PILOT SEASON 2015: More Early Buzz
As producers are scrambling to get their cuts locked and ready, here is some more chatter heading into the important next week of network screenings when we will get a better sense where the various pilots stand. Until then, please keep in mind that any pilot buzz is speculative, based on sometimes incomplete and often subjective information.
Last year, Fox kicked off new series pickups with an order to Gotham a week before the start of upfront week. Will the network lead the pack again this year? It is a real possibility as there is another big genre Fox drama with a pre-sold title and a big commitment that had long emerged as a lock, Minority Report. Elsewhere on the drama side, music-and-drugs coming of age tale Studio City starring Eric McCormack and medical drama Autopsy aka Rosewood starring Morris Chestnut appear to be on solid footing, with Frankenstein said to possibly have a shot. The network already has Scream Queens from the creators of Glee in series production.
On the comedy side, Rob Lowe and John Stamos are getting closer to a primetime return in new starring vehicles with The Grinder, in which Lowe plays a fake lawyer, and an untitled half-hour, in which Stamos plays a version of himself. The Grinder had enjoyed the strongest momentum among Fox’s comedy pilots, with the Stamos show right behind. There has been some movement in the second comedy echelon. Young ensemble Cooper Barrett’s Guide to Surviving Life, which had been very quiet in the early going, is making some noise with solid testing results. Meanwhile, early standout family comedy 48 Hours ‘Til Monday may have cooled off a bit. I hear that another buzzy project in the pitch phase, fantasy football comedy Fantasy Life, may be redeveloped.
For a second consecutive year, a drama by a writer from Shonda Rhimes’ school of showrunning headlined by a multiple Oscar nominee is getting strong buzz heading into the home stretch. Last spring, it was Peter Nowalk’s How To Get Away with Murder starring Viola Davis, this time it is Jenna Bans‘ untitled project toplined by Joan Allen. Rhimes has a contender again via Shondaland, the Jennifer Schuur-written The Catch starring Mireille Enos. A third thriller drama with a female lead, Runner starring Paula Patton, also is said to be in serious contention. NBC’s A.D. may have crashed but another biblical drama, Kings and Prophets is in the running at ABC, working on backup scripts. Several other ABC drama pilots are getting some mention, including Broad Squad, The Advocate, Quantico, Boom and LA Crime. And then there is Marvel, which has a virtual carte blanche at the network. The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spinoff is eying a series order, with a second project helmed by John Ridley also in the works.
On the comedy side, branding rules going into screening week. Getting solid buzz are the NBA comedy, with its marketing opportunities through the collaboration with the professional basketball league; Chev & Bev, which is eying a launch coinciding with stars Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo’s big screen reunion in another Vacation movie; the Muppet presentation, based on a popular Disney-owned characters, which has been well received; and Delores & Jermaine, starring ABC daytime personality, The View’s Whoopi Goldberg.
Also talked about to various degrees are the Mike Epps-starring Uncle Buck remake, Ken Jeong’s Dr. Ken, which I hear taped well after rewrites, couples comedy 46 Percenters and two comedies about a family turned upside down when a daughter/son comes out of the closet, Family Fortune, executive produced by Tina Fey, and The Real O’Neals, executive produced by Dan Savage. The latter is facing a potential backlash from Christian organizations over Savage’s involvement.
Chicago Fire’s second spinoff, Chicago Med, continues to look rock solid, possibly for to premiere in midseason where Chicago P.D. also launched. Dramas Endgame, from the producers of The Blacklist, Blindspot and Warrior continue to get attention for the thriller/action slots. Another thriller, Game of Silence, also appears to be in contention though it is said to be pretty dark. On the opposite end of the spectrum, The Curse of the Fuentes Women, Love Is a Four Letter Word and Heart Matters seem to be in consideration as NBC has been looking for more lighter fare on the schedule, an area it made a push into this season with The Mysteries of Laura.
Facing the possibility of 1-2 or even zero returning comedies next season, NBC will likely be relying on its two straight-to-series half-hours headlined by established TV stars to jump-start its comedy slate, the single-camera Telenovela starring Eva Longoria and multi-camera Coach toplined by Craig T. Nelson. Various comedy pilots that are looking to join them on next season’s schedule include several single-camera entries — workplace comedy Superstore, supernatural Strange Calls, suburban comedy How We Live and British format-based Cuckoo starring Michael Chiklis — and, to some extent, the multicamera Suzanne Martin project and DJ Nash’s People Are Talking. There is not much talk about the remake of movie Problem Child though the project had been looking for a showrunner.
It’s been very noisy on the drama side at CBS and pretty quiet on the comedy side as the network brass appear pleased with many of their hourlong pilots. Freshman breakout Scorpion may be joined by another action thriller from the same producers, Limitless, while the Criminal Minds spinoff is in serious contention to join the mothership crime procedural. Also talked about are both CBS medical pilots, Code Black and LFE as well both legal dramas, Doubt and For Justice, the latter, which tackles civil rights cases reportedly getting early support by CBS topper Les Moonves. The question is whether the network would pick more than one from each genre, especially given its very limited shelf space. Supergirl also appears to be a contender for a pickup, with the remaining two hourlong pilots, Sneaky Pete and Rush Hour said to be OK while backed by significant commitments.
It’s been very quiet on the comedy side, with family comedy Life In Pieces getting some attention, along with Greg Garcia’s Super Clyde, with one of the two Tad Quill projects and maybe the Tommy Johnagin projects a possibility. There are also expectations for the Dan O’Shannon pilot, which was very late and is not ready yet.
With the Arrow-Flash spinoff already all but set for next season and almost all existing CW series coming back, the network could go by with only 1-2 more new series. Julie Plec’s epidemic thriller Cordon is getting the most buzz among the four CW pilots at the moment. The Arrow-Flash spinoff and Cordon both hail from Warner Bros. TV. Traditionally, the CW’s new series orders always have had both sibling studios represented, so one of the two CBS Studios pilots, Cheerleader Death Squad and anthology Tales from the Dark Side — both pushing the network’s brand into new directions — will likely get the nod.