As network television seasons begin, a different kind season gets into full swing–pilot season. This ancient process is still a ridiculous concept, as basically it is networks just throwing a bunch of ideas against a wall and seeing what sticks. But it always brings a fascinating look at what network television thinks audiences want to watch. This is especially true this season, as we can finally see how networks react to the success of recent shows like Empire, Blackish, and Fresh Off The Boat. Due to timing, the last pilot season was able to reflect these successes only through more diverse casting in shows like Rosewood or Quantico (which is good!), but not necessarily through content. So what did this year’s pilot season bring? Let’s look at some highlights, and also if you simply want to look at all of the pilots without any bells or whistles to distract you, go here.
Also note that this got really long, so I am going to split this up into two parts. The first part will cover some common ideas that seemed prevalent throughout all the pilots this seasons, as well as my thoughts about select pilots from ABC and CBS. Then during the second part I will cover some select pilots from The CW, Fox, and NBC before offering a final verdict on this batch of pilots.
Common Idea 1: Time Travel
- For numerous reasons, most prominently that all network execs think exactly the same, every year there are a lot of shows based around similar ideas. This year that idea is time travel, as there are four different pilots dealing in some way or form with the concept. To be fair, if you’re going to do this, time travel is a much better concept than those we’ve seen in the past, like “friends in different stages of their relationships,” and “fairy tales” (okay, I’m mostly annoyed at that one because no one actually made a Fables show). But what this really shows is that mainstream television is turning more and more to high concepts. As Kyu mentioned this week, super hero stories are sci-fi at their core, so it makes sense that, as every network has embraced current or future projects involving super heroes (assuming Supergirl gets a second season on CBS and Powerless ends up being picked up by NBC), they would eventually start looking at more traditional sci-fi notions. That network television is going down the sci-fi well isn’t that surprising, as shows like Lost, Fringe, Almost Human, The Event, and others have been popping up for years. But recently and especially this season there seems to be a commitment from multiple networks to take sci-fi swings all at once. Time travel is one of the bigger, sexier sci-fi concepts, so it would make sense that it would be one of the first things that networks would look to if they really wanted to to dive down the sci-fi hole. (That reminds me–everybody should stay well clear of the Kraken’s sci-fi hole. We just don’t know where it’s been. – Ed) Alternate theory: everyone saw Legends of Tomorrow and was like, we can do that, but without the costly super hero IP and FX budget.
Common Idea 2: Old IP-itis
- Why bother with new ideas when you can just bring back ideas that have worked before? Look, television is a copycat medium, so when something works, others are going to try and replicate it. But this year really seems to be trying to bring back nostalgic feelings of the past, either by reimagining popular past movies or TV shows or by bringing back shows that were off the air for quite some time for a new season–plus whatever we want to consider the strange TV sequel Cruel Intentions will be if/when it is picked up for series. CBS and Fox are likely to blame for this, as CBS has really been mining existing IPs for shows recently, with Limitless, The Odd Couple and Rush Hour all being notable examples. Of course, considering none of these have really set the world on fire rating-wise, it is weird that CBS keeps consistently going back to this well. But they are, and their obsession has spread to the other networks. So now we have pilots for TV versions of everything from Lethal Weapon to Frequency to even Nancy Drew (also if you have been missing procedurals, well, basically everyone of these ideas are procedurals in some way or form–except for Cruel Intentions, which could still end up being a procedural if the show wants it to be enough). Fox, meanwhile, relaunched The X-Files this past year to rather good success, so now it is continuing this trend in hopes of coping with a post-American Idol world by going back to a time when Idol was still in its heyday, bringing back Prison Break or (even before Idol) the relaunched 24: Legacy. Of course, as NBC would tell you, bringing a show back doesn’t always mean people will watch it, as Heroes Reborn showed. But this idea isn’t going away anytime soon, because Hollywood loves mining its old IP for everything it is worth. Especially for networks, who are seeing Neflix bringing back shows like Fuller House, and thinking why aren’t we hopping on this potential money train?
Common Idea 3: Women Antiheroes
- Now that Mad Men is over and we are now firmly in the Third Golden Age of television, the world is finally done with the whole white male antihero thing. It’s been done, and it’s very unlikely that anything is topping Mad Men or Breaking Bad (or for that matter, Hannibal, which arguably re-sculpted some of this genre’s flesh into its own form). After many years (really, since The Sopranos ushered in the wave), it seems networks have finally understood this, and made a change. Not, you know, away from antiheroes–that would be silly. Instead, many of the pilots this year feature antihero stories with female leads. To be fair, this isn’t totally out of left field; even if this mode of storytelling is getting a bit tired, the past couple of years have shown there is an appetite for women at the head of this type of shows, like the way Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder are consistently some of the most buzzworthy shows on the air. So it makes sense that networks would commit to going in this direction more frequently. Still, this is the first year it seems there is a huge commitment from all of the networks to make these changes. This season we are getting shows like The Death of Eva Sofia Valdez, starring Gina Torres, or Katherine Heigl in Doubt. I would say this demonstrates progress for the industry, but considering the last two weeks have featured show after show after show killing off female characters (some less justified than others), or the just as troubling exits of Stana Katic and Tamala Jones from Castle so that the show could come back for a ninth goddamn death-defying season… who the hell knows. Maybe this is just a con to get people watching so that they can kill off the female leads and replace them with male equivalents. (I’m joking. Maybe not as much as I’d like to be, though.) At the very least, it seems highly likely that the male equivalent for the “thankless spouse” role in these type of shows will probably be way, way less thankless, because you know people will realize that role is terrible in general, but especially terrible if gasp men have to do it. Let’s not make too much progress, Hollywood, I wouldn’t want you to strain yourself after clearing some of the lowest bars possible.
Common Idea 4: <Insert Outsider> as Leader of Groups
- This one kind of snuck up on me, but dear Lord, there are a number of shows this season that basically take a person who is at their lowest point, or at least in need of something, and put them in charge of a group that that person is different from. Fish out of water tales have always been a well Hollywood likes to dive down, but the number of shows that seem based around the idea of using some version of an outsider to come in and fix a dysfunctional group while also learning from that group as well is ridiculously high. To be fair, this type of method is an easy way to showcase a specific star in a show, and a lot of this is just that networks are looking for any edge possible. Being able to clearly state why a popular star is front and center of a show is a good way to get people to watch. Still, the number of shows like A.P.B (tech billionaire buys police precinct and is now in charge), The Great Indoors (adventure reporter is now in charge of a digital department full of Millenials), Miranda’s Rights (slightly different, in that a woman is hired to work with Millenials in a start-up law firm), or even Conviction (woman is forced to lead a division that is basically like a government-run Innocence Project) is pretty staggering, and demonstrates that networks have decided that familiarity of concept is how they are going to compete with the cable and streaming networks of the world (hey, stop laughing, this can totally work).
- Overall, ABC’s pilots probably are the most balanced. Nothing is really truly terrible (at least when you realize what ABC is trying to do), but nothing is truly that exciting, either, for a number of reasons. The drama side is much more interesting than ABC’s comedy pilots, but at this point, that’s probably par for the course–other than on Fox, network comedies have become more and more broad of late, which is likely why all the more compelling comedies have gone the way of streaming or cable channels ala Master of None, You’re the Worst, or Louie. Plus, ABC at this point is really only in the business of making specific types of family comedy, so the network isn’t going to vary the kind of comedies it orders that much–other than possibly Hail Mary, which will either be really good or a complete trainwreck.
- Not surprisingly, considering ABC’s strengths in the past, the network has a number of pilots featuring women in leads. The network recently underwent a power transition from Paul “Men in drag are hilarious” Lee to Channing Dungey, ABC’s new entertainment president and the first African-American person to head broadcasting at any major network, but so far the type of shows ABC is making hasn’t changed. Though to be fair, that could simply be because Dungey was already previously responsible for helping develop some of the network’s diverse recent entries, so ABC was already trending in a diverse direction. Still, we probably won’t see the true affects of this transition until next season, as Paul Lee was known to like things that would shock people and it remains to be seen if Dungey is of the same mindset. Overall, though, ABC still seems to be the network most devoted to diversifying the make-up of its shows. Also, ABC deserves credit for being the network that mostly avoided simply grabbing old movie titles and making them into shows, with Time After Time being their only exception (and as a time travel show, a Common Idea two-fer). Don’t worry, though, ABC found other different ways to recycle old ideas.
Most Intriguing Pilot: Designated Survivor
- Hook: After the State of the Union is attacked, a lower level cabinet member is thrust into the presidency, and now must keep both the country and his family from falling apart.
- Creative Team: David Guggenheim will write and executive produce with Sutherland, Simon Kinberg, Aditya Sood, and Suzan Bymel.
- Cast: Kiefer Sutherland, Natascha McElhone, Maggie Q, Adan Canto, Italia Ricci, Kal Penn, Tanner Buchanan, LaMonica Garrett
- Reasons to Be Excited: I’ve always thought this idea would make a solid TV show, but for whatever reason it’s been confined to science fiction shows like Battlestar Galactica. There are a lot of really fascinating things a show like this could get into about how the US would survive such an attack, and how the government would function with much of its leadership now dead. Could Congress still work while it scrambles to fill its many many vacant positions? What would this mean for the Supreme Court, which either would be wiped out completely or be left with only the two or three justices who refused to attend the SotU for whatever reason? This could be a really interesting show that takes a unique look at politics. The cast is solid and the executive producers (headlined by David Guggenheim) are quite strong, so this show has a lot of potential.
- Reasons to Worry: I worry there is almost no chance that all of the stuff I am interested in will actually be what this show is about. It is more likely to be filled with as much melodrama as the show can handle, with Keifer Sutherland there to make things seem serious. I mean, don’t get me wrong, this show will talk a lot about the fallout of a State of the Union attack, but it seems unlikely the show will really commit to the nitty gritty of what this idea could mean, because the network will assume most people won’t care about more than the broad strokes of such a thing. Specificity could have made the show stand out, but instead it feels like one that could very easily become another generic political show trying desperately to bottle some of The West Wing‘s success into a much inferior package.
- Excitement Level: 7 out of 10. I can worry all I want, but until I can actually see a finished product, I have no tangible reason to believe this show wouldn’t be really good, so I am still pretty excited for its potential.
- Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 100%. This was a straight-to-series order, so this show is going to exist. That should give the writers plenty of time to get this show right and avoid becoming another political drama that never quite works and gets cancelled after a season or two.
Runner-Up: Still Star-Crossed
- Hook: Based on a book by Melinda Taub, this drama starts right after the death of Romeo and Juliet, and catalogues the intrigue and lives of the Montagues and Capulets in light of the tragedy of the young lovers.
- Creative Team: Heather Mitchell will write and executive produce with Shonda Rhimes, Betsy Beers, and Michael Goldstein.
- Cast: Wade Briggs, Zuleikha Robinson, Lashana Lynch, Ebonee Noel, Sterling Sulieman, Medalion Rahimi, Torrance Coombs, Anthony Head, Susan Woolridge, Grant Bowler, Dan Hildebrand
- Reasons to Be Excited: Umm, even if this wasn’t a dope idea for a show, the fact that it is the new Shondaland show would be all the reason I need to at least have my curiosity piqued. This show could be gloriously ridiculous, and feels like something that should have been a television show long ago, because man could this show be fun.
- Reasons to Worry: Since Shondaland shows have shifted to their new buzz factory model, shows like Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder have burned bright, but had trouble keeping things going at times. The latest show The Catch failed to, uh, catch on with audiences the way her past shows have. So there must always be questions about whether a show like this can sustain itself. Also, this is the first period drama for the Shondaland group, so that could have an impact.
- Excitement Level: 8 out of 10. I am not even sure how much of this show I would even watch so it is the runner-up here, but I want it to exist, because it could be so bonkers and television could definitely use more shows like this. So my excitement for the show is actually higher than for even Designated Survivor.
- Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: Like 90%. It didn’t get a straight-to-series order so it’s not not guaranteed, but I find it hard to believe that this show isn’t being picked up, unless the pilot is just garbage.
Least Intriguing Pilot: Square Roots
- Hook: A man from a logic-driven engineering family uses his “gifts” to help them get through everyday issues, whether they like it or not.
- Creative Team: Vijal Patel will write and executive produce.
- Cast: Adhir Kalyan, Katie Walder, Isabella Day, Callan Farris, Bernard White, Nina Wadia, Noureen DeWulf.
- Reasons for Lack of Interest: Look, maybe this won’t be terrible, but I so don’t trust any network to do a show like this. The nuance required to make this not a show about making fun of people too nerdy to have social skills is something I’m concerned this show won’t have (or be allowed to have).
- Reasons for Hope: It is by black-ish producer Vijal Patel, so it would continue to add a more diverse perspective to the family comedy pool. And there’s always a chance it’ll have the nuance it needs to work.
- Dread Level: 7 out of 10. I am glad that the generic ideas are being spread to more than just white people, but this show seems like an especially bad one.
- Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 20%. ABC has limited comedy space, and there just seems to be too many other better choices for comedies for the network ‘s brand, such as Speechless.
Runner-Up: The Jury
- Hook: 12 Angry Men meets Serial, as the show follows a single murder trial through the eyes of the jury.
- Creative Team: VJ Boyd and Mark Bianculli will write and executive produce with Carol Mendelsohn and Julie Weitz. Neil Burger will helm the pilot.
- Cast:Archie Panjabi, Jeremy Sisto, Brian Howe, Eve Harlow, Kevin Rankin, Ben Esler, JD Pardo, Nikki Deloach, Brandon Jay McLaren, Adina Porter, Hina Abdullah, Jayne Taini
- Reasons for Lack of Interest: I could have gone with another comedy here, but decided to go with the drama I was most lukewarm about. A lot of it is similar to Square Root; I just don’t trust this show to not be more about unnecessary melodrama, as opposed to the interesting interactions between the law and jury members. ABC has a particular brand, and I am not sure how this show fits it, unless it is going to be non-stop craziness. At the same time, if the show goes too far in the other direction it could be really boring, so it has a very delicate rope to walk on and still be good.
- Reasons to Hope: If they nail this show, it will be awesome. The cast seems diverse and solid. Focusing the action purely through the eyes of the jury, especially if each episode is driven from the perspective of a different juror, could really show how different people think about the world (and the law) in different ways.This show may be a real test case for what it means for Channing Dungey to be in charge instead of Paul Lee.
- Dread Level: 4 out of 10. A bit of a hedge, because this could actually end up being good.
- Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 60%. There is limited space in the ABC drama schedule, especially when you consider already ordered series and the number of pilots coming up. So it has some tough competition. It looks like it could be a strong contender, but it is nowhere close to a lock.
Time Travel Pilot: Time After Time
- Hook: Based on both a 1979 novel and a movie (check out Kyu’s review) that both ask a serious question: what if H.G. Wells used his time machine to go on epic adventures and battle against Jack the Ripper through time?
- Creative Team: Kevin Williamson will write and executive-produce.
- Cast: Josh Bowman, Freddie Stroma, Genesis Rodriguez, Regina Taylor
- Reasons to Be Excited: It’s HG Wells chasing Jack the Ripper through time. What else do you want?
- Reason to Worry: Kevin Williamson has done some good things, but he also recently came off The Following and Stalker, so let’s just say my trust in him at this point is shaky at best. No matter how cool this concept might be, I have no idea whether Williamson won’t fuck it all up. (I look forward to when this show secretly roots for Jack the Ripper to kill all the prostitutes. – Ed)
- Excitement Level: 6 out of 10. Let’s just say I have been burned too many times by Williamson at this point to let my excitement get too high.
- Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 50%. Williamson has been shaky enough that this could really go either way. If this was on, say, NBC, I would like this show’s chances better, but on ABC it may not be able to compete with the already straight-to-series Emerald City set to premiere next fall.
Pilot That Probably Shouldn’t Exist: Marvel’s Most Wanted
- Hook: This Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spin-off follows ex-spies Bobbi Morse and Lance Hunter, who are now on the run from their many, many enemies.
- Creative Team: Jeffrey Bell and Paul Zbyszewski will write and executive produce with Jeph Loeb.
- Cast: Adrianne Palicki, Nick Blood, Delroy Lindo, Oded Fehr, Fernanda Andrade
- Reasons It Shouldn’t Exist: So Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has had a troubled history. After a rough first season, the show finally got into its groove in Season 2. A big part of that was the introduction of Adrianne Palicki as Bobbi Morse and Nick Blood as Lance Hunter. The chemistry between the two was great, and the humor that especially Blood brought to the show always helped keep things grounded as the show started to get zanier and zanier. So seeing the two of them yanked from S.H.I.E.L.D. now that it really seemed to be in a groove was just silly. Plus, this show was planned for last pilot season, until ABC realized what a bad idea it would be at the time before ultimately following through with the idea now. Maybe both shows will be fine, but this does worry me that this will just create two average shows instead of one really, really good show.
- Reasons it Might Still Work: These two characters are awesome, so this show has a high probability of still working quite well.
- Confusion Level: 7 out of 10. This could be good, this could torpedo two shows at once, or this show could just be average–which might be the worst thing, because that means it could stick around even if it doesn’t work. Regardless, this show really didn’t need to happen.
- Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: Like 98%. You don’t pull two characters from a show in a way that can’t really be undone and then fail to follow through with the planned spin-off. But it hasn’t actually been officially picked up yet, so crazy things can happen.
Pilot That Probably Shouldn’t Exist, Part 2: Conviction
- Hook: The brilliant but ne’er-do-well daughter of a former president is blackmailed into taking a job as the head of Los Angeles’ newly created Conviction Integrity Unit, where they look into cases where there is a credible suspicion that the wrong person was convicted.
- Creative Team: Liz Friedman will write and executive produce with Mark Gordon, Nicholas Pepper, and Liz Friedlander, who will helm the pilot.
- Cast: Hayley Atwell, Eddie Cahill, Shawn Ashmore, Merrin Dungey, Emily Kinney, Manny Montana, Daniel DiTomasso
- Reasons It Shouldn’t Exist: To be fair, my issue with this show is that it pretty much assures that Hayley Atwell’s days as Agent Carter are basically done. Now, that decision may have been made regardless of her involvement in this show, and ABC just wanted a way to keep her on the network, but seeing her go from a role as Agent Carter (where Atwell was quite good, even in the very up and down second season) to what feels like a much more generic procedural role is a bit sad.
- Reasons It Might Still Work: This is still a really interesting concept. The fact that the main character is blackmailed into her role makes this more than a bunch of do-gooders trying to help people, and offers a path for Atwell to create another great character. The cast around Atwell is quite good, and Liz Friedman is coming off working on Jessica Jones, so this could lead to both some really interesting character work and to delving into some of the flaws in our criminal justice system. Also, there has technically been no official word about Agent Carter, and likely won’t be until May, so while it looks very unlikely, ABC could have Atwell serve double duty, knowing that Agent Carter will at best probably only go on for one more season.
- Confusion Level: 8 out 10. I don’t know what I want to do with this show. I guess I want it to be good, but I can’t help but feel conflicted about getting this instead of more Agent Carter.
- Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 85%. This seems like a pretty strong bet, but doesn’t have quite the guarantees around it as Marvel’s Most Wanted. Still, the buzz for this show is high, so it would be pretty shocking if it failed to get picked up.
Biggest Wild Card: Spark
- Hook: In an alternate history where steam and coal run the world, two families battle for power, but a young women’s discovery could spark a wave that brings down both families’ empires.
- Creative Team: Michael Cooney will write and executive produce with Ian Sander and Kim Moses.
- Cast: Antonia Thomas, Tom Brittney, Austin Hebert, Regé-Jean Page, Alex Lanipekun, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Lena Olin, Tracy Ifeachor, Rachel Hurd-Wood
- Why it could be huge: Steampunk soap opera could be awesome. At worst, it could take on some of Revolution‘s sensibilities and still be pretty good. If it hits, this show could be something really different and unique on television.
- Why it could fail spectacularly: This feels like something that will look cool, but has no real story to hold it together. Or even worse, it might look and be terrible altogether. This is a really risky show.
- Excitement Level: 6 out of 10. I am intrigued by this show, but I don’t have much faith it will actually be picked up.
- Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 30%. This is such a random series. If ABC needed more shows, or had a weaker set of pilots around it, Spark would have a better chance, but in the current environment it seems unlikely that ABC will feel the need to waste a slot on a show that, even if good, would have trouble catching on. This seems destined to be in the sci/fantasy genre “this sounds really cool but doesn’t get picked up” slot, along with such bygone pilots as that one about the wizard lawyers.
- Oh, CBS. Another year, another set of pilots that aren’t really all that appealing, with one exception. This is especially frustrating after the network went with shows like Supergirl and to some extent Limitless last year (both of which may or may not be back for another season). Of course, CBS continues to be the most watched network, and they have made strides with CBS All Access to actually start addressing the existence of computers, so things are, as always, trending upward for the network. Especially when you factor in that, along with any of these pilots, the network will be premiering a new Star Trek show exclusively on CBS All Access in 2017. CBS seems intent on making as many new shows as it can based on old properties, and to be fair, whatever it makes will probably end up being watched by more people than most of the shows that get picked up on this list (if not all). So you keep doing you, CBS. I may not like it, but plenty of other people do. Also, keep in mind that CBS operates on such different rules at this point from other networks that sometimes they just don’t pick things up just because they can get away with it when other networks can’t.
Most Intriguing Pilot: Drew
- Hook: A modern look at the Nancy Drew series with Nancy now in her 30s and a police detective, who uses her keen observational skills to solve crime and presumably life.
- Creative Team: Tony Phelan and Joan Rater will write and executive produce with Dan Jinks.
- Cast: Sarah Shahi, Anthony Edwards, Vanessa Ferlito, Felix Solis, Rob McClure, Debra Monk, Steve Kazee
- Reasons to Be Excited: This is the only show I’m really excited for, as there are a lot of fun things one can do with an adult Nancy Drew. If this show is willing to get into the eccentricities of being Nancy Drew and interacting with the world, it could really do some great character work that elevates it above a normal procedural. Sarah Shahi is also a solid choice to play this role, so the show is already half way there.
- Reasons to Worry: Limitless notwithstanding (and considering it may get canceled, it may just reinforce this point), CBS doesn’t really like its procedurals to feel all the unique from each other. This show is really only particularly interesting if it is willing to commit to making the world of the show feel unique, or at the very least make Nancy unique in a way that is more than “talented cop solves crime.” If Drew ends up just being a normal procedural that happens to involve Nancy Drew, it will be a real waste, creatively.
- Excitement Level: 7 out of 10. Still cool that this exists, and considering the loads of male versions of this show, it is nice to see a female-led one.
- Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 85%. This has been one of the two buzziest pilots from CBS, and seems certain to get picked up.
Runner Up: MacGyver
- Hook: A reimagining of the 1980s hit; a young MacGyver uses unconventional methods to stop disasters from happening across the world.
- Creative Team: Paul Downs Colaizzo and Brett Mahoney will write and executive produce with Michael Clear, Henry Winkler, Lee Zlotoff, James Wan and David Von Ancken.
- Cast: Lucas Till, George Eads, Addison Timlin, Michelle Krusiec, Joshua Boone
- Reasons to Be Excited: I’ll admit, I had to really stretch to find a second intriguing choice out of the CBS pilots. Considering that for years USA basically made versions of MacGyver in specific occupations (Burn Notice: Spy MacGyver. Royal Pains: MacGyver, M.D.), it was only a matter of time before someone simply brought the original one back. James Wan is involved, so that could be cool, and there is a playfulness to MacGyver that could make it feel very different from other things on CBS, especially considering the show will be about a younger MacGyver.
- Reasons to Worry: The concept is still kind of tired at this point, and there is also the immense worry that CBS will strip the show of all personality. Plus, the show is clearly designed to bring younger people to MacGyver, but those same people likely have no idea why they should care about MacGyver in the first place.
- Excitement Level: 4 out of 10. Like I said, slim pickings. But this could at least possibly be exciting, so that’s something.
- Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 35%. Competition is fierce at CBS, and this show doesn’t actually seem like the best fit for the network when it has much more brand-savvy procedurals to choose from.
Least Intriguing Pilot: Bunker Hill
- Hook: A young tech titan opens up his own Silicon Valley hospital where he uses cutting edge technology to solve medical issues.
- Creative Team: Jason Katims will write and executive produce with Michelle Lee and David Semel.
- Cast: Augustus Prew, Dermot Mulroney, Odette Annable, Brenda Song, Reshma Shetty, Aaron Jennings, Ward Horton
- Reasons for Lack of Interest: Sigh, I can’t even. Look, Jason Katims I will always respect and adore you, but what the hell? This feels like a weird attempt to make a tech-savvy doctor show for… well, that’s the problem. I have no idea who the audience for this show is supposed to be. I guess it is supposed to skew younger, but this seems like a stretch. “Silicon Valley doctors” just seems silly even by normal standards, and this show is probably going to be way more serious than it should be. This almost feels like CBS was like, “Let’s attach a Millennial vibe to a doctor show and see what happens,” which, like, no.
- Reasons to Hope: I mean, Jason Katims is still Jason Katims. He doesn’t make bad television, so even if nothing about this idea seems interesting, he can totally make it work.
- Dread Level: 6 out of 10. Jason Katims can make this work, but I don’t know if I want him to because then he is trapped on this show.
- Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 65%. Bunker Hill feels like one of the stronger pilots, but is probably a lower priority than things like Drew, Training Day, or Bull, so this show may come down to how many shows CBS plans to pick up and whether the network thinks it’s better for the network than Supergirl and/or Limitless.
Runner Up: I’m Not Your Friend
- Hook: A man learns that taking care of his kids is more challenging than expected when his wife goes back to work. Did I mention that man is played by Matt LeBlanc? Because that is really important.
- Creative Team: Jeff and Jackie Filgo will write and executive produce with Matt LeBlanc, James Burrows, Michael Rotenberg, and Troy Zien
- Cast: Matt LeBlanc, Jenna Fischer, Matt Cook, Grace Kaufman, Jessica Chaffin, Diana Maria Riva
- Reasons for Lack of Interest: Honestly, I’m even less intrigued by this show than by Bunker Hill, but I expect more from Jason Katims, so Bunker Hill lost points on the disinterest scale. Still, this show is like everything wrong with sitcoms. It’s 2016; why the hell are we still doing shows where men discover that raising kids is hard? Don’t we all know that at this point? Like, come the fuck on. Add in the whole “wife goes back to work” aspect, which clearly plays into patriarchal ideas about how men should react to women being the breadwinners in the family, and it’s just, get this show out of here.
- Reasons to Hope: Matt LeBlanc is actually pretty amazing. He held together so much of Friends by the time that show came to an end, and made Episodes a lot more palatable. He really is great, and that will make this show way more watchable than it has any right to be. Also it is entirely possible this show will really work to subvert a lot of the bullshit the concept is based on. LeBlanc could certainly do that. (Plus, maybe I’m Not Your Friend will be the cultural push this country needs to institute stronger maternity/paternity leave rights for workers! I mean, as long as we’re throwing out crazy things that won’t happen. – Ed)
- Dread Level: 9 out of 10. I worry this comedy is going to be everything bad with sitcoms, and then be on for the next seven or so years.
- Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 90%. This show got a huge commitment and Leslie Moonves actually went to the table read for the pilot. This show is going to exist.
Pilot That Probably Shouldn’t Exist: Training Day
- Hook: Taking place 15 years after the film left off, an idealistic African American detective is partnered with a morally ambiguous Caucasian detective, and they likely solve crimes.
- Creative Team: Will Beall will write and executive produce with Jerry Bruckheimer, Jonathan Littman, KristieAnne Reed and Antoine Fuqua, who will helm the pilot.
- Cast: Bill Paxton, Justin Cornwell, Katrina Law, Drew Van Acker, Lex Scott Davis, Julie Benz
- Reasons It Shouldn’t Exist: The film version of Training Day is a great movie, and there just really isn’t a need for any more of it. Like, it is a really good idea for a show, sure, but this worked so well as a movie that making more just seems pointless. Especially on, not just CBS, but network television in general, where what can and can’t be done just won’t jell with the moral shading required to make this work. This just feels like a strange cash grab, as CBS is basically throwing every movie idea against the wall at this point and seeing what can stick as a TV series.
- Reasons it Might Still Work: This could still be a solid cop show, especially if it is willing to delve into the real racial complications of being a cop in 2016 with any amount of rigor. The cast looks to be very solid, and there is a lot to do with this type of story if you commit to it.
- Confusion Level: 7 out of 10. This show is just all over the place and nothing has me more confused than how I should feel about the show having swapped the races from the movie. It’s hard to tell if its good that they are not making the black character the bad guy, but at the same time the Denzel role from the movie is such a better role, and now is being played by a white guy. So I can’t tell if this swap is good or terrible.
- Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 85%. This is the other buzziest pilot at CBS, so it seems pretty likely that it will get picked up, unless it goes the way of the Beverly Hills Cop pilot.
Biggest Wild Card: The Kicker
- Hook: An oddball athlete drives everyone around him insane when he is suddenly cut from his professional football team.
- Creative Team: Jack Burditt will write and executive produce with Tina Fey and Robert Carlock.
- Cast: Geoff Stults, David Spade, Joanna Garcia Swisher, J.B. Smoove
- Why It Could Be Huge: Really good cast, and has the Tina Fey and Robert Carlock tandem behind it to really help it stand out. If CBS also allows this comedy to be a bit weird and not force it to completely conform to broad sitcom strokes, it could potentially work quite well. Also, sports comedies can work really well if executed properly, so that boosts this show’s chances too.
- Why It Could Fail Spectacularly: This concept seems terrible, and as much as I like Geoff Stults, this role could easily become insufferable to watch. If CBS doesn’t allow the show enough nuance to get out of simple, broad comedy, The Kicker will turn everyone off and fail spectacularly.
- Excitement Level: 4 out of 10. I am really not a fan of this concept, and find it really really too sitcomy for its own good. Maybe I have simply turned on reading hooks for comedies as they all sound the same.
- Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 68%. The Tina Fey connection gives this show a real shot, but its a competitive field for CBS, so it’s questionable how much room CBS has for it, especially considering it doesn’t really fit with anything else on CBS right now.
That’s it for part one. Stay tuned for part two when I write about the rest of the networks.