There is exactly one month to go until the broadcast networks begin to unveil their 2013-14 schedules to advertisers during premiere week. The first completed pilots have just started to come in, but we’re still a couple of weeks away from getting a more realistic picture of the this year’s pilot standings. For now, the info we share is based on buzz (thus the headline), and early insights from table reads, tapings, dailies and rough cuts. So don’t forget to pick up a large grain of salt before reading this. Now that you have been warned:
Chuck Lorre has done it again. Not that his clout alone was not enough to make his newest pilot Mom an instant frontrunner for the fall schedule the day it was greenlighted by CBS in December. Still, for CBS’ peace of mind, they were hoping the show would come together well. The network brass just got their wish with a rousing table read. The only remaining question surrounding Mom is where it will land on the schedule. I hear Monday 8:30 PM as a likely possibility. It makes a lot of sense, as How I Met Your Mother is already a strong launching pad that most recently helped establish 2 Broke Girls last year. Next season, the veteran comedy is expected to get extra sizzle from the fact that it is going into its final season that will finally reveal who the mother is. Plus, HIMYM and Mom will likely share sensibilities as they share the same director, Pam Fryman. As I wrote in my first early pilot buzz post, CBS brass appear very pleased with their comedy development this season, so if they pick up more multi-camera pilots, Friends With Better Lives is hot, and the Greg Garcia multi-camera pilot starring Will Arnett is coming off a solid table read. Competition is shaping to be as cutthroat on the single-camera side where CBS will likely opt for at least two shows to form a single-camera block. Greg Garcia’s Super Clyde was an early standout, with Crazy Ones boasting an in-form Robin Williams. The Bad Teacher remake and Irish American family comedy The McCarthys also seem to be in the mix, with the long-brewing Rob Greenberg pilot and Rottenberg/Zuritsky garnering positive very early buzz.
The picture is still pretty murky on the drama side where most pilots appear in contention ahead of delivery and testing. Beverly Hills Cop continues to look like a sure bet, with the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced conspiracy thriller Hostages also strong. While not as flashy as its predecessors and eliciting somewhat of a mixed reaction, the NCIS: LA spinoff still is considered a solid bet for the schedule. With so few slots available, it will be a fierce battle among the number of other contenders.
The Andy Samberg-starring Mike Schur/Dan Goor cop comedy has kept its momentum and is rumored for a possible early series order. Another male-centered comedy, which already received an early series order, Dads, had an imperfect first taping but Fox brass continue to be bullish on the project, which will undergo some tweaks. Two other male-skewing pilots also continue to get buzz, Army-based Enlisted and dating comedy I Suck At Girls starring Christopher Meloni. On the female/family comedy side, Us And Them and To My Future Assistant are possibilities.
Drama-wise, Rake, starring Greg Kinnear and directed by Sam Raimi, continues to look like a frontrunner. There is speculation that Gang Related and The List, both headlined by Latino actors, may be competing for a slot, with Alex Kurtzman/Bob Orci/Len Wiseman’s Sleepy Hollow possibly competing with Inhuman, from the Fringe duo of J.H. Wyman and J.J. Abrams. After a quiet start, Delirium, based on popular young-adult books, could be a dark horse though it skews a bit younger.
No major shakeups in the early standings at ABC where corporate synergy-friendly titles look strong. The first pilot from Disney-owned Marvel, Joss Whedon’s S.H.I.E.L.D., is all but assured a spot on the schedule. Big Thunder, based on the Disney ride, is a major contender. The Once Upon A Time spinoff, set in Wonderland, is expected to gain momentum as shooting on the short presentation just wrapped. Also hot is the McG-directed Romeo and Juliet-esque soap Venice, along with Gothic soap Gothica. Influence is getting notices for the chemistry between leads Christian Slater and Steve Zahn, with Betrayal, Reckless, The Returned and Murder In Manhattan also in contention. Doubt has been quiet because of its late casting but it comes from House creator David Shore.
On the comedy side, the Cullen Bros. project starring James Caan is red-hot. Also strong are Adam Goldberg’s How The Hell Am I Normal and the David Spade starrer Bad Management, while the untitled John Leguizamo comedy is gaining momentum. Several female-driven comedies are in the mix, including Keep Calm And Karey On, Middle Age Rage, early pickups Trophy Wife starring Malin Akerman and Super Fun Night starring Rebel Wilson as well as ensemble Mixology.
Will Julie Plec have three series on the air next season? Over the past week, The Tomorrow People, an adaptation of the cult British sci-fi series, has emerged as a major contender at the CW whose brass are also about to see a cut for The Vampire Diaries planted spinoff The Originals, which has enjoyed great buzz and is considered a shoo-in. Tomorrow People comes from Plec, executive producer of the already renewed Vampire Diaries and The Originals, and Greg Berlanti, who too is assured at least one series on the CW next season, the recently renewed Arrow. Another sci-fi-tinged drama, The 100, is also going strong. The royal Reign and The Selection are getting early praise for their visuals as both are filmed in Europe. (There was a production hiccup on Reign, chalked up to the long distance between Hollywood and Ireland where the pilot is filmed, which has been resolved.) But can CW pick up two projects about kings and queens? CW president Mark Pedowitz has long touted his idea for limited orders (Cult was the first series he ordered under that model). So if Reign and The Selection both pass muster, it is possible that they get limited-run orders to alternate in a “royal” time slot. With so many high-concept/fantasy/sci-fi pilots (human-alien love story Oxygen also is in the running), the “normal” Blink and Company Town look like the odd men out in the early going.
The network is moving full steam ahead with the planted Chicago Fire spinoff, which is now filming and is likely to factor into NBC’s series pickup decisions. The comic book-driven The Sixth Gun, executive produced by Carlton Cuse, continues to get strong early buzz, along with the James Spader-Megan Boone starrer The Blacklist. Also in contention is the Pete Berg-directed Bloodline, the J.J. Abrams-Alfonso Cuaron Believe, the Charlize Theron-produced Hatfields & McCoys, the untitled Rand Ravich project and early pickup After Hours. Despite the behind-the-scene shakeup with executive producer Katie Jacobs exiting, legal drama I Am Victor starring John Stamos continue to have supporters at NBC.
On the comedy side, the untitled Sean Hayes/Victor Fresco pilot continues to go strong. Also getting solid early buzz are the Bill Lawrence-produced Undateable and About A Boy. Additionally, talked about are family/parent comedies The Gates, Family Guide and Welcome To The Family and the Krysten Ritter-starring workplace vehicle Assistance. One of the two Greg Daniels-produced pilots — the untitled Robert Padnick project and the Craig Robinson project — is expected to go, with the Robinson one having a slight edge at the moment.
Let’s not forget that the broadcast networks are not the only ones that are currently assessing pilots. The two completed TNT pilots, popcorn dramas The Last Ship, produced by Michael Bay, and Legends, produced by Howard Gordon, both appear strong after some reshoots and are in contention for the network’s adventure-themed Sunday night anchored by Falling Skies.
The network appears happy with its first scripted pilot, Rita, based on a Danish series and starring Anna Gunn. Bravo had been planning to launch its first scripted series in the fourth quarter. It originally ordered two scripted pilots, with the second, The Joneses, not going forward.