The pieces of the prime-time puzzle are falling into place.
NBC and Fox have unveiled their schedules for the 2013-14 television season, bringing more than a dozen new titles to prime time this fall and introducing almost as many rookie shows at midseason. The announcements are part the annual upfront ad-sales presentations in New York, a frenzied, week-long TV marketplace in which U.S. networks and advertisers lay the economic groundwork for the upcoming season.
ABC's schedule announcement takes place today, with CBS and the CW network unveiling their fall lineups later on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.
NBC will bring TV favourite Michael J. Fox back to prime time this fall, as star of The Michael J. Fox Show, a sitcom about a news anchor who returns to the airwaves after taking half a decade off to deal with health issues and family matters.
Also on NBC's new-comedy roster for this fall are Sean Saves the World, which stars Will & Grace alumnus Sean Hayes as a divorced gay dad struggling with suddenly becoming a full-time parent to a teenage daughter, and Welcome to the Family, which stars Mike O'Malley (Glee) and Mary McCormack (The West Wing) as parents dealing with the news their high school-grad daughter is pregnant and planning to marry her Hispanic boyfriend.
NBC's midseason lineup includes the sitcom About a Boy, based on the bestselling Nick Hornby novel (which became a 2002 movie starring Hugh Grant); Jason Katims (Friday Night Lights) is executive producer, and the cast is led by Minnie Driver.
Topping the list of midseason dramas on NBC is Crisis, which stars Gillian Anderson (The X-Files) and Dermot Mulroney (My Best Friend's Wedding) in a thriller about the kidnapping of a busload of students from a high school that educates the offspring of Washington, D.C.'s political and business elite.
NBC's new dramas for this fall include Ironside, a remake of the 1960s/'70s cop show about a wheelchair-bound detective (the new version stars Blair Underwood in the role originated by Raymond Burr); The Blacklist, which stars James Spader as a former government agent who, after several years on the FBI's most-wanted list, turns himself in and offers to help catch a terrorist leader; and Dracula, a new adaptation of the timeless vampire tale, with Jonathan Rhys Meyers (The Tudors) starring as the blood-lusting count.
NBC's lengthy list of shows that won't be back for 2013-14 includes 30 Rock, The Office, Deception, Animal Practice, Do No Harm, Guys With Kids, Smash, Up All Night, Whitney, 1600 Penn and Go On. The fate of mid-season arrival Hannibal has not yet been decided.
Meanwhile, over at Fox, the fall-season lineup will include three new comedies and a pair of new dramas, as well as a kitchen-reality spinoff of a familiar franchise.
The sitcom bracket includes Dads, the first live-action comedy venture from Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, which focuses on a pair of 30-something roommates who suddenly find themselves forced to let their cranky dads move in with them.
Also new to Fox this fall are Brooklyn Nine-Nine, a cop-driven comedy starring SNL alumnus Andy Samberg, and Enlisted, a family-focused sitcom about siblings stationed at a Florida army base.
Fox has two new drama titles in its fall lineup -- Almost Human, a futuristic cops-and-robots thriller from Fringe/Lost producer J.J. Abrams, and Sleepy Hollow, a modern-day spin on the classic tale of Ichabod Crane, with the hero having been transported through time only to find he's humanity's last hope.
Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay will presumably ease back on the profanity this fall when he serves up Junior Masterchef, a culinary competition series for kids between eight and 13 years of age.
Among Fox's midseason entries for 2013-14 are Rake, which is adapted from a popular Australian TV series and stars Greg Kinnear as a brilliant lawyer battling multiple addictions, and Us & Them, based on a BBC hit about a couple whose romance is complicated by their wacky families and friends. Jason Ritter (Parenthood) and Alexis Bledel (Gilmore Girls) lead the U.S. version's cast.
Fox also announced that torture-loving world-saver Jack Bauer (played by Kiefer Sutherland) will return to its lineup next year -- 24: Live Another Day, a 12-part series in which each hour-long episode covers two hours of "real" time, will debut in the summer of 2014.
Not returning to Fox's lineup for 2013-14 are Fringe, Touch, Ben & Kate and The Mob Doctor.
brad.oswald @freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @BradOswald