Television pilot season is in full swing, with studios casting and shooting new shows in the hopes that they will end up on the 2013-2014 schedule. There are a lot of pilots in the works, so we've sifted through all of them to highlight the potential hits, the constantly recurring trends, and the ideas that are so crazy they just might work... but probably won't.
Dueling Families, Dueling
There are two pilots about family feuds in the works this year, though they each have different inspirations. NBC's Hatfields & McCoys is, duh, obviously about the Hatfields and the McCoys, though it's set in modern-day Pittsburgh, the great metropolis at the northeastern edge of Appalachia. The Hatfields are wealthy and powerful, the McCoys poor but prideful, and they duke it out in some fashion. Presumably there will be a kind of love affair between two younger members of the families. Speaking of star-crossed love, over at ABC they've got a Romeo & Juliet inspired show called Venice, about "two rival families (the Nances and the Carvers) and a forbidden and dangerous romance emerging between them as they battle for control of the beachside community." Haha, "control" of Venice? Of Venice Beach?? So, what, control of T-shirt shops and weed dispensaries? OK, sure. Between the two, Hatfields & McCoys sounds a little more interesting on an intellectual level, but boy does Venice sound like a silly good time.
As always, there are lots of stars of yesteryear popping up this time around. John Stamos is in the NBC lawyer pilot I Am Victor. Sarah Michelle Gellar, late of Ringer, will be playing Robin Williams's daughter on the CBS pilot The Crazy Ones. (The crazy ones are the people making this show, evidently.) James Van Der Beek is getting a second second chance on CBS’s Friends With Better Lives. One-time Oscar nominee Greg Kinnear is headed to television for the first time in a while with Rake, a Fox pilot about a lawyer. And one-time Oscar winner Mira Sorvino—yes, the Mira Sorvino—has been cast as Jim Gaffigan's wife on Jim Gaffigan's CBS pilot. Sigh. At least they're working?
There's an NBC pilot called The Donor Party about a guy who realizes he has a lot of kids from donating sperm. Get it? It's a reference to being a sperm donor, but also to those old west settlers who froze to death and ate each other 180 years ago.
As expected, The CW is once again delving into the world of Y.A. fiction for material. They're developing The Hundred, based on a book that hasn't even come out yet, about a hundred juvenile delinquents being sent back to Earth to see if it's fit for recolonization. Oh, yeah, it's set in the future. The CW is also putting together The Selection, again based on a Y.A. book, which is sort of a Hunger Games knockoff about futuristic teens competing to win the hand of a prince. So it's Hunger Games meets The Bachelor. Teen Bachelor. (Oh god, can you imagine??) Not stranger to the latest trends, Fox is also getting into the game, adapting Delirium, about a future dystopia where there's a medical cure for love that's forcibly injected into teens. Yeah. So, if you're the parent of a young person, brace yourself for that.
Because Grimm and Once Upon a Time are modest but steady hits, we're seeing more than a few supernatural-type shows being developed. The two big pilots this season are ABC's Gothica, which has the girl from Made In Jersey playing the modern-day descendant of Van Helsing (for real), and Fox's Sleepy Hollow, about Ichabod Crane being transported in time, along with the Headless Horseman, to modern-day upstate New York, where he solves supernatural mysteries with a pretty detective. They both sound terrifying, right? Like really, really terrifying.
In this time of impassioned debate about the necessity and dangers of guns in contemporary America, finally along comes a television pilot that reminds us that guns can be magical. NBC's The Sixth Gun is about six mysterious guns imbued with power and the hunt to find them. Or to find one of them, the sixth one. Whatever. It's about magic guns, is the point.
Much like this year’s dud Deception, two pilots are currently emulating the Revenge model, both shows with ominous single-word titles about people infiltrating worlds of power. Patrick Fugit stars in Reckless for ABC, about a guy delving into the world of D.C. politics to rescue his wife. Meanwhile Betrayal, which is also on ABC, deals with a cheating wife sleeping with the enemy while a big murder case unravels. Both could be fun shows, but if Deception's flop is any indication, there's only room for one Revenge. Though, there might not even be room for Revenge itself. After a flashy first season, the show has quickly sunk in ratings and buzz as the second round of episodes has failed to intrigue. These stories should be single-season adventures, but of course that's not the way network TV works.
Oh $h*!, Not Him Again
Remember $h*! My Dad Says? Yeah, well, the guy who created that whole thing, Justin Halpern, wrote a book called I Suck at Girls, which features heavy doses of his faaaamous dad, and now it's a TV pilot at Fox. The one promising thing about the show is that Bill Lawrence, of Scrubs and Cougar Town fame, is developing it, so it might not be terrible. But, ugh, this guy again.
Sitcoms That Might Be OK
The sitcom might be on shaky ground, now that 30 Rock is gone and the diminished but still pretty okay The Office is closing up shop in May. Sure there's still Parks & Rec and New Girl and Happy Endings if ya nasty, but we need a fresh infusion, stat. So we're cautiously optimistic about comedian John Mulaney's NBC pilot, loosely based on his life and costarring Martin Short. The premise of Sean Hayes's NBC pilot doesn't sound all that promising — workplace comedy meets parenting comedy — but it is sort of interesting to think about Sean Hayes playing the single dad to a 14-year-old girl, plus the supporting cast includes Lindsay Sloane and Thomas Lennon. Greg Garcia's show over at CBS features Will Arnett, Margo Martindale, and J.B. Smoove, a stellar company of fine people. And even The McCarthys, a run-of-the-mill CBS pilot about a Boston family, has us intrigued by the presence of Jacki Weaver, Joey McIntyre, and Jessica Chaffin. Speaking of, CBS is also doing Chuck Lorre's next show Mom, starring Anna Faris and Allison Janey. It's hard to argue with them. So, yes, there may be some good new laffs coming our way next fall after all.
ABC is doing a pilot called S.H.I.E.L.D. from Joss Whedon, based on the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization from The Avengers. That movie made like six trillion dollars at the box office, so there's no way this isn't going to be huge, right? It even features Clark Gregg from the movies. Everyone loves Clark Gregg!
Networks See People Having Visions
With the rousing success of Awake and Do No Harm, it's no wonder that networks are clamoring to make shows about characters who have special abilities that allow them to see/live alternate realities. No, wait, actually those shows totally failed and yet pilot season still has a number of similarly high concept and silly pilots in the works. On CBS there's Intelligence, which stars Lost's Josh Holloway as a guy with a microchip in his head that allows him to see across the entire electromagnetic spectrum. On that same network, Jason Lee—yeah, the My Name is Earl guy—is set to be a detective who gets hallucinations as a side effect of an autoimmune virus in Second Sight. And at The CW, a network known for its family dramas, the vision-having genre gets the quirky family treatment in Blink, about a family patriarch who is in a coma but provides narration and fantasy sequences to the storyline nonetheless.
Everyone's a Bridesmaid
Not willing to let Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy hog the spotlight, pilot season is full of vehicles for other Bridesmaids breakouts. Rebel Wilson's writing/starring venture Super Fun Night now has a second life on ABC after last pilot season. Ellie Kemper was a hot commodity for her post-Office career and settled on NBC's Brenda Forever, which has a flashback-y premise that involves her 31-year-old character's 13-year-old self sharing airtime . Annie Mumolo, Wiig's co-writer and the lady who played the woman freaking out in that airplane scene, is doing Middle Age Rage for ABC, about, well, a middle aged woman. Wendi "Break a Blanket in Half" McLendon-Covey is also on that network in How the Hell Am I Normal?, described as a "dysfunctional Wonder Years." Based on the premises, it seems like Mumolo and McLendon-Covey could have done better, but we're excited to see if perpetual supporting ladies Wilson and Kemper can hold their own.
Secretaries are the new vampires, or something like that. Two pilots this season focus on the lives of underlings. Fox has To My Future Assistant, starring Brittany Snow, about a group of assistants at a law firm. It has the benefit of having the always-welcome Catherine O'Hara in the cast. NBC has Assistance, which we assume will be the more biting take on the lives of assistants, as it comes from Leslye Headland, who wrote the underrated bridal comedy Bachelorette, and stars Krysten Ritter, who was divinely bitchy as the titular "B" in Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23. Headland once worked as an assistant for Harvey Weinstein, so she has some heavy-duty experience on the job. Ultimately, despite it being on struggling NBC, we're gonna give this round to Assistance. Headland and Ritter are a nice match.
CW is Going Period
From its slate of pilots, The CW looks like it is trying to branch out of its "pretty teenagers doing scandalous things" brand of show. There are more shows geared toward men (well, boys) and there's even a rollicking period piece. Not period piece as in The Carrie Diaries, mind you. Period piece as in Mary Queen of Scots. Yeah, the CW is going the Tudors/Borgias route with Reign, about the 15-year-old Mary. How this super ambitious premise will actually work on this particular network is still very unclear.
The Plane-Crash Sitcom
Imagine this pitch: It's like Lost. But also like Friends. It's Holding Patterns! NBC has ordered a multicamera sitcom pilot about a group of friends living their lives after surviving a plane crash. Sounds like a laugh riot, right?
Let's Turn It into a Show
NBC's going the old Clueless route and attempting to turn About a Boy, the Nick Hornby book and movie starring Hugh Grant, into a single-camera comedy. The TV version stars hunky David Walton, who recently had a nice turn on New Girl, as the playboy Hugh Grant character, and Minnie Driver as the nutty mother of the titular boy who Walton's character befriends. Casting-wise it all sounds good, but we wonder just how funny this can be. The show is being executive produced by Jason Katims of Parenthood, and the story itself has a serious dark side: in the book and film Driver's character attempts suicide. Another movie being turned into a show: the Cameron Diaz vehicle Bad Teacher. The movie was a hit and casting for the CBS show is promising: indie funny people Ari Graynor and Ryan Hansen have roles. Finally, because you were dying for this franchise to return Beverly Hills Cop is becoming a series for CBS.
The Show Based on the Disney Ride
Which Disney ride? Oh, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The one that killed someone.