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Putting Final Touches on Next Season’s Schedule

TV networks are putting the final touches on their fall schedules as they prepare for next week's spring rite: an unveiling to advertisers.

Though the glitz of the presentations has been tamed in recent years, it's a moment to chest-thump ahead of the crucial ad-buying season, in the midst of a recession and added pressure on costs.

Among the prime time prospects...


The top-rated network — and the only one to grow this season — has few holes, but looks to broaden its plate of crime shows with doctors with "Three Rivers" (about organ transplants) or "Miami Trauma" (urgent surgeons).

With "House" and "Grey's Anatomy" still strong but declining, "there's a lot of room right now for the next big medical drama," says Carolyn Finger, who heads consultancy TVTracker.com.

An NCIS spinoff is a lock, and the network is also keen on "The Good Wife," starring Julianna Margulies as the spouse of a disgraced politician who returns to work as a defense lawyer.

It's also weighing comedies with Jenna Elfman and Jason Biggs but is expected to cancel at least one of three "on the bubble" dramas, "Cold Case," ''Without a Trace" and "The Unit."


Five new series already are ordered for fall, leaving little suspense for its first-at-bat presentation Monday.

This week's drama pickups "Human Target" (based on the DC Comics series) and "Past Life," using reincarnation as a tool to solve mysteries, join comedy "Sons of Tucson," about a hustler hired by three brothers to pose as their dad.

Musical comedy "Glee" (previewing Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT) and "Family Guy" spinoff "The Cleveland Show" were announced earlier. Also probable is "Brothers," a sitcom about former NFL players.


 The network is looking for laughs, eyeing comedies from Kelsey Grammer (as a laid-off Wall Street exec) and Courteney Cox (a single mom), and is in talks to renew "Scrubs" and "Better Off Ted." It already ordered "Modern Family," about three suburban clans. "Comedy is definitely their key area," Finger says.

On the drama side, "Eastwick," based on John Updike's novel about witches, might join Flash Forward, a sci-fi series in which everyone blacks out and sees visions of their futures. That drama is being positioned as the successor to "Lost," ending its run next season.


Looking to beef up its appeal to young women, CW has a "Melrose Place" remake, joining "90210"; "The Beautiful Life," a "Top Model" companion drama about models; and "Vampire Diaries," based on a teen book series. A 1980s-set "Gossip Girl" spinoff is possible for midseason.


Jumping the gun, the network announced new shows last week, but won't unveil its schedule until Tuesday. With three new shows and Jay Leno in prime time this fall, the remaining question is whether "Chuck" or "Medium" will make the cut for another season; "Law & Order" will likely return, but prospects for "My Name Is Earl" are dim unless a cost dispute is resolved.

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