Many newly picked up broadcast drama series this season have one thing in common — their description contains “based on” in it. Dramas based on source material dominated the networks’ choices — with features, TV series, books or real people as inspirations.
The CW, which has had success with book adaptations — it has the DC superhero series and The Vampire Diaries — picked up new series that all are adaptations of existing properties: Riverdale is based on the comic books, No Tomorrow on a Brazilian format, Frequency on the movie, and CBS transplant Supergirl on comic books.
Fox has Lethal Weapon, based on the movie; The Exorcist, based on the book and the movie, A.P.B., based on a magazine article, and 24: Legacy, a reboot of the series.
CBS’ has Training Day, based on the movie, Bull, based on Dr. Phil, and MacGyver, based on the classic series.
ABC has Notorious, based on Mark Geragos, Time After Time, based on the book and the movie, and Still Star-Crossed, based on a book.
NBC has Midnight, Texas, based on books, Taken, a prequel to the movies, and new installments of two existing series, The Blacklist and the Chicago franchise.
Most of the biggest drama series on broadcast TV are original ideas not based on source material — from Fox’s Empire, to ABC’s ‘ Grey’s Anatomy and How to Get Away with Murder, to NBC’s The Blacklist, Blindspot and the Chicago franchise to CBS’ CSI franchise.
Still, the networks are betting heavier than ever on pre-sold titles, which are easier to promote. Neither of the two new hourlong series based on movies introduced this season, CBS’ Rush Hour and Limitless, caught on (Limitless did a little better). Yet, there is a slew of new movie adaptations on tap for next season. (Additionally, pilot Cruel Intentions, based on the movie, is still in discussions with NBC for a potential pickup).
Once again single-camera comedies dominated the half-hour orders outside of CBS, which returned to a slate of all multi-camera new sitcoms (the network is keeping a single-camera pilot, Furst Family, in contention for midseason).
What links the new multi-camera series is that they are predominantly star-driven. All multi-cam projects that were picked up to pilot with a big-name star attached — CBS’ Kevin Can Wait, starring Kevin James, and Man with a Plan, starring Matt LeBlanc, as well as NBC’s Marlon, toplined by Marlon Ways, went to series. (It didn’t hurt that some if not all of them had big penalties attached to them.) The remaining new multi-camera series, CBS’ The Great Indoors, also has an established TV star who was cast as the lead at the pilot stage, Community and The Soap‘s Joel McHale.
Two networks, ABC and Fox, did not order a single new multi-camera series (Fox took itself out of the genre altogether by not ordering multi-camera pilots).
And for the most out-of-nowhere hot trend — time travel.
Maybe it was the buildup toward the Oct. 21 2015 Back To the Future Day, but time travel became a favorite arena this past development cycle with several high-profile projects — Shawn Ryan and Eric Kripke’s drama Timeless at NBC, Kevin Williamson’s Time After Time at ABC, and comedy Making History, from Julius Sharpe, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, at Fox. All went to pilot and then to series, joining the CW time-travel drama DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Timeless landed NBC’s best drama slot, Monday at 10 PM (behind The Voice). The other projects are yet to be scheduled.