Nellie Andreeva

It is usually a great problem for networks to have when all the pilots they’ve orderered come in strong. But, in the case of Syfy’s  similarly-themed Alphas and Three Inches, it created a dilemma. Syfy had been looking to launch a series set in the world of real-life superheroes. To increase its chances of success, the network ordered two such pilots, Alphas and Three Inches, “that were slightly different in tone but very similar in subject matter,” said Syfy EVP original content Mark Stern. Alphas, from BermanBraun, in-house studio UCP, writers Zak Penn and Michael Karnow and director Jack Bender, stars David Strathairn and follows a team of ordinary citizens who possess extraordinary and unusual mental skills. Three Inches, from writer Harley Peyton, director Jace Alexander and Fox TV Studios, centers on an underachiever (Noah Reid) who can move any object three inches with his mind and recruits a team of fellow heroes. The hope was for one of the pilots to become a series.

Instead, unexpectedly for everyone at the network, “we found ourselves with 2 pilots that we loved,” Stern said. “They were both excellent and tested very well. Ultimately it came down to which pilot would work best as an hourlong franchise. We thought they both did but felt Alphas had a little bit more potential for that.”

So Syfy on Tuesday gave Alphas an 11-episode series pickup. But it is not giving up on Three Inches just yet and is looking for ways to redevelop it. Usually that is done to fix things a network didn’t like in the pilot. Not in this case. “We loved the cast and the directing, and the writing was fantastic but it’s very similar to Alphas,” Stern said. “Now we have to figure out a way so both show can live on our air.”

To differentiate between the two, Syfy is exploring the idea of converting Three Inches to a single-camera half-hour, a genre the network has been actively pursing for the past several months. If the show stays hourlong, Syfy is mulling several scenarios, including making the show “less mission-oriented and more about the characters and their lives or focusing more on the central character played by Reid and not so much on the team.” Syfy is high on Reid, whose option is expected to be extended by FtvS along with other key cast members.

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