Upfronts 2010: Reality Check

As we head into broadcast upfront week, it never hurts to take a look back—to that naïve time one year ago when the networks revealed their shiny new pilots and before fall’s premiere week crushed many a show runner’s project right out of the gate. As always, last year’s crop ranged from shows that were D.O.A. (Lone Star, My Generation) to others that were allowed to quietly fizzle out (Undercovers, Running Wilde) to those still waiting to debut (anybody remember Love Bites?).

Overall, the big winner was CBS’s Hawaii Five-O, which has already banked big back-end bucks, but the overall 2010 report card shows a poor upfront-to-renewal ratio. Reliance on tired formats—more shows about cops, doctors and lawyers—collectively failed to gain traction with television’s increasingly fragmented audience, and industry chatter says the nets need some bold ideas on stage this week to break through. For ABC and NBC, which are battling from behind, it’s even more important.

Hindsight may be 20/20, but execs would be wise to learn from last year’s missteps to break some hits in 2011. Below, the winners and the losers of last year’s upfront week. Will the scores look better at this time next year? Here’s hoping.