Prime time is family time

The effects of Sept. 11 are reflected in many pilots in network hoppers

This year's prime time development has two major themes: family programming and shows reflecting Sept. 11—that is, shows dealing with police, firemen, the military, government and the like. Some see those two themes as connected in the sense that Americans seemed to focus more on the importance of family in the wake of last year's tragic events.

That's the way Stacey Lynn Koerner sees it. According to Koerner, senior vice president, director of broadcast research, Initiative Media, of the 110 fall pilots in network hoppers, 52, or 47%, fall in that broader family/post-9/11–inspired category.

"This year's pilot topics are designed to resonate with viewers in a post-9/11 world," says Koerner. "Our focus has changed from self-consumed single yuppies to shows more about families and what we think is important in our culture."

ABC has been saying for a while it wants to get back to the family programming that was a key staple until it jettisoned its Friday-night TGIF lineup a few years ago.

Fox is big on family, too, in its own quirky way.

Most networks can point to a show or two that can be described as family. Koerner says five of the six broadcast networks that showed her pilot lineups (UPN the exception) have one or more family shows in the works. Pax TV, of course, is devoted entirely to family programming.

NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker is "very high" on a pilot starring Chevy Chase he describes as an updated My Three Sons, "only it's my three daughters."

Here are the broadcast nets' key needs:

  • CBS. Wednesdays and Fridays are the network's neediest nights, says Roy Rothstein, VP, director of national broadcast research, Zenith Media. The net didn't do its usual pilot presentation to agencies this year, but he notes it has had strong drama development in recent years and should improve its lot if the streak continues. CBS is in a strong position, he says, with 14 weekly wins this season and 11 of the top 25 shows.

  • NBC. Three key time periods—Tuesday 8 p.m. ET, Sunday 8 p.m. and Sunday 10 p.m. "Our needs are really minimal," says Zucker. "We're probably looking to fill three hours." Two will be dramas (he likesKingpin
    andWar Stories), plus the Tuesday comedy block.

  • ABC. ABC's needs are not minimal. Rothstein's take: a complete makeover for Thursday, most of one for Friday. The mission for Friday is a new 8-10 p.m. ET comedy block. ABC also needs a new hour each for Monday and Tuesday. A Wednesday-night overhaul wouldn't hurt either, Koerner adds. The good news: New family showsMy Wife and Kids
    andGeorge Lopez
    show signs of life.

  • Fox. Thursday, Friday and Sunday need major work. Tuesday and Wednesday need minor work.Ally's a question mark, and the signatureX-Files
    is going. But a new generation of shows is starting to click, includingBoston Public, Bernie Mac
    and 24. "Give Fox credit for being creative," says Rothstein.

  • The WB. The biggest need: Fix Sunday night. Poor performance that night has hurt the network's overall ratings this season. Thursday at 8 p.m. ET needs work. Friday needs comedies that would be anchored byReba; other current comedies there are expendable. Secondary needs: Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights could each use a new hour, says Koerner.

  • UPN. Tuesday has a one-hour hole to fill, and Wednesday could use an hour as well.The Amazing Race
    fizzled, but look for more repurposing between UPN and co-owned CBS. Network hasn't revealed comedy development yet, but one of five drama pilots will replace just-canceledRoswell.

  • Pax. The net needs to continue to develop original shows for the weekend and is also looking for a new hour on Monday.

Following are pilots currently in development—at least all those the broadcast networks are admitting to right now.

2002 Development Slates
Working title Studio/producer Story line
Drama ABC
Homeward Bound Studios USA Girl loses job, has to move back home
The Oath Touchstone Two doctors fight system at HMO
Larry Gelbart project Touchstone Media family quest for dominance
Flashpoint Touchstone CDC agents and their cases
Astronauts Twentieth Century Fox (TCFTV) NASA drama
Paranormal Girl Touchstone Psychic teen solves crimes
Veritas Touchstone Father and son archaeologists
Miracles Spyglass/Touchstone Spiritually conflicted seminarian
Capital City DreamWorks/Touchstone Political drama
That Was Then Touchstone Man revisits his past
Chang Family Saves World Touchstone Wutan Temple Warriors battle evil
Nancy Drew Touchstone Based on the books
Push, Nevada Touchstone/Live Planet Mystery drama viewers help solve
Comedy ABC
Mayor of Oyster Bay Carsey-Werner Small-town honorary mayor
With You in Spirit TCFTV Cub reporter in new-age town
My Wonderful Life Touchstone/Granada Single mom balancing work, family
What Leonard Comes Home To Touchstone/Brad Grey Hubby's view of marriage
Michael Jacobs pilot Touchstone/NBC Workaholic dad tries to reconnect
Legally Blonde Touchstone Based on the movie
Sun Gods Touchstone People selling solar paneling
John Ridley project Touchstone Husband deals with social wife and family
Regular Joe Touchstone Daughter returns home with baby
Couples project Touchstone Three couples and their relationships
8 Rules for Dating My Daughter Touchstone Based on the book by W. Bruce Cameron
Scherick-Ronn pilot Touchstone Unorthodox private eye and family
Dexter Prep Touchstone All-male boarding school
The Funkhousers Jersey TV/Touchstone Eccentric close-knit family
Bonnie Hunt project Touchstone Family comedy
Terri Minsky project Touchstone Girl gets job in highly competitive office
Drama CBS
CSI Miami Alliance-Atlantis/CBS Spin-off
Queens Supreme Regency/Shoelace L.A. Law on the other coast
Georgetown Big Ticket Political drama
Jo Spelling/CBS Pet doctor goes home again
R.U.S.H. USA/CBS L.A. crime drama
Hack Big Ticket Cop and taxi driver fight for underdogs
Lefty Big Ticket/Brad Grey Stallone's a priest with a Rambo past
RHD/LA Studios USA LAPD detective
Presidio Med Warner Bros. Female doctors in San Francisco
Without a Trace Warner Bros. FBI unit tracks missing persons
Allison Anders project DreamWorks Parole-officer drama
Comedy CBS
Jeff Strauss project Twentieth TV/Acme/CBS Couple balances work, home, love life
Grown Men Warner Bros. Father and son are roommates
Lydeker Paramount Overachiever and her office-related problems
Lunchbox Chronicles Studios USA Single mom juggles work, love
Life of the Party TCFTV Nathan Lane as actor-turned-politician
Two Families Warner Bros. Two widowers and their grown kids
Keenan and Lloyd project Paramount Writer discovers her real and famous dad
McCall/Bardallis project Brad Grey TV Woman and her big Greek family
Still Standing TCFTV Blue-collar parents raise three kids
Dragons of New York CBS/Regency Updated Thin Man
Drama NBC
Boomtown NBC/Dreamworks L.A. crime drama
Kingpin NBC/Spelling Drug-cartel crime drama
Miss American Pie NBC/Studios USA Family drama set in '60s
Miss Miami NBC/Touchstone Miami crime drama
Mister Sterling NBC/Studios USA Josh Brolin goes to Washington
St. George NBC Pet doctor and family go to Africa
War Stories NBC Jeff Goldblum as war correspondent
Young Arthur NBC Young King Arthur
Zero Effect Castle Rock/Warner Bros. Gumshoe master of disguise
Comedy NBC
Good Morning, Miami Warner Bros. Workplace comedy, morning TV show
Romeo Fire NBC/Warner Bros. Small-town firefighters
A.U.S.A NBC/TCFTV Scrubs goes to court
Chevy Chase project SNL Studios/NBC Divorced dad takes care of kids
Class of '06 NBC/Paramount Animal House for the small screen
Ken Finkleman project NBC/Imagine TV newsman and family
Greg Giraldo project NBC/Conasco Single dad/comedian raises small daughter
Hidden Hills NBC Three suburban couples interact
In-Laws NBC/Paramount Newlyweds move in with her parents
It's Not About Me NBC Lawyer quits job to be high-school teacher
Life at Five Feet NBC Buddy comedy, columnist and supermodel
Drama FOX
Firefly TCFTV Multi-ethnic, updated Starsky & Hutch
Keen Eddie Littlefield/Paramount American cop on a mission in London
Save the Last Dance Paramount Based on the film of same name
Time Tunnel TCFTV/Regency Redo of '60s TV series
Eastwick Warner Bros. Son of Witches of Eastwick
John Doe Regency Savant amnesiac knows all but one thing
Untitled TCFTV Secret Service ensemble
Girls Club TCFTV/David Kelley Female attorneys share San Francisco apartment
Septuplets Stu Segall Productions Dramedy about teen septuplets
Comedy FOX
Beat Cops NBC/Conaco Buddy comedy, NYC cops
Next! TCFTV Comedy sketch show
The Big Fix Castle Rock/Warner Bros. Dead man returns to fix mistake
The Pitts TCFTV Trials of a luckless family
Eric Gilliland project Studios USA Liberal son vs. conservative stepdad
Alan Zweibel project Regency Extended-family comedy
BS Imagine/TCFTV Girls at boarding school
Cedric the Entertainer TCFTV Sketch variety show
Oliver Beene DreamWorks/TCFTV Kennedy-era Wonder Years
Life on Parole DreamWorks/TCFTV Parole officer and his parolee buddy
The Grubbs Studios USA/Granada Blue-collar family of losers
Ricky Blitt project TCFTV Hyper-neurotic slacker
Drama The WB
Aces Warner Bros. Teen and his gambler father
Birds of Prey Warner Bros. Superheroines battle villains in Gotham City
Black Sash Warner Bros. San Francisco bounty hunter teaches martial arts
Home of the Brave Spelling Soldier returns home after tour of duty
Everwood Warner Bros. Widowed doctor moves to small town
In My Life Turner Coming of age in Baton Rouge, La., circa 1964
Lone Ranger Turner Redo of the old series
Lost in Oz Warner Bros. Adventure series set in Oz
Comedy The WB
Amanda Bynes project Warner Bros. Teenager moves in with older sister
Family Affair Turner Updated version of '60s series
Just Like You Big Ticket Latino family
Brave New World Turner Home-schooled kids start public school
Generation Gap Paramount Wild mom moves in with her uptight daughter
Prep Turner Co-ed boarding school
Do Over Paramount A reverse Big
St. Sass Warner Boarding-school dorm mom and misfits
Houseblend Paramount Divorced friends combine their households
In My Opinion Primarily Entertainment Office comedy, female advice columnist
Way Downtown Turner Trials of twentysomethings in NYC
The Twilight Zone Trilogy/New Line New version of the Serling classic
One for the Money Wendy Finnerman/Columbia TriStar Female bounty hunter
The Legacy Bruckheimer/Warner Bros. Young attorney is a superhero
Haunted Industry Entertainment/Viacom Gumshoe has help from spirit world
Empire American Zoetrope/Greenblatt Janollari Two brothers own hip-hop label
Lip Service Dave Alan Johnson/Gary R. Johnson Hearing-impaired FBI agent
Body & Soul John Whelpley Alternative-medicine drama
Just Cause Jacqueline Zambrano/Gail Morgan Hickman Ex-con lawyer fights for justice
Opportunity Knocks not available Neighbors compete for prizes