When in doubt, remake it or supernaturalize it

Since they went back to work Feb. 13, the writers have been doing just fine. “30 Rock” somehow keeps topping itself. “Lost” is barreling ahead. “How I Met Your Mother” came back so strong, it’ll probably even survive next week’s return visit from Britney Spears.

But the networks? They’ve been acting so squirrelly, you’d swear they’d been styling Miley Cyrus’ photo shoots and whispering in Paula Abdul’s ear.

As they get ready to unveil their 2008-09 schedules next week, there are a few traditional ideas floating around — Geena Davis as a homicide detective, for example, and sitcoms starring Bernie Mac and Cedric the Entertainer — but the bulk of the series under consideration fall into one of two categories: remakes and sci-fi/supernatural.

In many cases, the networks aren’t even basing their decisions on pilot episodes. In an effort to save time and money following the 100-day writers strike, all that’s being produced for many potential series is a short “presentation” of key scenes.

And NBC, which for no good reason announced its schedule a month ago, mostly picked its new shows based on their scripts. The network didn’t even settle on the star of its “Robinson Crusoe” update until nearly three weeks after it was given this fall’s 8 p.m. Friday slot.

But “Crusoe” isn’t alone. NBC is remaking “Knight Rider” and the Australian comedy “Kath & Kim,” about a recently separated woman who moves home with her mother, as well as reimagining King Arthur and Merlin (“Merlin”) and David and Goliath (“Kings”).

“Veronica Mars” creator Rob Thomas also has gotten into the remake business. He’s developing “Good Behavior,” based on a New Zealand drama about a blue-collar family of thieves, for ABC. Thomas also is remaking his 1998 Jeremy Piven-Paula Marshall drama “Cupid” for ABC and is overseeing a spinoff/update of “Beverly Hills, 90210” for The CW.

Other remakes/adaptations being considered for next season include:

• “Life on Mars” (ABC), about a modern detective who wakes from a car crash to find himself in the 1970s, based on a British drama.

• “Sit Down, Shut Up” (Fox), an animated story about high school faculty that would reunite “Arrested Development” creator Mitch Hurwitz with stars Jason Bateman and Will Arnett, based on an Australian comedy.

• “Ny-Lon” (CBS), in which a New York record store clerk and a London stockbroker embark on a long-distance romance, based on a British drama.

• “Mythological X” (CBS), about a woman who revisits all of her past relationships after a psychic tells her she’s already dated the man she’s meant to marry, based on an Israeli drama.

• “Spaced” (Fox), which revolves around a man and a woman who pose as a couple to get a great deal on an apartment, based on a British comedy.

• “Eleventh Hour” (CBS), about a government employee who investigates scientific abuses, based on a British drama.

• “The Pitts” (Fox), an animated tale of an unlucky family, based on the network’s failed 2003 comedy.

• “Never Better” (ABC), about a recovering alcoholic determined to be a good father, based on a British comedy.

• “Outnumbered” (Fox), about a couple raising three smart, rowdy kids, based on a British comedy.

• “The Bad Mother’s Handbook” (ABC), a comedy about a 32-year-old woman looking after her 16-year-old daughter and 48-year-old mother, based on the book.

• “How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls” (The CW), a drama about a woman hired to look after two young Palm Beach, Fla., heiresses, based on the book.

• and “The Prince of Motor City” (ABC), a drama set in the Detroit auto industry, inspired by “Hamlet.”

Aside from those proven concepts, networks are hoping the truth is out there. Way out there.

Two of the best in the business, J.J. Abrams (“Lost,” “Alias”) and Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel”), are developing new series for Fox. Abrams’ “Fringe” follows a trio investigating paranormal activity, while Whedon’s “Dollhouse” is about a group of men and women who can be programmed to do or be anything, legal or otherwise, and then have their memories wiped clean.

Other potential sci-fi series include:

• “Section 8” (ABC), a drama about a team of people with special powers who work for a secret government agency.

• “Captain Cook’s Extraordinary Atlas” (ABC), a drama about a girl who discovers another world underneath ours.

• “Boldly Going Nowhere” (Fox), a comedy about what goes on between adventures on an intergalactic spaceship, from the trio behind “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

• and “Virtuality” (Fox), another space drama from “Battlestar Galactica” mastermind Ronald D. Moore.

And on the supernatural side, there’s:

• “The Mentalist” (CBS), a drama about a psychic who solves crimes.

• “The Meant to Be’s” (CBS), a drama about a newlywed who dies but has to help people on Earth before she can get into heaven.

• “Harper’s Island” (CBS), a horror story set during a destination wedding.

• and “The Oaks” (Fox), a drama about three families, in 1967, 1987 and 2007, who live in the same house and are connected by the spirits that haunt it.

Christopher Lawrence’s Life on the Couch column appears on Mondays. E-mail him at

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