We’re heading into the homestretch of pilot season as the broadcast networks are beginning to view and test the completed pilots, a process that will continue for about two weeks before the nets move on to making pickup and scheduling decisions. Based on buzz around town, here are the most talked-about pilots three weeks before the upfronts.
Related: PILOTS 2014: Early Buzz Edition
Every year, there is at least one pilot that comes out of nowhere and surprises everyone. We may have that this season in ABC‘s multi-camera Cristela. It was not even supposed to be a pilot. Developed at 20th TV-based 21 Laps/Adelstein for more than a year, the semi-autobiographical project co-created by and starring rising Latina stand-up comedian Cristela Alonzo was sold to ABC last summer with significant penalty. But when pilot-pickup time came along, ABC quickly loaded on high-profile sitcoms, including the 20th TV-produced The Winklers, starring Henry Winkler, and the untitled Kevin Hart project starring Romany Malco. Cristela didn’t get a pilot order, but the producers, who also are behind ABC’s Tim Allen sitcom Last Man Standing, decided to take the penalty, which I hear was about $500,000, and use it to shoot a presentation. (ABC called it “proof of concept.”) Cristela ended up filming a full-length pilot on the stage of Last Man Standing using that sitcom’s crew, led by director/co-exec producer John Pasquin, with very little time to rehearse and prep. Because it was supposed to be a presentation, Cristela was not budgeted to get a testing, but I hear 20th TV brass liked the finished product and had it tested. I hear the results blew expectations, with Alonzo, who has no previous acting experience, scoring higher than most stars in recent 20th TV comedy pilots, including Allen, New Girl‘s Zooey Deschanel and The Crazy Ones‘ Robin Williams.
ABC next season might have one of the most diverse slates of new series in recent memory, with several pilots garnering early buzz: Cristela; two black family comedies with the untitled Kevin Hart and untitled Anthony Anderson projects; the Shonda Rhimes-produced drama How To Get Away With Murder starring Viola Davis; and the race-themed American Crime. How To Get Away With Murder, written by Peter Nowalk, appears a lock on the drama side, with Ridley’s American Crime also heating up. Serialzed thrillers Secrets & Lies and Sea Of Fire are getting buzz, with limited series orders a possibility. Also getting early attention are two dramas with a young woman at the center: Agatha and Clementine. Word is that one of them might go to series, with Agatha having an edge at the moment. Then there is the potential ABC drama series that no one is allowed to talk about: Marvel’s top-secret Agent Carter.
On the comedy side, musical fairytale Galavant continues to look strong. The Kevin Hart and Anthony Anderson projects also are getting buzz, with at least one likely to get a pickup. (Between the two, Kevin Hart appears to be ahead at the moment.) Also talked about early on is Irreversible, toplined by former Friends star David Schwimmer, with the Michael Imperioli starrer Saint Francis and My Thoughts Exactly as possibilities.