As we already pointed out, pilots have been very late this season from the very start, with late pickups and prolonged casting leading to late production and compressed post-production. That also has led to a delay in the pilot buzz this year, with sketchy feedback at best as many pilots are yet to be tested, seen by network executives or even completed, with multiple comedies still taping this week, explaining the limited titles mentioned here. As I always say, take all early buzz with a giant grain of salt as most of the assumptions are made based on, well, buzz, which is not scientific and not always reliable.
The very first and last pilots ordered by Fox this year seem to be garnering the most early buzz: drama Minority Report, based on the Steven Spielberg movie, and comedy Grinder starring Rob Lowe as TV lawyer playing a real one at the family law firm. It is shaping up to be a strong year for 1990s heartthrobs at Fox, with John Stamos‘ comedy, in which he plays a version of himself, also in serious contention. Also being talked about early on is 48 Hours ‘Til Monday, starring Sarah Chalke and Rob Riggle.
Drama-wise, besides Minority Report, which is considered a front-runner, medical drama Rosewood starring Morris Chestnut also is getting attention, as is the music-and-drugs-themed Studio City, toplined by Eric McCormack. Both could be possible companions for breakout hip-hop soap Empire. Fox doesn’t have a lot of drama needs, with Empire, Gotham and Sleepy Hollow already renewed, horror dramedy Scream Queens picked up straight-to-series and veteran Bones likely to return. The network has been building up a genre slate in the past couple of seasons with Sleepy Hollow and Gotham. It ordered three pilots with genre/sci-fi elements this season: Minority Report, Frankenstein and Lucifer. There has been little talk about the last two, with Frankenstein getting some attention.
Last year, the Shonda Rhimes-produced drama pilot How To Get Away With Murder was an early standout and kept the momentum to a series order and a spot on Thursday, joining Rhimes’ other two ABC series, Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. Following HTGAWM‘s breakout success, it’s no surprise that another Shondaland mystery drama, Jennifer Schur’s The Catch starring Mireille Enos, is among the ABC pilots getting early buzz. And just like last year, there is a Marvel project whose existence no one is allowed to acknowledge that likely will fly under the radar until landing on the ABC schedule. Last year it was Agent Carter, this time it is an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spinoff featuring characters from the original series. And word has leaked of yet another Marvel projects in the works with writer John Ridley.
Among the ABC drama pilots that are being talked about is biblical saga Of Kings and Prophets, which has brought in a showrunner, Chris Brancato, and I hear is setting up a writers room to work on scripts with an eye toward a straight-to-series order. Jenna Bans‘ mystery pilot starring Joan Allen also is getting early attention, as is 1970s Boston female cop show Broad Squad and the Paula Patton-starring Runner, with The Advocate and Boom beginning to get some traction.
On the comedy side, Chevy Chase‘s reteaming with Beverly D’Angelo as grandparents is garnering buzz. The two also play grandparents in the next installment of the National Lampoon’s Vacation film franchise, which comes out just as the new fall series will be kicking off their launch campaigns in late summer. Also pretty hot is the buddy NBA comedy, which also provides a lot of synergy opportunities as it is done with the support of the league whose broadcast home is ABC. Among the rest, I hear the Uncle Buck remake starring Mike Epps, multi-generational two-handers Family Fortune and Delores & Jermaine and marriage comedy The 46 Percenters being mentioned. I hear family comedy The Real O’Neals has been an internal favorite, though its fate might be entangled in a campaign waged by Christian organizations over the involvement of outspoken gay advocate Dan Savage. And then there is The Muppets presentation that is certainly in contention.
NBC already has two comedies with straight-to-series orders for next season: Telenovela starring Eva Longoria and a Coach follow-up toplined by Craig T. Nelson. The network is having another tough season in the genre with no half-hour breakouts and no veterans left to rely on as launch pads, meaning that it has to look for self-starters. Pilots getting early attention include several single-camera entries: — workplace comedy Superstore, supernatural Strange Calls, suburban comedy How We Live — as well the multicamera Suzanne Martin project and DJ Nash’s People Are Talking.
Two years after The Blacklist dominated NBC’s drama pilot field, another conspiracy thriller from the same producers is getting early attention, Endgame starring Philip Winchester and Wesley Snipes. Another thriller/action drama, Blindspot, starring Jaimie Alexander and Sullivan Stapleton, also is getting buzz, as is martial arts drama Warrior.
Dick Wolf appears well on his way to accomplish an unprecedented feat — building two consecutive full-fledged drama franchises, with the second Chicago Fire offshoot, Chicago Med, looking strong following solid ratings for the planted episode. With the last of the Law & Order series and the first two Chicago shows representing the majority of NBC’s series renewals to date, it’s hard to bet against Wolf. A pickup for Chicago Med would complicate things for NBC’s medical drama pilot Heart Matters and its sophomore series The Night Shift though NBC could presumably go with two medical series. Beyond that, also getting early mentions at NBC are couples dramas Love Is a Four Letter Word and conspiracy Game of Silence. And let’s not forget the straight-to-series FBI drama Shades of Blue starring Jennifer Lopez.
CBS brass appear to be high on their dramas early on, which will likely make for a fierce battle as the network has very few hourlong slots available. Both CBS medical pilots, LFE and Code Black, which underwent a last-minute casting change with Marcia Gay Harden taking over the lead, are getting buzz, along with legal thriller Doubt. Additionally, the Criminal Minds spinoff is considered a real contender. Two projects are getting some attention, in part because of their auspices/underlying property, David Shore and Bryan Cranston’s Sneaky Pete and the Bradley Cooper and Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci-produced Limitless. Kurtzman and Orci are behind CBS’ breakout freshman drama Scorpion, so the network will likely give consideration to another popcorn one-hour from the same producers.
I don’t have a good read yet on the two highest profile CBS hourlong titles, Supergirl and Rush Hour. None have made a splash in the early buzz but they were both late and, in case of Supergirl, require extensive post-production. There had been rumors about possible issues on Rush Hour as well as speculation anout Supergirl possibly moving to CBS sibling the CW, which appears completely unfounded, at least for the time being. And while both projects seem to be flying under the radar early on, they come from proven hitmakers, Greg Berlanti (Supergirl) and Bill Lawrence (Rush Hour) behind them.
Things are relatively quiet on the comedy front as CBS was very, very late this pilot season, so it is still filming comedy pilots this week. A couple of half-hour have been mentioned, including the single-camera Life In Pieces, a late spec buy, along with two projects from big-name comedy producers, Greg Garcia’s Super Clyde and Lawrence’s Tommy Johnagin.
The CW already renewed eight drama series, with a ninth, midseaosn entry iZombie, on track to join them. The network doesn’t have a a lot of needs, especially given the fact that there a big Arrow-Flash spinoff series on deck, likely for midseason. There hasn’t been much buzz yet on the network’s traditional pilots though I’ve heard the Marc Cherry-produced campy CIA high school drama Cheerleader Death Squad and Julie Plec’s Cordon mentioned.