T-minus one month until the start of the broadcast upfront week, we are launching Deadline’s annual Pilot Buzz feature. As usual, the first installment is very incomplete as many pilots are sill filming, and some have not even started production. We will be adding feedback on more pilots in the upcoming Pilot Buzz editions. For now, here are some of the early standouts that people are talking about.
ABC’s Reese Witherspoon-produced drama pilot Broken is getting buzz in the early going. The Meaghan Oppenheimer-written project was an early favorite at the script stage, and it got a further boost when Anna Paquin signed on as the lead, a ruthless Dallas divorce attorney. Just like Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. three years ago, spinoff pilot Marvel’s Most Wanted is considered a sure bet for a series order. (Marvel’s Agent Carter was a straight-to-series order off of a one-shot). Two pilots this season — ABC drama The Jury and NBC comedy Trail — are looking to capitalize on the current interest in docuseries and docudramas chronicling legal cases. Both are getting some early buzz. Also mentioned at ABC are Kevin Williamson’s Time After Time and The Death of Eva Sofia Valdez. Again, it is very early, with a few pilots yet to start production, including Shondaland’s Still Star-Crossed. I hear the Romeo & Juliet sequel pilot won’t be completely finished before the upfronts but still will be in contention for next season, possibly for a short order. ABC has been expected to put a stronger emphasis on procedurals post-regime change, so we likely will see other procedural drama pilot emerging as contenders alongside Broken. All ABC drama pilots are now full-length, with high-concept drama Spark being upgraded from a pilot presentation to pilot.
On the comedy side, the Justin Long-starring kids soccer show Dream Team is getting early buzz, with Chunk & Bean and The Second Fattest Housewife in Westport getting some attention. Off-cycle order Downward Dog has been getting a good response after some tweaks, and I hear the project, from Legendary and ABC Studios, has assembled a small writers room. Its premise — a show about a talking dog — stands out on ABC’s comedy pilot slate this season, which is dominated by family comedies. Also unusual is the live-action/CGI Guarascio/Goldberg pilot, from Sony TV and ABC Studios, which has a mini writers room with the goal to complete four scripts by upfronts. That is done as a contingency because, due to its complex post-production, the project will have to go into production earlier than others if it is being picked up to series. And based on acting talent, no ABC comedy pilot rivals Pearl, toplined by Candice Bergen.
Given its legacy, hourlong Fox pilot 24: Legacy — an offshoot from the long-running real-time drama — looks pretty strong for pickup early on. Also having an early momentum on the hourlong side are horror-themed The Exorcist, which has been well liked at Fox since the script stage; Lee Daniels‘ music-themed drama, which underwent some reshoots, as well; Dan Fogelman’s baseball drama Pitch; and possibly Lethal Weapon. Fox already has two dramas with series orders for next season, Shots Fired and the Prison Break event series, making for a pretty tight drama field.
Comedy-wise, the time-traveling Making History, produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, which was the first half-hour pilot picked up by Fox this season, continues to be toward the lead of the pack, with small-town comedy The Mick, from the Chernin brothers, also getting attention.
Departing NCIS co-star Michael Weatherly might not be on the sidelines for long, because Bull, CBS’ procedural drama pilot, in which he plays the lead character based on Dr. Phil, is garnering heat. Off-cycle legal drama Doubt, a re-do of last season’s pilot, continues to track well, and Training Day sequel series also is looking promising early on. There has been some positive early buzz on Jason Katims’ medical drama Bunker Hill, with some speculating that CBS might choose between that and freshman medical drama Code Black, both co-productions with outside studios. I haven’t heard much on MacGyver, which underwent a slew of behind-the-scenes changes, or Drew, which has been meeting with writers, though both are procedurals with big, pre-sold titles, something CBS values when building a schedule.
On the comedy side, the two starring vehicles with big commitments, I’m Not Your Friend, starring Matt LeBlanc and the untitled Kevin James project, are getting most of the early buzz and look solid. Beyond that, the Stephnie Weir/Greg Garcia pilot, Superior Donuts and Furst Born are being mentioned as possibilities.
Off-cycle network pilots often fade by the time pilot season heads into the final stretch, but this year has been an exception. Another example is Dan Fogelman‘s NBC dramedy pilot, which is going strong. The latest Chicago spinoff, Chicago Justice, is considered a no-brainer. It’s too early for the recently greenlighted The Blacklist spinoff, but it also should be considered an instant contender. Beyond that, there has been little chatter, with two soaps, the Cruel Intentions sequel and the legal Miranda’s Rights, mentioned. (Launching a primetime soap was among NBC’s priorities this development season.) Also, word is that the time-travel drama pilot Time is coming together better than expected.
As we mentioned, NBC’s docu-style trial comedy pilot Trail is getting buzz, with the Marlon Wayans starrer Marlon, Vladimir Caamaño’s Bronx Tale and the DC workplace comedy Powerless garnering some attention. Mike Schur’s Good Place already is picked up to series, while it’s been hard to get a good read on the three pilots that are also backed by top NBCU talent: the Matt Hubbard/Mike Schur, Amy Poehler/Charlie Grandy and Tracy Wigfield/Tina Fey/Robert Carlock projects, but it safe to assume that the group will yield at least one strong contender.
Several CW projects from big-name producers are getting early attention. That includes Riverdale from Greg Berlanti, the paranormal drama from Kevin Williamson and the Mars project produced by Frank Marshall (inspired by the tale of the Lost Colony and likely boosted by the success of The Martian). Frequency also is considered a possibility.