We're at the point in pilot season where a lot of pilots are winding down production and are either in post, or are preparing for delivery to the network. There, the creators will wait on pins and needles while network executives screen their wares and decide what's worthy of a spot on their lineup.
I got a copy of the competitive pilot report, which is a list of every pilot in development for each network. After looking through the list, I decided it might be fun to assess each network, and take a stab at guessing what looks like it'll make the line-up. In most cases, I'm going on little more than the logline and the talent attached, so this isn't going to be the most informed opinion. But, in a month, it'll be interesting to see how closely my guesses line up with the series orders.
We'll start with ABC, which looks like the most interesting battleground this pilot season. This is Paul Lee's first pilot season as network president. He was elevated last summer after building ABC Family into the neo-WB its become, so I wouldn't be surprised to see his line-up attempt to skew younger. In fact, just looking at the numbers, there are big signs that he's prepping ABC for a makeover.
ABC ordered the most pilots of any of the five networks this season: 10 comedies and 15 dramas.
Canceled: My Generation, The Whole Truth
Endangered: Better With You, Brothers & Sisters, Desperate Housewives, Detroit 187, Mr. Sunshine, No Ordinary Family, Off The Map, V
That's potentially 10 slots that could be vacant next season. I'm guessing we'll see at least seven of those shows go, and probably more of them than that. (At this point, I'd really only bet on Brothers & Sisters, Desperate Housewives and V as being likely returning shows, and V's just barely hanging on by a thread in the view of most industry observers.)
There's always the chance that the loglines don't do a premise justice, so I don't want to mock the entries that I think are longshots. Having said that, if the loglines are anything to go by, ABC's comedy development this season could have been a lot stronger.
What ABC is likely to pick up:
The Last Days of Man
Logline: A multi-camera family comedy series centering on a man who is fighting for his manhood while surrounded by a world of women.
Cast: Tim Allen, Nancy Travis
Writer: Jack Burdett
Thoughts: Tim Allen's due for a comeback, everyone loves Nancy Travis, single-cams are big on ABC, and Burdett's credits include five years on 30 Rock.
Lost & Found
Logline: A multi-camera comedy series centering on a self-centered party girl whose life is turned upside down when the son she gave up, who is now eighteen and straightlaced, shows up on her New York City doorstep.
Cast: Jordana Spiro
Writer: Marisa Coughlin
Thoughts: Writer Coughlin is probably better known for her acting career, but the premise stands out among ABC's other offerings. Never underestimate how much networks like Jordana Spiro, either.
Logline: A multi-camera comedy centering on a married couple and their relationship with their respective in-laws.
Cast: Marcia Gay Harden, John C. McGinley, Adam Arkin, Kyle Howard
Writers: Andrew Reich, Ted Cohen
Thoughts: Kudos to the casting people. The logline makes the show sound like an Everybody Loves Raymond riff, but to get some of those actors, the script must do something right. Reich & Cohen have a long list of credits, with the most notable being many years on Friends.
Dramas - It should be said that ABC's dramas are probably the most competitive of any network's this season. The fact that so much of the line-up is in flux makes the pick-ups even more unpredictable. There are fifteen shows on the list, and more than 2/3 of them easily have the ring of something that could make the line-up.
Logline:A dramatic series based on the 1970's comedic drama centering on a trio of sexy female detectives working for a mysterious boss named Charlie.
Cast: Annie Ilonzeh, Minka Kelly, Rachael Taylor, Ramon Rodriguez
Writers: Alfred Gough, Miles Millar
Thoughts: Gough & Miller had their most recent success with Smallville. Word is that the script isn't great, but I could see ABC picking this up based on the brand and a desire to appeal to a younger audience.
Good Christian Bitches
Logline: Dramedy based on the novel of the same name in which a recently divorced mother of two moves back to the affluent Dallas neighborhood where she grew up to get a fresh start. Instead, she finds herself caught in the middle of a world of gossip, Botox and fraud.
Cast: Annie Potts, Leslie Bibb, Miriam Shor, Marisol Nichols, David James Elliott, Kristin Chenoweth
Creatives: Robert Harling (writer), Alan Poul (director), Darren Star (EP)
Thoughts: The "in" thing this season is to adapt a novel, and Paul Lee had success with that approach on ABC Family's Pretty Little Liars. The cast here is very strong. This is writer Harling's first TV work, but director Poul's credits include Six Feet Under. Starr's name should be recognizable to fans of Sex & The City, Melrose Place, and both incarnations of 90210.
Logline: A dramatic series set against the world of miracles in small town Hallelujah, Tennessee that's being torn asunder by the forces of good and evil until a mysterious stranger moves to town.
Cast: Jesse Martin, Frances O’Connor, Arielle Kebbel, Terry O’Quinn, Donal Logue, Della Reese
Creatives: Marc Cherry (writer), Michael Apted (director)
Thoughts: Good cast, a writer in good standing on ABC, and a high-concept idea all add up to an order. ABC typically orders at least one of these supernatural shows a season, so we'll see if that holds.
Logline: When a female FBI agent's son is kidnapped she travels all over Europe to find him
Cast: Ashley Judd
Creatives: Greg Poirer (writer), Steve Shill (director)
Thoughts: It's already ordered to series, and it's Poirer's first foray into series TV.
Once Upon a Time
Logline: A drama set in small town Maine centering on a female character in a fairy tale-inspired world.
Cast: Lana Parrilla, Ginnifer Goodwin, Robert Carlyle, Jennifer Morrison
Creatives: Adam Horowitz, Eddie Kitsis (writers), Mark Mylod (director)
Thoughts: I haven't read a great many pilots this season, but I did read this one. It's VERY strong script, and the opinion of many I've talked to is that it's ABC's best pilot script, if not one of the best of the entire pilot season. I'd be shocked not to see this make the lineup.
Logline: A contemporary re-imagining of The Count of Monte Cristo from a female perspective - chronicles the story of a mysterious young woman who comes to the Hamptons to exact revenge on the people who destroyed her family.
Cast: Emily VanCamp, Madeline Stowe, Nick Weschler, Connor Paolo, Henry Czerny
Creatives: Mike Kelley (writer), Phillip Noyce (director)
Thoughts: The presence of feature director Noyce (Salt) is worth taking note of. The premise feels like it'd be at home next to Brothers & Sisters and Desperate Housewives, so the fates of those shows probably will have an impact here. I'm a fan of VanCamp, Weschler and Paolo from their WB/CW days, so I'm pulling for them here. The pilot script's gotten generally good reviews too.
Overall, the pickups depend on how much Lee wants to makeover ABC's lineup. I'm probably not 100% right, but I'd gamble on seeing several of these debut next fall.
Part 2: CBS
Part 3: FOX
Part 4: NBC
Part 5: The CW