Nellie Andreeva

It was a pilot season dominated by second-position castings. With close to 100 pilots casting at the same time – 83 on the five broadcast networks, 4 on TBS and several on other cable networks – competition for talent was so fierce, the broadcast networks went aggressively after actors on current series or even on other pilots, booking some two dozen of them in second position.

It is a risk – a studio can spend $5 million on a pilot, then get a series pickup only to find out that its star’s current show has been renewed and he/she is no longer available. But in a development certain to encourage even more second-position castings next season, all bookings of actors tied to other projects worked out this year with one exception, NBC’s casting of My Boys star Jordana Spiro and co-star Kyle Howard in its pilots Love Bites and Perfect Couples, respectively.

The problem is that My Boys’ upcoming fourth season will not premiere until July 25. TBS had both Spiro and Howard at their upfront in New York and the network brass have said they could renew the underrated comedy for a fifth cycle if it does well in the ratings. In either case, the fate of the series won’t be known until at least August and producing studio Sony currently has the actors locked in until September. This has become a serious issue for NBC.  The problem is not as big with Spiro who, despite being billed as one of the two stars of Love Bites alongside Becki Newton, is not going to be in every segment because of the anthology nature of the series. That gives the producers some flexibility scheduling-wise and the sense is that, even if My Boys is renewed, Spiro would be able to continue on Love Bites.

Things are more complicated with Howard, who is one-half of the central couple on the comedy Perfect Couples. (Ironically, the other half is another actress cast in second position, Christine Woods from Flash Forward). It took awhile for the male role to be cast and I hear the network is happy with Howard. But with the uncertainty surrounding My Boys, which could interfere with NBC’s intention to start production on Perfect Couples in August, the network is seriously considering recasting the role. I heard they have done tests and have lined up former Reaper star Bret Harrison for the part if things don’t work out with Howard.

As for the other actors, here is a list of those who safely segued from their old shows to new ones through second-position castings this past pilot season:

Wood’s FlashForward co-star Zachary Knighton is the male lead in ABC’s new comedy series Happy Endings where his new co-star Eliza Coupe was in second position to Scrubs, Numbers star Rob Morrow now toplines ABC’s new drama series The Whole Truth, Andrea Anders from Better Off Ted now stars on ABC’s new comedy Mr .Sunshine; Past Life stars Kelli Giddish and Nicholas Bishop are now on NBC’s new drama Chase and ABC’s Body of Proof, respectively. And the trend applies to child actors too: 11-year-old FlashForward cast member, Ryan Wynott, is now on NBC’s The Cape.

Among those second-positing cases that ultimately worked out, there were two that are particularly interesting. Tyler Labine received an offer for the CBS comedy pilot Mad Love (then True Love) in January, more than a month before the premiere of his midseason comedy series Sons of Tucson. He turned down the offer out of respect to his Fox series. Then the producers of Mad Love went back to him two months later, after Tucson had already aired for several weeks to underwhelming ratings. This time, he agreed to do the pilot, which is being picked up to series for midseason. This marks the second consecutive series for in-demand Labine that stems from a second-position pilot casting. Last year, he was cast in Tucson while on the CW’s Reaper.

The second notable second-position case also involves Mad Love. This pilot season, Sarah Chalke was tapped to star in the ABC comedy Freshmen and then, in second position, in another pilot, CBS’ Team Spitz. She is going to star on a new comedy series next season, but it is not either of those, it’s Mad Love, which approached her last week.

And then there is the Lizzy Caplan situation on Mad Love. She did the pilot as a guest star. Normally, a guest-starring booking indicates a second-position casting to another series, and Caplan indeed is on Starz’s Party Down. But in this case, the guest-starring arrangement was strictly that – the actress had agreed to do the pilot but not to continue if it goes to series. That role is still being recast.

But while most second-position castings worked out, there were some near misses, like the casting of One Tree Hill co-star Sophia Bush on the ABC comedy pilot Southern Comfort. Hill was renewed, which would’ve created a conflict with Southern Comfort had it been picked up. It wasn’t.

TV Editor Nellie Andreeva - tip her here.