The general consensus among UK buyers was that the 1999 LA Screenings produced no new ER, Millennium or Sex and the City. No must-have, buzz show that had foreign TV executives
The general consensus among UK buyers was that the 1999 LA Screenings produced no new ER, Millennium or Sex and the City. No must-have, buzz show that had foreign TV executives reaching for the cheque-book before they had checked out of their Beverly Hills hotels.

That said, there was also widespread agreement that this year's offerings from US studios were more varied and of a higher standard than for the past couple of screenings.

Most observers put this down to a shift in the US networks' priorities, away from 30-minute sitcoms and towards more 60-minute drama and comedy drama - of 18 new shows ordered by the big three of NBC, CBS and ABC for the autumn, 11 were dramas.

Drama pilots that drew widespread praise included West Wing, the lavish new White House-set NBC show from from ER co-creator John Wells, being made by Warner Bros. Third Watch, another Wells/Warner Bros collaboration for NBC, also aroused interest, as did other new offerings from big-name producers, such as David E Kelley's Snoops and Chris Carter's Harsh Realm.

Trendspotters could content themselves watching the impact of shows such as NBC's mid-season hit, Providence, about a high-flying Beverly Hills plastic surgeon who returns to her hometown to be a GP. CBS has ordered Judging Amy, about a New York lawyer and newly single mother who returns to her hometown as a judge, and Family Law, about a lawyer setting up a new firm after her husband leaves her and takes the practice.

What Channel 5 head of planning Ashley Hill described as 'teenage angst and Clearasil' also figured large, following the success of the fledgling WB network and shows like Dawson's Creek. New dramas hoping to attract teenagers include NBC's Freaks and Geeks from Dreamworks, Columbia Tri-Star's Manchester Prep for Fox, and Roswell High, a Twentieth Century Fox show for WB.

Another increasingly ubiquitous genre was adult animation, with other networks looking to emulate the success of Fox shows such as The Simpsons and King of the Hill.

NBC, for instance, has ordered two mid-season animated sitcoms, David Spade vehicle Sammy from Brillstein-Grey Entertainment and God, the Devil and Bob from Carsey-Werner Productions; while WB has bought The Downtowners from Castle Rock Entertainment and Baby Blues - for midseason - from Warner Bros.

The other noticeable trend was shows with what Channel 4 controller of acquisitions June Dromgoole described as an 'Ally McBeal feel'. NBC sitcom The Mike O'Malley Show and CBS comedy drama Grapevine, for instance, featured actors speaking to camera Ally-style.

Summing up, C5 director of programmes Dawn Airey said she was looking for two series, but was likely to wait until the autumn, after shows have debuted on the US networks, before making firm commitments - an attitude common to most UK buyers. 'We've seen lots of stuff with a good basic premise,' Airey added. 'But parts are just not right.'

Dromgoole, on a similar note, concluded: 'It's definitely been a better year. But most of us are waiting and seeing how shows develop. We're not buying on the strength of a pilot alone.'