Pilot screenings at the broadcast networks are wrapping, and we are heading into the final stage of the decision-making process when executives pore over scores of testing and research data and evaluate how shows would fit into their lineups against the shows’ potential financial benefits for the company (via ownership) to select the new 2016-17 scripted series. As we head into the weekend — BTW, how nice is it to not have Mother’s Day on the Sunday of upfront week for the first time? — here is one more edition of Pilot Buzz.
Designated Survivor starring Kiefer Sutherland had been wowing ’em at ABC, and just solidified its straight-to-series order with a formal pickup. Designated Survivor producer Mark Gordon Co. is looking to go 2-for-2 with its legal drama pilot Conviction, which is in serious contention, alongside The Death of Eva Sofia Valdez, starring Gina Torres, and the Mark Geragos-inspired Notorious. Reaction to Marvel’s Most Wanted has been solid to mixed, and there had been a talk for potential tweaking, so the project is in consideration but not a shoo-in. Shondaland’s Romeo & Juliet sequel Still Star-Crossed, which is still filming, will only have a presentation ready for the upfronts but is considered a possibility for midseason. John Ridley’s female PI drama Presence came in OK, but a renewal for Ridley’s praised ABC series American Crime appears more likely. Kevin Williamson’s time-travel drama Time After Time also has been getting an OK feedback and has a shot. Reaction to serialized murder-trial drama The Jury and Texas drama Broken has been divided, though The Jury has fans and is considered a possibility.
Related 2016 ABC Pilots
In comedy, Speechless, about a family with a special-needs kid, continues to get stronger. Pearl, toplined by Candice Bergen, also is well positioned. Off-cycle talking-dog pilot Downward Dog continues to be a conundrum, getting great reception while also raising questions about its long-run prospects but still in contention. The Goldberg-Guarascio live-action/CGI pilot is getting props for Jenna Elfman’s performance and the seamless animation work, so it is a possibility, though the animated character might not be as essential to the story as some might have expected. Three early standouts — Chunk & Bean, the Justin Long-starring Dream Team and The Second Fattest Housewife in Westport — are in the running, with multi-cam Fluffy Shop. Somewhat surprisingly, I hear so is Toast from Shondaland, which had issues but came in above expectations and has a shot, possibly with some tweaking of the wedding rehearsal dinner premise.
It took two and a half years for The Exorcist series project to land at a network when Fox took it in with a pilot order in late January. Three and a half months later, the reboot of the horror franchise is in strong contention for a series order, looking to join recently picked up 24: Legacy and Lee Daniels’ music-fueled Star, a possible companion to his hip-hop-flavored hit Empire. Also in the running are two cop shows: Lethal Weapon, based on the movie franchise, which is considered a relatively safe bet, and A.P.B., which is a little iffier after pleasantly surprising many. Dan Fogelman’s baseball drama Pitch was an early standout — it was submitted and approved for a tax credit before its pilot green light. There had been some concern about the tone of the show, which might be a little softer than the typical Fox drama, and there have been questions about its future direction, but the pilot has been well received and remains in contention.
Related 2016 Fox Pilots
Comedy-wise, the early front-runners — time-traveling Making History, produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, and small-town comedy The Mick, from the Chernin brothers — continue to be going strong and looking like a lock. The rest of the field had been murky, with Chris Case‘s interracial family comedy mentioned sometimes, but there might very well not be a third pickup.
I hear Jason Katims’ medical drama pilot Bunker Hill has solidified its positions with strong testing results, said to be the strongest for a CBS pilot this year. That might affect the renewal chances of freshman medical drama Code Black, which like Bunker Hill also is a co-production and appears to be on the wrong side of the bubble at the moment. The Training Day sequel and the Dr. Phil-inspired Bull, starring Michael Weatherly, are still in serious contention though I hear their testing might have skewed too male. Training Day comes from WBTV, which also has bubble freshman Supergirl, so the two pickups presumably could get linked. Military drama Four Stars had flown under the radar but is garnering some buzz and might be a sleeper. Joan Rater and Tony Phelan’s early favorites Doubt and Drew have been relatively quiet, with Doubt getting stronger buzz. As for MacGyver, despite the numerous challenges faced by the pilot, I hear CBS brass still likes the title and might consider the project for midseason or redevelopment.
Related 2016 CBS Pilots
On the comedy side, the Kevin James multi-camera sitcom appears to be a lock. The Matt LeBlanc pilot has turned out OK, which, combined with a big star and big penalty, makes a strong case for a pickup. Beyond that, the single-camera family comedy Furst Born and workplace sitcom The Great Indoors have been getting buzz, along with young ensemble My Time/Your Time, which could be a companion for The Big Bang Theory, while Superior Donuts seems to be back in the mix.
Some tough decisions are coming for NBC on the drama side, where the network has the straight-to-series Taken prequel (plus Emerald City), in addition to the high-profile spinoffs Chicago Justice, and the Blacklist offshoot, and it seems to like all of its drama pilots. Dan Fogelman’s dramedy This Is Us had been an early front-runner, and it continues to look strong. The pilot is from 20th TV, so on the slim chance it doesn’t make it on NBC, Fox likely would snatch it. Of the rest, the time-travel drama Timeless has come in very strong, with the studio, Sony TV, prepping if-come deals for writers. Of the other three — Cruel Intentions, Miranda’s Rights and Midnight, Texas — Cruel Intentions is said to have internal support, while Miranda’s Rights tested well, I heard.
Related 2016 NBC Pilots
In comedy, the multi-camera Marlon Wayans starrer Marlon continues to solidify its front-runner status. Trial mockumentary Trial & Error, the DC workplace comedy Powerless and the Tracy Wigfield/Tina Fey/Robert Carlock project look promising in trying to join Mike Schur’s Good Place, which already has a series order. Beyond that, things have been sketchy, with Sebastian and Dumb Prince as long-shot possibilities.
We may have a repeat of 2014, when the two CW pilots were a comic-based drama from Greg Berlanti (Flash) and a telenovela adaptation produced by Ben Silverman and directed by Brad Silberling (Jane the Virgin). This time, it is Berlanti’s Riverdale that is leading the pilot pack, followed by the Silverman-Silberling romantic tale No Tomorrow. Two other pilots, the paranormal drama from Kevin Williamson and the Frequency reboot, are very much in contention, with monster drama Transylvania behind and the Mars project cooling off.