The 20 Most Exciting Pilots of the Upcoming TV Season
Pilot season is upon us, with upwards of 80 new series being movieed for the five major networks. Not nearly all of them will make it to air next fall; some because they are just no good, numerous others because they don't fit the networks needs, tone, or audience. we have taken a close look at all the pilots in production, talked to insiders, and read the scripts to suss out the twenty most exciting and intriguing ones, and then handicapped tinheritor chances of success. On the list you'll find much to look forward to, including hipster chicks, stewardesses, missing alums, gospel choirs, magical cops, NYPD, Playboy bunnies, and, of course, James van der Beek. And since no sincere survey of any pilot season would be total without some skepticism, we have also included the five pilots we are most excited about for all the wrong reasons. (Poe, the detective! Don Johnson, the aging hairdresser! Bosom Buddies, the sequel!) Take a look.
Pan Am, ABC
WHAT it is ABOUT: Pilots and stewardesses at the daybreak of the jet era.
WHY we are EXCITED: All the period fun of Mad Men - but on a plane, and with a spy subplot for good degree. Bonus: Christina Ricci finally comes to TV and the director (Thomas Schlamme) did some of the best episodes of The West Wing.
SUPPORTING EVIDENCE: "A fun, sexy period adventure that is part Catch Me If You Can, part Mad Men, and part Confessions of a Dangerous intellect," one talent manager raves, calling it a "frothy romp."
LIKELIHOOD OF SUCCESS: Ricci's casting is going to make it tough for ABC to at least not give this show a shot.
Once Upon a Time, ABC
WHAT it is ABOUT: Imagine a world where reasonabley-tale characters such as Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) not only exist but - thanks to a well-placed curse - are actually stuck living semi-ordinary lives in the real world.
WHY we are EXCITED: In the wrong hands, this could be a campy mess; thankfully, the show's from missing vets Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, who wrote some of the funniest (and most touching) episodes of the late ABC drama. Damon Lindelof has also been serving as an unofficial godfather for the project, further bolstering our interest.
SUPPORTING EVIDENCE: "A surprisingly whimsical idea, executed simply and well," says one development exec. "it is an effort by some anxious network executives ... to shake matters up and see what sticks, and i would love to see this one stick."
LIKELIHOOD OF SUCCESS: Though the pilot does not feel sci-fi at all, ABC has been burned so numerous times by far-out concepts in recent years (V being the latest failed tryst) that execs are going to must summon up lots of courage to green-light an audacious concept such as Once. The show will must feel more real than magical to receive the go-ahead. Fingers crossed!
WHAT it is ABOUT: The forces of good and evil battle each other in a small southern town following the arrival of a mysterious unusualr.
WHY we are EXCITED: Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry is finally trying something new. Did we mention that there is also a gospel choir whose songs help inform the story lines? Or that Terry O'Quinn (missing) is in the cast?
SUPPORTING EVIDENCE: One Hollywood development veteran says the show is "Marc Cherry doing what he does well: creating a town of rich and not-so-rich people who gossip about each other, do nasty matters to one other, and must live in the same place and stew in tinheritor own muck."
LIKELIHOOD OF SUCCESS: Unless the gospel choir ends up looking like the singing uniforms on Cop Rock, there is no way ABC does not at least give Cherry a shot. If Shonda Rhimes gets to do Off the Map and Private Practice, the creator of Desperate Housewives gets at least one follow-up at-bat.
Good Christian Bitches, ABC
WHAT it is ABOUT: A unmarried mother and former mean girl (Popular's Leslie Bibb) returns to catfighting Dallas after her divorce.
WHY we are EXCITED: As if the title (likely to change) didn't gratuity you off that the show will be a camp-fest, Darren Star's involvement, as a producer, and the pitch, Desperate Housewives meets Dallas, should. Better still, it is being written by Robert Harling, a man with an ideal résumé for creating a Southern soap: He wrote Steel Magnolias and Soapdish.
SUPPORTING EVIDENCE: An insider describes it as a funnier Desperate Housewives, and if it is anything like its source fabric, a satisfying beach read of a novel, it is bound to be a guilty pleacertain.
LIKELIHOOD OF SUCCESS: Desperate Housewives is in its eighth season, and ABC could certain use a replacement. GCB seems to fit the invoice nearly perfectly, but then again, so might DH creator Marc Cherry's Hallelujah.
Damage Control, ABC
WHAT it is ABOUT: High-powered publicist deals with her personal life and staff while solving high-level political crises.
WHY we are EXCITED: Shonda Rhimes gets out of the hospital to enter the less bloody, but presumably no less bed-hoppy world of D.C. politics. And the cast is intriguing: Kerry Washington in the lead role is doing her first TV show, and she is backed up by the likes of missing's Henry Ian Cusick and Tony Goldwyn as the president.
SUPPORTING EVIDENCE: The main character is based on a real-life woman, Judy Smith, who was involved in everything from Iran Contra and Clarence Thomas's confirmation hearings, to Monica Lewinsky and Chandra Levy, precisely the kind of complicated, sordid stories that would make for fantastic TV.
LIKELIHOOD OF SUCCESS: Rhimes has a lot of pull over at ABC. After all, the network is so supportive of her that Private Practice is still on the air. it is not likely they will say no.
Apartment 23, ABC
WHAT it is ABOUT: A farm-fresh Midwestern girl rents a room from a world-wisened New Yorker.
WHY we are EXCITED: ABC has shortened the title from Don't Trust the Bitch in Apt. 23, but the pilot script still boasts plenty of snark and zip. it is also got James Van Der Beek playing (and presumably mocking) himself.
SUPPORTING EVIDENCE: You'll never get lines like this on The Middle: "June, candyie, I banged your fiancé on your birthday cake. And i am going to be late with my half of the rent."
LIKELIHOOD OF SUCCESS: We could see this becoming in with Cougar Town if ABC decides to create a night of less-family-friendly comedies away from Wednesdays. Otherwise, the urban wryness might be a better fit for Fox.
Untitled Susannah Grant, CBS
WHAT it is ABOUT: A workhorse surgeon (Patrick Wilson) has his life changed forever after his wife dies - and then starts hang-outing him from the fantastic beyond.
WHY we are EXCITED: Because, really, nobody does touching supernatural stories better than CBS (see Medium, The Ghost Whisperer, Touched by an Angel). Also, Jonathan Demme is directing.
SUPPORTING EVIDENCE: "I hate doctor shows, I hate supernatural shows and I hate the combo of those," one manager told us. "Yet this is heartfelt, well-written, and just plain good."
LIKELIHOOD OF SUCCESS: CBS does have another doctor show in the works (The Doctor), and it stars Eye heroine Christine Lahti. Still, the Grant project seems a slam-dunk for a spot on the net's Friday lineup.
WHAT it is ABOUT: Six NYPD rookie cops
WHY we are EXCITED: Richard Price is novels (Lush Life) basically read like the tightest screenplays around, and his work for The Wire was not too shabby either. The premise is not soilshaking, but if anyone can make cops sounds fresh, it is Price.
SUPPORTING EVIDENCE: At a morning briefing, a sergeant sounds like this: "The Gun Clappin' Goons on 115th and 6th have been talking smack on Twitter and MySpace for the final three weeks, and finally final night a GCG, Trevor Lemon, got shot in the leg, suspect in the wind, so we are expecting payback today, tonight tomorrow the latest, a full-out run and gun war, the battle lane as always for these two sets, straight up and down 6th Avenue from Footpost 41 to 43 ... "
LIKELIHOOD OF SUCCESS: Despite Price is Wire pedigree, the pilot script for this does not seem too gritty for CBS (when the gangs mentioned in the dialogue above finally go at it, there are no guns involved). With Robert De Niro on board as an executive producer, this might slot in nicely with Blue Bloods as a slightly more complex take on CBS's meat-and-potatoes procedurals.
WHAT it is ABOUT: Sarah Michelle Gellar plays twins, one who takes over the other's identity as a rich Manhattanite, even though both are being targeted by hit men.
WHY we are EXCITED: Sarah Michelle Gellar returns to TV playing twins, one posh and one a former prostitute, both running from hit men. In other words, Buffy's ass-kicking ability meets a plot twist straight out of All My Children, with some Sex and the City Manhattan lifestyle porn thrown in for good degree.
SUPPORTING EVIDENCE: A taste of the bloodless open: One of the twins, beaten, bloody, nearly unconscious and "stunningly beautiful," lays there after having been beaten up by a masked man. As he raises his hand to hit her "glazed eyes flutter, on the verge of passing out. But not before uttering, 'You have the wrong girl.'"
LIKELIHOOD OF SUCCESS: CBS has got action procedurals (Hawaii 5-0) and its got a serious drama about complicated women (The Good Wife), Ringer could be where the two meet, a serialized action-drama that is got more through plot than any of CBS's franchises, and more froth and fistfights than Wife. Like Rookies it is a twist, but not too big of one, on what's worked for CBS so far.
Person of Interest, CBS
WHAT it is ABOUT: A supposedly dead CIA officer (Jim Caviezel) ends up tracking violent crimes in New York at the behest of a mysterious millionaire (Michael Emerson).
WHY we are EXCITED: Memento and Dark Knight co-writer Jonah Nolan teaming up with J.J. Abrams in a show that also features Emerson? Suddenly, we are all about the CBS crime procedurals.
SUPPORTING EVIDENCE: So actually, not a lot of folks have read this pilot - Abrams has this shit about secrecy, see. So really, we are just basing this on the auspices and our hopes.
LIKELIHOOD OF SUCCESS: Pretty 50-50. CBS has a habit of sleeping around with cool creative types like Abrams during pilot season, only to order another crook intellects spinoff when it comes time to behaveually order shows.
Two Broke Girls, CBS
WHAT it is ABOUT: Two broke girls - one previously rich, one always bad - who live in Brooklyn and work at a diner together.
WHY we are EXCITED: The charming Kat Dennings takes to TV for a sitcom with a laugh-out-loud pilot script written by Michael Patrick King and Whitney Cummings.
SUPPORTING EVIDENCE: A typical Dennings monologue: "This is the Williamsburg Diner, owned by Han Lee, who just changed his name to Bryce Lee because he wants people to take him even less seriously. Eight months ago he bought it from the Russian mob. The clientele used to be all eastern block crooks and crack whores but he took it over and ruined it ... The customers are mostly older people who eat here because it makes them nostalgic for the fantastic Depression. We also get a lot of hipsters who come here because they it is cool to come to a place that is not cool."
LIKELIHOOD OF SUCCESS: This is a multi-camera sitcom with a unmarried-camera script. Young, hip, raunchy, and girl-centric - it is about two chicks working in Williamsburg, for goodness sake - this is a Fox show, that CBS took a flier on. If they picked it up, it'd be sharper than anything they've on air, but it is tough to suppose it becoming in with tinheritor lineup.
The New Girl, Fox
WHAT it is ABOUT: A newly unmarried woman moves in with three dudes.
WHY we are EXCITED: Screenwriter Liz Meriwether (No Strings Attached) teams up with manic pixie dream girl additionalordinaire Zooey Deschanel on an inevitably quirky, pop-culture-teeming script. Kanye, Rachel Zoe, Pretty Woman, Tori Amos, and numerous more get shout-outs in the pilot alone. The original title, Chicks and Dicks, captures the tone better than The New Girl ever could.
SUPPORTING EVIDENCE: Deschanel verbal diarrheas about why she can not live with three boys: "This is not going to work, correct? I mean, you don't want to live with a girl. i am going through a breakup and i am a teacher, so i am going to be bringing domestic like a lot of Popsicle sticks and stuff, and sometimes when i am sad I pretend to be Carrie Bradshaw and I put on bizarre bras and type on my computer."
LIKELIHOOD OF SUCCESS: Unlike Two Broke Girls, The New Girl is at least on the correct channel. But of the two, surprisingly, it has the less strong script, and is more aggressively alienating to anyone over the age of 30. Still, Meriweather and Deschanel are some kind of indie dream team, and the show would fit in nicely with the quirky Raising Hope.
WHAT it is ABOUT: A unmarried-camera romantic comedy about a group of friends moving forward after the loss of a loved one.
WHY we are EXCITED: it is from the intellect of Community scribe Andy Boforehead, who co-wrote this season's big space-capsule episode. Will Gluck (Easy A) is directing. Zach Gilford of Friday Night Lights is part of the cast (though even he could not save Off the Map). And unlike most TV comedies about young folks copulating, this one feels grounded in reality: A key character's fiancé didn't leave her at the altar - he dies. Stakes!
SUPPORTING EVIDENCE: "The best comedy pilot i have read so far," declares our development vet. "Well-written, considerate, moving, funny: I want to see this show correct now."
LIKELIHOOD OF SUCCESS: Decent. Fox is fixedly trying to expand its comedy brand beyond lively or family shows, and this would twosome well with Traffic Light - assuming, of course, that show returns. Fox tends to like noisy comedy concepts, notwithstanding, which could hurt Iceland's chances.
Locke and Key, Fox
WHAT it is ABOUT: Based on the graphic novel by Joe Hill, it is a thriller about a family that moves into a hang-outed house full of secrets, dangers, and wondrous opportunities. So basically, The Shining by way of Narnia.
WHY we are EXCITED: Hill's novel series has serious, Walking Dead-level geek cred, and we like the idea of kids running wild in a freaky house. we are also psyched to see Nick Stahl, so good in the gone-too-soon Carnivale, potentially back on a TV show.
SUPPORTING EVIDENCE: So a recent episode of the graphic novel was devoted to a Calvin & Hobbes tribute. If the TV show is one-tenth as cool as that, we are in.
LIKELIHOOD OF SUCCESS: Super-high. One of the first pilots green-lit by Fox this development season. The network even released a promotional still from the show to USA Today earlier this month. No reason to be hyping something that'll never be on the air.
17th Precinct, NBC
WHAT it is ABOUT: A police procedural set in a world where magic exists.
WHY we are EXCITED: If the concept seems mockable, keep in intellect it comes from Ron Moore, the guy who took the foolish seventies version of Battlestar Galactica and successfully reimagined it as something lethal serious and compulsively watchable. Plus, Moore is rounded out the cast with Battlestar alums: Jamie Bamber, Tricia Helfer, James Callis are all on board, plus the non-Battlestar but always awesome inventoryard Channing.
SUPPORTING EVIDENCE: In a world where magic exists, punishments are different: "Therefore, this court sentences defendant to the loss of the use of his correct arm for a period of one year. Sentence to be imposed instantly."
LIKELIHOOD OF SUCCESS: Given that NBC has ordered a pilot of this, Wonder Woman, and Grimm - a police procedural in which reasonabley-tale characters are real - it seems like the network is hoping to find the Heroes replacement it needed a few seasons ago. But two replacements? Unlikely.
courageous New World, NBC
WHAT it is ABOUT: unmarried-camera comedy about the employees of a Pilgrim-era theme park.
WHY we are EXCITED: it is from Peter Tolan, the man behind Rescue Me and, maybe more crucial, the underrated (and short-lived) ABC workplace comedy The Job. We like the Office meets Adventureland vibe, too.
SUPPORTING EVIDENCE: Early in a draft of a script we saw, one character puts down another thusly: "I guess if he knew you were going to be the end of his bloodline, he would've cut off his penis."
LIKELIHOOD OF SUCCESS: We get the sense that new NBC chief Bob Greenblatt thinks his network already has enough niche-y, office-set comedies. Had a Will Arnett-level star agreed to star, this show might have had a chance. Unless the execution is brilliant, it is tough to see this going forward.
WHAT it is ABOUT: The playboy club in 1963 Chicago, total with the final playboy, the final bunny, and a homicide.
WHY we are EXCITED: Mad Men-era setting + premium-cable risqué content (the actors have nudity clauses in tinheritor contracts) + mainstream-attractive plot twists (homicide by stiletto) = entertainment. With tabloid man Eddie Cibrian in the lead role, this is not the lessoniest production in town, but, well, bunnies in the sixties were still bunnies.
SUPPORTING EVIDENCE: The main man and the new bunny have a late-night chat: "Drink remainder of that water." "I hate water." [A genuine laugh.] "Me, too."
LIKELIHOOD OF SUCCESS: Playboy has a fantastic, sexy premise, but despite its Mad Men-cribbing and polish, it is not anywhere near as highforehead. If NBC's new honcho Bob Greenblatt wants a buzz-getting soap to sex up the lineup, this is it: If he wants to avoid lots of chatter about how cable does it better, this is not.
WHAT it is ABOUT: After a car accident, a detective (Jason Isaacs) finds himself living in two realities - one in which he is accidentally killed his wife; the other finds his son dead.
WHY we are EXCITED: it is from Kyle Killen, the voice of Lone Star and The Beaver, which tells us it'll be very well-written. And 24 vet Howard Gordon is serving as show-runner, which means matters should get terriblely tense.
SUPPORTING EVIDENCE: "I could not get this script out of my head for about a week after I read it," one development exec told us. "it is a different, melancholy family drama but at the same time it is a dual procedural. I think the latter will be the real hook for the audience."
LIKELIHOOD OF SUCCESS: NBC's got plenty of shelf space and desperately needs a mystery show that is not a goofy mess like The Event. The Inception vibe should help, too.
WHAT it is ABOUT: A soapy look at the making of a Broadway musical via executive producer Steven Spielberg.
WHY we are EXCITED: it is Glee for grown-ups! Or Spider-Man for the small screen. Also: The cast includes Debra Messing, Anjelica Huston, and former American Idol contestant Katharine McPhee.
SUPPORTING EVIDENCE: "A beautifully written script that created me want to watch the show NOW," one development spy tells us. The script is a page-turner: smart, compelling, and entertaining."
LIKELIHOOD OF SUCCESS: New NBC chief Bob Greenblatt developed Smash for more than year when he was at Showtime. He instantly brought it with him to NBC when he officially moved there and has created it one of his top priorities. This shit is on the air.
Untitled Emily Spivey Project, NBC
WHAT it is ABOUT: Christina Applegate is a working mom married to stay-at-domestic dad Will Arnett.
WHY we are EXCITED: Spivey is a Parks and Recreation alum (+30). Applegate is fantastic at TV (+10); Arnett, even better (+20). Plus, Maya Rudolph is part of the cast (+15). Add it all up, and you have got contemporary Family, NBC-style.
SUPPORTING EVIDENCE: One of Applegate is young co-workers sums up her mommy issues thusly: "My Mom was a groupie for ZZ Top. I don't know who my father was or at least i am not certain which one he was because all of my mom's lovers had old prospector's beards. So yes, I hate my parents."
LIKELIHOOD OF SUCCESS: This show mashes up family and office comedies, letting NBC simultaneously stay in, and expand, its wheelhouse. And its got lots of well-known TV stars. Plus, it is from exec producer Lorne Michaels. Pretty good odds.
Excited for the Wrong Reasons: Poe, ABC
WHAT it is ABOUT: A procedural set in 1840s Boston, with Edgar Allen Poe as the lead detective.
WHY we are EXCITED: Please, let us get a chance to see the episode of TV that messes with history such that Poe is "The Cask of Amontillado" was based on a true story. Even better, the episode where you get to sit on your sofa and scream at a clueless Poe, "The heart is in the floorboards! The heart is in the floorboards!
Excited for the Wrong Reasons: Grace, ABC
WHAT it is ABOUT: A family drama set in the world of dance, with Eric Roberts as the sexually prolific dad and choreographer.
WHY we are EXCITED: Eric Roberts dances, sleeps with women, deals with his three daughters from different mothers, and has to convince us he is not creepy? We'll bet he can pull off three of the four.
Excited for the Wrong Reasons: A Mann's World, NBC
WHAT it is ABOUT: A straight fiftysomething male hairdresser trying to stay current in L.A.
WHY we are EXCITED: That hairdresser is played by ... Don Johnson. As if that weren't enough, it is written by Sex and the City's Michael Patrick King, which means the Shampoo update could be campy on purpose, apart from the extremely punny, literal title gives us pause. Johnson's character is named Allan Mann.
Excited for the Wrong Reasons: Wonder Woman, NBC
WHAT it is ABOUT: A 21st-century Wonder Woman
WHY we are EXCITED: David E. Kelley writing a show about a feminist icon? we are ready to argue about it already! And if it continues movieing, Adrianne Palicki will inevitably pop out of that supremely unpractical top for the pleacertain of Internet pervs everywhere.
Excited for the Wrong Reasons: Work It, ABC
WHAT it is ABOUT: Two men pose as women to find jobs.
WHY we are EXCITED: it is like the TV gods heard the prayer we never prayed, and gave us a remake of Bosom Buddies.
i would watch reasonablely a few of these tbh