TV Eye: Front and Center

Eyeballing what NBC and Fox are serving up in the the fall

Maria Bello in <i>Prime Suspect</i>
Maria Bello in Prime Suspect

It's upfront season – the time when the broadcast networks show off their prime-time offerings for advertisers. Not unlike a bunch of kids gathered on an electronic playground, TV critics and other media watchers are convening online for news, scoops, predictions, and maybe a surprise or two. Two networks, Fox and ABC, invited TV Eye to watch webcasts of their upfront presentations. Unfortunately, upfront week does not jibe with the Chronicle's press schedule, so be sure to check online for up-to-date upfront commentary at

Both NBC and Fox had their upfront presentations on Monday. Let me start with Fox. The network's biggest news was that the Seth MacFarlane franchise would expand when he retools The Flintstones. Now, just what he has in mind has some media watchers worried. TV viewers of a certain age fondly remember The Flintstones as an amusing cartoon we watched on weekday afternoons after school. But MacFarlane is known for his edge (Family Guy, The Cleveland Show). Is he going to bring some of that salty humor to the Flintstone family? We won't find out until 2013. In the meantime, two other animated series will join Fox: Allen Gregory and Napoleon Dynamite. Jonah Hill (Get Him to the Greek) voices 7-year-old Allen Gregory, a precocious little boy who goes from being homeschooled to attending public school. Napoleon Dynamite picks up where the popular indie film left off, with the original cast voicing the animated series.

The upfronts only feature extended clips – most of which I didn't see when the Fox webcast had "technical difficulties." But the audio was loud and clear, as was the adulation for Simon Cowell, the force behind the new singing competition series The X Factor. But wait – doesn't Fox already have American Idol? Yes, but American Idol doesn't have Simon Cowell. Former AI judge Paula Abdul joins Cowell, Antonio "L.A." Reid, and Cheryl Cole as a judge on The X Factor, where aspirants have a chance to win a recording contract with Syco Music, a subsidiary of Sony.

Other new fall shows on Fox include Steven Spielberg's action/adventure drama Terra Nova; the Zooey Deschanel vehicle, New Girl; and I Hate My Teenage Daughter, co-starring Jaime Pressly (My Name Is Earl) and Katie Finneran (Wonderfalls). The last two titles on this list are comedies, and their titles are subject to change.

Say buh-bye to The Chicago Code. I'm so very unhappy about this. The series featured strong storylines, good writing, and stellar performances, especially from Delroy Lindo, who made a most appealing bad guy in his role as a corrupt Chicago politician. Could a cable network pick it up? My fingers are crossed. Also axed: Traffic Light (this may be a lesson in how titles matter as this one was lame), Lie to Me, and Human Target. Breaking In was not mentioned as a firm cancellation but was not included in the upfront presentation either. My guess is that it's done.

Over at NBC, the most exciting news was that Maria Bello (A History of Violence) will star in a stateside version of Prime Suspect; she's cast in the detective role that Helen Mirren made famous in the original UK version. The charming Hank Azaria (Huff) will star in a U.S. version of the British series Free Agents, about a newly divorced man who finds it difficult to move on, even as he is secretly carrying on with a co-worker who has her own relationship issues. The most interesting new show on the NBC roster may be the supernatural drama Grimm. In this, David Giuntoli (Turn the Beat Around) stars as a homicide detective who discovers he's a descendant of the Grimm family, whose destiny is to protect mankind from the scary things that go bump in the night.

Other new NBC series launching in the fall: Smash (think Glee grows up and goes to Broadway); The Playboy Club (Mad Men with mob ties); Up All Night (a married couple with a baby tries to keep the spice in their marriage); and Whitney (an unmarried woman tries to liven up her long-term relationship).

Last week, news got out that Austinite Kyle Killen's (Lone Star, The Beaver) reality-bending Awake was picked up by NBC. However, its midseason premiere date is TBA at the NBC press site.

As always, stay tuned.

E-mail Belinda Acosta at

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upfronts, NBC, Fox, Seth MacFarlane, The Flintstones, Allen Gregory, Napoleon Dynamite, The X Factor, Terra Nova, New Girl, I Hate My Teenage Daughter, The Chicago Code, Delroy Lindo, Jonah Hill, Zooey Deschanel, Prime Suspect, Free Agents, Maria Bello, Hank Azaria, Grimm

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