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The LAT takes a look at the roughly 12,000 network pilots currently in development, trying to make sense of any trends that emerged from last season. What we know: Serialized storytelling is out, except when it's in; viewers love a heavy dose of lighthearted quirk with their hour-long, fashion-centric dramas; and the public's appetite for the plight of fundamentalist Christian sketch comedy actresses was vastly overestimated. There is also the predicament of the half-hour primetime comedy, a languishing format that can only claim Charlie Sheen paycheck-generator Two and a Half Men as its single entry in the Nielsen top 20. It's a problem executives have approached with the kind of no-fail solution that results in a grab-bag pilot crop littered with Geico Cavemen shows and Lee Majors's triumphant return to TV: Greenlight everything and hope someone laughs.

Of the 54 comedies in development, 16 are set in the workplace (à la "The Office" and "30 Rock"), and many are based on characters or ideas that seem fresh on the surface, at least, for the small screen.

Think "Cavemen" on ABC (yes, based on the popular Geico ads); "I'm With Stupid," about disabled people, on NBC; a heart-warming relationship between an American child and a Pakistani exchange student on "Aliens in America" on the CW; three siblings best described as "The Beverly Hillbillies" meets "The Swan" on "Stumps of Hollywood" on CBS; and Lee Majors playing himself in Fox's "Me & Lee?" the single-camera tale of Majors' obsession with bionics since "The Six Million Dollar Man" went off the air.

It seems as though desperate times call for overreaching measures. So if a Cro-Magnon race allegory doesn't scratch that "show me something I haven't seen"
itch, there's sure to be an equally outrageous option just a channel away—bold explorations into the comedic unknown such as the worlds of the disabled, Pakistani exchange students, drastically plastic-surgeried Miss Hathaway-types, and long-forgotten 1970s TV superheroes who aren't Lou Ferrigno.

[Photo: The Daily Ping]