Upfront roundup: Fox has also decided what you really want is to laugh

Upfront roundup: Fox has also decided what you really want is to laugh

Here’s your roundup of TV upfront and scheduling news for the day:

• Fox, which holds its upfront Monday, has been keeping a relatively low profile, compared to fellow Monday upfront network NBC. Fox had yet to pick anything up as of this morning, while NBC was keeping up with a steady dribble of announcements, seemingly designed to send fans of the network’s programming into spasms of terror. (Seriously, we just realized Parenthood hasn’t been renewed, and we haven’t heard a thing about it. Enjoy your notification.)

That all changed this afternoon, with Fox picking up three comedies and two drama series, then renewing one low-rated drama and canceling two others. Fox will almost certainly end the season as the number one network among 18-49-year-old viewers for the eighth year in a row, but it’s struggled some this year, with a big ratings tumble for American Idol, the slow erosion of New Girl’s numbers, Glee losing a significant chunk of its audience, the non-mega-hit status of The X Factor, and the network’s inability to launch a new drama to save its life. (After this season’s newbies—all but one of which look to be canceled—the network’s next youngest drama is Bones. Bones! Granted, Glee’s an hourlong comedy, but it doesn’t look like there are many more seasons left in that one, if ratings trends continue.) Consequently, today’s pickups suggest the network—like all the others—is moving aggressively toward more comedies.

By far the most promising is Mindy Kaling’s new vehicle, a show about an OB/GYN entitled It’s Messy. Yes, It’s Messy. The script has been roundly praised by critics and insiders, and Kaling’s seemingly been working on this project for ages. Most of that development time was for NBC, but the network passed on the project. If it succeeds on Fox, you can feel free to rub it in every time NBC has some bad news. The next comedy pickup is a new show from Craig Thomas and Carter Bays, the men behind How I Met Your Mother, called Goodwin Games. Starring Becki Newton and Scott Foley, the show is about three siblings who are forced to pretend to like each other after their wealthy father dies and leaves unusual conditions in his will. The final comedy pickup is Ben & Kate, which was formerly titled Ben Fox Is My Manny. We’ll let that one sink in, too. The show stars Nat Faxon and Dakota Johnson, and the premise is that Ben Fox is his sister’s manny. (Source: Entertainment Weekly)

The drama pickups include the Kevin Williamson (The Vampire Diaries) project The Following (formerly Mastermind). Heavily buzzed about all development season, the show stars James Purefoy as a charismatic serial killer who has a cult of followers for some reason. Kevin Bacon is the law enforcement official tasked with bringing Purefoy down after five seasons, 85 episodes, or whenever the show has ceased to be profitable. Combined with Eric Kripke's new drama over on NBC, this continues The CW's weird colonization of the larger networks, like a particularly persistent parasite. The second drama picked up by Fox is something called Mob Doctor. It stars Jordana Spiro (My Boys) as a doctor who gets in hoc to the mob and must take care of the ills of various mafia members. Zach Gilford and William Forsythe also star, and the presence of Drop Dead Diva writers on the pilot script suggests this one will be a bit more light-hearted than gloomy ol' James Purefoy telling people to kill each other. (Source: Hollywood Reporter)

• Fox’s pickups mean that it’s time for cancellations, as well, and the first two to be quietly buried out back while we all fondly remember how much they meant to us at one time are Alcatraz and The Finder. Alcatraz debuted solidly, then steadily lost its audience as they realized it was some bullshit sci-fi thing and not a weird attempt to cross Mad Men with Oz. The Finder debuted very softly, but it found some signs of life on Friday nights. Frankly, we wouldn’t be surprised by a last-minute reversal on the Finder decision sometime this summer. (This also might explain why the articles saying Finder has been canceled are more tentative in their declarations.)

Those cancellations also meant the network was in position to grant bizarre renewals, and this year, that renewal goes to Tim Kring’s Touch, that Kiefer Sutherland thing about the guy whose son sees magic patterns in the world because he’s not autistic like everybody thought; he’s a superhero. Touch has had soft ratings, particularly compared to its American Idol lead-in, but Fox probably likes being in business with Sutherland, and the show almost certainly does well internationally. (Source: Hitfix)

• Finally, to go along with another season of Law & Order: SVU and new drama Chicago Fire, announced earlier today, NBC picked up its sixth comedy pilot, Guys With Kids. The show stars Jesse Bradford, Jamie Lynn Sigler, Tempestt Bledsoe, and Sara Rue, which gives it officially the weirdest ensemble cast of pilot season so far. It’s another low-concept family sitcom about “three thirtysomething guys who enjoy the adventures of parenting despite the fact they haven’t grown up themselves,” according to EW. The show joins Go On, Save Me, The New Normal, 1600 Penn, and that one about the veterinarian in the competitive race to be the comedy NBC orders six episodes of, only to burn them off on one night in July 2013.

Stick with us throughout the week for more renewal and cancellation news. 

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