This could be the first TV development season in like — oh, what, forever? — that won’t be shrouded in mystery. That’s because the networks have ushered a number of scripts straight to series, bypassing the usual process of ordering dozens of pilots and deciding among them. (Why the switcheroo? Blame a time crunch caused by the 100-day-long writers’ strike.) NBC has led the charge, making series commitments to an adaptation of the Australian comedy Kath and Kim starring Molly Shannon, a dramatic version of Robinson Crusoe, and a Canadian import called The Listener about a mind reader. Fox is staying with some tried-and-true talent, ordering paranormal scarefest Fringe (from Lost’s J.J. Abrams and starring Joshua Jackson), and a new drama from Joss Whedon that’ll reunite him with Buffy star Eliza Dushku. ABC picked up Section 8 from Zak Penn (X-Men: The Last Stand) about a secret government agency, and CBS has set in motion a sci-fi drama from Jerry Bruckheimer called Eleventh Hour.
So the networks are sure about these projects, right? Um… not necessarily. “Ordering straight to series doesn’t always work,” says one studio head. “They’re committing $20 million to turn a pilot into six episodes. You don’t really know whether it’s going to be good.”