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The Challenges Of Bypassing Pilot Season

By | Wednesday January 22, 2014 @ 7:32am PST
Nellie Andreeva

foxripThe Times They Are a-Changin’ in the broadcasting TV business. We’re in the first leg of pilot season but it feels a little bit like May — there are pilot orders, but there are also a ton of series orders, and everything in-between. The signs were already there in the fall — an unusually high volume of series pickups and early pilot orders heading into the official pilot season. And then Fox kicked off the annual winter TCA press tour last Monday with the announcement that it was abandoning pilot season. All other networks weighed in on the subject, and while none joined Fox’s Kevin Reilly in his R.I.P. Pilot Season proclamation, most have already been implementing some aspects of the strategy of gearing development towards series and trying to shift pilot production outside of the traditional January-April window when around 100 pilots vie for the same director, acting and showrunner talent.

Related: Fox’s Abolishment Of Pilot Season: Practical Guide To How Will It Work

But the changes, especially with ambitious drama projects that have been put on series track for production off-season, are creating challenges, exacerbated by the fact that those changes were not introduced at the beginning of the development cycle but in the middle of it, sending studios scrambling to adjust. There are several drama projects that are earmarked for series orders but are not slated to film until after the end of pilot season. Fox last week gave drama Runner (working title), from sibling 20th TV, what it calls “an off-cycle commitment for further investment towards series production” this summer. At least one other drama, Warner Bros. TV/Jerry Bruckheimer’s family thriller Home, is expected to get the same order, which involves the hiring of a small writing staff and penning additional scripts and a bible in anticipation of a series order. NBC on Sunday gave a 10-episode order to Uni TV’s dark Wizard Of Oz drama Emerald City, which too is setting up a writers room but will likely cast after May.

lascreenings The model gives big in scope serialized projects the extra time they need to get their ambitious premises on track but it leaves networks without footage to show to advertisers at the upfronts. And worse, it leaves studios with no pilot to show to international buyers at the LA Screenings that immediately follow the May upfronts. Foreign pre-sales are crucial for studios, especially for expensive, high-end dramas that they take a big financial risk on deficit financing. Scripts and a bible are great, but buyers want to see tape or at the least, know which actors are in the series. I hear some studios are considering shopping the finished pilots to individual international broadcasters, which is a laborious task and it may also put studios at a disadvantage as buyers could be already stocked up for the season whereas they come to LA in May with open slates and wallets. Another option is what ABC did for its Once Upon A Time spinoff last year where the network shot a 19-minute presentation that was screened for advertisers in New York in May and for international buyers at the LA Screenings. But that would involve casting the project, or at least a number of roles during pilot season, something Fox and other networks are trying to get away from to avoid the fierce competition for talent. Read More »

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TCA: Fox’s Kevin Reilly Declares His Network Is Abandoning Pilot Season

By | Monday January 13, 2014 @ 11:22am PST
Nellie Andreeva

Fox chairman Kevin Reilly opened his executive session with a R.I.P. sign “Fox  Pilot Season 1986-2013″ and stated that the network will not adhere to the traditional pilot season starting this year. “We are going to be bypassing pilot season,” he said, later referring to the old system as “a welfare state.” “The broadcast development system was built in different era with three networks and is highly inefficient. It is nothing ripshort of a miracle talent can still produce anything of quality in that environment,” which he said includes ordering a ton of pilots, then screening them and making a decision over a two-week period, with the producers of the newly picked up series tasked with delivering a series on the air in six weeks.
RelatedWill Broadcast Pilot Season Paradigm Finally Be Broken & Other TV Industry Questions For 2014
Reilly pointed to Lost co-showrunner Damon Lindelof’s comments last week that the slow-cooking development season in cable, where he works now on his HBO series Leftovers, is superior to broadcast, and said he fully agrees with him. “Every first-season show needs a course correction and reshoting,” he said, noting that one of cable’s biggest hits, FX’s Sons Of Anarchy, recast its lead and reshot a large chunk of the pilot, arguing that the broadcast model would’ve … Read More »

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What Just Happened? Analyzing Fox’s Pickup Decisions & Possible Fall Schedule

By | Wednesday May 11, 2011 @ 9:40am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Note: This story was originally posted late last night.
It is deja vu all over again. Exactly three years ago, Fox pulled a shocker by canceling an OK-rated, promising freshman workplace comedy with a big star, leaving its producers and just about everyone else shocked. That series was the Kelsey Grammer starrer Back to You. Tonight, the network did it again with Breaking In, headlined by Christian Slater. It was a rare solid live-action comedy on a network that hasn’t had much success in the genre since, well, the promising start of Back To Me in 2007. I hear the explanation Fox is giving tonight is similar to the one the network used three years ago, essentially the classic “it’s not you, it’s me.”

In the case of Breaking In, word is that Fox has decided to go with all-female-skewing comedies, thus the pickups for The New Girl, starring Zooey Deschanel, and I Hate My Teenage Daughter, starring Jaime Pressly and Katie Finneran, and the cancellation of the Slater-Bret Harrison Breaking In. (For both Slater and Harrison, this marks the third consecutive series they have toplined to go bust, following Slater’s My Own Worst Enemy and The Forgotten, which ran for one season each, and Harrison’s The Loop and Reaper, which lasted for two short seasons each.) Read More »

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PILOT SEASON: The Bad Boys Are Back!

Nellie Andreeva

From Celebrity Rehab stars to pilot leads — that’s the career trajectory for Eric Roberts and Tom Sizemore, who landed major roles on pilots this season: Roberts is the star of ABC’s dance drama Grace, and Sizemore co-stars opposite Ethan Hawke in Fox’s Exit Strategy. (Sizemore was a cast member of the third season of VH1′s Celebrity Rehab in 2009; Roberts was on the reality series last year.) Add to them Don Johnson, star of Michael Patrick King’s NBC pilot A Mann’s World, who also has a history of substance abuse and brushes with the law. In a pilot season overshadowed by the spectacle of current TV bad boy Charlie Sheen, it is nice to see the bad boys of yesteryear getting redemption and another chance at stardom. Let’s hope Sheen will get that too in a pilot season a decade from now …

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