Dollhouse star Eliza DushkuThe time and financial constraints of the writers' strike are being felt this TV pilot season. The broadcast networks are developing half the number of pilots they usually do, ordering presentations in lieu of pilots for some and giving others the straight to series order.

Aside from NBC, which announced its schedule ahead of the pack last week, the networks have kept their plans for fall shrouded in mystery. We'll learn more during the networks' May upfronts. While we can't make any guarantees about which series will get the vote of confidence, here are some promising players to keep your eye on.

ABC

The network is betting big on Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars), who has two remakes in development. Outrageous Fortune, a New Zealand drama about a family of blue-collar criminals who go straight after the father ends up in jail, is already generating rumors of a reunion with Kristen Bell. Thomas should be very familiar with his other ABC pilot: a remake of his 1998 Jeremy Piven romancer Cupid, which the network canceled after one season. Bobby Cannavale (Third Watch, Will & Grace) takes over the role of Trevor Hale, who believes he is Cupid. Banished by Zeus from Mt. Olympus, he must connect 100 couples without using his powers. The new incarnation of the series will take place in Los Angeles and undoubtedly feature many big name guest stars as the romantically challenged couples.

Bobby Cannavale to star in Cupid

ABC also has a holdover from last season in Life On Mars, a remake - notice a trend? - of a British series about a cop who is mysteriously transported to the 1970s after a car crash. The adaptation comes from David E. Kelley and go-to director Thomas Schlamme (The West Wing).

If Darren Star's Cashmere Mafia doesn't get a renewal, Star could shift focus to Literary Superstar, which would bring back Jenna Elfman to the sitcom arena as devoted book publicist.

Jenna Elfman

Section 8 from Zak Penn, writer of the last two X-Men films, could give ABC a Heroes-like companion to Lost. The series revolves around a group of everyday people with advanced neurological abnormalities who work for a secret government agency.

CBS

Love is the air at CBS. A number of the network's pilots chronicle the pursuit of romance. Following in the season's major trend, Elisha Cuthbert (24) stars in the remake of the British series Ny-Lon. Cuthbert is a New York record store clerk (originally played by The Office's Rashida Jones) who embarks on a long-distance relationship with a London stock broker. Ny-Lon - get it?

Elisha Cuthbert

Another promising drama, Mythological X from Diane Ruggiero ("Veronica Mars"), also explores issues of the heart. Grey's Anatomy's Elizabeth Reaser has nabbed the lead role of a woman who finds out from a psychic that she has already dated and dumped the man she's meant to marry and sets off on a quest to find him by revisiting her exes. Rachel Boston (American Dreams) stars as her younger sister.

On the comedy front, romance gets complicated on My Best Friend's Girl, which is pretty self-explanatory. The charming Jennie Garth is the girl in question, now girlfriend to her ex-husband's best friend. Garth's casting dashes hopes for any major role on The CW's Beverly Hills, 90210 spin-off.

Jennie Garth

The Meant To Be's from Medium creator Glenn Gordon Caron stars Amy Smart ("Smith") as a woman who dies, but must return to earth and help nudge people toward their "meant to be" trajectory before she can "pass over." Ioan Gruffudd (Fantastic Four) co-stars as The Man, a guide for Smart in post-death limbo.

Ioan Gruffudd

The CW

If the modus operandi at CBS is romance and the general MO this season is remakes of international hits, then The CW's MO is rich and young. Following the success of Gossip Girl, the network has given Rina Mimoun (Everwood, Pushing Daisies) the task of adapting another book series from the publishers of "Gossip Girl." How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls revolves around a young, Yale-educated woman (Reba's Joanna Garcia) who is hired to be the live-in tutor to two rich heiresses in Palm Beach. Michael Cassidy, adept at playing rich from his days on The O.C., Hidden Palms and Smallville, is her boyfriend.

Joanna Garcia

Then there's that other rich teen show that has everyone buzzing. Not to be outdone by Josh Schwartz's two pilot pick-ups last season, Rob Thomas has a third on his plate in the untitled "Beverly Hills, 90210" spin-off. There's no word yet on whether any original regulars will be part of the new cast. Thomas wants Garth, Tiffani Thiessen has already excluded herself and Tori Spelling is up for it - but it seems that some of the offspring of the original cast might be around. The spin-off will center around the Mills family, who move to Beverly Hills from St. Louis to be with matriarch Tabitha Mills, a 60-something actress/alcoholic. Harry Mills, her son, is a graduate of West Beverly High School, which is now populated by YouTube star Daphne Silver (any relation to Brian Austin Green's David Silver?), Andrea's daughter Hannah Zuckerman-Vasquez, the host of the school's news show, and Ethan Ward ("Runaway's" Dustin Milligan), a jock who becomes friends with the ''90210'' gang after a falling out with the A-list crowd.

The CW is mixing rich and young with another TV mainstay in Austin Golden Hour. The medical drama about a group of emergency room surgeons and EMTs in Austin, Texas evolves in real time, bringing the medical traumas of E.R. and Grey's Anatomy to the netlet. So far, only Justin Hartley, who paid his CW dues on "Smallville," has been cast.

Justin Hartley

FOX

If there are any sure bets, they're at FOX. The network has two of the most high profile projects: Joss Whedon's highly anticipated return to TV, Dollhouse, and J.J. Abrams' Fringe. According to The Wall Street Journal, FOX execs has decided to forgo making a pilot for "Dollhouse," choosing to spend that money on sets instead. The series, starring former Buffy vet Eliza Dushku as a doll-like blank slate that can be programmed with different personalities and abilities, already has a seven-episode commitment.

Eliza Dushku

Similarly, FOX has invested in "Fringe," spending upwards of $10 million on the project which stars Joshua Jackson (desperately in need of a hit like this after floundering post-Dawson's Creek), Mark Valley (Boston Legal) and Abram's newest "It" girl Anna Torv from Australia. Torv is a FBI agent who teams up with a institutionalized scientist with a specialty in fringe science to investigate unexplained phenomena. Jackson is the scientist's estranged son, a high-school dropout with a high IQ and a gambling problem. Together, "Fringe" and "Dollhouse" could bring "Heroes" and "Lost"-like levels of buzz and rapt attention to the network.

Joshua Jackson

FOX also has a couple of other shows from big names that are worthy of your attention: midlife crisis comedy Night Life from brothers Zach (director) and Adam Braff (creator/producer), mysterious drama The Oaks from Shawn Ryan (The Shield), Queen B from Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck) and a Family Guy spin-off from Seth MacFarlane.

Story by Vlada Gelman
Starpulse.com contributing writer



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