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.
Related: PILOTS 2014: More Early Buzz
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.)