Summer's just starting, but after the networks' upfronts, we're anxiously awaiting autumn

By Lynette Rice and James Hibberd
Updated May 25, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT
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ABC has aliens. NBC cast a monkey. Fox went with Britney Spears. Yep, the 2012–13 fall schedule could be a hot mess in the making. But the broadcast nets have a few pleasant surprises in the works, too. Now that the fall race is officially under way, here’s what to expect.

More laughs Twenty-nine sitcoms will hit the air this fall — including a pair of promising shows from NBC. There’s The New Normal from Ryan Murphy (about a gay couple who hire a surrogate) and Go On, which stars Matthew Perry as a grieving sportscaster who finds solace — and humor — through group-therapy sessions. (They also have Animal Practice, starring that capuchin monkey we talked about.) And ABC has the extraterrestrial comedy The Neighbors. Even The CW is looking to drop its moratorium on sitcoms by vowing to order pilots if its new shows gain ratings traction. (That looks entirely possible this year, with the addition of shows like Arrow.)

More serialized shows It’s a conceit that can mean the kiss of death come syndication time, but thankfully the networks aren’t snubbing the format. After the success of Once Upon a Time and Revenge, ABC is doubling down with 666 Park Avenue (about a New York co-op with…ghosts!), the submarine thriller Last Resort, and Connie Britton‘s Nashville, while NBC has a blackout thriller from J.J. Abrams called Revolution.

More fresh talent Having a high-profile star couldn’t guarantee a pickup this year. (The nets passed on shows featuring Julia Stiles, Roseanne Barr, Mira Sorvino, Martin Lawrence, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Judy Greer.) Instead, look for possible star-making turns from Janet Montgomery (Black Swan) as a working-girl attorney on CBS’ Made in Jersey, Mamie Gummer (a.k.a. Meryl Streep‘s daughter) on The CW’s Emily Owens, M.D., and Dakota Johnson (The Social Network) on Fox’s Ben and Kate.

More reasons to stay home on Friday night For years, Friday has been the Siberia of prime time. But the lack of shelf space earlier in the week has forced the nets to stack the night with a pretty decent lot of shows this fall. Besides the aforementioned Made in Jersey, Friday will now be home to Fox’s Touch, NBC’s Community, and ABC’s Last Man Standing.

More singing Remember just a couple of years ago when fall offered a much-needed break from starry-eyed singers and snarky judges? No more. With Fox’s revamped The X Factor (featuring Spears and Demi Lovato alongside Simon Cowell and L.A. Reid) and NBC’s The Voice (now doing two installments a year), there will be singing shows on four nights this fall.

More outside-the-box scheduling Since NBC has the Summer Olympics, the Peacock will get a jump start, premiering some of its lineup in August after the Games. At the same time, The CW will get out of the way of the usual September flood by pushing its premieres back to October.

More showrunner shake-ups Several high-profile shows will undergo staffing changes at the top, including Community (hey, Dan Harmon, tell us how you really feel), Smash, and The Office.

More of the men we love It’s been a long time since we’ve been starstruck, but the addition of Kevin Bacon to the Fox serial-killer drama The Following and Dennis Quaid to the CBS cop-and-Mob-boss series Vegas (with Michael Chiklis!) has us giggling like a bunch of schoolgirls.

More Mindy Kaling The Office‘s loss is Fox’s gain. While the network seems to be having a heck of a time trying to name Mindy Kaling‘s new comedy (it went from It’s Messy to the equally odd The Mindy Project), the comedian’s new show about a Bridget Jones-type single woman is a perfect fit with this year’s breakout hit New Girl.

3 Time Slots to Watch

As the TV season shapes up, here are three key scheduling matchups to keep an eye on.

Tuesday at 9

Six comedies will air from 9 to 10 p.m. this fall: Go On and The New Normal on NBC, New Girl and The Mindy Project on Fox, and Happy Endings and Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 on ABC. We predict the Alphabet will blink and move its comedies an hour earlier — letting it keep Dancing With the Stars (Results) at 9 p.m.

Thursday at 10

NBC made the head-scratching decision to relocate Rock Center With Brian Williams — its ratings-challenged prime-time news show — to ER‘s old time slot, opposite CBS’ clever new drama Elementary and ABC’s returning Scandal. Why not just show video of a white flag?

Sunday at 9

It’s a Good Wife/Revenge catfight! But we’re not talking about Julianna Margulies versus Madeleine Stowe. We’re thinking of every woman with roommates having a smackdown over which of these to watch live. At least Revenge‘s old Wednesday slot has been filled with the female-friendly drama Nashville.—Lynette Rice

Episode Recaps

Happy Endings

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