The major broadcasters — ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and The CW — need help. Original TV content is becoming so diluted, some of it isn’t even on TV anymore (hello streaming!) The desperation has been felt throughout a delayed development season this year, with comic book properties and reboots dominating. And thanks to the fact that there are 1,715 TV series in primetime (a slot running from 8 to 11 p.m.), it takes a lot to get viewers’ attention.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the what looks good, bad, and downright awful when it comes to TV pilots. These judgements are only based on loglines and sometimes casting, so a show that seems terrible at this point might actually turn out — once more about it is known — to be ok. The opposite could also be true.
The takeaways so far for each network are that ABC is really trying to make itself the home of diversity, NBC dramas are trying to get sexy, Fox is really into remakes, and CBS is just CBS. Narratively, the pilots are dominated by tired stories of women trying to balance their personal and professional lives (“can it be done?!”) In the comedy field, expect many rip-offs of The Office and Modern Family, while in drama, legal and medical procedurals are not losing any steam. In a surprising twist, though, angels seem to be making a big appearance this year …
In any case, there are a lot of pilots that have been picked up so far, and I’m not going to address all of them (some are too boring to even mention). Below, though, you’ll find some of the most notable Comedy projects (tomorrow: Drama). Settle in, and prepare to judge.
Title: Scream Queens
Logline: 15-episode, straight-to-series anthology revolving around a college campus that’s rocked by a series of murders. New settings and storylines will be featured in subsequent seasons of the anthology series
It Sounds Like: An interesting cast (Emma Roberts, Jamie Lee Curtis, Nick Jonas, and Joe Manganiello are confirmed) and a decent premise. But it’s from Ryan Murphy, so expect it to start off really strong, and then get completely nuts.
Title: Strange Calls
Logline: Based on the Australian format, an affable but down on his luck young police officer is transferred to a rural town where — with the help of a peculiar, elderly night watchman — he starts to realize the town has a bizarre supernatural underbelly.
It Sounds Like: A comedy version of Northern Exposure meets Twin Peaks (I am being very generous). This series has been redeveloped several times over the last few years, which isn’t a great sign, but the premise actually has potential if the casting is right (the single-camera aspect will also help).
Logline: A behind-the-scenes look at what goes into the making of a telenovela. Eva Longoria leads the cast as Ana Maria, the star of Latin America’s most beloved telenovela, who strives to stay on top in a world where the drama off-camera is better than it is on-camera.
It Sounds Like: Not gonna lie, this is the only comedy pilot that I’m excited for without reservations. Huge comedic potential here. The series already has a 13-episode straight-to-series order, so NBC obviously agrees.
Tell Me More:
Title: Untitled Dan Savage
Logline: Dan Savage‘s semi-autobiographical series revolves around a picture-perfect family turned upside down when the youngest son comes out of the closet. What seems like the end of their idyllic life turns out to be the beginning of a bright new chapter when everyone stops pretending to be perfect and actually starts being real.
It Sounds Like: The Real World: Dan Savage. Frankly, if this didn’t have Dan Savage’s name to it, it wouldn’t stand out. But the only way Savage-inspired stories are coming to primetime is if he gets watered down to broadcast standards. Stand by.
Logline: John Stamos stars as a version of himself: a longtime bachelor whose life is upended after he learns he’s a father and grandfather.
It Sounds Like: The question is, are we going to get an Uncle Jesse John Stamos, or some kind of curmudgeonly John Stamos? This single-camera might not that be that bad. Proceed with caution until more is known.
Title: Life in Pieces
Logline: A single-camera comedy, written on spec, about one family told through separate stories of its different family members.
It Sounds Like: Potential. It feels like it has a little Modern Family and a little Arrested Development to it, but so little is currently known about it. The format feels different … let’s see where this goes.
Logline: Centers on a couple who tells their son the lessons they learned growing up in the ’90s in the hopes that he avoids making the same mistakes.
It Sounds Like: How I Met Your Mother meets The Goldbergs, if it gets lucky. Or it could be a huge bore. For now, watch the 90s-nostalgia series Hindsight, currently airing on VH1, instead.
Title: Angel From Hell
Logline: When Amy enters Allison’s life and claims to be her guardian angel, they form an unlikely friendship and Allison can’t be sure if Amy is an angel or just nuts.
It Sounds Like: Just nuts that this got a pilot order.
Logline: A workplace comedy about the different groups of people working side by side in a shared office space.
It Sounds Like: The laziest, most generic title and logline I’ve ever read.
Title: How We Live
Logline: An anthropologist blogger moves to the suburbs with his wife and quickly discovers the fascinating habitat and mating rituals of a new undiscovered species: his suburban friends and neighbors.
It Sounds Like: Absolutely insufferable.