A second consecutive season failed to produce a breakout new comedy series, that despite the fact that there was excitement at a number of broadcast networks last spring about their comedy pilots. Most of the excitement this time seems focused on drama pilots, so don’t be surprised to see more drama-heavy schedules at some of the networks, like NBC. With pilots screenings wrapping, here is one last check on what projects are being buzzed about as we head to next week, when the bulk of new series orders will be made.
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The Jennings clan from FX’s The Americans soon might be joined by another family of U.S.-based Russian spies, The O’Connors. NBC’s drama pilot Allegiance (aka Coercion), about a Russian sleeper cell, has been gaining momentum and is considered a prime contender for a pickup. Also hot is another serialized drama, Traffic-like conspiracy thriller Odyssey, which already had been on a series track with backup scripts written. Additionally, very much in the running are two female starring vehicles, State Of Affairs with Katherine Heigl, which is in The Blacklist mold of a complicated central character in a serialized/procedural setting, and the lighter The Mysteries of Laura toplined by Debra Messing. Allegiance and State of Affairs are actively hiring showrunners. An early standout, DC Comics-based Constantine has lost some steam but still is a possibility, maybe for NBC’s Friday genre block. Family saga Salvation is in the mix, zombie drama Babylon Fields is considered a long shot, while futuristic drama Tin Man appears unlikely.
Rhyming couple comedies Marry Me and A To Z continue to look strong. I hear Marry Me could be allowed to start making staffing offers as early as Monday. Despite some softer testing results, 1960s space race comedy Mission Control continues to enjoy strong support at the network and is considered a potential critical darling. Gay-straight parenthood pilot One Big Happy is very well received, but the concern is how it would mesh with the rest of the network’s comedies, which are single-camera. (NBC has no multi-cam series currently on the air, and One Big Family is the only such pilot, though a multi-camera presentation toplined by rising star Jerrod Carmichael has some buzz). Several starring vehicles are in the mix: Old Soul, toplined by Natasha Lyonne; the Rob Lowe-Rob Riggle comedy The Pro; Kate Walsh’s Bad Judge; Ellen More Or Less; and Mary-Louise Parker’s Feed Me, which may be a bit too cable-y for a mainstream broadcast network. Love Is Relative and Two To Go don’t appear to have a real shot. The network already has series orders for the Tina Fey/Robert Carlock comedy starring Ellie Kemper, whose pilot might need some tweaking, and the Craig Robinson vehicle Mr. Robinson.
Could CBS go to advertisers with three spinoff series and a reboot of an old series for next season? That sure seems like a possibility 10 days before the network’s upfront presentation at Carnegie Hall. The network always was expected to pick up at least one of its planted drama spinoffs, NCIS: New Orleans and CSI: Cyber. NCIS: New Orleans starring Scott Bakula made its case first, garnering solid reaction for the two-episode arc on the mothership series. The Patricia Arquette-starring CSI: Cyber, a departure from the forensic roots of the CSI franchise that focuses on cyber crime, has been a late bloomer, picking up steam in the past few weeks and getting good feedback from fans after the spinoff episode aired this week. Indicating serious intentions for picking up the show, former CSI: NY showrunner Pam Veasey is being brought in as showrunner. While the momentum seems to be on the side of CSI: Cyber, sources note that it is possible to see both spinoffs picked up, likely one for fall (NCIS) and one for midseason (CSI). Actually, if CBS doesn’t go with both, it would be leaving a lot of money on the table as both crime franchises are owned by the network and are global hits with lucrative output deals around the world that the new series would be part of. Spinoffs aside, the Tea Leoni-starring Madam Secretary is considered a lock. The untitled Kevin Williamson thriller also looks solid, possibly as a limited series. Another drama possibility in a crowded drama field is the high-octane Scorpion. (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 is solid enough to be considered a lock. Matthew Perry’s The Odd Couple has issues, but it is a famous title headlined by a big TV star and the only CBS comedy pilot fully owned by the network, so a pickup is likely. With five comedy series already renewed and at least one more (Likely Friends With Better Lives, if it holds on Monday), two new comedies might be all CBS announces at upfronts, with a couple of more comedy pickups left for later. They could include Bad Teacher, if it recovers from the big second-week drop. Pilot-wise, the multi-generational The McCarthys has fans and has been meeting with writers. The untitled Jim Gaffigan still might be in contention, with Good Session also mentioned, while Tom Papa’s More Time With Family has been cooling off.
At ABC, the Shonda Rhimes-produced How To Get Away With Murder, starring Viola Davis, has cemented its status as a sure thing, with a number of other pilots in the running. John Ridley’s race-themed American Crime is dark by ABC standards but is well liked and is in very serious consideration, possibly for a limited run. Alien drama The Visitors came in strong (and scary). Serialized thriller Secrets & Lies is in the running, and medical drama Warriors has been largely well received. There also are the female-centered procedural Agatha and another drama with a female lead, the supernatural Clementine. Neither is perfect, but both are compelling enough to be considered for a pickup. The immortal-medical-examiner drama Forever has been well received, though between it, The Visitors, Clementine and possibly Marvel’s Agent Carter, how many new genre series would ABC pick up? Sea Of Fire has been cooling off, though it’s not out. Exposed has been quiet though screened OK, just like Jeff Lowell comedy, while Richard LaGravense’s Dangerous Liaisons has been mixed.
On the comedy side, Cristela continues to be the little pilot that could, looking solid after screenings with co-creator/star Cristela Alonzo showing some broad appeal. The Michael Imperioli starrer Saint Francis is peaking at the right time. The untitled Kevin Hart and Anthony Anderson family comedies also continue to be very much in the running, with Nahnatchka Khan’s Fresh Off the Boat, Emily Kapnek’s Selfie and the untitled Brian Gallivan project all solid and An American Education a possibility. Praise for Dan Fogelman’s Galavant has not been universal, but the musical fairy tale is believed to have enough support for an order, possibly for a limited run. David Schwimmer-starring Irreversible has cooled off, though Schwimmer has a lot of fans.
The recent cancellation of Almost Human confirmed Fox brass’ faith in their drama development, with all three pilots likely to get a spot on the schedule. That includes Batman prequel Gotham, which just hired John Stephens as executive producer; hip-hop themed Empire, which is actively interviewing showrunners, and coming-of-age hospital drama Red Band Society starring Octavia Spencer. Fox also has two dramas already picked up straight to series for next season, Backstrom and Hieroglyph.
On the comedy side, Sober Companion, starring Nick Frost and Justin Long, has been well received, with Matt Hubbard’s college ensemble Cabot College and the Jane Krakowski vehicle Dead Boss also in the running. No Place Like Home is no-go, with Fatrick unlikely. The network has straight-to-series Mulaney, Last Man On Earth and Weird Loners.
At the CW, there finally has been some separation in the pack, though all six pilots still have a shot. The odds are not bad at all as the network is expected to pick up four or five new series. Of the six pilots, there is one virtual lock: the DC-based The Flash, which is on the schedule. The other DC adaptation, iZombie is strong, with sci-fi saga The Messengers and soap Jane The Virgin considered solid contenders. Things appear less certain for terrorist/family drama Identity and the Supernatural spinoff Bloodlines, though both are in the mix.
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