Extended by the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, this is shaping up to be the biggest reading weekend for top broadcast executives who are going though stacks of pre-selected pilot scripts so the networks can kick pilot orders into high gear this week. While the nets are busy selecting the bulk of their 2016 pilot orders, here is what I hear about the number of pilots each net is looking to pick up:
I hear ABC is aiming to pick up 1-2 pilots less than last year both on the comedy and drama side, staying in the 10-11 range, but the number could creep up to 2015 levels. Last year, the network made 12 drama pilots and 13 comedy ones. With a pretty stable schedule, ABC doesn’t have that many needs, especially on the comedy side where its Wednesday and Friday blocks are solid, and it also has added a promising new asset with Fresh Off The Boat. Quantico was a strong addition on the drama side, with the network hoping one or more of its midseason dramas would work too.
Speaking of tight drama shelf space, with Blindspot, Chicago Fire and Chicago PD already renewed for next season, to be joined by Chicago Med and likely Law & Order: SVU and The Blacklist, NBC doesn’t have a lot of holes, with The Voice taking up a sizable amount of real estate and Sunday Night Football occupying Sundays in the fall. With midseason drama Shades Of Blue doing OK in the early going and a couple of new dramas yet to premiere, I hear NBC can order as few as 5-6 drama pilots. It already has the Dan Fogelman dramedy pilot and a series order to Taken. There is a bigger push in comedy, where NBC finally started to see traction with midseason entry Superstore (It also got some attention with summer newbie The Carmichael Show.) I hear NBC is looking to order 10-11 half-hour pilots, not counting the two developed though the Playground initiative. The network is way ahead of the pack with a series order to Mike Schur’s Good Place and five pilot orders, all to projects from big-name auspices.
CBS also already has a comedy series for next season, the untitled Kevin James multi-cam. I hear the network plans to order about eight more comedy pilots. On the drama side, CBS re-piloted legal drama Doubt in the offseason, and we may have another Big Bang Theory or Numbers scenario — where a reworked CBS pilot goes to series — as I hear Doubt is looking promising early on. That makes an already tight drama field (the network has very few holes to fill as evidenced by the fact that it has not found a spot for veteran Person Of Interest on the schedule yet) even tighter. I hear the network is looking to pick up eight more drama pilots. That would be on par with last year’s totals of nine drama and nine comedy pilots.
Fox will have needs as it will have 40 hours to fill taken up by American Idol’s final season this year. Last season, the network ordered only six drama pilots, five of which were made and all but one went to series. Fox brass are expected to pump up the volume so they have more choices this time with about eight drama pilot orders. Fox already has been very active with a series order to Shots Fired and three early drama pilot orders: to 24 offshoot 24: Legacy, Lee Daniels’ music coming-of-age project, and Dan Fogelman’s baseball-themed Pitch. On the comedy side, Fox is expected to stay close to last year’s eight-count, with 8-9 orders. Fox so far has ordered the Phil Lord and Chris Miller-produced time-travel comedy pilot, which has emerged as an instant front-runner based on a very well-received script, and also has the live-action/animated hybrid series Son Of Zorn.
All Big 4 networks are expected to order a mix of single-camera and multi-camera comedy pilots, with a focus on single-camera at ABC, NBC and Fox and likely stronger presence of multi-camera at CBS, which asked for a handful of its single-camera scripts to be converted to multi-cam.
Last year, the CW only ordered four pilots, one of which, Containment, went to series, joined by Showtime’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. (The CW also did a 3.5-minute presentation that became the new series Legends Of Tomorrow.) I hear the network is planning to return to its usual pilot volume with about 6-7 orders.
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