Next week, the four broadcast networks will descend on New York City for the upfronts, a yearly tradition in which ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox present their upcoming shows to an audience of skeptical ad buyers and an even more skeptical general public. From glittering stages, the presidents of the Big Four will preen like peacocks and crow about bright days ahead, all while desperately attempting to convince the assembled that they’re not, in fact, dinosaurs. As New York Magazine’s Josef Adalian noted this week, the portion of 18-to-49-year-olds (the much-coveted “demo” that fuels nearly every ratings conversation) watching the Big Four has atrophied from more than 50 percent in 2000 to just 30 percent today. After years of watching their slice of the audience pie diminish thanks to ferocious competition from cable, the networks now have to contend with the very real possibility that the bakery might just shut down completely. Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, with their deep pockets and creative freedom, are looking more and more like an existential threat. Broadcast television still makes the most money, thanks to lusty advertising rates, but that won’t last forever, particularly if the networks keep spending it so wastefully. The upfronts are meant to be a time of hope — every show is potentially a hit — but recently it’s been challenging to mask the stench coming from the landfill out back, where the carcasses of last year’s canceled sure things are slowly decomposing.
Thankfully, for the first time in years, the Big Four all seem to be following some sort of plan. NBC, everyone’s favorite punching bag, is finally hitting back, investing heavily in its once-proud legacy of comedy. ABC, after a year of brutal losses, is retrenching back to its core strengths. (Disclosure: ABC, like Grantland, is owned by the Walt Disney Company.) CBS is making the very sane decision to continue being CBS. And Fox is pursuing the most radical strategy of all, ending its participation in pilot season entirely. One thing all four seem to agree on is that business as usual is increasingly bad for business.
What’s happening: If you thought NBC couldn’t sink any lower, it turns out you were right. After years as a directionless laughingstock, the network pulled off a remarkable turnaround this past season. For the first time in a decade, NBC is poised to finish first with 18-to-49-year-olds. To the shock of many — particularly those of us who spent months mocking the retro flameout of his new and not improved Thursday nights — NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt somehow managed to construct a successful year through a potpourri of events (The Sound of Music Live!, NFL football), chairs (the surprisingly resilient The Voice), boilerplate (Chicagos Fire and P.D.), and ham (The Blacklist — the 2013-14 season’s only true breakout hit). Thanks to a deep bench of stubborn, critically adored shows that could officially be considered Not Disasters (Parks and Recreation, Community, Parenthood, Hannibal), NBC was even able to withstand the recent implosion of Believe and Crisis, two very expensive, very silly dramas that it very much wanted to see succeed.
What’s needed: Greenblatt has done the impossible: He has salvaged NBC. But the victory coalition he glued together with Adam Levine’s hair gel and stray bits of Dick Wolfmeat isn’t built for lasting dominance. Outside of The Blacklist, NBC doesn’t have any shows that move the needle: It’s legitimate to argue that Greenblatt doesn’t have any reason to chase after his network’s legacy of shows that were both popular and smart (and many of his decisions have proven his inability to master either). With CBS treating Thursday nights the way James Spader treats dialogue — and that’s before it starts airing football there this fall — NBC reclaiming the glory days on what used to be the network’s backyard appears to be a pipe dream.
But if you don’t have shows that everyone watches, it helps to have shows that people love. That’s why I was encouraged to observe Greenblatt moving away from his failed strategy of “broad” comedies and instead diverting cash to the sort of clever creators that once made his network Must See. NBC green-lit a jaw-dropping 18 comedy pilots this year and, from what I’ve seen, may find itself in the unfamiliar territory of having too many good options. Though conventional wisdom would suggest abandoning Thursday nights — perhaps at midseason, once Parks and, if it gets one last miracle renewal, Community have run their courses — it doesn’t strike me as the worst idea to try new comedies in a spot where expectations couldn’t be lower. The Voice and The Blacklist bought Greenblatt something more valuable than ratings: time. (He recently signed a new contract that will keep him in peacock feathers until 2017.) More than short-term fixes, he needs building blocks he can rely on. This is the season to discover them.
What’s on tap: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, written by Tina Fey with her 30 Rock partner Robert Carlock, has already been ordered to series — though, sadly, without its superior working title: Tooken. The show chronicles the life of the titular Kimmy (Ellie Kemper), a young woman recently freed from decades of imprisonment in the house of a religious loon. Instead of resuming her Midwestern, middle school existence, Kimmy moves to the mean streets of New York City, where she takes up with Titus (Tituss Burgess, D’Fwan on 30 Rock), a fabulous, underemployed actor. I’ve read the script and, unsurprisingly, it’s hilarious: full of the sort of aggrieved urban lunacy ($17 cocktails! Walk-up apartments! Matt Lauer!) that made Liz Lemon an icon, but leavened with a sweetness tailor-made for Kemper. Here’s the thing, though — and by “thing,” I mean the terror sweats that are keeping NBC’s marketing department up at night: There’s no getting around the fact that early drafts of Kimmy were at least loosely inspired by the horrific Ariel Castro kidnappings in Cleveland — far from anyone’s idea of a comedy. Fey and Carlock go to great pains to up the silliness — the abductor is a weirdo fundamentalist who tells his abductees that humanity has been replaced by wolves and robots — and it’s the sort of inciting incident that might recede once Kimmy’s adventures in Manhattan take hold. But it’s still an early red flag for a show that has so far seen nothing but green lights.
Marry Me was written by Happy Endings creator David Caspe and stars his real-life fiancée (and Happy Endings star), Casey Wilson, as one half of a couple during the buildup to a long-overdue wedding. Ken Marino plays the other half, and Tim Meadows and Scandal’s Dan Bucatinsky appear as Wilson’s two dads. Sweet, funny, and lightning fast, this is the sort of show NBC should have been pursuing for years. Now the network’s got it: A series pickup was announced late yesterday.
Mr. Robinson, with The Office’s Craig Robinson, has also been ordered straight to series. I have a feeling it’ll be joined by The Pro, a country-club comedy starring Rob Lowe, Rob Riggle, and Rebecca Romijn. (Even if the script isn’t good — and it’s pretty good! — these are the type of stars NBC wants to have onstage next week.) I have extremely high hopes for the blue-tinged, Golden Girls–ish Old Soul — so high, I wrote about it before it even filmed! — which has the best pedigree of any comedy pilot this year (cowritten by Amy Poehler, directed by David Wain, and starring Natasha Lyonne, Ellen Burstyn, Fred Willard, and Rita Moreno). I’m feeling less optimistic about A to Z, a relationship comedy with a killer cast (Mad Men’s Ben Feldman and How I Met Your Dead Mother’s Cristin Milioti), and Mission Control, a gonzo pilot written by It’s Always Sunny’s David Hornsby and starring Krysten Ritter as a tough-talking NASA engineer floating amid the go-go misogyny of the 1960s. Greenblatt has spent so much time running from comedies with bite, it’s hard to imagine him turning back around.
Things are far less promising on the drama side, where Greenblatt’s development choices tend to read like a Mad Libs sheet of preexisting and market-tested conceits. NBC has already ordered a 10-episode miniseries set in Oz called Emerald City — which could be its Once Upon a Time — and could well green-light a resurrected zombie show called Babylon Fields that was originally developed for CBS because … zombies. Late last night, NBC OK’d three — three! — political/conspiracy-tinged projects: Allegiance, which puts the sleeper-cell conceit of The Americans in a blender; Odyssey, a kind of downmarket Homeland; and State of Affairs (think Scandal as an action movie). The last stars former pariah Katherine Heigl and seems certain to be paired with Season 2 of The Blacklist. There’s also The Mysteries of Laura, starring Debra Messing as a “harried homicide detective,” which is likely to get a pickup mainly because it sounds like it’s been on TV since 1986. Constantine, based on the actually quite cool DC comic Hellblazer, will have fanboys buzzing — though its only potential landing spot is the graveyard of Friday nights — but to me the most intriguing possibility is The Slap. Based on an Australian concept, the series spins out a suburban melodrama after one parent exacts some corporal punishment on a neighbor’s kid. Written by playwright and Brothers & Sisters boss Jon Robin Baitz, this one could take Parenthood’s weepy bonhomie in a more cable-y direction. That it has already been picked up to series suggests that, for a change, Greenblatt agrees with me.
What’s happening: Everything has gone topsy-turvy at Fox, where boss Kevin Reilly has blown network TV’s hidebound development strategy to bits. Going forward, he’s ordering new shows year-round and, instead of wasting time and money on mezzo-mezzo pilots, he’s giving the most promising projects extra of both to staff writers’ rooms and produce and fine-tune future scripts. (To hear him explain himself directly, check out the podcast I did with him a few weeks back.) This is good both for the long-term health of the industry and for the short-term prospects of Fox itself, which saw its ratings dip precipitously this season, thanks to glue-factory-bound warhorses American Idol and Glee. The network’s biggest success was also its most ballsy: Sleepy Hollow rode a bananas concept and some delightfully unconventional casting all the way to an early renewal. (It helped that Reilly intentionally limited Sleepy to a more cablelike 13 episodes, allowing the series to run sequentially in the fall.) Expect a lot more of this strategy going forward, as Reilly plans to invest in projects that walk the line between cable ambition and traditional network dazzle. (A perfect example of this is the slimmed-down 24 reboot, Live Another Day.)
What’s needed: A lot. American Idol is a shadow of its former ratings-crushing self — and without it, Fox’s entire schedule is suddenly wobblier than Bikini Girl’s pitch. Making matters worse, the network’s much-hyped Tuesday night comedy block was crowned before it proved ready to take the throne. In its third season, New Girl struggled creatively and in the ratings. This caused a dangerous ripple effect: Brooklyn Nine-Nine won a Golden Globe and is generally considered to be a show on the rise. Except for one thing: The ratings never really rose. And The Mindy Project, one of Reilly’s personal favorites, seemed to be close to turning a creative corner this year, thanks to the addition of Adam Pally and the doubling down on rom-com excess. But close wasn’t quite enough to cut it — the series flailed so badly that its final episodes were yanked from the schedule entirely before being burned off in a burst. (The less said about the divergent paths of Dads, a cheap-to-produce abomination that is likely to be renewed, and Enlisted, a wonderful, unique comedy that Reilly treated like a tumor, the better.)
Though Fox’s fortunes are riddled with question marks, its new schedule, for the most part, is not. Nearly everything under serious consideration has already been ordered to series, a commitment unprecedented in modern network history. Reilly just has to hope he’s betting on the right horses — and that by unleashing them a few at a time, he’ll control the headlines as well as the Nielsens. Fox still wants to be the flashiest network, dazzling audiences with wild experiments and boffo events. It just no longer wants those flashes to be located in pans.
What’s on tap: Yesterday, Fox kicked off the 2014 upfronts a week early by announcing the worst-kept secret in television: Gotham, its splashy take on the Batman mythos, would be going straight to series. I have a number of concerns about the show from a creative standpoint. Among them: Does Ben McKenzie — who will star as Detective (not yet Commissioner) Jim Gordon — have the range to carry an entire series? (He’s a fine performer, but there’s a reason The O.C. crackled only when it paired McKenzie’s slow-burning fizz with Adam Brody’s pop.) Does anyone care about a Batman show without Batman? Game of Thrones proved it’s possible to care about fighting children, but while it’s plenty lawless, Gotham City is no Westeros: Pint-size Bruce Wayne palling around with a Catwoman who’s barely more than a kitten seems awfully limiting. A movie can get away with being 90 percent origin story, but a TV show eventually has to stop clearing its throat and be about something. Even the best prelude must ultimately make way for story.
But as the first salvo of Reilly’s new programming strategy, I think Gotham is a stroke of genius. With its connection to a wildly popular, multimillion-dollar franchise, Gotham comes prepackaged with the sort of cultural weight Reilly hopes to traffic in. But it’s not visions of Batmobiles that will keep other networks’ showrunners dry-heaving all summer. It’s the head start Reilly gave to Gotham’s Bruno Heller (The Mentalist). While every other new series will spend the next few weeks staffing up and freaking out, Heller and his team — which has been in place for a month, breaking stories and writing scripts — will be cruising. The old pilot system set up shows to fail. Reilly is giving his investments the best possible chance to succeed.
This is the reason I feel more confident about Fox’s Hieroglyph — a high-nonsense actioner about thieves in ancient Egypt — than I did about Almost Human last fall. Unlike that ultimately disappointing series, Hieroglyph is limited to 13 episodes, giving creator (and Pacific Rim screenwriter) Travis Beacham every opportunity to tell his potentially bonkers story without fear of cancellation or the need for directionless padding. The same holds true on the comedy side. A year ago, after a so-so pilot was filmed, NBC passed on Mulaney, the labor-of-love sitcom from brilliant stand-up (and former SNL writer) John Mulaney. Seeing the potential, Reilly snapped up the show, giving Mulaney a boost of confidence and the chance to address his rookie mistakes. It seems to have worked. Just yesterday, Reilly upped his order to 16 episodes. Also a lock for the fall schedule is Cabot College, from 30 Rock veteran Matt Hubbard. It’s about four bros admitted to a historically all-female school. I loved what I read of the script; the jokes are extremely sharp even though the subject matter is — and I apologize in advance for this — plenty broad. (Late-breaking update! As I was finishing this piece, Reilly gave expected green lights to two more series: the hip-hop-themed Empire, from the motley crew of Lee Daniels (Precious), Danny Strong (Game Change), Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow), and Timbaland (duh); and the hospital drama Red Band Society, starring Oscar winner Octavia Spencer.)
This type of investment is getting noticed, and getting results. Will Forte admitted he never would have considered starring in Fox’s upcoming Last Man on Earth if it had been subject to the grueling pilot process. And I can’t imagine any of the other broadcast networks committing, as Reilly did, to an American remake of Broadchurch, the devastating British miniseries about a death in a small town. Fox’s version, called Gracepoint and starring a murderer’s row of talent (only one of whom will actually play a murderer) — including David Tennant, Anna Gunn, Nick Nolte, and Michael Peña — is the sort of giant swing you rarely see on a network. If it connects, it’s a home run. If it misses, it’s a strikeout that lasts for 10 excruciating weeks. Either way, Reilly (rightly) believes the old system drastically overvalued first impressions. This new method gives shows a leg up toward making a lasting one.
What’s happening: For the second straight year, ABC president Paul Lee presided over a public disaster so spectacular not even Olivia Pope could fix it. Though that didn’t stop her from trying. Despite steering the network to its third straight finish in last place among 18-to-49-year-olds, Lee was recently rewarded with a multiyear contract extension. Whether this was a stab at stability in the wake of the surprise departure of Anne Sweeney, Lee’s no. 2, who left to pursue a career as a director, or a confusing sign of confidence in the man who found Work It hilarious remains unclear. Either way, Lee must know his continued employment hinges on his relationship with Shonda Rhimes, whose Grey’s Anatomy remains insanely resilient and whose Scandal has developed into an outright phenomenon. That’s why the only pilot sure to be on ABC’s fall schedule is Rhimes’s How to Get Away With Murder, a thriller starring the titanic Viola Davis that is not, in fact, about Paul Lee’s tenure at the network.
Once you get beyond ABC’s still-sturdy established franchises — and by that, I mean everything from its relationship with Marvel (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t a blockbuster, but it’s a steady performer that is slowly improving) to the still viable Modern Family and Dancing With the Stars — the picture is grim. Lee is once again tasked with cleaning up a giant mess. This past season, he turned a procession of middling dramas into a lemminglike death march. Lee and his lieutenants stood idly by while Lucky 7, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, The Assets, Mind Games, and Killer Women raced each other to the bottom. (The record-low demo rating of .6 was set by the DOA Assets in January. It stood for just two months before being matched by Mind Games.) And instead of building an empire around Modern Family, a critical and financial juggernaut, Lee has consistently bungled any attempt to capitalize on its success. A year ago, he canceled the brilliant Happy Endings partially due to its inability to mesh with Modern. This past season, Lee repeated that tragedy as farce. Rebel Wilson’s awful Super Fun Night was wedged into the post-Family slot (Wednesdays at 9:30) despite its theoretical appeal to the exact urban twentysomethings that had loved (and lost!) Happy Endings. When the Fun stopped, Lee chose not to promote outstanding rookie Trophy Wife — leaving it to languish on Tuesdays — and moved the loathsome Mixology into the post–Modern Family slot, wrongly assuming that fans of loving warmth would enjoy a few roofie-and-rape jokes before shuffling off to sleep. This counterintuitive behavior isn’t cutting off the nose to spite the face — it’s slashing your own throat for no good reason at all.
What’s needed: Just about everything. ABC has quality pieces — The Goldbergs was an unqualified success, Nashville remains appealing, Sunday nights are steady thanks to the lively ratings of Resurrection — that don’t add up to a cohesive whole. At this point, Lee needs to recommit to the things that actually are working. Adding a third Rhimes hour will help — as will throwing money at whatever show Marvel decides to do next, most likely Agent Carter. The most important move Lee can make is also the easiest: Renew Trophy Wife and pair it with Modern Family, where it belonged all along. That said, I have every confidence that by this time next week, Lee will have canceled the sweet Trophy Wife and renewed the sour Mixology. Honestly, it’s enough to drive a man to drink.
What’s on tap: Agent Carter’s entire development has been so hush-hush, a pilot hasn’t even been filmed. But it’s still a lock to make the schedule at some point next year, illustrating how ABC’s intra-company connection to Marvel has become a lifeline. That said, I’m all in. Hayley Atwell’s titular agent was one of the best things about the very good first Captain America film. An action hour filling in the decades between that film and the recent Winter Soldier — a time in which Carter helped found S.H.I.E.L.D. and, presumably, became a mod because if you’re doing a period spy show, you damn well better have people dressing like this — could be great fun and help bridge the gap between ABC’s past as a repository for high-end body washes (like soaps, but classier) and its future as a superhero machine.
The rest of ABC’s drama development is far from certain. There’s The Club, an Upstairs/Downstairs-inspired hour set at an exclusive golf course. ABC has already put in a 13-episode order despite cocreator David O. Russell (!) bailing at the last minute. Also a lock is the sudsy Astronaut Wives Club from Gossip Girl EP Stephanie Savage. I wish I could say the same for American Crime, an intriguing “racially charged” murder investigation show from 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley starring Timothy Hutton and Felicity Huffman. It’s the type of project a major network ought to be supporting — I’m just not sure that network ought to be ABC, which outside of the slow-burning Scandal has proven either unwilling or unable to show the patience necessary to build an outside-the-box hit. Once you get past that, it’s a literal and figurative crapshoot, with dueling female-fronted procedurals (Agatha and Clementine), rival supernatural hoodoos (Forever and The Visitors), and a smattering of overheated froth (a still-untitled modern-day retelling of Dangerous Liaisons starring Katie Holmes).
The comedy picture is equally murky. Lee could take a risk by OKing Galavant, a “fairy-tale musical” from Neighbors creator Dan Fogelman — but he could also read those last few words again and reconsider. He might take a chance on Selfie, the latest in a proud tradition of upmarket ABC sitcoms burdened with awful names (Hello, Trophy Wife! Miss u, Cougar Town!). It’s a contemporary My Fair Lady type of story from Suburgatory creator Emily Kapnek and starring Karen Gillan (Doctor Who) and John Cho. But it’s possible the hashtaggy premise might be too risky for a network that gets burned every time it steps out of its family-friendly comfort zone. So turn your attention instead to Saint Francis, a boilerplate multi-cam comedy built around Michael Imperioli — if Last Man Standing can get two seasons, why can’t this get one? And Keep It Together, about exes becoming friendlier post-divorce, is a near lock thanks to the involvement of producer Kevin Hart. If he’s really feeling frisky, Lee might try to split the difference by moving ahead with Far East Orlando, a sitcom adapted from cook/Cam’ron fan Eddie Huang’s funny memoir, Fresh Off the Boat. Though Huang projects attitude — and series writer Nahnatchka Khan (Don’t Trust the B) still thinks and writes like a cartoon — the pilot plays things relatively safe. And when you’re in the kind of trouble ABC is, “safe” can be a very attractive thing indeed.
What’s happening: What do you think is happening? Dominance, that’s what. While the other three networks scramble to adjust to the new reality, CBS is doing just fine chugging along in the old one — a paradigm it both invented and helped perfect. When you think of what the broadcast nets do best — broad comedies, taut procedurals — what you’re really thinking of is CBS. The Big Bang Theory, NCIS, Elementary, and Person of Interest are all so astronomically popular that the presence of the critically acclaimed The Good Wife is mere frosting. CBS, in other words, continues to cake up. When all is said and done, the network is going to win the 2013-14 season in total viewers, something it has been doing with regularity since Morley Safer was in short pants.
Still, the ground is changing underneath CBS’s feet, too. (The vibranium slippers network boss Les Moonves gave his employees as Christmas presents can mask only so much.) Hits don’t stay that way forever — the viewer erosion that plagued Fox’s New Girl also hit 2 Broke Girls. And sure things are no longer nearly so sure: The Robin Williams–starring The Crazy Ones went from a blockbuster premiere to fighting for its life in just a few short months. Last year, entertainment president Nina Tassler took a few very un-CBS-like chances: ordering the Stephen King adaptation Under the Dome straight to series (it was a hit and will be back this summer) and taking a flyer on Hostages, a highly serialized burst of macho melodrama (it tanked). These may seem like relatively cautious moves, but for the glistening success-bot that is CBS, they were really tantamount to quitting a high-paying hedge fund to make furniture on a beach in Bali.
What’s needed: CBS makes success look easy. But the truth is, it’s not. Though Tassler early-renewed practically everything on her air (including 2013 breakouts Mom and The Millers), she will eventually need fresh money-logs for her dynasty fire. And though current evidence would suggest otherwise, those new offerings will need new blood. You can’t simply keep cloning popular acronyms forever, and the odds are good that even the mighty Chuck Lorre will eventually run out of double entendres. The past few years, CBS has tossed off a younger-skewing comedy with all the confidence of Kevin Spacey throwing a baseball and gotten predictably awful results.1 I’m not saying CBS should freak out trying to change its reputation from “hip replacement” to “hip.” I’m just saying CBS needs to start planning for an imminent generational shift now, before the proverbial kids start occupying its metaphorical lawn.
What’s on tap: In typical CBS fashion, the network’s splashiest pilot might be just the forward-leaning show I’m describing. Battle Creek takes a very familiar concept — two mismatched crime-fighters, a louche cop and a stiff FBI man, team up to solve an ooky case — and spins it through the highly specific worldview of its creator: a mild-mannered Community guest star named Vince Gilligan. The show, which has House’s David Shore in to run things and Josh Duhamel and Dean Winters as the leads, has more in common with the relative lightness of early Breaking Bad than the pitch-black doom of the later years. (From what I’ve seen of the script, I’d call it Dude Detective.) This strikes me as a very good thing — Heisenberg wouldn’t have flown on network TV; why even try? — and CBS clearly agrees. The show had a 13-episode guarantee before the pilot was even filmed.
Also locked is July’s Extant, a sci-fi series starring Halle Berry that ought to pair nicely with Under the Dome. (I love how CBS dabbles in genre only in the summer, when the noise from the box office might help drown out the sound of its slumming.) For the fall, Tassler has a number of extremely on-brand options to choose from. There are the inevitable spinoffs from both CSI (CSI: Cyber, starring Patricia Arquette as a hopped-up web sheriff) and NCIS (NCIS: New Orleans, starring Scott Bakula, who I really wish were doing stuff like Looking instead), both of which received backdoor pilots2 during the season. My guess is that one of these gets the go-ahead and Tassler gives the other golden ticket to Madam Secretary, a drama from writer Barbara Hall (Joan of Arcadia, Homeland) about a maverick Secretary of State, played by Téa Leoni (TV glue guy Tim Daly is in as her husband). No spoilers, but I know The Good Wife is looking for a new partner. This show won’t fill the Josh Charles–size hole on Sunday nights, but it could make for an ideal lead-in.
There’s even less space for new comedies on CBS’s schedule, especially with the addition of football on Thursdays this fall. Any other year, I could see Tassler giving series orders to decent comfort food like Gaffigan (as in Jim, the comedian and star) and More Time With Family, starring Seinfeld BFF Tom Papa. But Tassler doesn’t have the time or need for spackle at present. Not with spinoff How I Met Your Father a virtual lock (and a promising one at that, with Greta Gerwig set to star and, potentially, write) and a high-profile redo of The Odd Couple featuring Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon beckoning. Still, I wish there were room for the rough but funny Cuz-Bros, a very un-CBS-like script from Happy Endings’s Caspe and Community writer Erik Sommers. The pilot has Enlisted stars Geoff Stults and Parker Young playing a very Odd Couple–esque pair of cousins (one’s a stud, one’s a dud) as they navigate singlehood in Los Angeles. On a more desperate network, it’d be a no-brainer to make the final cut. But CBS doesn’t do desperate. And so, I fear, it also won’t do this show. But don’t give up hope, cuzheads! Anything is still possible. A week from now, we’ll know for sure.