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Upfront Wrap-Up: What Media Buyers Think of the New Fall Shows

Which shows have the best chance of succeeding? Which will bomb? We asked the folks who collectively have about $10 billion riding on the outcome

Media buyers can be harsh critics of television shows, but that’s part of their job description — being able to analyze what programming will work best for their advertiser clients.

With advertisers expected to commit to close to $10 billion on broadcast TV commercials in the next few weeks, buyers cannot mince words when it comes to evaluating shows.

So we surveyed a group of them last week and got their post-pilot-presentation opinion on what they think will work and what won't

None of these buyers spoke to TheWrap for attribution (they do, after all, have to negotiate with the networks over the next few weeks).

Here’s a look at media buyer opinions of each networks’ new shows for fall.

Much like they did last year, media buyers left the CBS upfront presentation with a warm feeling about not just some of the network’s five new shows for the fall schedule, but for all of them.

Most who spoke to TheWrap said CBS shows seem like they will flow seamlessly into the network’s schedule, make it simple for the overall CBS audience, which averaged about 11.6 million viewers per night this season, to follow.

 “CBS did a very good job of presenting an overview of its new shows as they have the past few years,” one media buyer, echoing the opinion of many, told TheWrap. “Each show has a simple premise and the premise is very clear. In '2 Broke Girls,' you have a poor girl and a once-rich girl both trying to make money as waitresses. In 'Unforgettable,' a woman with a flawless memory solves crimes. Very straight forward concepts and well executed.”

One buyer said that CBS did a “brilliant job” with its development, but it has an advantage in that because of its stable schedule, it doesn’t have to spend as much money and time developing a lot of shows so it can more easily focus on the few it does produce.

“CBS is able to concentrate its resources more than the other networks,” the buyer said.

Buyers believe CBS scheduling "2 Broke Girls" to lead out of "How I Met Your Mother" and into "Two and a Half Men" on Monday night will insure the show is a success.

They also praised the flow of "Unforgettable" leading out of Tuesday night drama "NCIS: Los Angeles."

Of CBS’ five new shows, buyers believe "A Gifted Man," about a surgeon whose deceased wife begins teaching him about life, has the least chance of success. But again, it’s in a time period where CBS has been very competitive in the past, Friday night at 8 p.m.

The show will skew older and is followed by two solid CBS shows on the night "CSI:NY" and "Blue Bloods." So the network is giving even this show a chance to succeed.

Media buyers want NBC to succeed with its new programming because it give their advertiser clients another place to reach more viewers.

And they are sympathetic to the new owners (Comcast) and to new entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt, who they realize were hamstrung when they inherited a primetime schedule that's still reeling from the ill-fated move of Jay Leno to the 10 p.m. time period two years ago.

When Leno failed, that left five hours a week of scripted programming that had to be developed from scratch.

Most buyers polled by TheWrap believe NBC’s new 10 p.m. Thursday drama, "Prime Suspect," starring Maria Bello as the lone female detective among a bunch of men in a New York City police precinct, can be successful in what is a tough time period against CBS hit "The Mentalist" and ABC’s "Private Practice."

Buyers are less sure about NBC’s Monday night 10 p.m. period drama "The Playboy Club."

One buyer told TheWrap that the show’s lead, played by Eddie Cibrian, “is not very likable” in his role, and the murder that takes place in the pilot “just won’t play well with viewers.”

But another buyer said, “NBC made you feel like they are investing a lot of money in development and doing what they need to do to turn things around.”

NBC showed buyers clips from six comedies, three of which will be on the fall schedule.

Most buyers were mixed in their opinions, but they gave the best chances of success to "Whitney," about a happily unmarried, but bored couple, together for five years, where the female character is determined to do anything to liven up their relationship.

The show has a solid time period as part of NBC’s Thursday night comedy block leading out of "The Office."

Buyers were also impressed with midseason drama "Smash," a series that centers the creation of  a Broadway musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe and focuses on two women competing for the lead role.

It stars "Will & Grace's" Debra Messing, along with former "American Idol" runner-up Catherine McPhee.

One buyer said, “NBC has another half-year to work on the series to get it right by mid-season, and it's going to lead out of the new hit series for NBC, "The Voice," so this show should work out well for them.“

Some buyers also believe "The Firm," based on the John Grisham novel and movie, has a chance to work, although the pilot has not been shot yet nor has the lead role been cast. The series will continue the story of attorney Mitchell McDeere and his family 10 years after the events showcased in the eponymous 1993 film starring Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman.

Grisham will be one of the executive producers, and depending on his level of involvement, the series could succeed or fail, buyers believe.

ABC entertainment president Paul Lee has given new nostalgia drama "Pan Am" the coveted 10 p.m. Sunday time period, but most buyers do not give this show much of a chance of success.

And buyers were also scratching their heads over new 8 p.m. Sunday drama "Once Upon a Time." It does come from the executive producers of "Lost," but buyers believe this show, in which the lives of people in a town are intermingled with fairytales, might be too confusing and far out for many viewers.

Some buyers also pointed out that ABC’s remake of "Charlie’s Angels," which will air at 8 p.m. on Thursdays, is also going to be challenged, given audiences’ rejection over the past few years of  NBC attempts to remake hit series from the past like "Knight Rider" and "Bionic Woman."

The three new ABC dramas buyers liked most were fantasy-drama "Revenge," which will air Wednesdays at 10 p.m., and mid-season dramas "Good Christian Belles" and "Scandal."

"Revenge," in a very competitive 10 p.m. Wednesday time period, is about a young woman who returns to her home town years after the people there ruined her family, trying to make people pay for their evil deeds.

Many buyers believe that "Good Christian Belles," which stars Kristin Chenoweth, Leslie Bibb and Annie Potts, should have been placed at 8 p.m. Sunday leading into "Desperate Housewives" on the fall schedule. The femme-skewing show is about a young woman who was a “mean girl” in high school and returns home to face her high school classmate years later.

"Scandal," from Shonda Rhymes "Grey’s Anatomy," "Private Practice"), is about a former media relations consultant to the President, who opens an agency dedicated to protecting the images of powerful people.

ABC is going to try to start a second night of comedy to go along with its successful Wednesday, and Tim Allen is returning to ABC in a Tuesday night sitcom "Last Man Standing." But several buyers were not that impressed with the Allen show and believe ABC’s new 8:30 Wednesday comedy "Suburgatory," leading out of "The Middle" and into "Modern Family," will work best.

"Suburgatory" — created by Emily Kapnek, who thought up the failed Heather Graham comedy "Emily's Reasons Why Not" for ABC five years ago — is about a single father who moves with his teenage daughter from New York City to the suburbs, where life is very different for her.

Buyers concur that Fox pretty much has a sure hit with Simon Cowell’s music competition show "The X-Factor," where he will reunite with Paula Abdul.

But buyers are not so sure that the big-budget sci-fi drama from Steven Spielberg, "Terra Nova," will work.

The show will boast 250 special effects in its first episode, but buyers point out that sci-fi shows do not have great track records on television and even if a show succeeds it may last only for a few years.

"Lost," for example, as popular as it started out, lasted only five years.

The three shows buyers like most on Fox, or think that will succeed, are sitcom "New Girl," animated comedy "Allen Gregory," and drama "The Finder."

"New Girl" stars Zooey Deschannel as an offbeat woman, who after a breakup with her boyfriend, moves in with three single guys and disrupts their lives.

The show has a solid 9:30 p.m. Tuesday-night timeslot leading out of hit "Glee" and leading into solid returning comedy "Raising Hope."

"Allen Gregory" is an animated comedy created and written by actor Jonah Hill ("Get Him to the Greek"), who also does the voice of the lead character, a 7-year old boy.

The show will lead out of "The Simpsons" as part of Fox’s Sunday night comedy block, another plum time period.

"The Finder" is a spinoff of Fox Thursday-night veteran drama "Bones," and will actually replace "Bones" in midseason for a short run.

The show is a procedural drama about an Iraq war vet who has an extraordinary ability to help people find the unfindable. Again, another one of those shows with a simple premise.