Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
The pilot process has been a running theme at TCA since Fox’s Kevin Reilly said his network plans to scrap the tradition. The question loomed large again at today’s panel on the new ABC drama The Black Box. Producers were asked whether the show benefited from a straight-to-series episode order.
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Pros and cons, said EPS Amy Holden Jones and Ilene Chaiken, who appeared on the panel with director Simon Curtis and Kelly Reilly, who stars as brilliant and bipolar neuroscientist struggling with the urge to forgo medication in order to get the creative “highs” characteristic of her disorder. Chaiken said the pilot process can make a creative team feel “constrained and competitive” and called going straight to series “a much more free way to make television. We are really being given wide berth to tell a story that’s outside of the box.”
Jones also liked the lack of competition but added there’s a downside to missing the usual time gap between completing a pilot and getting the greenlight for production. Earlier in the session, Chaiken confessed that the series is only halfway through production on the first episode of the 13-episode order.
The no-pilot procedure, the producers said, caused this unusual approach to presenting the show at TCA: Instead of getting to view a pilot, TV journalists were presented instead with a script for the first episode. “It’s why you don’t have a show to look at,” Chaiken said. “But we’re very lucky.”