In my decade covering American television I can’t think of a year when more projects that started as also-rans, or came back from the dead, or barely made it to pilot, or overcame major recastings, went on to land series orders. And some of them are among next season’s most buzzed-about new shows. It feels like almost all pilots that had recastings — once an ominous sigh for a project’s future — went to series, and those that went through hardship on average fared much better than their non-problematic counterparts.
When a pilot script is passed on by the network that developed it, in 99.99% of the cases that means the end of the road, with the script headed to the writer’s drawer as its final destination. But in the case of Mindy Kaling’s medical comedy The Mindy Project, a pass by NBC where it was developed led to a pilot pickup at Fox, where the project quickly emerged as the network brass’ darling and landed on the fall schedule in the plum post-New Girl time slot.
Like rejected scripts, dead pilots also hardly get resurrected. Sci-fi veteran Rockne S. O’Bannon wrote Cult for the 2005-06 development season when he landed a pilot order at the WB but the project became a casualty of the UPN/WB merger and the pilot was never made. Six years later, O’Bannon’s updated Cult script got a pilot order at the CW, the pilot was shot and took another step forward, landing a midseason series order.
It took Will & Grace creators David Kohan and Max Mutchick about as long to get a comedy inspired by their real-life straight man-gay man friendship on the air. The idea’s first incarnation was at CBS during the 2006-07 development season and the second at ABC the following season. Both times, Kohan and Mutchick’s scripts went to pilot starring Jay Mohr and Brian Austin Green (CBS) and Alan Tudyk, Josh Cooke and Ty Burrell (ABC). Both times Kohan and Mutchnick felt there were script, casting and other issues. The two had moved on when last year CBS approached them about revisiting the idea but getting it right this time. The result is Partners, which also went to pilot. (more…)