Tivo-worthy fall pilot season -- Networks' new schedules welcome quality comedy and drama from J.J. Abrams and ''Will & Grace'' producers

Finally, some positive TV news to report: Pilot season wasn’t nearly as bad as everyone thought it would be! ”With all the distractions and interruptions, we did manage to find a respectable number of quality projects,” says Suzanne Patmore-Gibbs, ABC’s exec VP of drama development, referring to the 100-day-long writers’ strike. Now she hopes viewers will feel the same way when the networks announce their new schedules next week.

After a season with no breakout hits, they took fewer chances on new writers and gave series commitments to familiar names like Lost mastermind J.J. Abrams (Fox’s Fringe) and CSI exec producer Jerry Bruckheimer (CBS’ Eleventh Hour). They also dusted off old favorites (a Beverly Hills, 90210 spin-off for The CW, an update of the short-lived cult ’90s dramedy Cupid for ABC) and looked overseas for some creative inspiration. Take Good Behavior, a New Zealand drama about a family of criminals that ABC is reimagining, or Mythological Ex, a CBS drama based on an Israeli series about a woman (Grey’s Anatomy‘s Elizabeth Reaser) who redates a string of old flames after a psychic tells her that she’s already met her future husband. Traditional multi-camera comedies also proved popular: Fox is getting back in business with Bernie Mac, who’ll play a divorcé living with his twentysomething son, while ABC turned to Will & Grace‘s Max Mutchnick and David Kohan for a series about two men — one straight, one gay — who are lifelong friends and business partners. ”Coming out of the strike, everybody thought there would be a rush to get scripts ready to shoot quickly. That wasn’t the case,” says Matt Rice, head of television for United Talent Agency. ”They were picky. It was a nice balance. There are lots of good dramas, good comedy.” Hey, we’ll be the judge of that.