If the broadcast development season were a reality competition show, we would now be in the final round where some 85 pilots are battling for spots on next season’s schedule. And while the winners won’t be known until the upfronts in May, here are the overachievers in the pilot stage of the competition.
Greg Berlanti — he killed it in his first development season at his new (old) studio home, Warner Bros. Television. Berlanti and his company Berlanti Prods. sold five projects to the broadcast networks. Four of them netted pilot orders: Guilty at Fox written by Marc Guggenheim, an Nicholas Wootton-written drama at CBS, Arrow at the CW, penned by Berlanti, Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg, and a comedy at CBS written by Berlanti and Greg Malins. And if that’s not enough, while working on his broadcast development Berlanti found time to write a cable spec, Political Animals, which just received a six-episode straight-to-series order by USA Network and is now casting alongside Berlanti’s broadcast pilots.
Aaron Kaplan — the one-man selling machine. Since founding his company, Kapital Entertainment, two-and-a-half years ago with his own money, the former WMA agent has landed 12 pilot orders while operating independently without the backing of a studio. Four of them came from the broadcast networks this season, all comedies: The Manzanies and the untitled Dan Fogelman project at ABC and Daddy’s Girls and Isabel at NBC. (Technically, there are 5 Aaron Kaplan broadcast pilots this season. The lit manager by the same name is executive producing the Adam Sztykiel ABC comedy pilot, and the matching names have created a lot of confusion and wrongly addressed emails.) Like Berlanti, Kaplan is casting a cable project along with his 4 broadcast pilots, Darren Star’s HBO comedy pilot Viagra Diaries starring Goldie Hawn. He also has several other projects in pilot contention, two upcoming series: ABC’s GCB and MTV’s The Inbetweeners, and a third one awaiting word on Season 2, Fox’s Terra Nova.
Mark Gordon, Marty Adelstein & Shawn Levy and Jamie Tarses. The Mark Gordon Co., Adelstein & Levy’s 21 Laps/Adelstein Prods. and Tarses’ Fanfare landed 3 pilot orders each this broadcast pilot season. The ABC Studios-based Mark Gordon Co., which has 4 series on the air, ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice, CBS’ Criminal Minds and Lifetime’s Army Wives, is behind 3 ABC pilots: dramas Americana and the Roland Emmerich project and comedy White Van Man. Additionally, the company has a cable pilot casting, the Showtime drama Roy Donovan starring Liev Schreiber. In its second year, 20th TV-based 21 Laps/Adelstein, whose first development season produced ABC’s solid freshman Last Man Standing, is fielding the untitled Karyn Usher drama pilot at Fox and comedies Little Brother at Fox and the Mandy Moore project at ABC. Sony TV-based Fanfare, which has 3 series on the air, ABC’s Happy Endings, TNT’s Franklin & Bash and TBS’ upcoming Men At Work, is shepherding CBS’ Baby Big Shot, NBC’s Hilary Winston and Fox’s cast-contingent Must Hire. Additionally, 3 Arts’ Howard Klein is an executive producer on 3 pilots, Greg Daniels’ Friday Night Dinner at NBC, Mindy Kaling’s Fox comedy and Melissa Rosenberg’s ABC drama Penoza. (In total, 3 Arts managers serve as exec producers on 6 pilots this season.)
Several pods are producing two pilots each. In his first season, the Universal TV-based company of former Brillstein Entertainment TV president Peter Traugott saw green light for dramas Midnight Sun and Do No Harm at NBC. Three Warner Bros. TV heavyweights, J.J. Abrams‘ Bad Robot, John Wells‘ JWP and Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage‘s Fake Empire have two pilots each: Revolution & Shelter (Bad Robot); NBC’s Bad Girls & Fox’s Prodigy Bully (John Wells Prods.) and the CW’s The Carrie Diaries and Cult (Fake Empire). Two of the top 20th TV pods, Chernin Entertainment and Imagine TV, also have two pilots each: Fox’s Ben Fox Is My Manny & CBS’ Nick Stoller (Chernin) and NBC’s Sarah Silverman and ABC’s How To Live With Your Parents (Imagine). NBCU-affiliated BermanBraun has Notorious at NBC and the Spike Feresten/Louis CK comedy pilot at CBS (plus Rewind at Syfy). Lionsgate TV‘s push in broadcast development this season also resulted in two pilots, ABC’s Nashville and NBC’s Next Caller Please. And Alon Aranya has an EP credit on two pilots based on formats he brought to the US, NBC’s Midnight Sun and ABC’s Penoza.
Berlanti is not the only multitasking showrunner this season. The New Adventures of Old Christine creator Kari Lizer saw both her NBC and ABC comedy scripts go to pilot. She is the only executive producer on the two projects and if they go to series, she plans to run both. The orders extended Lizer’s perfect pitch-to-pilot streak, with every project she has sold to date going to pilot. Lizer is one of 3 writer-producers to get multiple green lights this season for projects they have written by themselves. The others are The Nine co-creator KJ Steinberg and Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller. Steinberg wrote ABC’s drama pilot Gilded Lilys, executive produced by Shonda Rhimes, and her other ABC pilot script, Mistresses, received a straight-to-series order for summer 2013. Fuller wrote NBC’s Munsters reboot Mockingbird Lane and Hannibal. Neither was a standard pitch sale this season: Munsters was redeveloped from last season, while Hannibal came to NBC in November via a script-against-a-series-order deal with Gaumont International TV. Hannibal received a straight-to-series 13-episode order earlier this week, while production on the Mockingbird Lane pilot has been pushed to June because of casting issues. Additionally, Marc Guggenheim wrote the Fox pilot Guilty and co-wrote CW’s Arrow, executive producing both. Similarly, Jennifer Levin & Sherri Cooper executive produce the CW’s Beauty And The Beast, which they wrote, and CBS’ Applebaum, which they co-wrote with Ayelet Waldman. Claudia Lonow also executive produces two pilots: ABC’s How To Live With Your Parents For The Rest Of Your Life, which she wrote, and multi-camera comedy Counter Culture, penned by Stephnie Weir.
It is a strong year for prolific directors helming multiple pilots. Scott Ellis is topping the list with three multicamera comedy pilots: ABC’s off-cycle pilot The Manzanis, NBC’s Kari Lizer female buddy comedy and NBC’s Jimmy Fallon male buddy comedy. Two veteran multicamera directors, who often juggle multiple pilots, James Burrows and Pamela Fryman, are each directing two this year: CBS’ Greg Malins/Greg Berlanti project & Max Mutchnick and David Kohan’s Partners (Burrows), and CBS’ Friend Me & NBC’ Daddy’s Girls (Fryman).
While directing two multicamera pilots in one season is not that unusual given the format’s simpler production, helming two single-camera pilots within the same pilot cycle is very unusual. And to have three directors helming two single-camera pilots each in one season, as is the case this year, is pretty much unprecedented. Jason Winer is directing Fox’s Rebounding and NBC’s 1600 Penn, Ken Kwapis is directing NBC’s Friday Night Dinner and The Sarah Silverman project, and Shawn Levi is directing Fox’s Little Brother and ABC’s Mandy Moore comedy.
There are 7 actors who are doing double duty this year, starring in pilots they wrote or co-wrote: Roseanne Barr, Sarah Silverman, Mindy Kaling, Rebel Wilson, Josh Gad, Mike O’Malley and Ben Falcone. The last 3 were not originally attached as actors but signed on to star upon request from the networks/studios.
On the studio side, 20th TV’s comedy team, led by Johnny Davis, and Warner Bros. TV’s drama department, overseen by Clancy Collins White and her boss Susan Rovner, excelled, landing 13 and 14 pilots, respectively, more than any other studio departments around town. 20th tally is particularly impressive given the fact that it came from 4 networks and ties the studio’s all-time record.
Note: This is a Pilot Season edition to my annual Overachievers Of The Upfronts report, which returns in May.