Crimefighters and superheroes were on the radar of Australian commercial TV network programmers during their recent annual pilgrimage to the LA screenings to check out the shows that will launch during the US 2014-2015 TV season.
Seven has picked up the hotly anticipated new drama Battle Creek from Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan and House creator David Shore.
"What it's about is two mismatched police partners in Battle Creek, Michigan," said Angus Ross, Seven Network director of programming.
The series stars Josh Duhamel, Dean Winters of Law & Order: SVU, Cal Penn of House and the Harold and Kumar movies and Australia's Damon Herriman.
Seven has also acquired How to Get Away with Murder, the new drama from Grey's Anatomy and Scandal creator Shonda Rhimes.
"It stars Viola Davis, it's about a law professor who invites first-year law students to work with her on high-profile cases," Ross said. "It's a slick production and it has some really great storytelling."
Two new series from Steven Spielberg are headed Seven's way. "The Whispers is about an alien invasion of Earth but an invasion unlike anything else. They use children to start the invasion," Ross said of the show featuring British Revenge hunk Barry Sloane.
"Red Band Society is also from Spielberg and stars Octavia Spencer and Dave Annable from Brothers and Sisters. It's a coming-of-age drama set in the children's wing of a hospital."
There wasn't much comedy on offer this year but Seven has picked up Marry Me from Happy Endings' creator David Caspe, based loosely on his relationship and engagement to his now wife and series star, Casey Wilson. "It's a single-camera comedy about a couple that have been together for six years and they have sort of bungled all of their marriage proposals," Ross said.
Nine Perth managing director and network programming executive David Mott said the US broadcast networks were at a crossroads, competing not only against each other's shows but online streaming services such as Netflix and cable networks such as HBO that could create big-budget event dramas such as Game of Thrones.
"It's what they call event-isising, that's the big buzzword over there at the moment," he said.
Mott said the superhero theme in some of this year's offerings was capitalising on the success of the Spider-Man, Ironman and Marvel movies.
"I think overall there are about five new series in that genre and we've probably got two of the better ones," he said. "The very much anticipated Gotham has a very strong theatrical feel to it and it is very faithful to the tone of the Batman series," he said. "It explores the origins of a very young Commissioner Gordon (played by Southland's Ben McKenzie), so it is through his eyes. Then you see the villains in their early days, you see The Penguin and The Riddler and how they became who they were within the whole Batman franchise.
"The Flash is again another comic-book hero, about a man who became the fastest person alive after a freak accident."
Nine has also picked up Debra Messing's new series The Mysteries of Laura about a flawed New York City detective juggling her day job with a chaotic family life.
"It's very Columbo in terms of tone, with a crime of the week she solves," said Mott.
He is also excited about The Following creator Kevin Williamson's new psychological thriller Stalker starring Dylan McDermott of The Practice and American Horror Story.
Ten's chief programming officer Beverley McGarvey noted a lot of quite dark shows as well as the usual batch of procedurals this year.
Matt Dillon will star as a secret service agent in supernatural and mystery master M. Night Shyamalan's event series Wayward Pines for Ten. The network also has NCIS spin-off New Orleans, the backdoor pilot of which aired in recent NCIS episodes.
"NCIS: New Orleans has the great character elements that our audiences have grown to love in NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles, with a new vibrant backdrop of New Orleans and a brilliant new cast headlined by Scott Bakula," McGarvey said.
Ten also has Extant from Spielberg, starring Halle Berry as an astronaut trying to adapt back to family life after a year alone in space,
"It turns out she is inexplicably pregnant and the show is a mix of family drama and mystery," McGarvey said, noting the show was likely to air soon after it launches in the US next month.
McGarvey said Ten was also likely to fast-track Under the Dome 2, which launches in the US at the end of the month. "They have the serialised elements and global buzz that make fast-tracking essential," she said.
Ross and Mott both agreed that Australian networks were becoming less reliant on their US output deals, with Australian audiences increasingly embracing local product.
"The great thing about Australian programming is the first time you can see it is when we show it on air, and a lot of this big strip reality shows like My Kitchen Rules and House Rules, there really is an incentive to watch them live as well so you don't get any spoilers," said Ross.
"It is like watching a live sporting contest combined with a soap opera in a way. You just keep coming back day after day. You can't see it anywhere else.
"A lot of this American programming is too freely available by other means before it gets here."
Locally made shows still to air on Seven this year include The X Factor, The Amazing Race Australia, Dancing with the Stars and Winners & Losers, while Nine has The Voice Kids, The Block and House Husbands and Ten has the new season of The Bachelor featuring Perth's Blake Garvey.