The Buzz on Network Pilots, Including Projects from J.J. Abrams, Steven Spielberg, and Brett Ratner(!)

     April 25, 2010

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Pilot season is a wonderful time in TV Land; countless fledgling writers and would-be stars compete for the few slots available on the fall network lineup, where the survival rate of new shows making it to a second season is 31%!  Recently, both The Live Feed and Deadline put together a report on the series that have risen through the ranks and stand a good chance of making it to air.

After the jump, you’ll find a breakdown of the hottest pilots at FOX, NBC, CBS, and ABC, including projects from producers J.J. Abrams, Steven Spielberg, and Brett Ratner as well as stars Kathy Bates, Forest Whitaker, and William Shatner.

Thanks to The Futon Critic for all the plot synopses and cast information.


FOX: Looking for 3-5 dramas and 3 comedies

Plot: “Drama about ex-fugitives who are recruited to work as US marshals.”
Cast/Crew: created by Nick Santora and Matt Olmstead (Prison Break); pilot directed by Gavin Hood (X-Men Origins: Wolverine)
Buzz: The series, which has a “caper-y feel”, has tested great so far; seems like a lock.

: “Drama about a family from 100 years in the future who travel back in time 150 million years to the strange and inhospitable environments of prehistoric earth.”
Cast/Crew: Produced by Steven Spielberg and showrunner Brannon Braga (24); may star Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights)
Buzz: There have already been rumors of an unofficial 13-episode order already, likely for midseason.

Plot: “Drama about a con artist juggling two lives in two Texas cities with two different women.”
Cast/Crew: Pilot directed by Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer), created by Kyle Killen (The Beaver); cast includes Jon Voight and Adrianne Palicki (Friday Night Lights)
Buzz: Testing hasn’t been stellar for the “beautifully shot” pilot, but the network brass love it.  Destined to be a critical darling if Fox orders it to series.

: “Police procedural set–and filmed–in Chicago.”
Cast/Crew: created by Shawn Ryan (The Shield)
Buzz: Nobody’s seen a finished cut of the pilot, but due to Ryan’s cop show pedigree, the buzz is good.

Plot: “Comedy about a 25-year-old who winds up having to raise an infant with the help of his quirky family.”
Cast/Crew: created by Greg Garcia (My Name Is Earl)
Buzz: Looks good to nab a spot among Fox’s comedy hopefuls.

: “Comedy about a rich Beverly Hills jackass who falls in love with a charitable tree-hugging woman who can’t stand his lifestyle or values.”
Cast/Crew: co-created by Mitch Hurwitz, Will Arnett, and Jim Vallely (Arrested Development)
Buzz: This Arrested reunion has gotten some tongues wagging, and Arnett reportedly nailed the table read (of course), but a finished pilot remains to be seen.

Plot: “Comedy about a group of twentysomething geniuses who are tasked with cracking computer security systems.”
Cast/Crew: stars Christian Slater
Buzz: This could be Slater’s third series in as many years, as My Own Worst Enemy never made it to a second season, and The Forgotten has no shot at renewal.

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NBC: Due to several Leno-shaped holes in the schedule, the network wants 5-7 dramas and 4-5 comedies

Plot: “A domesticated husband and wife return from years in retirement and are re-activated as CIA agents.”
Cast/Crew: co-created by J.J. Abrams (Star Trek), who directed the pilot
Buzz: Everyone is loving the pilot, which “looks great with gorgeous leads.”  This will find its way to air.

: “The title character, Jim Rockford, remains a roguish private eye who tackles the dangerous, quirky and unpredictable cases that no other detective wants to handle.”  A remake of the 1970s series.
Cast/Crew: created by David Shore (House); stars Dermot Mulroney (The Wedding Date)
Buzz: Largely due to the name brand awareness, Rockford is pretty much a lock.

: “A curmudgeonly ex-patent lawyer and his group of misfit associates form an unconventional kind of law practice.”
Cast/Crew: created by David E. Kelley (Boston Legal); cast includes Kathy Bates (About Schmidt) and Brittany Snow (Prom Night)
Buzz: 2009 was the first year since 1989 that television did not feature a Kelley-created series.  Thanks to a strong lead performance from Bates performance, the same shouldn’t be true for 2010.

: “The romantic dramedy chronicles several loosely connected, modern stories of love, sex, marriage and dating.”
Cast/Crew: created by Cindy Chupack (Sex and the City); stars Becki Newton (Ugly Betty) and Jordana Spiro (My Boys)
Buzz: Executives like the pilot and are reportedly looking for writers in case they like it enough to order Love to series.

: “Single-camera comedy about a customer service manager in Kansas city who’s sent to India to train his replacement when his department is outsourced.”
Cast/Crew: created by Robert Borden (George Lopez)
Buzz: One of two frontrunners among NBC’s comedy pilots.

: “Comedy about three couples at various stages of their relationships.”
Cast/Crew: created by Jon Pollack (30 Rock) and Scott Silveri (Friends)
Buzz: The other frontrunner among NBC’s comedy pilots thanks to a good table read.

CBS: Looking for 3-5 dramas and 2-3 comedies

: “Revival of the one-time CBS mainstay about the workings of the fictional Hawaiian state police department.”
Cast/Crew: created by screenwriting team Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Star Trek) and Peter Lenkov (CSI: NY); cast includes Alex O’Loughlin (Moonlight), Daniel Dae Kim (Lost), Grace Park (Battlestar Galactica), and Scott Caan (Ocean’s Eleven)
Buzz: Hawaii has a super high profile with its remake status, and the cast is solid.  Expect a barrage of promos in the coming months.

: “Drama about another Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) located in San Francisco.”
Cast/Crew: stars Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland)
Buzz: The backdoor pilot already aired on the Criminal Minds mothership this spring, and reception was mixed.  But with name brand awareness and Oscar-winner at the lead, the odds are in favor of this spinoff joining the likes of NCIS: LA, CSI: Miami, and CSI: NY

Plot: “Drama about two charismatic and fiery Las Vegas defense attorneys who go to the mat for their clients.”
Cast/Crew: stars Jerry O’Connell (Crossing Jordan) and Jim Belushi (According to Jim)
Buzz: It definitely fits the CBS brand and has some buzz to match its relative starpower.

Plot: “Drama about a group of rogue CIA operatives who combat bureaucratic gridlock, rampant incompetence and political infighting.”
Cast/Crew: pilot directed by Brett Ratner (Rush Hour 3); cast includes Freddy Rodriguez (Six Feet Under), Eric Close (Without a Trace), and Tim Blake Nelson (The Incredible Hulk)
Buzz: Apparently, it’s “classic fun Brett Ratner”, so it could make it to air if CBS is willing to deviate from their formula a bit.

Plot: “Comedy about a couple who struggle with overeating and meet at overeaters anonymous.”
Cast/Crew: produced by Chuck Lorre (Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory)
Buzz: Lorre gave CBS its two biggest hits in Bang and Men, so they network is very receptive to another of his efforts.

: “Comedy about a twentysomething who moves back in with his larger-than-life dad.”  Based on the Twitter account shitmydadsays (yep).
Cast/Crew: stars William Shatner as well as MadTV alums Nicole Sullivan and Will Sasso
Buzz: Shatner is reportedly nailing the lead role, so it looks like Twitter is goin’ to Hollywood!

Plot: “Comedy about four people in their 20s in New York looking for love.”
Cast/Crew: stars Jason Biggs (American Pie), Tyler Labine (Reaper), Lizzy Caplan (Party Down), and Minka Kelly (Friday Night Lights)
Buzz: The execs are digging the pilot for this ensemble comedy.


ABC: Looking to pick up 3-4 dramas and 2-4 comedies

: “A seemingly normal American family one day finds that they have developed superabilities.”
Cast/Crew: co-created by Greg Berlanti (Green Lantern); stars Michael Chiklis (The Shield) and Julie Benz (Dexter)
Buzz: The unique premise helps the superhero drama stand out.

: “Five doctors who have lost their way will go to the ends of the earth to try to remember the reasons why they wanted to become doctors in the first place.”
Cast/Crew: produced by Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice)
Buzz: As another medical drama from Rhimes, Map could round out ABC’s Thursday night of Grey’s/Practice once Flashforward is cancelled.

187 Detroit
Plot: “A documentary crew gives us an insider’s view of the homicide unit, capturing the professional crises, as well as the raw personal heartbreak and heroism of these inner-city cops.”
Cast/Crew: created by Jason Richman (Bangkok Dangerous)
Buzz: ABC is always looking for a hit crime procedural (all due respect to Castle).

Plot: “Conservative pundit Evelyn Wright finds it hard to have a good private life.”
Cast/Crew: stars Debra Messing (Will & Grace), Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm), and Carrie Fisher (Star Wars)
Buzz: This could be a good fit with The Middle, Modern Family, and Cougar Town in ABC’s Wednesday night female-friendly comedy block.

Plot: “The middle-aged manager of a mid-level sports arena, some juggles a wide variety of sports and entertainment acts, while handling his erratic boss and apathetic staff.”
Cast/Crew: co-created by star Matthew Perry (Friends); cast includes Allison Janney (West Wing), Andrea Anders (Better Off Ted), and Portia Doubleday (Youth in Revolt)
Buzz: A strong pilot and Perry at the lead could secure a slot for Sunshine.

Personally, I’m rooting for Midland, Wilde Kingdom, Undercovers, Perfect Couples, No Ordinary Family, and Mr. Sunshine. (Sorry CBS, but if you pick up Livin’ on a Prayer from the How I Met Your Mother creators, we’ll talk.)  What say you, commenters?  Anything look good?