It’s pilot screening time. CBS just started viewing its pilots, with the other networks slated to follow over the next few days. Feedback from the screenings and extensive focus group testing inform the networks’ series pickup decisions and are capable of catapulting a pilot from an also-run to frontrunner status overnight, as it happened with CBS’ Blue Bloods three years ago. Here is what I hear as of this weekend, with information still missing on a few late pilots.
Drama Lucky 7 may live up to its name. The blue-collar ensemble about gas station employees who win the lottery seemed a little off brand for ABC and its glitzy dramas. But I hear the project based on a British format, which hadn’t drawn much attention, came in above expectations, making it a contender in what’s shaping to be a very tight race. It’s tight because two slots have already been penciled in for Marvel‘s S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Once Upon A Time spinoff, whose early footage I hear ABC brass liked. Also boosted by corporate synergy is major contender Big Thunder, based on the Disney ride. Word is ABC may choose one of its two soapy pilots, Westside and Betrayal, with Westside having the edge at the moment. (However, Betrayal‘s David Zabel has two irons in the fire as he is also behind Lucky 7.) The gothic soap Gothica has cooled off a bit while high-concept The Returned, about deceased coming back to life as their old selves, is heating up after another great pilot directing performance by Charles McDougall who, in his typical fashion went over on filming days (by 4 I hear) but delivered a strong pilot. Among the character procedurals, Murder In Manhattan, Doubt, Killer Women and Influence all seem in the mix.
Bad Management, the untitled Adam Goldberg project, and Back In The Game (Cullen Bros.) are still getting solid traction on the comedy side, along with female starring vehicles Trophy Wives (Malin Akerman) and Rebel Wilson’s Super Fun Night. I hear Super Fun Night is not exactly where ABC brass want it to be and will likely require tweaking but the network isn’t ready to pass up the opportunity to have hot Wilson on its air. Most of ABC’s comedies seem to be still in contention, including Spy, Mixology and Middle Age Rage, with John Leguizamo’s King John holding down the fort on the multi-camera side.
NBC appears very pleased with their comedy pilots, including the pilot for the Michael J. Fox project, which already has a 22-episode order. I hear the network brass feel their half-hour development is so strong, they may bet heavily on new series and hardly keep any of the existing comedy series (besides Parks & Recreation, of course). Among the NBC comedy pilots that are hot are About A Boy, Welcome to The Family, Family Guide (D.J. Nash); Greg Daniels’ Mr. Robinson starring Craig Robinson, the Sean Hayes starrer Sean Saves the World; Assistance starring Krysten Ritter and Alfred Molina; and Bill Lawrence’s Undateable. The Gates is a wild card, with the late John Mulaney pilot garnering promising early buzz.
The Blacklist continues to be super-hot on the drama side, with the untitled Rand Ravich in contention, along with JJ Abrams’ Believe. Despite bumpy production, which saw the departure of executive producer Katie Jacobs, I Am Victor seems to have a shot, maybe competing with another starring vehicle, Ironside. Also in the mix are the comic book-driven The Sixth Gun, the Chicago Fire cop drama spinoff, medical drama After Hours and the modern day Hatfields & McCoys.
No major changes in the pilot standings at Fox. Dude police/Army comedies Goor/Schur and Enlisted as well as Assistants and Friends And Family are going strong, with I Suck At Girls as a wild card. Rake, Gang Related and Human are still solid on the drama side. Sleepy Hollow and Delirium may go head to head, with Sleepy Hollow slight ahead at the moment.
CBS is once again hard to read, with many projects in contention for very few slots. Beverly Hills Cop still seems like a frontrunner, with Hostages, The Advocates and the NCIS: LA spinoff in the running and Second Sight, Intelligence, The Surgeon General, The Ordained and Backstrom in the mix. On the comedy side, Chuck Lorre’s Mom continues its march to the fall schedule. Greg Garcia has two horses in the race, a multi-camera comedy which is getting stronger buzz, and single-camera Super Clyde. On the multi-camera side, Friends With Better Lives continues to track well. On the single-camera side, the Robin Williams starrer The Crazy Ones is going strong, with the untitled Rob Greenberg in the mix, along with Bad Teacher and Rottenberg/Zuritsky.
The CW already kicked off the new series pickup season on Friday with an order to The Vampire Diaries spinoff The Originals. Vying to join it are two futuristic/sci-fi dramas, The Tomorrow People and The 100, and royal teen soap Reign. Just-renewed Beauty And The Beast has a potential new companion in another drama about an unlikely pair of star-crossed lovers, the human-alien romance Oxygen. For now, The Selection 2.0 seems to be following the trajectory of the original pilot unless it gets a last-minute boost.
Along with its broadcast brethren, TNT also is getting ready to greenlight new series as early as this week. Both pilots in consideration, Legends and The Last Ship, look hopeful to get the nod. Over at AMC, Turn is turning up the heat.
TV Editor Nellie Andreeva - tip her here.