On the Air
The latest news from the TV beat
ABC Entertainment president Susan Lyne certainly has a flair for the dramatic: Her network has 70-80 drama scripts in development for fall 2003 — substantially more than NBC (40), Fox (55), and CBS (which has at least 60). The reason for the script binge is simple: ABC has already canceled two freshman dramas (That Was Then and Push, Nevada), and critics are trouncing its latest, Dinotopia. Says UTA cohead of TV Jay Sures, ”Comedy is really working at ABC this year, so the next logical step is to get their new dramas in line. The network needs to take many more chances and have a larger development pool to choose from.” Besides a prequel to Speed and a spin-off of the Jennifer Lopez starrer Out of Sight, ABC is developing a jury drama from Tom Fontana (Oz), a gay Hart to Hart from Steve Martin, and a superhero drama from Mike Tollin and Brian Robbins (Smallville). ”[Drama is] a priority because we really have three dramas on our network right now that are working, and two of them have been around for a long time,” says Lyne of NYPD Blue, The Practice, and Alias. ”God bless The Practice and NYPD Blue, but we need to develop the next generation of dramas.” We’d suggest a Bachelor spin-off starring Brooke. That girl’s got spunk.
The Brainy Bunch
NBC wasn’t kidding when it promised a smart sitcom for midseason. Most of the writers on A.U.S.A., a lawyer comedy about young assistant U.S. attorneys, starring Scott Foley, are Ivy League graduates — including the show’s creator-executive producer Rich Appel (Harvard undergrad and law) and story editor Jeff Westbrook (Harvard alum and former Yale professor). Granted, plenty of Harvard, Cornell, and Brown types make livings as sitcom scribes in Hollywood (The Simpsons and King of the Hill, for example, seem to have a pipeline from Cambridge, Mass.), but they usually don’t fill an entire writers’ room like they do on A.U.S.A. ”When I think of the money wasted in that room between me and Jeff alone…” jokes Appel, who says it’s purely coincidental that he hired 10 Ivy Leaguers. ”My mom says to me, ‘Can you now say law school was worth it?”’ A.U.S.A. focuses on New York City’s U.S. Attorney’s office, where Appel worked for three years before hightailing it to Hollywood after landing a job at — you guessed it — The Simpsons. NBC’s expecting sophisticated comedy from A.U.S.A., and Appel plans to deliver: ”I will have airtight mathematical equations! The toughest questions of law will be discussed and analyzed ad nauseam!”
AND SO ON… Has Robert (Brad Garrett) finally met his match on CBS’ Everybody Loves Raymond? The cast is predictably cagey about the recent return of Robert’s on-again, off-again girlfriend Amy (Monica Horan). ”We’ve got big changes coming up in Robert’s life,” Patricia Heaton says coyly. But something’s brewing in the love department, as Fred Willard (Best in Show), Georgia Engel (The Mary Tyler Moore Show), and Chris Elliott (The Weber Show) have signed on to play Amy’s family in the Feb. 3 episode. Better start shopping for toasters. (Additional reporting by Bruce Fretts, William Keck, and Dan Snierson)