Dancing with the Upfronts: ABC Picks Up Ten (Yes, Ten) Pilots to Series

Is it just me or are the networks releasing a lot of series orders way in advance of next week's upfront presentations?

ABC managed to steal NBC's thunder by ordering no less than ten pilots to series. What made the list? Well, it was a diverse group of seven dramas, including a few that made my list of the best pilot scripts, and three comedies (with only one fave in the bunch).

On the drama front, ABC granted series orders to my favorite drama script this season, Bryan Fuller's beautifully whimsical drama Pushing Daisies (look for a review of the completed pilot on Monday), which had me jumping for joy when I heard the news. Whether the American viewing public will warm up to this charming and imaginative series, reminiscent of a brighter version of Wonderfalls--starring that series' Lee Pace, Anna Friel, Chi McBride, Swoozie Kurtz, and Kristen Chenoweth--remains to be seen. I'm just praying they don't dump it, like Fuller's Wonderfalls, on Friday nights. Fingers crossed that it gets a real shot.

Not unsurprisingly, the Grey's Anatomy spin-off Private Practice, which was a shoe-in for an order, received just that, as it will steam up the windows on ABC's fall schedule. I think they'll use it to launch a new night of drama and, with its cachet, it could help anchor the net's struggling Wednesday night (which will be Lost-free now until February).

I was surprised with the orders for Eli Stone, a painfully average script about a lawyer (Jonny Lee Miller) who might just be a prophet, and Cashmere Mafia, about another group of powerful NYC women who dine, dish, and shop together (not to be confused with NBC's far superior Lipstick Jungle), from executive producer Darren Star. Women's Murder Club was fairly ho-hum (other than Angie Harmon it lacks any star power) but it's a decent female-friendly crime entree, so I can see why ABC would order it now (maybe for mid-season?).

I loved the script for Dirty Sexy Money but wasn't blown away by the lackluster completed pilot which lost the script's wry, soapy humor. Still, with a cast that includes the likes of Peter Krause, Donald Sutherland, Jill Clayburgh, William Baldwin, and Samaire Armstrong, even the sub-par direction of Peter Horton couldn't deter the programmers from ordering this to series.

I'm intrigued by Big Shots (f.k.a. Perfect Gentlemen, f.k.a. Firmwood...), which has the potential to become a male-driven Desperate Housewives if programmed and promoted properly. I'm not crazy about Dylan McDermott, but I'll reserve judgement until I see the pilot next week.

On the comedy front, ABC ordered Sam I Am, one of my comedy picks, to series. I can't wait to see how this turned out on screen and it's got a fantastic female quartet in Christina Applegate, Jennifer Esposito, Jean Smart, and Melissa McCarthy. But the network also ordered the flimsy Carpoolers and, in a mind-boggling turn, the absolutely dreadful Cavemen. (Shudder.)

ABC announces its official fall schedule on Tuesday, May 15th. Stay tuned.

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Jace is an LA-based television development and acquisitions junior exec who watches way too much television for his own good and would love a TiVo for every room in the house. (He’s halfway there.) His blog, Televisionary, can be found at televisionary.blogspot.com.