Since Fox’s House ended its run three years ago, ABC veteran Grey’s Anatomy has had the broadcast-TV medical drama field all to itself, with no serious challengers. That may change next season when four new medical dramas, NBC’s Chicago Med and Heartbreaker, CBS’ Code Black and, to some extent, Fox’s Rosewood join the fray.
NBC has been the most aggressive in the arena, picking up both of its medical pilots — the Chicago Fire spinoff Chicago Med and Heartbreaker — as well as renewing The Night Shift for a third season. While Chicago Med is expected to be a Dick Wolf-style procedural, Heartbreaker, like Grey’s, is a soapy drama featuring sexy young surgeons. CBS, which also commissioned two medical drama pilots, Code Black and LFE, has ER-set Code Black starring Marcia Gay Harden, while Fox’s Rosewood is using a crime procedural framework for the lead character, a private pathologist played by Morris Chestnut.
We’ve never had so many superheroes populating broadcast television. After the last couple of seasons successfully introduced DC’s Arrow, The Flash and Batman (via Gotham) as well as Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., we have big new additions, DC’s Supergirl at CBS and superhero team-up Legends Of Tomorrow at the CW, both from Arrow and The Flash‘s Greg Berlanti, as well as DC/Vertigo’c Lucifer at Fox. Add to that Marvel’s Agent Carter, which will return for a second season, Marvel’s superhero series package for Netflix, which kicked off with Daredevil, and DC’s Titans TNT pilot, and we get a very crowded superhero TV universe.
The movie remake frenzy during pitching carried over to pilot season with five pilots based on features, three of which, Fox’s Minority Report, CBS’ Rush Hour and Limitless and ABC’s Uncle Buck, went to series. (Additionally, Code Black was based on a feature documentary.)
There have been successful movie-to-series adaptations (M.A.S.H., Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Friday Night Lights) and not so successful, (The Firm, Crash, About A Boy), but there has never been a season with so many series based on features of this caliber and popularity.
Add together the big movie titles, the well known superheroes and other famous characters featured in new dramas, like Frankenstein in Fox’s The Frankenstein Code, and we probably have the freshman broadcast drama class with the most built-in awareness, featuring the highest number of new series viewers would instantly recognize.
Thriller/mystery dramas, a genre that enjoyed success this season with shows like ABC’s How To Get Away With Murder and Secrets & Lies, are back, dominating ABC and NBC’s new slates. ABC has The Family, The Catch and Wicked City, a crime anthology with a season-long case in the vein of American Crime, Secrets & Lies and True Detective. Fox has sci-fi thriller Minority Report, while NBC has Blindspot, The Player and Game of Silence. (Shoutout to Turkey, whose formats landed their first two US pilot orders this season — Game Of Silence and Runner — and first series order.)
Despite the critical success of Jane The Virgin, hourlong dramedies/lighter dramas were not in fashion this upfront season. ABC’s Mix, NBC’s The Curse Of The Fuentes Women and Love Is A Four Letter Word and the CW’s Cheerleader Death Squad all got a pass. (Though the CW surprised by picking up Showtime musical comedy pilot Crazy Ex-Girlfriend to make into an hourlong show.)
Meanwhile, only one big-scope soapy drama in the wake of the blockbuster success of Fox’s Empire, ABC’s untitled Pete/Fishburne (fka Boom). And, despite the shaky ratings performance of NBC’s AD: The Bible Continues, ABC is betting on the biblical saga Of Kings and Prophets.