By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com May 11, 2011 at 1:45AM
J.J. Abrams' Series 'Alcatraz' Also Picked Up, But Mark Romanek's 'Locke & Key' Is Dead
With so much big-screen talent migrating to television, we're starting to cover more TV news here at The Playlist: while our heart will always be with the cinema, its upstart little cousin has wiped away any stigma that once remained, and in general, there's more good scripted comedy and drama around, both on network TV and on cable, than ever before. The current season is coming to a close over the next few weeks, which means that the networks will start unveiling their line-up for the coming 2011-12 season, and word's already started to leak with regards to the top-rated network, Fox.
Most prominently for our purposes, it seems that the much-buzzed about sitcom "The New Girl," which has one of the most impressive pedigrees of any pilots, has been picked up for the fall season. The script comes from Liz Meriwether, whose excellent spec script "Fuckbuddies" was botched by Ivan Reitman into the deeply mediocre Natalie Portman vehicle "No Strings Attached" -- but we hear tell that this has worked out far more successfully for all concerned. Jake Kasdan ("Bad Teacher") directed the pilot, formerly known as "Chicks & Dicks," and bona-fide movie star Zooey Deschanel takes the lead role, as a teacher who breaks up with her boyfriend and moves in with three unreconstructed guys -- played by Playlist favorite Jake M. Johnson ("Ceremony"), Damon Wayans Jr. ("The Other Guys") and Max Greenfield ("Veronica Mars"). Considering the solid cast and promising behind-the-scenes talent, we're certainly willing to give it a spin come the fall.
Meanwhile, the latest TV series from the mind of genre giant J.J. Abrams has also found a green light. "Alcatraz" is an ensemble crime drama, with sci-fi aspects, about the aftermath of the mysterious appearance of a group of Alcatraz inmates from the 1960s in the present day. The series has a typically impressive Abrams cast, led by Sam Neill, Robert Forster, "E.R." veteran Parminder Nagra and "Lost" survivor Jorge Garcia and, despite being seen as a risky prospect by some, particularly given the niche audience drawn by Abrams' other Fox show, "Fringe" (which got an early renewal a few months back), a full run of episodes has also been ordered.
It's not all good news, however. "Locke & Key," the adaptation of the popular horror comic with a pilot directed by "Never Let Me Go" helmer Mark Romanek, was one of the most anticipated pilots of the season, considering its heavyweight director. "War of the Worlds" writer Josh Friedman was shepherding the project, about a family who moves into a mysterious New England home, and Miranda Otto ("Lord of the Rings") and Nick Stahl ("Terminator 3") were among the cast, but it seems that "Alcatraz" bagged the genre slot, and the series is now dead at the network: there was some talk of a limited miniseries, but it seems unlikely, and the project is now being shipped to other networks.
There are other stars who find themselves in limbo. Ethan Hawke, who was set to make his TV debut on "Exit Strategy," an action-heavy espionage drama that reteamed him with "Training Day" director Antoine Fuqua, on a script from "Transformers" and "Star Trek" scribes Alex Kurtzman & Bob Orci, has to wait a little longer to find out his show's fate: the program is being retooled to make it more character-led, and it may find itself in the mid-season line-up. Rob Corddry, meanwhile, was on board the comedy "Little in Common," from "Party Down" creator Rob Thomas, but that's also looking likely to be tinkered with.
Other shows picked up by the network include the sitcom "I Hate My Teenage Daughter," with Jaime Pressly and the "Bones" spinoff "Finder," with Michael Clarke Duncan, while none of the likes of psych unit drama "Weekends at Bellevue" with "Six Feet Under" star Lauren Ambrose, the dark romantic comedy "Iceland," UK remake "Outnumbered," grief-led sitcom "Council of Dads" and the Gary Cole vehicle "Tagged" made the cut. And of course, the old must make way for the new, and Fox has culled their current line-up of scripted series, including, surprisingly, the relatively well-rated Christian Slater comedy "Breaking In," Shawn Ryan's well-regarded policer "The Chicago Code," sitcom "Traffic Light," action drama "Human Target" and Tim Roth vehicle "Lie to Me." The exact schedule will be revealed by Fox on May 16th, and we imagine we'll hear from the other networks in the next few days. [EW, Deadline, The Hollywood Reporter]