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May 16, 2012 - 2:25pm

Upfronts 2012 (Part 2 of 5): 'Mindy' and 'Following' stand out in FOX's new crop of original series



Every spring, the major television networks present their fall and midseason schedules to potential advertisers at their upfronts. Senior Arts Editor Kayla Upadhyaya takes a look at the new series coming to FOX.

After failing to really put forth any strong new comedies last year (though “New Girl” miraculously found its footing after a messy start), FOX is hard at work devising its all new comedy power block. Of the three new comedies joining the network next year, “The Mindy Project,” brainchild of the intelligent, hilarious and charming Mindy Kaling, looks like the strongest, though the slightly more ensemble-based “The Goodwin Games” shows promise, too.

FOX will also be revving up the drama next year, with two gritty, heart-pounding thrillers, which will hopefully place FOX back in the graces of thrill-loving viewers who were let down by flops like “Terra Nova” and “Alcatraz.”

If you missed the breakdown of NBC’s new programming, it can be found here.

“The Mindy Project”

Quick Facts: A comedy series from the heart and mind of Mindy Kaling (“The Office”), “The Mindy Project” — previously titled “It’s Messy” — follows the professional and personal life of Mira (Kaling), a 30-something single female ob/gyn trying to undo the influence that over-the-top romantic comedies have had on her dating philosophy. Ed Helms (“The Office”) and Bill Hader (“Saturday Night Live”) star alongside Kaling.

Reasons to Watch: Where do I begin? Mindy has been talking about doing her own show for a while, and it’s finally becoming a reality. Her friendships in the comedy world will inevitably lead to great guest spots (crossing all of my fingers for a B.J. Novak appearance), and the trailers make it clear that this show will be in Mindy’s voice. Kelly Kapoor has been a fan favorite for years now — it’s about time Mindy have her chance in the spotlight.

Cause for Concern: I’ll get back to you on this one …

“Ben & Kate”

Quick Facts: Dana Fox (“Couples Retreat”) makes her television debut, bringing “Ben & Kate” to FOX’s new comedy lineup. The series is about a young, single mom (Dakota Johnson, “The Five-Year Engagement”) and her brother (Nat Faxon, “Happy Hour”), who moves in with her to help raise her five-year-old daughter. “Community” ’s Garrett Donovan and Neil Goldman are set as the project’s showrunners.

Reasons to Watch: Goldman and Donovan’s attachment bodes well, but the promotional material thus far hasn’t been all that fresh or funny. Johnson was hilarious in her brief role in “The Five-Year Engagement,” so she definitely has potential.

Cause for Concern: Fox’s “Couples Retreat” was a mediocre movie, saved only by its cast. Let’s hope she tackles the family comedy with a little more finesse than she did with marital comedy.

“The Mob Doctor”

Quick Facts: A medical drama from creators Josh Berman (“Drop Dead Diva”) and Robert Wright (“Las Vegas”), “The Mob Doctor” stars Jordana Spiro (“My Boys”) as Grace Devlin, a surgeon who has to balance her respectable job with working as a doctor for the mob, a way of paying off a grave debt incurred by her brother. Zach Gilford (“Friday Night Lights”), Jesse Lee Soffer (“As the World Turns”) and William Forsythe (“Boardwalk Empire”) also star.

Reasons to Watch: Michael Dinner of “Justified” directed the pilot and serves as an executive producer for the series. Taking that — plus the mob aspect and the high-paced trailer — into account makes me think that this medical drama will be light on the melodrama and heavier on the thrills and action (and not, you know, in the “we were in a plane and it crashed” kind of way).

Cause for Concern: What if the mob starts getting ideas from this and start recruiting more and more surgeons and hospital wait times get even longer!!

“The Goodwin Games” (midseason)

Quick Facts: From the creators of “How I Met Your Mother” comes a single-camera comedy about three siblings — Henry (Scott Foley, “Scrubs”), an uptight surgeon, Coney (Becki Newton, “Ugly Betty”), a nerd-turned-bartender, and Jimmy (Jake Lacy, “Better with You”), an aimless con — who have to compete for an inheritance of over $20 million left behind by their deceased father by playing a series of complicated and specific games, as per his will’s instructions.

Reasons to Watch: Along with “The Mindy Project,” this was one of the few comedy trailers to actually make me laugh this upfronts season. Plus, I love Becki Newton, and the fact that she hasn’t really had consistent work since “Ugly Betty” is a downright shame.

Cause for Concern: It’s a pretty bizarre concept, but I trust the HIMYM team to make it work. This series looks like it will similarly take a premise that appears short-term and then stretch it out … hopefully that doesn’t mean this show will also similarly have us banging our heads against walls because after years we still don’t have answers to simple questions (who is the damn mother, already?!).

“The Following” (midseason)

Quick Facts: From Kevin Williamson (“The Vampire Diaries”) comes a new psychological thriller with a powerhouse cast, including Kevin Bacon (“X-Men: First Class”), James Purefoy (“Rome”), Natalie Zea (“Justified”), Maggie Grace (“Lost”) and Shawn Ashmore (“X2”). An alcoholic and unreliable former FBI agent (Bacon) is called back in when the serial killer Joe Carroll (Purefoy) he caught and locked up years before escapes and reignites his killing spree. plays an alcoholic former FBI agent who is called back into the field when the serial killer (Purefoy) he captured years before escapes from a prison and embarks on a killing spree. Carroll uses the Internet to recruit and control a cult of followers who aid him in his bloody, twisted quest.

Reasons to Watch: KEVIN BACON ON TELEVISION KEVIN BACON ON TELEVISION KEVIN BACON ON TELEVISION. And its a creation of Kevin Williamson, the mastermind behind the classic “Dawson’s Creek,” the more recent “The Vampire Diaries” and the beloved “Scream” franchise? This series is easily my most anticipated new show of next year.

Cause for Concern: So far, Bacon has only been able to commit to the first 15 episodes, which is why the series is being held until midseason.

Still Ahead: ABC’s new programming lineup