Like a kid pulling his hand back from a hot stove, ABC has reined in the adventurous creativity of recent years in the slate of shows unveiled for the 2010-11 TV season, canceling wacky and markedly unsuccessful experiments such as Flash Forward and Happy Town in favor of new material that, on the surface, seems to play it pretty safe.
Likewise, early reports suggest CBS will get tough when announcing its schedule today, cutting seven series, including Julia Louis-Dreyfus' New Adventures of Old Christine, Jennifer Love Hewitt's Ghost Whisperer, Jenna Elfman's Accidentally on Purpose, Numb3rs, Gary Unmarried, Miami Medical and Cold Case.
In ABC's case, stability seems the theme. On Tuesdays, With Lost gone and its V remake floundering, the network will offer No Ordinary Family — an adventure series about a typical family suddenly imbued with superpowers starring the guy who played the Thing in the Fantastic Four movies, Michael Chiklis (think Heroes meets The Incredibles).
At 10 p.m. on the same night, Sopranos alum Michael Imperioli reminds us of the cops he played on Law & Order and Life on Mars, this time playing a Motor City cop in Detroit 1-8-7.
Tampa native JoAnna Garcia gets another crack at series TV with the comedy Better Together, featuring the tribulations of three different couples struggling with relationships. The show airs Wednesday just before ABC's hit series about three groups in an extended families struggling with family issues, Modern Family.
Toss in a legal drama from CSI producer Jerry Bruckheimer (The Whole Truth), a crime drama with former Desperate Housewives co-star Dana Delaney as a surgeon-turned-medical examiner (Body of Proof), and a heartwarming unscripted show about wealthy people volunteering Undercover Boss-style to help the less fortunate (Secret Millionaire).
At midseason, ABC has a medical drama from Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes (Off the Map) and a comedy featuring Friends alum Matthew Perry as a heartless manager of a second-tier San Diego arena (Mr. Sunshine).
It's a schedule that looks awfully, um, familiar — especially compared to the network that gave us such ambitious series as Flash Forward and Pushing Daisies in the past. The list of canceled or concluded ABC shows include Romantically Challenged, Scrubs, Better Off Ted, Ugly Betty, Lost, Hank, Eastwick and The Forgotten.
As the most traditional network, CBS isn't far behind. It's expected to announce pickups on a Hawaii Five-O remake, a Tom Selleck police drama (Blue Bloods), a Jim Belushi legal drama (Defenders) and a new comedy from the creator of Two and Half Men and Big Bang Theory, called Mike and Molly.
At least Star Trek legend Williams Shatner is expected to liven things up on the CSI network as the cranky old guy at the heart of the Twitter-inspired sitcom S--- My Dad Says. Perhaps he could tell his new bosses to take a few risks that don't involve stumbling on a series idea on the Internet.