Know your 2009 pilots: Coming, perhaps, to CBS
CBS is the least sexy of all the broadcast networks. It doesn't make as many big creative reaches as ABC or FOX, it doesn't feature the magazine-cover-ready young hotties of The CW and it's not in the throes of a downward spiral like NBC is.
All CBS does is make well-produced shows that appeal to wide audiences and schedules them smartly, which has led to a run of success that's lasted for pretty much this entire decade. A lineup of traditional sitcoms, mostly close-ended dramas and well-established reality franchises doesn't necessarily make for great copy, but it sure is good business.
As such, CBS probably won't need too much in the way of new shows come next fall -- it could conceivably bring back its entire current schedule in the fall and not suffer much for it. Chances are that won't happen, as the network will probably look for a comedy or two to fill out its Monday and Wednesday blocks ("Worst Week" probably won't be back) and a couple dramas to freshen things up.
"Back" and "A Marriage"
What they are: Dramas. "Back" is about a man ("Jericho" star Skeet Ulrich) who went missing on 9/11 and shows up eight years later, while "A Marriage" is described simply as a look at "a marriage that works."
Why we're interested: Both shows are a little bit outside the CBS procedural wheelhouse, but they also sound like an opportunity for grown-up, open-ended storytelling that doesn't necessarily require massive investment in a show's mythology. Both also have respected producers backing them -- Craig Zadan and Neil Meron ("A Raisin in the Sun") for "Back" and Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz ("thirtysomething," "Once and Again") for "A Marriage."
What it is: A comedy starring Jason Biggs and Richard Dreyfuss about a family that's overly involved in one another's lives.
Why we're interested: Because the idea of Dreyfuss as Biggs' father is fun to contemplate, as is the thought that "Arrested Development" veterans Mitch Hurwitz and Jim Vallely will are writing the script.
What it is: As close to a sure thing for the fall that there is, a back-door pilot about undercover operatives in the NCIS Office of Special Projects.
Why we're interested: Because it will be interesting to see, given the remarkable consistency and durability of "NCIS," whether the new show (with Chris O'Donnell, LL Cool J and "CSI" vet Louise Lombard) will be able to live up to that kind of success.
What it is: Another CBS-ready procedural, this one about a team of FBI agents who work in the field office in the nation's capital.
Why we're interested: It boasts an intriguing cast that includes Gina Torres, Cole Hauser, Eddie Cibrian and Teri Polo and comes from the executive producer of "Criminal Minds," Ed Bernero. And, presumably, won't be all about serial killers.
"The Fish Tank"
What it is: A comedy about a teenager (Drake Bell) whose parents' jobs take them out of town frequently, leaving him alone at home.
Why we're interested: Bell has moved on from his Nickelodeon days with roles in movies like "College" and "Superhero Movie," but if he can carry a network sitcom, he may be able to shed the teen-star label for good.
What it is: A drama about surgeons, donors and patients at a regional transplant center in Pittsburgh.
Why we're interested: Primarily because it stars "Moonlight's" Alex O'Loughlin, and will therefore test CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler's assertion that most of the response to the cancelled vampire show was "actor-centric."
"Accidentally on Purpose"
What it is: A comedy about a movie critic (Jenna Elfman) who gets pregnant from a brief fling with a younger man (Jon Foster).
Why we're interested: Elfman is a pretty talented comic actress, Foster ("life as we know it") is a likable guy, and the cast also includes "Ugly Betty" and "Extras" scene-stealer Ashley Jensen. That's worth at least a look.