With the upfronts three and a half weeks away, we are in the final stretch of the the mad dash we call broadcast pilot season as pilots are being cut, re-cut, tested, delivered and screened. Because so may pilots were so late, it’s hard to get a full picture yet, so keep that in mind. And also check out the first Early Buzz buzz edition of PRIMETIME PILOT PANIC from two weeks ago.
The biggest move at the network over the last week has been the ascent of REBOUNDING, Joe Port and Joe Wiseman’s uplifting comedy about a man (Will Forte) recovering from the death of his fiancee with the help of his buddies. The pilot, which has Modern Family‘s co-creator Steve Levitan as an executive producer and helmer Jason Winer as director, has been testing very well and is red-hot. Also hot on the comedy side at the network is the MINDY KALING medical office ensemble half-hour. Additionally, in contention are culture-clash comedy EL JEFE, and two adult sibling half-hours: LITTLE BROTHER, which underwent minor reshoots, and THE GOODWIN GAMES. The network will be stocking up on comedies as I hear it is looking to make the two-hour midseason comedy block experiment a permanent element on the schedule next season. On the drama side, the KEVIN WILLIAMSON project starring Kevin Bacon continues to look like a sure thing, while for rest of the field, the race has tightened. The KARYN USHER teen spy drama continues to be strong but the network’s other female CIA operative pilot, the more adult THE ASSET, has tested almost equally as well. There also has been chatter about encouraging studio testing results for the other two Fox drama pilots, the untitled BERMAN/WRIGHT mob doctor project and legal drama GUILTY. The decision would probably come down to how many new dramas Fox will pick up for next season, with speculation that as many as four could potentially make the cut.
Return to the glory days of Friends, Seinfeld and Frasier? It is shaping up to be a strong year for multi-camera comedies at NBC, which was already high on the format in the pilot pickup stage. Early standouts the untitled KARI LIZER and JIMMY FALLON projects continue to look good (through reaction to FALLON has been more mixed) with two other multi-camera comedies, TABLE FOR THREE and DOWNWARDLY MOBILE, also tracking well early on. Among single-camera offerings White House family comedy 1600 PENN, Greg Daniels’ FRIDAY NIGHT DINNER and SAVE ME are hot, with ANIMAL KINGDOM, GO ON and NEXT CALLER in contention. Ryan Murphy and Ali Adler’s much anticipated THE NEW NORMAL is yet to be delivered, while early pilot ISABEL is a rare family-friendly comedy that NBC could air at 8 PM. Along with HANNIBAL, which has a straight-to-series order, drama pilots DO NO HARM, COUNTY, MIDNIGHT SUN and CHICAGO FIRE are garnering solid buzz. Not much chatter about early entry BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE, though the network was intrigued enough to order re-cuts. I hear THE FRONTIER looks stunning visually, but will NBC pick up a Western (albeit an unconventional one), especially with CBS on track to greenlight a period drama, Ralph Lamb, with a 20th century cowboy as its lead?
Soaps seem to be leading the charge at ABC this season with several pilots in the genre garnering early buzz: NASHVILLE, PENOZA, GILDED LILYS and, to some extent, AMERICANA. (also don’t forget MISTRESSES, which has a series order.) Feedback on Marc Cherry’s DEVIOUS MAIDS has been conflicting. Among the non-soapy contenders, the spooky 666 PARK AVE and high-concept LAST RESORT appear to be in good shape. On the comedy side, Claudia Lonow’s HOW TO LIVE WITH YOUR PARENTS is gaining momentum. I hear ABC brass also are high on Judy Greer in her pilot AMERICAN JUDY, and like Reba McEntire and Mandy Moore, who also topline half-hour pilots. PRAIRIE DOGS and the off-cycle DAN FOGELMAN also are in contention. Additionally, ABC topper Paul Lee has been high on the raunchy AWESOMETOWN, which has encountered testing issues, so the jury is out on that one. ONLY FOOLS AND HORSES has been quiet, though I hear the British original is a favorite of Brit Lee.
Most CBS drama pilots appear to still be in contention, though with Sherlock Holmes reboot ELEMENTARY and sprawling period drama RALPH LAMB starring Dennis Quaid going strong, the squabble seems to be for the remaining available slots. BABY BIG SHOT, APPLEBAUM, TROOPER and GOLDEN BOY all look like they have a shot at this point. Max Mutchnick and David Kohan seem to have finally nailed the concept that they have been passionate about for years as it reflects their real-life relationship, with their pilot PARTNERS tracking very strong. I hear the DORF/FALCONE and LOUIS CK/SPIKE FERESTEN comedies turned out better than expected (though it’s unclear if that will be enough to snag a series order). The NICK STOLLER project looks solid, however, being single-camera, the question is where it would fit in CBS’ comedy lineup, dominated by multi-camera sitcoms.
At The CW, mystery drama CULT is gaining momentum, joining frontrunners ARROW and THE CARRIE DIARIES. THE SELECTION continues to look strong because of its kinship with blockbuster HUNGER GAMES, and medical drama FIRST CUT still looks solid, mostly on the strength of its leading lady, Meryl Streep’s daughter Mamie Gummer. Being a time-traveling musical murder mystery, JOEY DAKOTA is probably the riskiest pilot ordered by a network this season. Not much feedback on that one, though I hear the network likes how the singing portion of it turned out.
TNT this year is on the same development cycle with the broadcast networks, evaluating its four drama pilots for series pickups tied to the network’s upfront presentation during the broadcast upfront week. I hear David E. Kelley’s medical drama CHELSEA GENERAL is hot, with Frank Darabont’s LA NOIR and Carol Mendelsohn’s SCENT OF THE MISSING also in the mix.
TV Editor Nellie Andreeva - tip her here.