CBS today kicked off the next stage in the pilot season ritual — the network screenings, where a large pool of network executives weigh in on this year’s crop of pilots. The rest of the broadcast networks will follow suit next week when we will start getting a better picture of how the contenders for a spot on the schedule for next season stack up. For now, here is what I have been hearing on the various pilots based on early reactions:
The only mystery surrounding the UNTITLED KEVIN WILLIAMSON project at Fox seems to be where it will land on the Fox schedule and whether it would launch in the fall or midseason. The other four drama contenders seem to have formed pairs. The two female CIA operative pilots, UNTITLED KARYN USHER and THE ASSET, have been jockeying for a slot, with Karyn Usher starting ahead, then The Asset catching up, and now Karyn Usher possibly getting an edge again. Then there are GUILTY and the UNTITLED BERMAN/WRIGHT mob doctor drama, which both tested well at their studios with high marks for their stars Cuba Gooding Jr and Jordana Spiro, respectively. Both have a real shot, with Berman/Wright probably a bit stronger at the moment. Its chances were helped by the fact that Fox veteran House is ending its run, leaving the network without a medical franchise for next season. On the comedy side, the UNTITLED MINDY KALING female doctor half-hour appears to be headed to Fox’s comedy block as a possible companion to New Girl. BEN FOX IS MY MANNY, a late delivery after it replaced its lead after the table read, reportedly got thumbs-up from Fox brass after they just saw it for the first time. The stronger than expected showing for the pilot, about a guy working as manny for his sister, shakes up the sibling comedy race at Fox, which includes early standout LITTLE BROTHER, which has lost some momentum but remains solid, and GOODWIN GAMES, which also came out OK. Of the others, REBOUNDING and EL JEFE are still in serious contention, while buzz has been just OK on PRODIGY/BULLY, mixed on LET IT GO and not so good on LIKE FATHER and LIVING LOADED.
Of the slew of soap pilots ordered by ABC, NASHVILLE and Marc Cherry’s DEVIOUS MAIDS are hot, and there’s buzz that straight-to-series MISTRESSES might be headed for fall. AMERICANA and the period GILDED LILYS also are solid, though Americana doesn’t appear as slam-dunk as it once did; PENOZA has been getting mostly good feedback with some mixed reaction too, while buzz on SCRUPLES has been mixed. On the male/genre side, LAST RESORT looks solid, GOTHAM came in OK, while 666 PARK AVE has started to fade after very strong early buzz. There is not much feedback on ZERO HOUR or the UNTITLED ROLAND EMMERICH dramas, but word is the former came in too long and the latter came in stronger than expected, with both reportedly still in contention. As for BEAUTY & THE BEAST, because of extensive visual effects, it hasn’t been seen in its finished form yet. On the comedy side, Claudia Lonow’s HOW TO LIVE WITH YOUR PARENTS and the Reba McEntire starrer MALIBU COUNTRY are hot as ABC is once again considering expanding comedy programming to Fridays to restore the network’s TGIF block. Early entry, alien family DAN FOGELMAN comedy, has support within the network. The two pilots based on British formats, ONLY FOOLS & HORSES and RED VAN MAN, appear to have a shot, along with PRAIRIE DOGS. Of the two “girl” comedies, AMERICAN JUDY starring Judy Greer and UNTITLED MANDY MOORE, Judy seems to have the edge at the moment. UNTITLED KARI LIZER is behind because of star Mary McCormack’s schedule but had a good taping. AWESOMETOWN has cooled off.
The Dick Wolf-produced drama CHICAGO FIRE seems to be catching, well, fire at NBC as it is tracking strong. Jason Katims’ medical drama COUNTY also appears to be a real contender as is another medical drama, this one with a Jekyll and Hyde twist, DO NO HARM, which has lost some momentum but is still very solid. Another early frontrunner, mystery drama MIDNIGHT SUN, has cooled off. I hear Western-flavored FRONTIER is well-liked among NBC brass despite mixed testing results. I also hear NOTORIOUS, a late pickup which was just completed, came together well. Off-cycle pilot BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE is cold. Comedy-wise, the Ryan Murphy-Ali Adler blended family single-camera project THE NEW NORMAL has been eying an early pickup to join recently ordered to series GO ON starring Matthew Perry. Other single-camera pilots in serious contention to join Go On are White House family comedy 1600 PENN, which tested very well, as well as FRIDAY NIGHT DINNER, which didn’t test well but comes from Greg Daniels and stars Tony Shalhoub and Allison Janney. Other single-camera comedies getting positive buzz are SAVE ME and ANIMAL KINGDOM, while UNTITLED HILARY WINSTON and SARAH SILVERMAN are not doing that well and NEXT CALLER has been quiet. On the multi-camera front, DADDY’s GIRL and DILFS are strong, with UNTITLED KARI LIZER and DOWNWARDLY MOBILE also in contention although the latter seems to be cooling off.
Which two CBS drama pilots have consistently gotten the strongest buzz and appear likely to march onto the network’s schedule? Elementary, my dear Watson — the period Las Vegas drama RALPH LAMB starring Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis and the Sherlock Holmes reboot ELEMENTARY starring Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu. Competing for what may be the third and last available hourlong spot are cop dramas WIDOW DETECTIVE, which tested well, GOLDEN BOY and legal drama BABY BIG SHOT. Meanwhile, early favorites APPLEBAUM and TROOPER seem to have cooled off. On the comedy side, the biggest question is whether CBS will launch its first single-camera comedy series in four years. The single-camera NICK STOLLER pilot is tracking very well and could go with either HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, which has a single-camera feel, or THE BIG BANG THEORY. If the network once again opts to go with all multi-camera new comedies, this could send a message to the creative community that it is not as committed to the single-camera genre as it says it is. On the multi-camera side, early frontrunner PARTNERS continues to do well, with LOUIS CK/SPIKE FERESTEN, DORF/FALCONE and BERLANTI/MALINS all in the mix and SUPER FUN NIGHT getting mixed reaction.
With so many CW shows — including this season’s entire freshman class — underperforming, will the network go for an extreme makeover with a slew of new series orders for next season? Along with early frontrunners ARROW and THE CARRIE DIARIES, I hear BEAUTY & THE BEAST came in good and is picking up momentum. CULT continues to be strong, with Hunger Games-esque THE SELECTION and medical drama FIRST CUT also in serious contention. For Cult, the CW has indicated it would use the cable model with shorter, uninterrupted seasons. Will the network pick up all six? While never done, I hear that is a possibility this year.
Like their broadcast counterparts, TNT too will be screening its pilots next week ahead of the cable network’s upfront presentation during the broadcast upfront week. David E. Kelley/Sanjay Gupta’s medical drama CHELSEA GENERAL continues to be hot and appears likely to get a series order. Things have been quieter for the other three pilots – SCENT OF THE MISSING, LA NOIR and TIN STAR – although Scent Of The Missing appears in good shape.
TV Editor Nellie Andreeva - tip her here.