Jeff Jensen
October 12, 2007 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The new TV season is just out of the gate, but already the ponies are lining up for next season’s derby — and it looks like Lost mastermind J.J. Abrams is the front-runner. Fox just committed to a two-hour pilot of his new sci-fi drama Fringe, co-created by screenwriters Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (who are also writing Abrams’ big-screen Star Trek reboot due next year). It follows a freaky-and-geeky trio of heroes — a brilliant egghead recently sprung from a mental institution; his beleaguered son; and a female FBI agent — as they investigate supernatural mysteries, some of which may relate to the mad scientist’s fringe research. (Word has it that Fox will be spending $10 million on the pilot alone.) ”It’s a way of doing the sci-fi stuff I’ve loved over the years — The X-Files, Altered States, The Twilight Zone,” says Abrams. ”It’s not just about brilliant people dealing with strange but plausible phenomena. It also really explores their inner lives.”

The same week, ABC picked up the dramedy pilot Boundaries, written by Six Feet Under‘s Jill Soloway and produced by Abrams’ company, Bad Robot. He describes the quirky show — about a cable-access psychologist who becomes a notary public — as ”a very funny take on the private-investigator format. She won’t sign anything until she finds out what’s really going on. She’s basically nosy as hell.” Abrams remains busy on the film side as well, directing Trek and producing January’s top secret monster movie nicknamed Cloverfield but he manages to get six hours of sleep each night. Still, he says, ”I could use seven.”

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