Inevitably, some of the new series for next season that the broadcast networks are so excited about now will be clunkers — sitcoms that aren’t funny, dramas that don’t hold your interest, reality shows more sad than anything.
And inevitably, critics and viewers alike will rhetorically tar and feather network executives for putting such dreck on the air.
It’s easy to forget, though, that things could be worse: America could have been subjected to a Jessica Simpson sitcom next fall.
Simpson’s show, which was at one point supposed to be a good bet to join the ABC schedule, was one of several high-profile projects not to make the cut when the broadcast networks announced their fall schedules last week.
The WB’s update of “Dark Shadows,” NBC’s “My 11:30” and the CBS comedy “The Amazing Westermans” also fell by the wayside as well despite early buzz and well-known stars.
Pilots get scrapped for any number of reasons, and quality isn’t always atop the list. A show might not fit the identity of the network where it was developed, it might be too expensive to produce as a series, or it might not have a strong show-runner on board to guide it.
Additionally, some of the “buzz” that circulates in Hollywood in advance of the season announcements can come from people attached to a pilot — or their agents — looking to create a positive impression. And, of course, network heads are human and prone to changing their minds.
Here’s a quick look at some of the higher-profile rejections:
• “Jessica” (ABC, comedy): Simpson’s media assault was to have continued in this series, in which she would have played a bubble-headed pop star-turned-correspondent for an “Access Hollywood”-type show. ABC also shunned “Hot Mom,” in which her husband, fellow singer Nick Lachey, co-starred with Gina Gershon, opting instead to order a few more variety specials featuring Nick and Jessica pretending to be themselves.
• “Sudbury” (CBS, drama): Kim Delaney and Jeri Ryan play beautiful women who are also witches? It’s like “Passions” for prime time. Or it’s like “Practical Magic” for the small screen (complete with producers Denise DiNovi and Sandra Bullock). Up until the days before the CBS announcement, it was considered at least a favorite for a midseason slot. Instead, Delaney will get the chance to appear on the final season of “NYPD Blue.”
• “The Catch” (ABC, drama): Greg Grunberg (“Alias”) was to have starred as a bounty hunter in this long-in-development midseason show from J.J. Abrams, with Orlando Jones and Don Rickles co-starring. It sounded like a good idea, but the fact that “Alias” got pushed back to January may have something to do with it getting bounced.
• “Dark Shadows” (WB, drama): Maybe The WB didn’t want to put another vampire show on the air right after canceling “Angel.” Or maybe it was too expensive. Whatever the reason, it’s a bit of a surprise that this show, produced by “ER” maven John Wells and starring Martin Donovan, Marley Shelton and Blair Brown, didn’t make the schedule.
• “The Robinsons: Lost in Space” (WB, drama): The WB paid big bucks for the rights to this remake and hired film director John Woo (“Mission: Impossible 2”) to help make the pilot. Either the pilot didn’t seem to have the young adult male appear the network was craving, or else it looked like a potential franchise bomb in the “Birds of Prey” or “Tarzan” mold.
• “Beck and Call” (UPN, drama): Set in the fashion world and starring Vanessa L. Williams, “Beck and Call” was for a time rumored to be in line to get paired with “America’s Next Top Model” on UPN’s schedule. Instead, the network went with Taye Diggs’ “Kevin Hill,” leaving this Lisa Kudrow-produced pilot in the cold.
• “Untitled Andrew Secunda Project” (UPN, comedy) and “Untitled Tarses/Wrubel Project” (NBC, comedy): We’re not sure that either comedy really sounded like a good idea, but without “Buffy” and “Angel,” we need a dose of actors from the Joss Whedon universe. However, these two comedies — starring Charisma Carpenter and Alyson Hannigan — failed to make their network cuts.
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