It’s pilot screening week, with the networks’ executives huddled in rooms watching the fruits of their development teams’ labor. The networks are still going through the process, with testing results just starting to pour in, but here is the latest pilot buzz I’ve compiled from various sources around town.
NBC had the breakout new drama of last fall, Revolution, and now the network has what could be the strongest drama pilot this season with Blacklist. I hear Blacklist and Crisis (aka untitled Rand Ravich) are considered front-runners on the drama side at NBC, buoyed by very strong testing. In fact Blacklist might be the highest-testing drama pilot at NBC in about a decade, and I also hear the male lead played by James Spader is one of the highest-testing characters ever for producing studio Sony TV. Also in the running are the J.J. Abrams-produced Believe; TV star vehicles Ironside, with Blair Underwood, and I Am Victor, with John Stamos; as well as medical drama Night Shift (aka After Hours). Also possibilities are late deliveries The Sixth Gun and the Chicago Fire spinoff.
On the comedy side, About A Boy, Welcome To The Family, Family Guide (aka DJ Nash), Assistance, the Sean Hayes/Victor Fresco project, and the Bill Lawrence-produced Undateable all appear very strong candidates to join the already-ordered Michael J. Fox series, which I hear has been well received. NBC’s comedy bench is pretty deep, with the untitled John Mulaney and Craig Robinson as dark horses.
No major changes in the comedy pilot standings at Fox. Guy police/Army comedies Goor/Schur and Enlisted are going strong, along with romantic comedy Friends And Family and workplace Assistants, with I Suck At Girls, which has not screened, as a wild card as I hear star Chris Meloni is testing well. I hear Fox might pick up as many as five new comedies. The network already has the straight-to-series Dads, whose reworked pilot with Giovanni Ribisi has gotten thumbs-up. Rake, Gang Related, Sleepy Hollow and the Abrams-produced Human seem to be the strongest contenders on the drama side, where the network is rumored to be picking up about three new series.
At CBS, comedy development appears to be stronger, making for a cutthroat competition. The network is expected to pick up more new half-hour series than last year, when it only ordered two — possibly around four. That still would leave strong contenders out. Chuck Lorre’s Mom is likely to get an early pickup. Greg Garcia’s multi-camera comedy has not screened yet but is believed to be a front-runner. Also very strong is younger-skewing multi-camera Friends With Better Lives. The question is whether CBS would pick up three (or more) multicamera series. On the single-camera side, the Robin Williams starrer The Crazy Ones and the untitled Rob Greenberg are getting very strong buzz. There is also a group of several other half-hour pilots that are in the mix, with one or two of them capable of pulling off an upset, including The McCarthys, Bad Teacher, Rottenberg/Zuritsky, Tad Quill and Super Clyde.
On the drama side, the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced Hostages and Shawn Ryan’s Beverly Hills Cop are the two pilots that seem like locks, with a slew of others in the mix, including The Advocates, the NCIS: LA spinoff — which I hear might undergo some tweaking/recasting if it gets a nod — Backstrom, Second Sight, Intelligence, The Surgeon General and The Ordained. It seems to be a year of few standouts but a lot of solid hourlong pilots at CBS.
It is shaping up to be a strong season for producers David Zabel and Aaron Kaplan at ABC. Both of Zabel’s ABC drama pilots, Lucky 7 and Betrayal, have been well received. I hear Betrayal has gained momentum and is tracking stronger than ABC’s other soapy drama pilot, Westside. Don’t forget Marvel‘s S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Once Upon A Time spinoff; the latter has not been delivered yet, but both are fully expected to make the schedule. Also yet to be screened is Big Thunder, based on the Disney ride, which seems to have lost some momentum but is still very much in contention. Meanwhile, gothic soap Gothica, which had cooled off, might be back on track. The Returned has come in strong, with Reckless OK. Among the character procedurals, Murder In Manhattan is solid, with Influence in the mix, though it is deemed more suitable for cable, and Killer Women and Doubt yet to be seen. On the comedy side, the untitled Adam Goldberg project is a front-runner, with the Kaplan-produced Bad Management and Back In The Game (Cullen Bros.) strong. Also hot are female-starring vehicles Trophy Wife (Malin Akerman) and Rebel Wilson’s Super Fun Night, along with ensemble Mixology. Spy and Pulling, which also is produced by Kaplan, are possibilities though not a sure thing. Middle Age Rage and John Leguizamo’s King John have yet to be seen but both appear in contention.
At the CW — which already ordered the Vampire Diaries spinoff The Originals, a pilot set in the future (the sci-fi The Tomorrow People), and one set in the past (the royal teen soap Reign), look very strong. Another futuristic drama, The 100, also is in contention, with Oxygen and The Selection also as possibilities. In the end, the CW likely will stick with programming that doesn’t stray from its brand, which I hear was the issue with the unorthodox Blink that was otherwise well received.
TV Editor Nellie Andreeva - tip her here.