PILOT SEASON: Walls Of Vertical Integration Fall Down As Orders For Projects From Rival Networks’ In-House Studios Skyrocket

By | Tuesday January 28, 2014 @ 5:15pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

Primetime Pilot PanicIt was 1999, the height of the cold war among the broadcast networks. Following the 1995 elimination of the fin-syn rules, which allowed networks to begin producing their own series, ABC, CBS and NBC started building up their in-house production arms with one mandate –  to churn out product the nets would own. Cross-pollinating was considered almost heretic. Then in 1999, an ABC-based company, Jerry Bruckheimer TV, didn’t fold after getting a “no” from the network on its CSI pitch, instead setting the forensic drama at rival CBS. But vertical integration got in the way, with ABC deciding it wouldn’t be prudent to subsidize a rival by deficit financing the newly picked-up series — a $1 billion blunder for Disney as CSI went on to become a global hit. The last-minute pullout by ABC that left CBS scrambling put extra chill on the networks’ willingness to buy from the in-house production company of another network. (Fox sibling 20th Century Fox TV had long established itself as a major studio selling to everyone.)

Related: The Challenges Of Bypassing Pilot Season

ABC_Studios__121005011545Fast forward to 2014 when a whopping 10 projects from ABC Studios (5), Universal TV (3) and CBS TV Studios (2) have received series or pilot orders at rival broadcast networks so far, with pickups still underway. Here is how we got here. The ice among Universal_Television_2011the broadcasters started to thaw a little in the mid-2000s. ABC’s in-house studio landed another hit on CBS with drama Criminal Minds, which it stayed with, and NBC’s production arm fielded a couple of short-lived series including Worst Week for CBS and Sons And Daughters for ABC. During the 2011 pilot season, there were two pilots from ABC’s, CBS’ or NBC’s production arms at CBS-Television-Studios-Turquoise-Background-paramount-pictures-corporation-19259077-720-540rival networks: Weekends At Bellevue at Fox from Universal TV’s predecessor Universal Media Studios, and Ringer at CBS from ABC Studios. (Fox and UMS had an existing relationship via Fox’s hit drama House, sold by then-independent Universal Television just before its merger with NBC, while ABC Studios pulled out when Ringer moved to CBS sibling the CW.) Read More »

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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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PILOT SEASON: How Many Orders Is Each Broadcast Network Eyeing This Year

By | Tuesday January 21, 2014 @ 3:32pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

primetime-panic-2I don’t think I’ve seen this before — by the end of the Winter TCA, two broadcast networks, NBC and Fox, are almost done with their pilot orders. Of course, the orders this year are not just for pilots as the networks — especially Fox, and to some extent NBC — are mixing things up with series pickups and commitments and pilot “prototypes.” Here is where things stand.

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

fox-tv-logo__130727010919-275x119Fox has 10 projects with a series order — or a variation of it — in production for next season: two event series, Wayward Pines and Gracepoint; 6-episode comedy Mulaney; 13-episode dramas Hieroglyph and Backstrom; Glenn Gordon Caron/Ben Affleck’s The Middle Man, which has five scripts written and is casting; a few pilots that are designed to go to series, including comic book drama Gotham and Spanish series adaptation Red Band Society, which are opening writers rooms, and comedies Fatrick and Cabot College (formerly untitled Matt Hubbard). Additionally, the network has serialized thrilled drama Runner, set against the U.S.-Mexico war over weapons and terrorism, on a series path with an order for additional scripts and a bible for off-cycle production, with another complex serialized drama, the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced family thriller Home, expected to join it. The network also has a cast-contingent comedy pilot, Here’s Your Damn Family, produced by Johnny Galecki. Fox is expected to make a couple of more orders, with comedy Weird Loners said to be on the pickup runway and Will Forte’s Last Man On Earth and Dead Boss among those in contention.

Related: TCA: Kevin Reilly Declares Fox Is Abandoning Pilot Season

NBC_logoNBC has ordered eight comedy pilots, two straight-to-series comedies (Tina Fey/Robert Carlock, Mr. Robinson), eight drama pilots and the 10-episode straight-to-series Wizard Of Oz project Emerald City, which, like Runner and Home, will set up a writers room and start working on backup scripts and a bible before going into production off-season. Another big-swing drama, John Glenn’s immaculate conception project, too has been given an order for backup scripts in lieu of a pilot order. With several event and miniseries also on tap (The Slap, Rosemary’s Baby), NBC is pretty much set on the drama side, with another pickup or two a possibility, and likely will order a couple of more comedy pilots, with the adaptation of the Tom Hanks movie The Money Pit and a Joe Port-Joe Wiseman half-hour among the hot prospects. Read More »

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

By | Monday January 13, 2014 @ 8:06pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

Fox is switching to the cable development model. That is the takeaway from today’s announcement by Fox Chairman Kevin Reilly that the network will be bypassing pilot season this year and going forward. I sat down with Reilly to discuss how the changes will be implemented and what it means for writers, actors and agents.

Related: TCA: Kevin Reilly Declares Fox Is Abandoning Pilot Season

First, “we are abandoning pilot season, not pilots,” Reilly stressed. “Pilots still are a helpful tool, especially on the comedy side where the alchemy is fragile, and you really Kevin Reilly 1need the casting to inform your decision on the project.” But going forward, “we will be ordering pilots geared towards series,” he said. That means picking up fewer pilots, which is the cable model. “Instead of making 10 pilots hoping to get one series on the air, I’d like to make it more 1-to-1 ratio,” Reilly said. That means fewer pilot roles for actors but a better chance for those who get pilots to get on the air. The switch also means likely buying fewer scripts, Reilly said.

Related: Kevin Reilly Stands Up For Broadcast Vs. Cable, Defends New Comedy ‘Dads’, Reflects On Mike Darnell’s Departure

This will be a transitional year as Fox has a stockpile of scripts, some of them with big commitments. “There will be a few more drama pilots ordered in the next month or so, with another half dozen pushed forward for the next cycle with further investment,” Reilly said. That involves a pilot order plus backup scripts and/or funds for a writing staff, or, in some cases, just extra scripts and a bible for a straight-to-series consideration. On the comedy side, “we’ll have a leaner slate, we will order a few more pilots.” There is no mandate for any of those fox-tv-logo__130727010919-275x119to be ready in May for fall consideration, though, if magic strikes and a pilot comes quickly and knocks it out of the park, it could make it on the 2014-15 schedule. Expected to be on the schedule are Fox’s current pilots, drama Gotham and comedies Fatrick and Cabot College (Matt Hubbard), with Reilly expected to formalize their series orders next month. With those three, plus comedy series Mulaney and drama series Hieroglyph and Ben Affleck’s The Middle Man, there will be no much shelf space for new series anyway, especially as Reilly said he wanted to bring back most of the network’s current series and only has 15 hours of primetime versus 22 for the other major nets.

Related: 2014 Fox Pilots
Read More »

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Fall Status Report: Solid New Dramas, Soft Comedies, Where Do Networks Stand, Does Tracking Matter, Will NBC Keep Must See TV

By | Wednesday November 13, 2013 @ 7:03pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

Seven weeks into the 2013-14 season, the dust has started to settle, the strongest new shows have been renewed, the biggest duds have been cancelled, and the borderline performers have been getting a mix of both. Some anticipated time slot wars materialized, like the Tuesday 8 PM hour where incumbent NCIS and newcomers Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Originals all have been competitive, and some didn’t, like the hyped Blacklist-Hostages showdown, which turned to be a lopsided match. Which leads us to one of the lessons of this fall, that pre-launch tracking is not that reliable.
Until the very start of the fall season, CBS’ Hostages was tracking on par with NBC’s The Blacklist. But when ratings for premiere night were in, Blacklist more than doubled Hostages‘ demo tally. While boosted by DVR viewing, Hostages never became the breakout hit it was tipped to be.

Related: Fall 2013 Freshman Series: Time Slot Gainers and Slackers

What has mattered in a big way this fall are lead-ins, even with DVR penetration at 48%. NBC’s Blacklist and hot sophomore drama Chicago Fire have been helped tremendously by The Voice. CBS’ new Thursday comedies The Millers and The Crazy Ones owe their well being (and back orders) to The Big Bang Theory. When Big Bang switched to a repeat, the newbies’ fortunes plunged. (list of all new fall shows with their status after the jump)

On the surface, a whopping nine new comedy series have been given back orders on the Big 4 networks (all but ABC’s Super Fun Night and NBC’s Sean Saves The World have received full-season pickups), along with NBC’s The Michael J. Fox Show, which had a 22-episode order, vs. three new dramas, including the Season 2 pickup for Fox’s Sleepy Hollow. But the three dramas – Blacklist, Sleepy Hollow and Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. — are the freshmen that have shown breakout potential this fall while comedies had another off year. That is not terribly alarming to network brass as some comedy hits have taken time to grow, such as Cheers, Seinfeld and more recently The Office, The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother. Problem is that we haven’t seen much of that in the past couple of years. Instead, there have been a ton of comedies that started promisingly (like 2 Broke Girls and Suburgatory) and then lost their way or started off soft and never went to another level before the cancellation ae fell on them after 1, 2 or 3 seasons, like ABC’s Happy Endings and Don’t Trust The B—- In Apt 23, NBC’s Whitney and Fox’s Ben & Kate.

There has been an increase in the comedy volume put out by the networks in the past couple of years. That, combined with the lack of half-hour breakouts, has led to many but weakened comedy blocks. We have the most two-hour comedy blocks on the Big 4 — five — in a decade. Read More »

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Adaptation Of British Comedy ‘Dead Boss’ Gets Put Pilot Commitment At Fox

By | Monday September 9, 2013 @ 3:41pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: Fox has handed a put pilot commitment to single-camera prison comedy Dead Boss, from Warner Bros TV and Aaron Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment. An adaptation of the BBC3 series created by Sharon Horgan and Holly … Read More »

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ABC Nabs Comedy From ‘Awkward’ Creator Lauren Iungerich With Pilot Production Commitment

By | Tuesday September 3, 2013 @ 6:19pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: In her first her broadcast development cycle after departing her MTV series, Awkward creator Lauren Iungerich has commanded one of the biggest comedy commitments this year. Damaged Goods, a single-camera comedy created/executive … Read More »

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ABC Cancels ‘How To Live With Your Parents’, ‘Body Of Proof’, ‘Red Widow’, ‘Malibu Country’

By | Friday May 10, 2013 @ 5:52pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

This a costly cancellation for Disney-ABC. Despite OK ratings and a financial windfall for sibling ABC Studios from international sales, ABC pulled the plug on procedural Body Of Proof after three seasons. The network is replacing it with … Read More »

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SHOCKER: ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ Gets Pass At CBS, Likely To Be Shopped Elsewhere

By | Friday May 10, 2013 @ 5:50pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

This has got to be one of the most surprising moves this season: I’ve learned that CBS has passed on the Beverly Hills Cop reboot from Shawn Ryan and Eddie Murphy. It is likely that … Read More »

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ABC’s Bubble Freshmen: Who Will Make It?

By | Thursday May 9, 2013 @ 10:19pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

At the networks’ upfront presentations, they usually tout their freshman successes. Last year, ABC brought out onstage the casts of breakout freshman dramas Once Upon A Time and Revenge, while CBS built its presentation around 2 Broke Girls. This year, ABC, which normally brings only 1-2 casts to the upfronts, is going with the cast of sophomore Scandal (plus veteran Modern Family, whose trip is paid for by USA as the cable network will showcase the comedy’s syndication rollout). Scandal‘s presence is completely justified as the Shonda Rhimes drama is that rare show that made the leap from an inauspicious start with a 7-episode run at the very end of last season to a bona fide success and a pop culture fixture in Year 2.

But its presence also underlines the fact that, unlike last season, ABC does not have a single breakout freshman series that has been a slam dunk for renewal. NBC has Revolution, CBS has Elementary, Fox has The Following, and the CW has Arrow — all of which received early pickups. ABC is heading into its renewal decisions tomorrow with its entire freshman class on the bubble. The one first-year show that appears most likely to get the nod is country drama Nashville. With a great pedigree, creator Callie Khouri and star Connie Britton, Nashville launched to critical praise and OK ratings. But it’s had a rocky freshman season, with the show going through growing pains and struggling with its creative direction as well as the ratings. I’ve heard accounts of tension between co-producers ABC Studios and Lionsgate and other behind-the-scene issues, including star Britton being unhappy with the experience. But in the end, most problems seem to have been resolved, and Nashville, which at one point looked unlikely to continue, now likely will be on the schedule next season. In addition to the solid response from critics (Britton is a major awards contender), Nashville draws important young viewers and also generates sizable revenue from digital music downloads. The only other freshman ABC drama that is still alive, Red Widow, is not expected to come back.

Read More »

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PRIMETIME PILOT PANIC: Rumor Mill

By | Wednesday May 8, 2013 @ 11:28pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

It was a busy day in pre-upfront broadcast network land, with Fox deciding the fate of all of its pilots (nine picked up to series, six dead) and NBC narrowing down the field by passing … Read More »

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Primetime Pilot Panic: Broadcast Networks Are Very Happy With Their Comedy Pilots; How Much Should Bubble Shows Worry?

By | Friday May 3, 2013 @ 10:14pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

After the fall failed to produce a single breakout new comedy series this year, the networks went back to the drawing board and doubled their comedy efforts. That has resulted in a glut of well-received comedy … Read More »

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PRIMETIME PILOT PANIC: Screening Edition

By | Thursday May 2, 2013 @ 11:11pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

It’s pilot screening week, with the networks’ executives huddled in rooms watching the fruits of their development teams’ labor. The networks are still going through the process, with testing results just starting to pour in, but here is the latest pilot buzz I’ve compiled from various sources around town.

Related: Complete Primetime Panic Pilot Listings

NBC had the breakout new drama of last fall, Revolution, and now the network has what could be the strongest drama pilot this season with Blacklist. I hear Blacklist and Crisis (aka untitled Rand Ravich) are considered front-runners on the drama side at NBC, buoyed by very strong testing. In fact Blacklist might be the highest-testing drama pilot at NBC in about a decade, and I also hear the male lead played by James Spader is one of the highest-testing characters ever for producing studio Sony TV. Also in the running are the J.J. Abrams-produced Believe; TV star vehicles Ironside, with Blair Underwood, and I Am Victor, with John Stamos; as well as medical drama Night Shift (aka After Hours). Also possibilities are late deliveries The Sixth Gun and the Chicago Fire spinoff. Read More »

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PRIMETIME PILOT PANIC: Which Pilots Look Good At ABC

By | Friday May 11, 2012 @ 11:50am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

ABCUPDATE FRIDAY AM: I’ve started hearing that drama pilot ZERO HOUR is heating up again and looks promising for a series order.

PREVIOUS THURSDAY 8PM: With NBC and Fox pretty much done with their new series pickups, ABC, which … Read More »

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PILOT PANIC: Last-Minute CBS Updates

Nellie Andreeva

With CBS’ pickup for the frontrunners on the drama side, Person of Interest, and comedy side, Two Broke Girls, the next tier of contenders are rising to frontrunner status. The two locks on the hourling side seem … Read More »

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Primetime Pilot Panic: ABC & CBS Updates

Nellie Andreeva

With Fox done with its series orders and NBC pretty much done too, attention is focusing on ABC and CBS. ABC is expected to make its series pickups tomorrow. Here is the latest buzz on the two networks:

ABC

Assured … Read More »

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PRIMETIME PILOT PANIC: ‘Chuck’, ‘Rules’ To Return And Other Bubble Show Updates

By | Wednesday May 11, 2011 @ 3:30pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

He’s done it again! Escape artist CHUCK, which has successfully cheated cancellation for the past two years, will be coming back to fight again next season. I hear a deal is being finalized for a 13-episode order to the NBC spy dramedy. (The other Warner Bros.-produced, yet-to-be-renewed NBC series, David E. Kelley’s HARRY’s LAW, has long been considered a good bet to return). It is unclear what CHUCK‘s renewal bodes for NBC’s other big bubble Monday show, LAW & ORDER: LA. After getting a rare second chance with a complete reboot that has largely failed, it is unclear what more NBC can do with the show. But as they say, never bet against Dick Wolf. PARENTHOOD, which has done solid business in its Tuesday 10 PM slot, is expected to return, while THE EVENT is not. Also probably out is comedy OUTSOURCED despite a fan campaign to save the workplace show.

Last year, CBS went for a bloodbath, canceling seven series, including some decent performers like The Ghost Whisperer and The New Adventures of Old Christine. The network, which is yet to find a series that does as well as Ghost Whisperer in the Friday 8 PM slot, is not expected to go for such a dramatic overhaul this year. I hear a deal is almost done for RULES OF ENGAGEMENT to be renewed as CBS seems to be summoning all of its veteran comedies as flagship Two and a Half Men faces an uncertain future. There is even talk about possibly bringing $#*! MY DAD SAYS sans star Jonathan Sadowski. Even long-forgotten legal dramedy THE DEFENDERS is not completely dead. As one insider noted, the show starring Jim Belushi and Jerry O’Connell did better than any other CBS series in the Friday 8 PM season this season. Things don’t look good for midseason comedy MAD LOVE, though CBS brass loooove Jason Biggs, while CBS’ other midseason entry, crime drama spinoff CRIMINAL MINDS: SUSPECT BEHAVIOR, is at 50/50 as its performances has been largely disappointing given its pedigree. As for CSI: MIAMI and CSI: NY, word is that the entire CSI franchise, a big off-network and international seller, is safe for next season. Read More »

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PRIMETIME PILOT PANIC: 3RD HOT LIST

By | Saturday May 7, 2011 @ 1:01am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

How great is it not to have Mother’s Day on the Sunday before Upfront Week this year but a week earlier? Let’s enjoy it as it will get pretty crazy pretty fast. There is speculation that Fox may pick up its hot comedy pilots THE NEW GIRL and FAMILY ALBUM as soon as Monday or Tuesday. Two other notes before we check out the standings at each network heading into pre-upfront week. It’s shaping up to be a bitchy development season as both pilots with “Bitch” in their titles — ABC’s GOOD CHRISTIAN BITCHES and THE BITCH AT APT. 23 – are read-hot and certain to land on the schedule (obviously with new titles). And it looks like the first major Comcast-NBC synergy move will find its way to primetime as NBC appears high on the pilot from E! star Chelsea Handler. Here is the rundown network-by-network:

With only one freshman drama, Body of Proof, having a shot at returning next season, ABC is rumored to pick up as many as 6-7 new hourlong series. And word is the network’s brass like so many of their pilots, they may have a hard time narrowing down their choices. Of the drama pilots screened today, only procedural PARTNERS, which had been cold for a while, didn’t do well. Two pilots that had been garnering mixed early reaction — Marc Cherry’s HALLELUJAH and the Count of Monte Cristo-inspired soap REVENGE — both did better today, with HALLELUJAH still drawing mixed reaction in some rooms but also getting strong approval in others. And the Phillip Noyce-directed REVENGE got solid feedback, though some question the long-term prospect of the central revenge storyline. Paranormal Activity-style thriller THE RIVER, helmed by Jaume Collet-Serra, was liked by most who call it “cool.” On the comedy side, APT. 23 was a hit, described as being laugh-out-loud funny. Two years after he directed the pilot for Modern Family, APT. 23 helmer Jason Winer has done it again. And WORK IT, the cross-dressing comedy that had been getting positive buzz in the past few days, did well today too. The UNTITLED TIM ALLEN multicamera comedy will not screen until Monday, but its buzz is so strong that it is considered a frontrunner, with some even speculating that ABC may use it to launch another comedy block, possibly on Tuesday. Also slated to screen next week are two drama pilots with solid early buzz, the magical tale ONCE UPON A TIME and 1960s airline soap PAN AM, as well as the DC drama GEORGETOWN that has been awfully quiet. Here is a recap of the rest of ABC’s pilots that have screened so far: Read More »

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Primetime Pilot Panic: Screenings Updates

Nellie Andreeva

The marathon pilot screenings at the broadcast networks are in full force. While they are rarely the deciding factor in the networks’ final series pickup decisions, they help solidify early standouts’ frontrunner positions and sometimes breathe life into pilots that might have been written off too soon. Here are some … Read More »

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