Network Pilot-a-palooza Part 2

In All, Television by David

After taking a look at overall trends and the pilot offerings of ABC and CBS in part one of Network Pilot-a-palooza, I am back to discuss the three remaining networks’ offerings. If you just want to have a look at all of the pilots yourself, just go here. Otherwise, onward to the analysis.


  • The CW only has six pilots, which is fine because the network has almost no space for new programming after having decided to renew its entire slate from this season (once again, even Reign). There are five dramas and one comedy this year, and each are along the same lines as The CW’s existing shows. The dramas are all high concept, or at the very least an adaptation of a comic book, while the sole comedy fits right in with Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. About the only surprising thing was that there is finally no new super hero show on the docket (although if CBS cancels Supergirl, it would not surprise me at all if The CW picked it up). Also, don’t discount the fact that The CW works very differently than the other networks, so while it may seem like the network only has room for one or two new shows, it could very easily pick up almost all of them, and figure out what to do about it later.

Most Intriguing Pilot: Untitled Mars project

  • Hook: A team of explorers arrive on Mars to join the first human colony on the planet, only to discover that their predecessors have vanished. Now they most figure out what happened while doing their best to survive their new surroundings. Basically, the Roanoke Colony disappearance, only on Mars.
  • Creative Team: Doris Egan will write and executive produce with Frank Marshall and Robert Zotnowski.
  • Cast: Mouzam Makkar, Carl Beukes, Tongayi Chirisa, Peter Mark Kendall, Neal Bledsoe, Georgina Haig, America Olivo, Mark Leslie Ford, Charlayne Woodard
  • Reasons to Be Excited: Before The 100, I would be less enthused about this, but The 100 proved that The CW is willing to make a survival show that doesn’t pull any punches (even if that show’s creator has caused a mess of trouble for it this season). So using Mars as a place to retell the story of Roanoke has a lot of potential for some really fascinating survival narratives.
  • Reasons to Worry: Well, the lack of a title is troubling. Also, few shows are willing to actually do the things The 100 were willing to do to make its show good, so there is no way to know if this show would have that kind of commitment, especially after much of the backlash The 100 has gotten this year. (Which was for a number of other reasons, but will other shows learn the right lessons from The 100‘s mistakes?)
  • Excitement Level: 9 out of 10. I’ll admit this show has me pretty damn excited, as it could be really awesome.
  • Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 55%. I am sad that I can’t be more confident about it getting picked up. Other than Riverdale, rumblings have dictated that it seems like the other pilots are all looked at in the same light. With limited space, possibly only one or two is likely to get picked up. This show would seem to have a leg up, as it could could be paired with The 100 or form a spring/fall combo where one airs and then the other takes its place in the schedule after a 13-ish episode season. However, as much as The CW’s programming has changed and grown, this show still feels a bit out of place for their brand.

Runner Up: Riverdale

Is this cast ready to bring Archie to life? We’ll find out almost assuredly this fall.

  • Hook: There is more to it, but this is the modern day adaptation of Archie comics.
  • Creative Team: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa will write and executive produce with Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter ad Jon Goldwater.
  • Cast: Lili Reinhart, Cole Sprouse, Ashleigh Murray, Luke Perry, KJ Apa, Madelaine Petsch, Camila Mendes, Marisol Nichols, Mädchen Amick
  • Reasons to Be Excited: The comic reimagining of these comics has been pretty amazing, so there is a lot of potential to this idea. The CW is really good at this kind of show, so this will probably be a lot of fun.
  • Reasons to Worry: This is also the type of show The CW hasn’t been the best at in quite some time, as all of their shows have moved away from the high school setting. Plus, this is a cast of mostly unknowns, so if The CW messed up the casting for this show there isn’t much anyone will be able to do to fix it.
  • Excitement Level: 6 out of 10. I will watch this, because I watch just about everything on The CW out of some principle to prove its shows are generally better than a lot of people want to give them credit for. But I am not super excited about it.
  • Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 90%. This has been the buzziest of The CW pilots, and the only one that seems almost certain to get picked up, especially considering Greg Berlanti is behind it, and he may have his hand in all CW shows at some point. Still, unless The CW plans to convert even more of its shows to 13-18 episode runs (which it honestly probably should), there is only so much room on the network. This isn’t a complete lock yet, but it is pretty damn close.

Least Intriguing Pilot: Untitled paranormal project

  • Hook: A young woman seeks help from a parapsychologist when she begins to experience paranormal phenomena.
  • Creative Team: Kevin Williamson will write and executive produce with David Nutter, who will also helm the pilot.
  • Cast: Matt Passmore, Megan West, Jessica Szohr, Jordan Calloway
  • Reasons for Lack of Interest: Yeah, so like I said before, Kevin Williamson might be dead to me at this point, and this feels like just another excuse for him to make a show where a female character is imperiled in some way so that a male character can save her, which I am so over because dear Lord, it’s 2016.
  • Reasons to Hope: Umm, David Nutter is actually awesome, so maybe he can balance Williamson out. There are ghosts. Ghosts are good. I really don’t have much to go on here.
  • Dread Level: 7 out of 10. This really doesn’t feel like a show that fits The CW’s brand, or I would be even more worried. Still, I will be really sad if this displaces any of the far more interesting pilots.
  • Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 50%. Like the Mars project, this one is in a five show standoff over who knows how few spots. It does feel like if only one other show is picked up besides Riverdale, this one would lag toward the bottom of that second place list, unless The CW feels too much allegiance toward Williamson for his work jumpstarting The Vampire Diaries.

Runner-Up: Frequency

  • Hook: Based on the film by the same name, in 2016 a female detective discovers that she can communicate with her deceased father back in 1996 via ham radio. Together they work together to solve a murder, but then must deal with the butterfly effects caused by their interactions.
  • Creative Team: Jeremy Carver will write and executive produce with Toby Emmerich, John Rickard, Dan Lin and Jennifer Gwartz.
  • Cast: Riley Smith, Mekhi Phifer, Peyton List, Lenny Jacobson, Anthony Ruivivar, Devin Kelley, Daniel Bonjour
  • Reasons for Lack of Interest: I was never a big fan of the original film, so I can’t say a TV adaptation excites me, especially because this could very easily just become a timey-wimey procedural.
  • Reasons to Hope: Jeremy Carver on the whole has done good work. Also, unlike the movie, this show is willing to examine the repercussions the interactions between father and daughter could have on the timeline, which means this show may be more than a procedural.
  • Dread Level: 4 out of 10. Even with my concerns, there is a lot about this show that looks interesting, so I could live with it being picked up. Plus, this show deserves extra credit for checking more of the common concepts out of all the pilots this season. Timeline shenanigans, check. Based on a movie, check. Placing a female lead in this case literally in a role that was a man in the movie version, check. (Yeah, I know she isn’t an antihero, but close enough.) So kudos for that, Frequency.
  • Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 60%. It’s a toss-up, but chances are positive considering it involves CW favorite Peyton List as a lead and has name recognition that gives it a slight leg up over most of the other shows on the network. It could pair really well with iZombie, depending on how much that show retains its procedural aspects next season considering its game-changing finale.

Biggest Wild Card: No Tomorrow

  • Hook: A straight-laced manager at a Amazon-like plant falls in love with a freewheeling man who lives life to the fullest because he thinks the apocalypse is imminent, and the two set off on adventures to fulfill their bucket lists.
  • Creative Team: Corinne Brinkerhoff, Scott McCabe and Tory Stanton will write and executive produce with Ben Silverman.
  • Cast: Tori Anderson, Josh Sasse, Sarayu Blue, Amy Pietz, Jesse Rath, Jonathan Langdon
  • Why It Could Be Huge: This comedy fits really well with the Monday comedy block The CW has built. It is from the same team as Jane the Virgin, and based on the same kind of Latin America format, so this show has a lot of comedic pedigree going for it. If the show is willing to embrace how quirky it is, and even commit to the idea of the apocalypse being actually imminent, then this could be a really good show.
  • Why It Could Fail Spectacularly: The concept is ridiculous, and if not done right will completely fall flat. The same thing could be said about both Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, though, and both of those shows have now won Golden Globes. But that doesn’t mean this sort of thing will keep working forever.
  • Excitement Level: 5 out of 10. It could be fun. I really need to see it to have any real thoughts either way.
  • Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 70%. No Tomorrow feels like the clubhouse leader of the non-Riverdale pilots, simply because of the creative team involved, and because it has the most perfect timeslot lined up of any of the pilots.

Then there’s Transylvania: Transylvania

  • Hook: In 1880, a headstrong young woman looking for her missing father teams up with a wrongfully disgraced Scotland Yard detective in Transylvania, where they witness the birth of the most famous monsters and villains in history.
  • Creative Team: Hugh Sterbakov will write and executive produce with Jeff Pinkner, Andre Nemec, Josh Applebaum and Scott Rosenberg.
  • Cast: Laura Brent, Luke Allen-Gale, Evan Stern, Sofia Pernas, Jake Fairbrother, Tom Reed
  • Why it could be huge: Well, it has one of the key members of Fringe on its side in Pinkner, and a bonkers idea. If the chemistry between the two leads is strong and the show is really willing to just go for it, the show could be like Sleepy Hollow‘s first season.
  • Why it could fail spectacularly: It could instead be like Sleepy Hollow in Season 2 and 3, ie., complete garbage that makes you question your sanity.
  • Excitement Level: ??? out of 10. I don’t know. This show is so damn random that I have no idea how to feel about it.
  • Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 45%. This seems like it might be the weakest candidate of the pilots, because it is such a random show and, well, Sleepy Hollow being your best comparison is troublesome. But I’ll admit figuring out what The CW will do is a bit of a challenge, so it could still easily get picked up.


  • Fox continues to be an enigma. The network is now finally forced to live in a post-American Idol world–and not to mention is still recovering from how poor the network’s prospects looked before Empire premiered last year. For better or worse, Fox is finally ready to move on from the Kevin Reily era, for better or worse. They already looked to the past once in a rebooted X-Files series that saw great ratings. So now the network seems obsessed with mining its past instead of looking to the future, which would be kind of sad, because Fox is still a mess that needs to figure out what it wants to be moving forward. Its pilot pickups are likely to be the most illuminating of any of the networks, as it will tell everyone how the Fox envisions its future.

Most Intriguing Pilot: Making History

  • Hook: Three friends try to mix the adventures of time travel with the everyday concerns of their present lives.
  • Creative Team: Julius Sharpe will write and executive produce with Phil Lord and Chris Miller.
  • Cast: Adam Pally, Leighton Meester, Yassir Lester
  • Reasons to Be Excited: Phil Lord and Chris Miller being involved in any way is already a good start, but this concept is also so fascinating. A show that will look at the effects time traveling can have on people’s lives has a great idea, and making it a comedy is even better. Adam Pally has been a favorite actor of mine to watch ever since Happy Endings, and Leighton Meester could work really well in a show like this. Making History is probably my favorite pilot idea of the season.
  • Reasons to Worry: The actual showrunner, Julius Sharpe, is a first time showrunner, and his previous writing credits are are lot of Seth McFarlane shows, so it is also possible the comedy in this show will be a lot more broad and go in a direction that is a lot less interesting than the concept would suggest.
  • Excitement Level: 10 out of 10. I am all in.
  • Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 75%. Fox is likely to have openings for comedies and this feels like it could be a good fit. The pedigree of the executive producers gives this show a really good shot to get picked up.

Runner Up: Pitch

  • Hook: A young female pitcher defies all odds to become the first woman to play Major League Baseball. (Did… did somebody successfully pitch making a show out of that one episode of Futurama? – Ed)
  • Creative Team: Dan Fogelman and Rick Singer will write and executive produce with Tony Bill, Helen Bartlett and Paris Barclay.
  • Cast: Kylie Bunbury, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Ali Larter, Mo McRae, Meagan Holder, Tim Jo, Dan Lauria, Mark Consuelos, Bob Balaban
  • Reasons to Be Excited: This is such an off-brand show for Fox. There is really a lot you can do with it. The creative team is really strong, and seeing them explore this idea could work really well, especially considering baseball is one of the few sports this could actually happen in. This is a strong cast, and the show could really add something to Fox’s future programming ethos.
  • Reasons to Worry: Did I mention this is off-brand for Fox? Like, really off-brand. There is nothing to really pair it with, and no real way to protect it. So even if the show is good, it might be hard for Fox to get people to watch it, which would be a concern for the network. Also, if this show decides it cares more about melodrama than telling the nuanced intricacies of what it would really be like being the first female MLB player, then it is doomed to be trash.
  • Excitement Level: 7 out of 10. This is a cool idea, but I am a bit worried that Fox is not the right network for it.
  • Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 70%. I think Fox is ready to branch out in the post-American Idol world to broaden it’s offerings, so this pilot has a real chance–assuming it is actually good, which I have heard positive indications of, so this show has much bigger shot than one might expect.

Least Intriguing Pilot: Lethal Weapon

  • Hook: Umm, it’s a remake of Lethal Weapon for television. So it’s a procedural about cop and former Navy SEAL Martin Riggs moving to Los Angeles after a tragedy and being partnered up with LAPD detective Roger Murtaugh, who recently had a heart attack and must avoid stress in his life.
  • Creative Team: Matt Miller will write and executive produce with Dan Lin, Jennifer Gwartz,and McG.
  • Cast: Damon Wayans Sr., Clayne Crawford, Keesha Sharp, Jordana Brewster, Kevin Rahm, Chandler Kinney, Johnathan Fernandez
  • Reasons for Lack of Interest: Lethal Weapon was always so much more about Mel Gibson’s and Danny Glover’s chemistry than the actual concept, so seeing this brought to TV is really not that interesting, especially considering that by the end of its movie run the franchise was already running on fumes. This idea was done, and Fox really doesn’t need it, so really this just feels like a regression for the network more than anything.
  • Reasons to Hope: Damon Wayans, Sr. is funny and could make a really good Murtaugh. If the chemistry between the two leads can even come close to that of the two leads in the film, this series could work really well.
  • Dread Level: 8 out of 10. I just foresee this being the most generic thing possible, but somehow still getting viewers and then just sticking around for years; or just being a god awful mess the entire first season. (Fox just seems to have a knack for really shitty procedurals, high-concept or no, and I doubt this will do any better. – Ed)
  • Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 55%. Fox has very limited space for dramas, considering they already picked up two series, so while this feels like a contender, it also feels like such a regression for the network that Fox could easily pass if it isn’t perfect.

Runner Up: Recon

  • Hook: A rookie FBI Agent embeds herself into a suspected terrorist family.
  • Creative Team: Caroline Dries will write and executive produce with Kevin Williamson and Julia Plec.
  • Cast: Tracy Spiridakos, Nick Weschler, Sarita Choudhury, Karan Oberoi, Alexander Siddig, Amanda Warren, Yasmin Kaur Barn
  • Reasons for Lack of Interest: Hey, doesn’t this sound familiar? Oh yeah, this was basically the plot to Deception, a 2013 show that failed miserably. Recon seems to have decided that the key change is that the family is terrorists instead of simply horrible murderers. While topical, that is really risky, and it’s the kind of story that only works if handled really well. This show has mess written all over it.
  • Reasons to Hope: Well, the Vampire Diaries creative team is behind it. Now, that doesn’t mean as much as it used to, but it does mean that I have a little more faith this show could be handled properly enough to work, if it was given a chance.
  • Dread Level: 7 out of 10. This looks like a bad idea for a pilot, but it seems really unlikely it would actually be picked up, so that limits how worried I am over it.
  • Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 25%. This is such a tight drama field with so few spots available, and Recon just feels lacking compared to the rest of the pilots for Fox this year. (Yeah, but Fox never met a super generic cop show it didn’t like, so… – Ed)

Pilot That Probably Shouldn’t Exist: 24: Legacy

  • Hook: Revolves around a military hero’s return to the U.S. and the trouble that follows him back–compelling him to ask CTU for help in saving his life and stopping what could potentially be one of the largest-scale terror attacks on American soil.
  • Creative Team: Manny Coto and Evan Katz will write and executive produce with Howard Gordon and Brian Grazer.
  • Cast: Corey Hawkins, Miranda Otto, Anna Diop, Teddy Sears, Jimmy Smits, Dan Bucatinsky, Coral Pena, Charlie Hofheimer, Sheila Vand, Ashley Thomas, Zayne Emory
  • Reasons It Shouldn’t Exist: When 24 went off the air, it felt like Fox was ready to move on. Turns on they were just ready to move on from Jack Bauer, because what better way to move on after American Idol then to bring back a show from before it ever existed. This is the “getting back with the old ex on the rebound” stage of the healing process, and naturally that’s going to be a little ugly. It’s questionable how fascinating the world of 24 is without Jack Bauer being a part of it, and this really feels like a desperate move on Fox’s part, as the network is completely stuck in the past.
  • Reasons it Might Still Work: The politics of the show certainly improve without Jack Bauer, and the diversity of the new cast is a plus. Maybe if the show is free to do things with new characters it will really open it up creatively.
  • Confusion Level: 7 out of 10. This show could go so many different ways, and it could just as easily be a success as it could set Fox back immensely.
  • Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 100%. This was always more or less a sure thing, but now it has been confirmed by Fox.

Pilot (Err, Well, Show) That Probably Shouldn’t Exist, Part 2: Prison Break (limited series)

  • Hook: A continuation of the show Prison Break, where Lincoln and Sara reunite to plan the biggest escape ever after discovering that Michael might actually be alive. Umm, spoilers for Prison Break I guess.
  • Creative Team: Paul T. Scheuring will write and executive produce with Neal Moritz, Marty Adelstein and Dawn Olmstead.
  • Cast: Wentworth Miller, Dominic Purcell, Sarah Wayne Callies, Amaury Nolasco, Robert Knepper, Rockmond Dunbar, Paul Adelstein, Mark Feuerstein, Augustus Prew, Rick Yune, Steve Mouzakis, Inbar Lavi, Marina Benedict, Kunal Sharma
  • Reasons It Shouldn’t Exist: Because why? Seriously. X-Files and 24 were at least far more popular and critically acclaimed shows, so it’s possible to justify bringing them back. Prison Break started strong, and then just kind of existed until it finally ended in 2009. There really isn’t a great reason for this return to exist, especially considering Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell are doing great work on Legends of Tomorrow.
  • Reasons it Might Still Work: Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell are awesome together, and anything that brings them together is worth a look. Also, Prison Break was never really bad, so its not like this will be a trainwreck. (Speaking of trains, maybe Fox was just jealous of Underground stealing its escape story thunder? – Ed)
  • Confusion Level: 9 out of 10. I still don’t understand how this got brought back. What’s next? The OC… actually, that would be awesome, let’s do that.
  • Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 100%. This went straight-to-series, so it will definitely exist.

Biggest Wild Card: Son of Zorn

This is just ridiculous.

  • Hook: Upon arriving home for the first time in 10 years, an animated Barbarian father finds that reconnecting with his live-action son and ex-wife while also dealing the mundanity of everyday life is even harder than being at war.
  • Creative Team: Reed Agnew and Eli Jorne will write and executive produce with Phil Lord, Chris Miller, Seth Cohen and Eric Appel.
  • Cast: Jason Sudeikis, Johnny Pemberton, Cheryl Hines, Tim Meadows, Artemis Pebdani
  • Why It Could Be Huge: Once again, involving Phil Lord and Chris Miller can only help, but more importantly, this comedy managed to bring something fresh to a tired concept. This idea is potentially amazing if the show really embraces the absurdity of combining animation and live-action. The cast is rather amazing, and overall this show really stands out from most of the rest of the pilots this season.
  • Why It Could Fail Spectacularly: Umm, this is seriously a show that has a cartoon barbarian interacting in the real world. That could be disastrous. This is a big swing, and that can lead to catastrophic results.
  • Excitement Level: 8 out of 10. This show will exist. I want to see what that means, even if not on a regular basis.
  • Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 100%. This show has a straight-to-series order, so we’ll find out what it is going to be either way.


  • Ahh, NBC. The network that has somehow rebuilt itself into a network of spy thrillers, Chicago based-procedurals, and The Voice. NBC has come a long way the past couple of years (except for its comedies, which the network has basically given up on). Things are actually relatively stable in NBC land, so this pilot season could prove intriguing. There aren’t necessarily that many free spots for shows to fill on either the drama or comedy side (though the latter is more by choice). This should make for a very competitive pilot season, and on the drama side NBC delivers a wide variety of pilots that cover a lot of different bases. The comedies continue the trend of being broad and boring, but that is to be expected. The key question is, will NBC use its stability to take some risks, or just keep things going along the same path?

Most Intriguing Pilot: Time

At least sweet costumes are guaranteed.

  • Hook: An unlikely trio travels through time battling a master criminal intent on changing history.
  • Creative Team: Shawn Ryan and Eric Kripke will write and executive produce with John Davis, John Fox, and Marney Hochman.
  • Cast: Abigail Spencer, Malcolm Barrett, Claudia Doumit, Matt Lanter, Patterson Joseph, Goran Visnjic, Sakina Jaffrey
  • Reasons to Be Excited: Dude, this show is be run being run by Shawn Ryan and Eric Kripke, and the two of them seem like perfect compliments to each other’s writing styles. Plus, this concept is awesome, and this could easily be the most fun of all the time travel pilots (or really any of the pilots).
  • Reasons to Worry: Well, this concept can easily run out of control and fizzle after one season. Both Ryan and Kripke have had struggles lately with shows they have made, and if this show isn’t plotted well, it could easily be a hot mess.
  • Excitement Level: 10 out of 10. I’ll admit I am hooked. I really want to see what this can be. I am beyond psyched. (Oh yeah. Worst case scenario, this is another Zero Hour. WE MUST FIND ZEES CLOCKS! – Ed)
  • Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 75%. This show feels like it has a strong shot, but it is a riskier show than a lot of the other pilots NBC has. In such a competitive field this show could easily be passed over for much safer alternatives if NBC decides it doesn’t want to try and expand its brand.

Runner Up: Midnight, Texas

  • Hook: Based on the New York Times best-selling trilogy from Charlaine Harris, this drama is Twin Peaks meets True Blood in Midnight, Texas, a remote town where your neighbor could be a vampire, a witch, a werewolf and even an angel.
  • Creative Team: Monica Owusu-Breen will write with executive producer David Janollari.
  • Cast: Francois Arnaud, Dylan Bruce, Sarah Ramos, Arielle Kebbel, Parisa Fitz-Henley, Yul Vazquez, Peter Mensah, Sean Bridgers
  • Reasons to Be Excited: This could be a really fun show, and if it can actually combine some of the good parts from Twin Peaks and True Blood, it could be a really unique experience on TV. It could also be a lot of fun, and represent a real swing of ambition on NBC’s part. Plus, we can use more surreal shows on TV, supernatural or not.
  • Reasons to Worry: Or it could combine the bad parts of Twin Peaks and True Blood to become a uniquely awful TV experience. Plus, I saw a version of this show some years ago called The Gates, and aside from having some good young talent in the cast, that show was not that good, so let’s just say I am a bit skeptical about this show.
  • Excitement Level: 7 out of 10. I really want a show like this to be on network television, but man is the downside of this show super, super low.
  • Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 65%. I think the pedigree of the book series this is based on helps, and NBC might be wanting to try something new, but this concept is always going to be a bit silly, and NBC may not take it seriously enough, choosing to pick up more brand-ready shows instead.

Least Intriguing Pilot: Dumb Prince

  • Hook: The party-goer black sheep of the family returns home to compete with his brother for the family throne.
  • Creative Team: Charlie Grandy will write and executive produce with Brooke Posch, Dave Becky, and Amy Poehler.
  • Cast: Nico Evers-Swindell, Tim Baltz, Jessie Enis, Kevin Nealon, Elizabeth Perkins, Tiya Sircar, Patrick Gallagher
  • Reasons for Lack of Interest: Sigh. NBC, you used to have good comedies, back when they didn’t seem super generic and broad in the worst ways. Amy Poehler’s attachment to this would seem to suggest reasons for optimism, but this looks far more like a project that her name is attached to, but which she doesn’t really have anything to really do with going forward, so that doesn’t count for much. This idea is the kind of thing that NBC now insists on trotting out for its comedies, and like all of them, its lack of ambition is disconcerting.
  • Reasons to Hope: Well, maybe Amy Poehler is more involved then it seems, and the floor of this show shouldn’t be that low, considering the concept. The cast has some funny people in it, and they could make this work far better than it seems like it should. That said…
  • Dread Level: 7 out of 10. This show’s concept is everything wrong with network comedy. Only my uncertainty about whether this will get picked up keeps this dread factor down.
  • Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 40%. I think this pilot is going to be behind a couple of other comedy pilots, but it still has a shot based on Poehler’s involvement. It may come down to this show and a couple of others fighting for one slot, so it could go a number of ways.

Runner Up: Taken

Surprise! This show will have a lot of guns. Wait, no one is surprised?

  • Hook: Set in the modern day, this prequel to the blockbuster film looks into how a young Bryan Mills developed that special set of skills.
  • Creative Team: Alexander Cary will write and executive produce with Alex Graves, Luc Besson, Matthew Gross, Edouard De Vésinne, and Thomas Anargyros.
  • Cast: Clive Standen, Jennifer Beals, Gaius Charles, Monique Curnen, James Landry Hebert, Michael Irby, Brooklyn Sudano, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Simu Liu, Jennifer Marsala
  • Reasons for Lack of Interest: When Taken first came out, it was exciting because it made Liam Neeson the king of action movies for a number of years. But then the films kept coming, and by the end this series was ready to be put to rest. Instead, NBC decided to bring a prequel to tell everyone how Bryan Mills’s character developed his skills, and well, I couldn’t care less. Liam Neeson made that character interesting, and without Neeson there is nothing there to wonder about. This project just feels out of place, and like a show that is trying to recapture a moment that is long gone.
  • Reasons to Hope: This is a pretty hard show to mess up. It has an incredibly high floor of quality, and with the right casting and creative team it could maximize its potential to create something really entertaining. This series could be a lot of fun, which is nothing to look down on if it is done right.
  • Dread Level: 8 out of 10. This has higher dread than my top choice simply because I know it will exist, but I am much happier in a world with this than something like Dumb Prince, so Taken takes the runner-up spot.
  • Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 100%. Straight-to-series order, so this is happening. Just deal with it, I guess.

Pilot That Probably Shouldn’t Exist: Cruel Intentions

Will anyone else on this show be worth watching other than you? That is the question.

  • Hook: Picking up 15 years after the movie left off, Kathryn Merteuil vies for control of Valmont International as well as the soul of her late brother’s son.
  • Creative Team: Roger Kumble, Jordan Ross and Lindsey Rosin will write and executive produce with Neil Moritz and Pavun Shetty.
  • Cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Taylor Smith, Kate Levering, Samantha Logan, Sophina Brown, Nathalie Kelly, Coby Bell, Bryce Cass, Peter Gallagher
  • Reasons It Shouldn’t Exist: Because it is so unnecessary it hurts. Cruel Intentions was a movie that worked so much better than it ever should have because it found a perfect young cast, and just went for it. The specifics of the world aren’t nearly as interesting as networks seem to think. There was already one attempt at a series a while back, a prequel that was ultimately recut into a movie after the show failed to get picked up. (Though that version did star a younger Amy Adams, so maybe this franchise just has a gift for finding young stars.) Now we get the sequel show, because why the hell not, I guess? The other issue is, this feels like a show that if it was going to exist shouldn’t be on network television.
  • Reasons It Might Still Work: Sarah Michelle Gellar is amazing in this role in the film version, and her career has been up and down enough sinse that she is willing to reprise it, so I can see why a network would roll the dice. She is likely to be gold, so she might be able to keep things afloat even if no one else in the cast can keep up with her. If the rest of the cast can, however, this show could become really fun, and be a buzzworthy show on NBC that rivals the Shondaland shows on ABC.
  • Confusion Level: 7 out of 10. This is probably going to be really good or an absolute trainwreck, either of which would probably work out for NBC.
  • Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 80%. This show feels like it has way too much buzz not to get picked up. Still, it feels more like an ABC show than an NBC show, and NBC has a very competitive pilot field, so this show can’t be slotted in just yet.

Pilot That Probably Shouldn’t Exist Part 2: Chicago Justice

  • Hook: The next installment of the Chicago franchise, which looks into the world of lawyers and prosecutors in–duh–Chicago.
  • Creative Team: Dick Wolf will executive produce.
  • Cast: Philip Winchester, Joelle Carter, Nanzeen Contractor, Carl Weathers, Ryan-James Hatanaka
  • Reasons It Shouldn’t Exist: Because this entire franchise shouldn’t exist. Seriously, how the hell do four shows about Chicago now exist on NBC? It’s just so random. What’s next, Chicago Z00? Chicago Judges? Chicago Sports? Chicago Accountants? (Dammit, I might watch all of those shows if they existed). Maybe instead Dick Wolf just picks another city and just starts over again. Maybe in five years we’ll all be talking about Pittsburgh Law. Who knows at this point?
  • Reasons it Might Still Work: Because every other Chicago series has worked. None of these shows are bad, they just seem so conventional it hurts. This one else has a phenomenal cast lined up, so that may just overcome everything else. Plus, the storytelling options now open in this franchise is something new in television, as a story can start in one of the shows and cycle through the others. So maybe this will allow for more creativity than it appears.
  • Confusion Level: 6 out of 10. At this point my main confusion is as to when this will stop. It has to at some point, right?
  • Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 92%. Only the slight chance that this show will be the tipping point where NBC realizes its entire network can’t be Chicago-based shows and limited programming space could stop this show at this point. The first seems very unlikely, and the second probably just means something more interesting is getting shoved aside instead.

Biggest Wild Card: Powerless

  • Hook: Set in the DC universe, this comedy looks at the exceedingly average employees at an insurance company and their quest to find their own power.
  • Creative Team: Ben Queen will write and executive produce with Michael Patrick Jann.
  • Cast: Vanessa Hudgens, Alan Tudyk, Danni Pudi, Christina Kirk
  • Why it could be huge: An intriguing cast, and the opportunity to make a commentary about super hero show overload could make this a perfect show for the moment. There can be a lot of comedy to mine out of dealing with normal people in a world of super heroes. This show could really be unique and surreal in a way that could really allow it to resonate with audiences, who are craving more funny from the DC universe.
  • Why it could fail spectacularly: If this show just uses its DC universe advantage as set dressing and not as a storytelling tool, this show could get really generic really fast. It is still at its core an office comedy, so it will need to make sure it shows why it is different than every other one with its comedy, or it will just got lost in the shuffle after the novelty wears off. Also, it is on NBC, and I no longer trust this network to do comedy well. (DC TV had a chance to do “normal people in a superhero world” when they basically adapted Gotham Central. We all know how that turned out. Enough said. – Ed)
  • Overall Excitement Level: 7 out of 10. I have wanted a show like this for a while, and it could be really funny if NBC doesn’t get in the show’s way.
  • Chances of Getting Picked Up Based on Limited Information: 80%. Superheroes are all the rage, and this is superhero adjacent, so it is probably good. Still, NBC has so few slots that if Powerless‘ pilot doesn’t pop right away it could get left behind.

Final Thoughts

  • This year’s batch of pilots certainly look a lot more intriguing than last year’s, which saw the networks phone it in rather spectacularly in terms of the kind of ideas they were willing to back. There are a lot more ambitious projects here that could bring a spark to the network television landscape. Whether they will or not remains to be seen, but this year at least indicates that networks may slowly be more and more willing to try new things as they struggle to stay relevant (well, other than CBS, but CBS can do whatever the hell it wants because its audience is staying with it until they all literally die). Or at the very least, nothing so far looks like it will be as bad as Truth Be Told was, so I’ll take any victory I can.
  • Pilot I Am Most Excited About: Making History
  • Runner-Up: Time
  • Runner-Runner -Up: Unititled CW Mars Project (one day it will have a title)
  • Pilot I Am Least Excited About: All Non-Powerless NBC comedies (maybe I should just amend this to most of the comedy pilots period)
  • Runner-Up: Recon
  • Runner-Runner-Up: Taken
  • Pilot I Didn’t Write About That Has Me Most Excited: Presence (ABC)
  • Pilot I Didn’t Write About That Has Me Most Worried: The Exorcist (Fox)

That’s all my thoughts for now. Once we all actually know what is picked up and actually going to exist on network TV next fall, I will probably be back to look at those shows and lament the ones that failed to get picked up. Until then, if you need to experience what it is like to pick up a pilot, just go throw darts at a dartboard with show names on it. It probably will work out about the same for you as it does for networks.