As promised, here's another quick roundup from this week's network upfronts, previewing the new programming for the 2005-2006 season. For a firsthand account of the week's bizarre festivities (including CBS head Les Moonves' promise not to "hide the weenie"), read Virginia Heffernan's blog on the New York Times Web site.
- This fall on CBS, Jennifer Love Hewitt IS ... The Ghost Whisperer. No, seriously, she is. She whispers to ghosts and whatnot. Or at least stands next to tombstones in a terrible wig.
- The WB proposes a new Bruckheimer-produced series, Just Legal.Think of it as Doogie Howser, J.D.—a precocious law student passes the bar at age 18, then gets taken under the wing of Don Johnson as a down-and-out ambulance chaser. Johnson and Bruckheimer were meant for each other, but this show's title is just a little too queasily evocative of Barely Legal, the not-quite-kiddie-porn magazine, for my comfort.
- UPN has the trash-reality market cornered (America's Next Top Model and the new Britney and Kevin: Chaotic), but when it comes to scripted shows, they can't get arrested; the critically acclaimed Kevin Hill is closing up shop after one season, and Veronica Mars is low in the ratings too. But Everybody Hates Chris, the new UPN sitcom executive-produced (and, hopefully, narrated) by Chris Rock, got the biggest laughs of any preview at this week's screenings. It tells the story of Rock's geeky, tortured adolescence, when he was bused to another neighborhood to attend a white working-class school.
- A Slate colleague recently wrote me: "When, for the love of all that is holy, and wholly watchable, will we get a show to replace Buffy?" If by that she means a smart show with an irreverent take on paranormal gal-power, we've already got it, in my opinion: Medium. But if she just wants another chance to ogle Willow, there's always How I Met Your Mother, a CBS fall sitcom that will feature the Buffy alumna Alyson Hannigan. This show's convoluted premise is that a middle-aged man (Neil Patrick Harris) recounts his courtship to his children in flashback. In addition to the prospect of Doogie Howser (see above) in age makeup, this show also boasts a voiceover by Full House's Bob Saget, with whom I've become obsessed since this incredibly filthy profile of him appeared in the New York Observer (link courtesy of Angry Naked Pat).
- After Sex & the City and Desperate Housewives, the networks have determined that the formula for runaway success is to have four good-looking women running around doing stuff. Doesn't matter what, really, just make sure there are four of them. In the case of ABC's Hot Properties, they're selling high-end real estate in New York. (Good call. Nothing more lovable than a Manhattan realtor.) In the WB's Related, the requisite quartet of hotties appears in the form of the Sorelli sisters, for whom, according to the press release, "life in New York City is a rich banquet to share together. ... But when you add in jobs, boyfriends, exes, husbands, pregnancies and parents, there's not much room for dessert!" Aw c'mon, maybe just a wafer-thin after-dinner mint?