It’s another late pilot season as scripts once again are coming in very late, pushing greenlight decisions into late January and February. Some of it is old-fashioned gamesmanship on part of writers as there is the notion that if your script is among the first ones delivered, it would go to the bottom of the pile, overshadowed by the ones that come in later. But there are also other circumstances. Development has been slow in general this cycle. The buying season has been starting later and later every year as many writers are busy with other shows, which also slows down the pilot script writing process.
Spending on development this season was flat or a little down at the different networks, and that trend is carrying over to the pilot orders. As we brace for a wave of pickups in the next couple of weeks, here is how many pilots I hear the different networks are looking to greenlight. And for the latest pilot information, check Deadline’s dedicated Pilot Panic page:
ABC is ahead of the pack with four drama (The Crossing, Deception, untitled Marc Cherry/Reba McEntire) and two comedy pilots (Libby and Malcolm, Raised By Wolves) plus the straight-to-series Marvel drama The Inhumans and a planted Black-ish spinoff. The network is making a push in dramas that reflect everyday Americans and are more “hopeful, joyful” tonally in the tradition of Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty. Last season, ABC ordered 11 drama and 11 comedy pilots (in addition to off-cycle pilots, comedy Downward Dog and drama Marvel’s Most Wanted). The network is looking to go for a similar tally this year on the drama side and fewer comedy pilots as ABC has built a solid comedy roster while some of its dramas have struggled, including freshmen Conviction and Notorious. Among those pending for pickup is medical drama The Good Doctor.
CBS, usually the last network to start picking up pilots, is ahead of its traditional late schedule with three pilot orders, for comedies Me, Myself and I and 9J, 9K and 9L and drama Mission Control. The network too is looking to stay close to last year’s numbers, possibly ordering an extra drama or two. Last year, the network ordered nine comedy pilots and seven drama pilots, plus the recast/reshot Doubt. CBS is looking at something like 10 dramas and nine comedies or nine dramas this time. The network is encouraged by its new comedy series, largely Kevin Can Wait and to some extent The Great Indoors and Man with a Plan, while only one new fall drama, Bull, has done well.
With This Is Us already renewed for two more seasons, four Chicago series, the venerable Law & Order: SVU, which is not going anywhere, and Law & Order: True Crime — The Menendez Brothers targeted for next fall, NBC does not have many drama needs. It already has picked up two hourlong pilots, Good Girls and For God and Country. There might be as few as three or four more drama pickups this year, both procedurals with a twist and character-based dramas a la This Is Us. Plans on the comedy side are still in flux, but the network is expected to end up closer to last year’s haul of 11 pilots. (In 2016, it also had a straight-to-series order in The Good Place and two lower-cost pilots coming out of the network’s Playground initiative.) This year, the network again has a straight-to series comedy for fall, the Will & Grace reboot, which likely will lead to more multi-camera pilot orders than NBC might have originally planned. With four new comedy series yet to premiere this season and during the summer, the network might stay just under last year’s tally. It has ordered one half-hour pilot to date, the Kourtney Kang single-camera family comedy.
Fox, which has an off-cycle order to a comedy from New Girl creator Liz Meriwether and a pending pickup of its X-Men-themed drama, is expected to stay close to last season’s tally of eight comedy and eight drama pilots (plus an off-cycle order to Urban Cowboy). The network has drama needs as it has two straight-to-series limited series this season in Shots Fired and the Prison Break revival, it is bidding farewell to utility player Bones, and its fall dramas The Exorcist and Pitch performed below expectations. But Fox might have another installment of The X-Files at its disposal as deals for a new season are coming together. On the comedy side, workplace comedies are expected to have a strong showing. For a second consecutive year, Fox will be picking up pilots with directors already attached, eliminating a step in the pilot production process. There will be no animated comedy contenders for next season, but the network is expected to develop toon hopefuls for the 2018-19 season.
The CW, which already has renewed seven scripted series for next season — the four DC shows, as well as veteran Supernatural and comedies Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Jane the Virgin — is expected to stick to its usual pilot count of six or seven. Its new fall series, No Tomorrow and Frequency, did not get much traction, and veteran The Vampire Diaries is bowing out, but the network has the buzzy Riverdale coming up. Hourlong comedies are still on the pilot menu though they might not be as singularly female-centered. And the network is making a major return to the primetime soap genre with its Dynasty reboot, which, along with Rob Thomas’ The Lost Boys reimagining, have been among the highest-profile titles at the network this development cycle.
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