABC has Flash Forward (Seven): it’s all Lost in that what happens when everyone in the world blacks out for two minutes and 17 seconds. Eastwick which has been picked up by Nine (yes a new version of The Witches of Eastwick), and V has been updated and returns later in the year. It’s on Nine.

We have Desperate Housewives (also on ABC) to blame for Eastwick. If it had Cher and Jack Nicholson it might work.

Nine also picked up two of Fox’s new two fantasy shows, Human Target and Past Life.

Seven picked up NBC’s Day One (what happens when we get all the world’s infrastructure wiped out. You get Mal Turnbull and Joe Hockey moaning about cash splashs, that’s what you get). And the CW has The Vampire Diaries which goes to Nine.

CBS also has a new drama called The Good Wife which has gone to Ten. It’s about a lawyer who returns to work after her husband goes to prison for a political scandal.

Ten also picked up a comedy from CBS called Accidentally on Purpose, where the main character is a pregnant film critic. Hmmmm. Ten also snapped up NCIS Los Angeles (understandable, given the success of NCIS here).

On ABC Courtney Cox (from Friends) returns to comedy in this new series about “a recently divorced single mother exploring the honest truths about dating and aging in our beauty and youth obsessed culture” according to the blurb from ABC. It’s called Cougar Town. And no, Elle McPherson doesn’t feature, nor does Demi Moore. And it’s all Seven’s. (Isn’t that also part of the storyline in Desperate Housewives?)

And Kelsey Grammer plays a downsized executive on ABC in a nod to the current economic situation in the US. It’s called Hank. Nine has this one, hoping for Frasier to strike twice.

And Kelsey’s co-star in Back To You, Patricia Heaton (Who’s still loving Raymond on Ten here) is also on ABC in a program called The Middle, which is about a conventional family living in Indiana. Why Indiana? Who knows, perhaps it’s not California or New York or Miami. It’s all Nine’s as well.

Ten’s other programs include: Glee (a musical dramedy, (a cross between a drama and a comedy means a laugh an hour?) and The Cleveland Show (an animated spin off from Family Guy which is on Seven) from Fox, Melrose Place (Yes, it’s back, like 90120 last year for a while) and The Beautiful, both from CW Network. Ten also has Modern Family from ABC. It stars Ed O’Neil from Married With Children and is described as a “mocumentary style comedy about modern family life”. Ten also got Deep End from ABC “Four young lawyers are recruited from around the world to be first-year associates at one of LA’s most prestigious firms.” Oh, no someone has cloned LA Law..

Ten picked up a comedy (half hour) from, Fox called Sons of Tucson (wait for it: “a comedy about three shady kids who hire a dude to play their dad while their real father is in prison”).

Nine also has Brothers from Fox: it’s another comedy and is described as: “a retired football player returns to his hometown and starts working to reconnect with his family, including his wheelchair-bound brother.” Nine also got Fox shows, Past Life (a ‘reincarnation drama”, yes, really) and Human Target (seriously, its described as “DC Comics title and centers on Christopher Chance, a mysterious security freelancer who assumes the identities of those in danger, becoming the “human target” for his clients.’ Can he assume the identity on TV programmers who make dud choices at the screenings?).

Nine also has Community from NBC (a Seven cast-off?). It’s described as a “comedy is about a group of quirky “losers” at fictional Greendale Community College.” (So why couldn’t Nine make one here about TAFE? or the WEA?). Nine has The Forgotten from ABC (it’s about a team of amateur detectives working on cases of unidentified victims). It’s Cold Case for amateurs. It’s a Jerry Bruckheimer production, (the CSI shows), with whom Nine has a close relationship with.

Seven also picked up; Parenthood from NBC (self explanatory and a second go at making a series with the same name. The last was in 1991 and lasted 12 programs. It’s based on the 1989 Ron Howard movie of the same name), and 100 Questions for Charlotte Payne, which is “a comedy about a young woman navigating life with friends in New York”. Now, that sounds original, doesn’t it? Seven picked up Happy Town from ABC. (Think Twin Peaks, or something obscure like that: “Happy Town is a mystery set in the hamlet of Happy Town, which had enjoyed a seven-year peace after a series of kidnappings until it is hit by another crime.” )

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