ABC's Upfronts: Infernal Pacts, ETs Next Door, and Globe-trotting Mystery

 

Yesterday during ABC's upfront presentation for the 2012-2013 season, the network revealed some of their upcoming genre programming. The big news here: Once Upon a Time is back for a second season. But the other story is that ABC is making a real commitment to hour-long content outside of the comedy/drama box. We've got synopses and thoughts on 666 Park Avenue, The Neighbors, and Zero Hour.

666 Park Avenue

The pitch: "It's The Devil's Advocate meets Fantasy Island!"

Synopsis: At the ominous address of 666 Park Avenue, anything you desire can be yours. Everyone has needs, desires and ambition. For the residents of The Drake, these will all be met, courtesy of the building's mysterious owner, Gavin Doran (Terry O'Quinn). But every Faustian contract comes with a price. When Jane Van Veen (Rachael Taylor) and Henry Martin (Dave Annable), an idealistic young couple from the Midwest, are offered the opportunity to manage the historic building, they not only fall prey to the machinations of Doran and his mysterious wife, Olivia (Vanessa Williams), but unwittingly begin to experience the shadowy, supernatural forces within the building that imprison and endanger the lives of the residents inside. Sexy, seductive and inviting, The Drake maintains a dark hold over all of its residents, tempting them through their ambitions and desires, in this chilling new drama that's home to an epic struggle of good versus evil.

What are its chances: Solid? I'm not sure here since there's no overarching mythology to hook viewers in each week, it might come off as more of an anthology series, something that hasn't really worked out well on networks for a while. Still, if ABC can inject the show with enough sex and violence, it might just hook the curious viewer looking for something interesting on basic TV.

The Neighbors

The pitch: "It's Aliens in America... with real aliens!"

Synopsis: How well do you know your neighbors?

Meet the Weavers, Debbie (Jami Gertz) and Marty (Lenny Venito). Marty, in hopes of providing a better life for his wife and three kids, recently bought a home in Hidden Hills, a gated New Jersey townhome community with its own golf course. Hidden Hills is so exclusive that a house hasn't come on the market in 10 years. But one finally did and the Weavers got it!

It's clear from day one that the residents of Hidden Hills are a little different. For starters, their new neighbors all have pro-athlete names like Reggie Jackson (Tim Jo), Jackie Joyner-Kersee (Toks Olagundoye), Dick Butkis (Ian Patrick) and Larry Bird (Simon Templeman). Over dinner, Marty and his family discover that their neighbors receive nourishment through their eyes by reading books, rather than eating. The Weavers soon learn that the entire community is comprised of aliens from Zabvron, where the men bear children and everyone cries green goo from their ears.

The Zabvronians have been stationed on Earth for the past 10 years, disguised as humans, awaiting instructions from home, and the Weavers are the first humans they've had the opportunity to know. As it turns out, the pressures of marriage and parenthood are not exclusive to planet Earth. Two worlds will collide with hilarious consequences as everyone discovers they can "totally relate" and learn a lot from each other.

What are its chances: Eh, there's definitely a reverse Addams Family vibe to this—instead of being about the monsters moving in next door, it's about our human protagonists moving in and meeting the monsters (or aliens in this case). Kudos for bringing Jamie Gertz in for this one, but Lenny Venito is best taken in small doses. The first "illegal aliens" joke should translate into instant cancellation.

Zero Hour

The pitch: "Remember when ER star Noah Wyle did those Librarian movies? Then you'll love/like/consider, fellow ER star Anthony Edwards in Zero Hour!"

Synopsis: As the publisher of a paranormal enthusiast magazine, Modern Skeptic, Hank Galliston has spent his career following clues, debunking myths and solving conspiracies. A confessed paranormal junkie, his motto is "logic is the compass." But when his beautiful wife, Laila (Jacinda Barrett), is abducted from her antique clock shop, Hank gets pulled into one of the most compelling mysteries in human history, stretching around the world and back centuries.

Contained in one of his wife's clocks is a treasure map, and what it leads to could be cataclysmic. Now it's up to Hank to decipher the symbols and unlock the secrets of the map, while ensuring the answers don't fall into the wrong hands - a man they call White Vincent (Michael Nyqvist). With his two young associates, Rachel (Addison Timlin) and Arron (Scott Michael Foster), in tow, along with Becca Riley, a sexy FBI agent (Carmen Ejogo), Hank will lead them on a breathless race against the clock to find his wife and save humanity.

What are its chances: When your pitch says a character is being drawn into "one of the most compelling mysteries in human history," you'd better dang well compel. Right now it sounds like a lot of National Treasure-lite (although those movies did make loads of bank for parent company Disney), so it'll all hinge on the charisma of once and future nerd Anthony Edwards. Also, it's got Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol baddie/Millennium Trilogy star Michael Nyqvist, so that's got to stand for something, right?

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