With a writers strike averted, the broadcast TV business’ attention — which had been divided for the past month between pilot production and WGA negotiations — is focusing squarely on the ongoing pilot season, now in its final stage heading into the May 15-18 upfronts. Pilots are being screened this week, followed by pickup and scheduling decisions that will be made over the next 10 days. Here is the latest edition of Deadline’s Pilot Buzz on where I hear the various pilots stand:
ABC’s needs may have changed significantly since it ordered 23 pilots — the most of any broadcast network — in January and early February. In the past few weeks, the network went aggressively after American Idol and is in final negotiations for a reboot, which would take up a lot of real estate on the midseason schedule, and it also is negotiating for the upcoming revival of the classic ABC sitcom Roseanne. The two shows would relieve the pressure on stocking up ABC’s pipeline and likely lower the number of new and returning scripted series the network had originally planned to pick up for next season. Still, ABC has scripted needs, especially on the drama side.
Fortunately, ABC’s drama field is reportedly pretty solid this year, led by the illusionist FBI drama Deception, from Chris Fedak and Berlanti Prods., Shondaland’s Paul William Davies legal drama, David Shore’s The Good Doctor and futuristic immigration tale The Crossing. UPDATE: Jason Ritter starrer The Gospel Of Kevin also is heating up.
Beyond that, the Kenya Barris-produced light CIA show Unit Zero starring Toni Collette has picked up momentum. Las Reinas has been solid, with Marc Cherry‘s small-town project starring Reba McEntire a possibility. Comedic hour The Trustee has some support looks like it has gotten lost in the shuffle among a slew of buzzier hourlong pilots. ABC already has one new drama series picked up for next fall, Marvel’s Inhumans, and I hear the straight-to-series Ten Days In the Valley starring Kyra Sedgwick also is considered for a fall launch.
On the comedy side, the City Mayor workplace comedy, a single-camera Spin City with music, has been steadily rising to a front-runner status. Also looking very good is Zach Braff’s Start Up.
Kenya Barris-Vijal Patel’s Libby & Malcolm, starring Felicity Huffman and Courtney B. Vance, has had a bumpy ride with retooling, but the final product has been well received. There still are lingering questions how its main characters — two opposite political pundits — would play in our over-politicized society, but the pilot is a strong contender with its A-list auspices. Also looking good is Emily Kapnek’s Splitting Up Together.
Family comedy Losing It starring Jon Cryer, which has some dramatic moments, has lost some momentum but tested very well. Also in the mix are The Goldbergs spinoff and military family comedy Charlie Foxtrot, while the Black-ish spinoff, which centers on the Johnsons’ teen daughter as she transitions to college, has support though it may be a bit young for ABC.
There is no strong contender on the multi-camera side as we approach the finish line. The Carol Burnett starrer Household Name was an early standout, with the untitled Single Dad starring Rob Riggle getting some heat later on. In the screening stage, it was the Rev Run multi-cam/hybrid comedy presentation, which Amblin Television and ABC Studios produced without a network order, that made some noise, but I hear all three appear long shots, with Household Name possibly having the best chance, because of Burnett who is said to be great in it. We will see if NBC, whose sister studio Universal TV produces Household Name, would step in and pick the project up to series if ABC passes on it.
Related 2017 ABC Pilots
At CBS, Young Sheldon and the Mark Feuerstein-Dana Klein multi-camera family comedy 9J, 9K & 9L appear to have separated themselves from the pack. The single-camera Big Bang Theory prequel has a straight-to-series order but still filmed a pilot, which has been very well received.
Beyond those two, things continue to be in flux for what may be one more slot for a new half-hour series on CBS. I hear contenders include the single-camera Me, Myself & I; Living Biblically and possibly Hannah Royce’s Questionable Choices and Brothered Up.
On the drama side, the Justin Lin-directed actioner S.W.A.T. is hot, along with Instinct starring Alan Cumming, considered a solid traditional CBS cop drama, Jeremy Piven’s Wisdom Of The Crowd, which tested well, and the Navy SEAL project starring David Boreanaz. I hear journalism drama The Get has been well received; the question again is if/how it can fit into the CBS schedule. Perfect Citizen remains a possibility, along with Mission Control, though they may be longer shots.
Related 2017 CBS Pilots
The field of six CW pilots continues to be strong, making for some difficult decisions. With all pilots well received and all making if-come offers, I hear the network could pick up as many as four or five of them to series. With The Vampire Diaries and Reign ending this season and fall freshmen No Tomorrow and Frequency expected to be canceled, the network has four slots open for 2017-2018. There are only two current series that have yet to get a renewal decision: iZombie, which is fully expected to come back, and The Originals, which is doing a respectable job on Friday and has a following but is on the bubble. Depending on whether the CW opts to keep The Vampire Diaries spinoff or not, it may or may not have a fifth slot for a new series.
Among the six CW pilots, the Dynasty reboot, from Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, continues to be a favorite, with Black Lightning, from Greg Berlanti, Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil, also looking very good. Both hourlong comedies also have come in strong and are liked by CW brass; the question is whether the network can pick up more than one new comedy series, something it has never done. They provide two very distinct options. The Bill Lawrence-produced Life Sentence fits in the network’s current comedy brand of Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, while Insatiable is darker, quirkier and very different from what’s currently on the network. And then there is Valor, which has been very well received and would fulfill CW topper Mark Pedowitz’s longtime wish to launch a military drama series, and the second Berlanti-produced CW drama pilot, Searchers, which has had an up-and-down run with reshoots but is in contention.
Related: 2017 The CW Pilots
The Craig Robinson-Adam Scott paranormal comedy Ghosted and airplane comedy LA->Vegas continue their smooth sailing and are considered front-runners for a series pickup. I hear the Eva Longoria-starrer Type-A, which tested high, and the darker in tone Linda From HR, which also has been well received, are both in the running for what could be the third comedy slot available.
On the drama side, Matt Nix’s Marvel pilot, directed by Bryan Singer, is considered a lock, with medical drama The Resident also strong. The University project (aka Controversy) has been testing and screening well and has a strong cast while also having a cable vibe and tackling a tough subject matter, rape. I hear it is very much in the running and, with only four produced drama pilots at the network, so is likely Behind Enemy Lines, which has faced challenges.
Related 2017 Fox Pilots
NBC last night handed the first series pickups this pilot season to high school drama pilots Rise (aka Drama High), from Jason Katims and Hamilton‘s Jeffrey Seller, and the military themed For God And Country.
Beyond that, I hear buzz about VR drama Reverie, which is making if-come offers to writers. The soapy, female-centric Good Girls continues to have internal support, possibly competing for a slot with Warren Leight‘s medical drama. NBC already has the straight-to-series Law & Order: True Crime — The Menendez Murders for fall and is yet to make renewal calls on the bulk of its existing dramas.
On the comedy side, the Seth Meyers-produced untitled high school comedy, aka AP Bio, is still a frontrunner. Also believed to be in serious contention are the Tina Fey-produced Busy Philipps-Casey Wilson starrer The Sackett Sisters, especially if Great News, from the same producers, does not get renewed; and the Charlie Grandy-Mindy Kaling pilot Champions. Other possibilities include the What About Barb? reboot and the Bill Lawrence-produced workplace half-hour Spaced Out, on both of which I have been getting conflicting feedback. Max Mutchnick and Jeff Astroff’s multi-camera pilot Relatively Happy has been quiet, though the network needs a companion to the new Will & Grace.