We’ve reached the point when the fate of pilots is out of the hands of their creators and into the hands of network executives. In the next two weeks, the execs will rely on testings, internal screenings and (occasionally) their gut to pick a couple of dozen pilots that will join the schedule next season. CBS, as usual the last of the broadcast networks to start greenlighting pilots in January, surprisingly was the first to kick off its screenings today. The rest will join next week. Here is the latest buzz on pilots at the five broadcast networks as well as TNT and TBS, which also will be picking up new series to present during upfront week.
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Things are tight as usual at CBS, which might not pick up more than 3 new drama series, 4 tops. At least one of them will be a spinoff. The network has in contention planted NCIS and CSI spinoffs. Both are part of CBS-owned franchises that are extremely popular internationally, with another series guaranteed to bring a financial windfall for the company as it would be folded into existing output deals. Of the two, the New Orleans-set NCIS offshoot is a traditional spinoff that carries much of the DNA of the original, even more so than existing spinoff series NCIS: LA. Meanwhile, CSI: Cyber is a departure from the forensic nature of the CSI franchise, dealing with the darker subject matter of cyber crime. It is the riskier of the two, but it also has the potential to break new procedural ground the way the original introduced forensic science to crime dramas. Both projects are fronted by proven TV stars: Scott Bakula (NCIS) and Patricia Arquette (CSI). NCIS: New Orleans already aired and is considered a very solid contender, while the Cyber episode of CSI runs this coming week. The network would wait to see the reaction to the episode before moving to the next stage of decision-making. Of the non-spinoffs, The Tea Leoni-starring Madam Secretary is considered a front-runner. The untitled Kevin Williamson thriller tested well. I hear it is dark, but it comes from the creator of The Following, so that can’t be a surprise. A limited order in line of The Following is a possibility. Nick Santora’s Scorpion and Nikki Toscano’s Red Zone also are in the mix, possibly vying for one slot if there is a slot left. The Wall Street drama seems to be cooling off. (Vince Gilligan-David Shore’s Battle Creek has a straight-to-series order.)
On the comedy side, the How I Met Your Mother spinoff How I Met Your Dad appears very strong, with Matthew Perry’s The Odd Couple also gaining momentum. Standup-driven vehicles More Time With Family (Tom Papa) and the untitled Jim Gaffigan remain in contention, with the multi-generational The McCarthys as a dark horse. Both The McCarthys and Jim Gaffigan are re-dos, with The McCarthys a favorite of CBS brass last season.
At ABC, the Shonda Rhimes-produced How To Get Away With Murder, written by Peter Nowalk, continues to look like a lock on the drama side. John Ridley’s race-themed American Crime is said to be very dark by ABC standards but is in consideration, possibly for a limited run. Serialized thriller Secrets & Lies is still going strong, with Sea Of Fire hitting a bump but back in contention with some tonal adjustments. Female-centered procedural Agatha is solid. Industry insiders are questioning whether ABC would pick up more than one new genre-bending series, especially if Marvel’s top-secret Agent Carter gets in the mix. That would pit the supernatural Clementine and alien drama The Visitors against each other. Medical drama Warriors has been quiet and is considered dark compared to the soapy Grey’s Anatomy. Richard LaGravenese’s Dangerous Liaisons also had been quiet, though some preliminary buzz has started to percolate over the past few days.
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On the comedy side, Cristela continues to be the Cinderella story so far this pilot season, with star Cristela Alonzo getting high marks from executives and test audiences. Also going strong is Dan Fogelman’s musical fairy tale Galavant. The untitled Kevin Hart and Anthony Anderson family comedies also continue to be in the running, with at least one likely to get a pickup. The untitled Brian Gallivan project starring Molly Shannon has come in above expectations and is very much in the mix, along with the Michael Imperioli starrer Saint Francis, David Schwimmer-starring Irreversible and Emily Kapnek’s Selfie.
At NBC, DC Comics-based Constantine continues to enjoy strong support. Two female starring vehicles, The Mysteries of Laura toplined by Debra Messing and State Of Affairs with Katherine Heigl also are in the running (thought the latter needs a showrunner). Sleeper-cell drama Coercion also is in the mix and has been actively talking to potential showrunners. Reaction to family saga Salvation and spooky zombie drama Babylon Fields has been mixed, while futuristic drama Tin Man has cooled off.
About a Boy, already assured a second-season renewal, might have company in the romantic comedy genre next season with two pilots, A To Z and David Caspe’s Marry Me, looking solid. Also very much in contention are the Natasha Lyonne starrer Old Soul and the Rob Lowe-Rob Riggle comedy The Pro. There has been a hiccup for early front-runner, 1960s space race comedy Mission Control, which had been a favorite of NBC brass. I hear its testing has been mixed. Meanwhile, Kate Walsh’s Bad Judge, which had not been as high on the execs’ list, has received a boost from strong testing. Of the rest, Ellen More Or Less is in the mix, Mary-Louise Parker’s Feed Me is considered a dark horse, with reaction to One Big Happy said to be mixed, odd couple comedy Lifesaver slowing down and Love Is Relative not looking good. The network already has series orders for the Tina Fey/Robert Carlock comedy starring Ellie Kemper and the Craig Robinson vehicle Mr. Robinson.
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This is not encouraging news for bubble drama Almost Human, whose renewal chances had dimmed recently — all three Fox drama pilots are very strong contenders for spots on the schedule. That includes Batman prequel Gotham, which just hired John Stephens as executive producer; hip-hop themed Empire, which I hear has impressed advertisers and has been getting high marks for its music; and coming-of-age hospital drama Red Band Society starring Octavia Spencer, which has been a creative darling, with writers vying to staff on it. With two dramas already picked up straight to series (Backstrom and Hieroglyph) and four renewed (Bones, Sleepy Hollow, The Following and Glee), the network’s drama dance card for next season seems very full.
Still no breakouts on the comedy side this season. Matt Hubbard’s college ensemble Cabot College appears likely to land a series order, joining straight-to-series Mulaney, Last Man On Earth and Weird Loners. Also in the mix are Sober Companion, starring Nick Frost and Justin Long; the Jane Krakowski vehicle Dead Boss and possibly Fatrick, whose reworked pilot tested well. No Place Like Home is soft.
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Not a lot of movement at the CW, where all six pilots still seem to be in the mix. Last year, the network picked up five new series. It could conceivably order as many this time, giving this year’s pilots very good odds. Of the six, the DC-based The Flash and iZombie continue to look like locks. Sci-fi saga The Messengers, soap Jane The Virgin and terrorist/family drama Identity also have some heat, while the Supernatural spinoff Bloodlines will get its test on Tuesday when the episode airs.
At TNT, all drama pilots also seem to be in contention, with Ed Burns’ 1960s cop drama Public Morals and the Kyra Sedgwick-produced reincarnation drama Proof considered front-runners. At TBS, Steve Carell’s crime drama spoof Tribeca starring Rashida Jones is considered a lock, with David Kohan and Max Mutchnick’s barbershop ensemble heating up.
TV Editor Nellie Andreeva - tip her here.