Here is the second-annual honor roll of the best and brightest at the broadcast upfront. First off, to all who got their pilots picked up to series — congratulations. You’re already winners. This is a list of those who took their upfront success to an extra level:
Whitney Cummings: The undisputed queen of Upfront 2011. She is behind two new comedy series that are among the highest-profile new half-hour entries next fall. She created, stars in and executive produces her eponymous comedy for NBC, which was assigned the network’s best comedy slot, following The Office. She also co-wrote on spec with Michael Patrick King the CBS comedy 2 Broke Girls, which broke records as CBS’ best-testing pilot (comedy or drama) ever. Both were the first comedy pilots to get a series order at their networks. Cummings, who also has a talk show in contention at E!, will serve as an executive producer on 2 Broke Girls but will be full-time on Whitney, which was in first position. I hope that doesn’t impact 2 Broke Girls, which King is expected to run/co-run, because the pilot indeed looks great. Honorable mention in the category of creators with multiple projects for Andrew Reich and Ted Cohen. One of their two ABC pilots, Work It, was picked up to series, while the other, Smothered, is very much in contention for midseason.
What a comeback for J.J. Abrams! After his high-profile NBC drama Undercovers went bust last fall, some questioned whether the networks will continue to bet on him. But bet they did this upfront, with both pilots he produced, CBS’ Person of Interest and Fox’s Alcatraz, going to series. Person of Interest instantly became one of the most anticipated new fall series when CBS made it its new Thursday 9 PM anchor. The network also said it was its best-testing drama pilot ever. And over at Fox, Alcatraz prevailed over several high-profile pilots to land one of only two drama series spots. Then, as icing on the cake, Abrams’ modestly rated but well-liked Fox sci-fi series Fringe got a renewal for next season, bringing the producer’s series for next season to three.
THE CREATORS/SHOWRUNNERS: With the pickup of Shonda Rhimes‘ Scandal at ABC, she will have three series solely created by her on the air next season, along with Grey’s Anatomy and spinoff Private Practice. The only other writer-producer with three shows created/co-created by him is Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy, American Dad and The Cleveland Show), and he upped the ante in a big way, with Fox announcing at its upfront the 2013 launch of a MacFarlane reboot of The Flintstones. The Vampire Diaries co-creator Kevin Williamson landed a second series co-created by him, CW’s The Secret Circle. On the showrunner front, CSI: NY‘s Pam Veasey will be running two series next season, the veteran CBS crime drama and CW’s newly picked up Ringer, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. With Charlie Sheen successfully replaced on Two and a Half Men, which was one of the biggest stories at the upfront, Chuck Lorre will run three series for a second straight year, two of which, Men and The Big Bang Theory, he co-created.
THE PODS: It was a great upfront for several pods and independent production companies. Leading the charge are Chernin Entertainment and DreamWorks TV with three new series apiece for next season: New Girl, Terra Nova and Allen Gregory (Chernin) and Smash, The River and Terra Nova (Dreamworks). Chernin Entertainment’s tally is expected to go up to four with the fully expected series order to the Kiefer Sutherland/Tim Kring drama Touch. Meanwhile, DreamWorks also has TNT’s upcoming Falling Skies, which was presented at the network’s upfront this week. Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly’s Timberman/Beverly Prods. went 2-for-2, with both of their pilots, Unforgettable and A Gifted Man, going to series. Also producing two new series next season is Aaron Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment – with Good Christian Belles and Terra Nova. Two pods, Alloy and Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage’s Fake Empire, added a third on-air series each this upfront. Alloy has newcomer The Secret Secret joining Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries at the CW, while Fake Empire is behind another new CW drama Hart of Dixie, as well as CW’s Gossip Girl and NBC’s Chuck.
THE DIRECTORS: Two veteran comedy directors, Andy Ackerman and Beth McCarthy-Miller, directed two pilots each that went to series. Ackerman helmed NBC’s Whitney and Fox’s I Hate My Teenage Daughter, while Saturday Night Live‘s McCarthy-Miller directed the pilots for ABC comedies Work It and Man Up. With the pickup of Fox’s Alcatraz, which Danny Cannon directed, he will have five series whose pilots he helmed on the air next season: the three CSI shows, Nikita and Alcatraz. Veteran comedy director James Burrows is next with four. He helmed the pilot for the hot new CBS comedy 2 Broke Girls in addition to Lorre’s Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory and Mike & Molly.
THE ACTING CREATORS: In addition to Cummings, doing double duty as the creators and stars of their new series are David Hornsby (CBS’ How To Be a Gentleman), Chris Moynihan (ABC’s Man Up) and Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair (NBC’s BFFs)
THE SIBLINGS: Fox is becoming The Deschanel sisters network, with Zooey Deschanel poised to become the network’s breakout comedy star with her new comedy series New Girl, joining her big sister, Bones leading lady Emily Deschanel.
THE MULTITASKERS: With NBC’s Smash, the project’s executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron hit a rare fourfecta of producing a broadcast, cable series (Drop Dead Diva), Broadway musical (How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying) and big studio movie (the upcoming Footloose) at the same time.
Speaking of a multitasker, Nancy Travis is in 2 pilots that got picked up to series. She is the female lead opposite Tim Allen in ABC’s Last Man Standing and was a guest star in CW’s Hart of Dixie and was prominently featured in the clip for the show screened at the network’s upfront presentation. It is not clear if she will continue to recur on the CW medical drama.
BY THE NUMBERS: Pods With Multiple Shows On the Broadcast Nets next season:
Jerry Bruckheimer – 4 (3 CSIs, The Amazing Race)
Chernin Entertainment – 4 (Terra Nova, New Girl, Allen Gregory, Touch, pending)
Alloy -3 (Gossip Girl, Vampire Diaries, Secret Circle)
Bad Robot -3 (Alcatraz, Person of Interest, Fringe)
DreamWorks -3 (Terra Nova, Smash, The River)
Fake Empire – 3 (Chuck, Gossip Girl, Hart of Dixie)
Mark Gordon Co. – 3 (Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Criminal Minds)
Wonderland Sound and Vision – 3 (Chuck, Nikita, Supernatural)
Kapital Entertainment -3 (Terra Nova, Good Christian Belles)
Timberman/Beverly -2 (Unforgettable, A Gifted Man)
BLOCK PARTY: Producers who control network programming blocks
Shonda Rhimes: ABC Thursday 9-11 PM
Shane Brennan: CBS Tuesday 8-10 PM
Kevin Williamson: CW Thursday 8-10 PM
Josh Schwartz/Stephanie Savage: CW Monday 8-10 PM
McG: CW Friday 8-10 PM
Chuck Lorre: CBS Monday 9-10 PM
Seth MacFarlane: Fox Sunday 9-10 PM