According to tradition, the US network television season dictates that original scripted programming runs from September to May, with repeats and reality series airing in the summer months that have become the launch pad for cable channels to air their own original series.
More recently, however, the networks have started to commission more original dramas and comedies specifically designed to air during those previously barren months and essentially creating a 12 month television season.
ABC has been among the pioneers of this new movement, running Canadian cop series Rookie Blue for the past three years. A fourth season due to air in 2013. This May it also ordered Mistresses, an adaptation of the British drama, for next summer.
In addition, the Alphabet network has now commissioned Weird Desk from Canadian producer Shaftesbury, which will be added to its summer 2013 schedule. Drawing comparisons to The X Files, the plot is based on real life mysteries and concerns a clandestine organisation that investigates cases concerning the supernatural and paranormal.
The 13-part commission for Weird Desk also follows another trend among US networks, namely bypassing the pilot process by receiving a straight-to-series order, in this case for 13 episodes. Other series in this vein include NBC’s Hannibal, produced by Gaumont International Television, and pirate series Crossbones, also heading to NBC from Georgeville Television.
While the pilot process is not yet breaking down, with dozens of scripts currently being considered by network executives before a new batch of pilots are produced in the spring (the best are then given initial 13-episode orders to launch at the beginning of the fall season), it does show networks are increasingly willing to pick up paper formats.
Update: Weird Desk has now been shelved for summer 2013, with ABC due to start work on the series at the end of pilot season next spring.