It’s been a subdued broadcast pilot season, one overshadowed by the slew of high-profile launches of new streaming services, shrouded in uncertainty over a potential writers strike and hit by fears related to the growing coronavirus outbreak. Amid the somewhat bleak overall picture, punctuated by another year-to-year decline in broadcast pilot volume, there were bright spots. Here is Deadline’s annual list of writers, producers and directors who excelled at this stage of the network development cycle. It also includes a couple of other highlights from Pilot Season 2020.
Aaron Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment has three pilot orders — all comedies — at three different networks: Untitled Kingsbury/Daley/Goldstein project at CBS, American Auto at NBC and Pivoting at Fox, as well as a series order for next season at Fox for the animated comedy series Housebroken starring Lisa Kudrow.
Greg Berlanti and Sarah Schechter’s Berlanti Productions also has three pilots, all dramas: The Brides at ABC, and Kung Fu and the Green Arrow & the Canaries planted spinoff at the CW. It also has a series order for Superman & Lois at the CW.
John Davis and John Fox’s Davis Entertainment has three drama pilots at three networks: Rebel starring Katey Sagal at ABC, The Equalizer headlined by Queen Latifah at CBS and Echo at NBC. Two of them, The Equalizer and Echo, are with Davis’ new studio home Universal TV; the third, Rebel, is with its former studio partner Sony Pictures TV.
David E. Kelley is back on broadcast with a vengeance. The one-time network powerhouse creator-showrunner, who had been working in premium cable and streaming for the past five years, has two series orders/production commitments for next season: The Big Sky at ABC and The Lincoln Lawyer at CBS, both from A+E Studios. Additionally, Kelley, who has the upcoming HBO limited series The Undoing, recently received a series order from Disney+ for The Big Shot dramedy starring John Stamos.
Another heavyweight creator-showrunner, Chuck Lorre, has two pilots in contention at CBS: United States of Al and B Positive.
Fellow comedy A-lister Tina Fey has a straight-to-series order at NBC for an L.A. Mayor comedy starring Ted Danson and recently received a series order at sibling streamer Peacock for Girls5Eva and at Netflix for animated comedy Mulligan. All three are collaborations with Robert Carlock.
Fresh Off the Boat creator Nahnatchka Khan is behind NBC straight-to-series comedy Young Rock, inspired by and featuring Dwayne Johnson; and ABC comedy pilot Valley Trash, starring Jason Lee. She also has a female serial killer series starring Krysten Ritter that has been heating up the streaming marketplace.
The Late Late Show with James Corden producer Fulwell 73 has two pilots, comedy The Three of Us starring Oliver Hudson and Malin Akerman, at CBS; and drama Republic of Sarah, on the CW.
Debra Martin Chase executive produces two pilots, CBS’ The Equalizer and NBC’s At That Age. Fellow At That Age executive producer Malcolm D. Lee also has two pilots; he also EPs NBC comedy Night School having directed the movie on which it is based.
Krista Vernoff is the sole writer/showrunner on a pilot, ABC’s Rebel, while also serving as sole showrunner on two series, ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and spinoff Station 19.
Several veteran multi-camera directors are pulling double duty again this season, Pam Fryman (ABC’s My Village, CBS’ untitled Kingsbury/Daley/ Goldstein), James Burrows (CBS’ Raised By Wolves and B Positive), and Mark Cendrowski (CBS’ United States of Al and The Three of Us).
British comedy formats have had a strong showing this network development season with one series pickup, Fox’s Call Me Kat, and three pilot orders, for Fox’s This Country and CBS’ Ghosts and Jury Duty. This Country and Ghosts stem from Lionsgate TV’s deal with BBC Studios, which yielded multiple pilot orders in the first cycle. Additionally, British reality format The Big Leap is the basis for Fox’s dramedy pilot of the same name.
Movie titles also overperformed this pilot season with a whooping seven pilots: The Equalizer, The Lincoln Lawyer and Silence of the Lambs sequel Clarice at CBS; Da Vinci Code prequel Langdon and Night School at NBC; The Lost Boys at the CW; and The Goonies reenactment project at Fox.