This is the first of a three-part series that will be split between this site and Off The Mark Thoughts. Part two will be posted after upfronts in mid-May and the third will be a review of my most anticipated pilots in September/October.
For the causal television viewer, this time of year is about season finales and cliffhangers, and the anxiety of what will happen to their favorite characters. But for those inside the industry, this is when a half-year or more worth of work will either pay dividends or it will be back to the drawing board for creators and a job search for staff writers.
In television, nothing is more unforgiving than pilot season. The process to bring a new series to air is long and arduous, and the odds of success are akin to a scratch-off lottery ticket. The show creators spend months preparing ideas to pitch to studios, and then all winter writing the “pilot” episode. And after all of that, there’s a good chance they will never shoot a single page from that script. Even for those that receive a pilot order, there’s no guarantee that the general public ever watches their work.
With upfronts (when prime-time broadcast TV schedules are announced) quickly approaching, I have decided to list the four pilots that I believe have either a good chance to succeed or will crash and burn quickly. In order to explain how pilots affect the long term success of a series, allow me to paraphrase an old baseball analogy.
“You can’t be renewed based on your pilot, but you can sure as hell be cancelled because of it.”
[Full Disclosure: I am basing these opinions solely on the loglines and the team behind the series. If you want a full list of ordered TV pilots, click here.]
Creator(s): Joss Whedon
Network/Writer(s): ABC/Joss Whedon
Actors: Ming Na, Clark Gregg, Brett Dalton
Logline/Summary: Based on Marvel Comics’ secret intelligence organization that has appeared in countless titles including Iron Man, Captain America and The Ultimates since being introduced in the 1960s. The military law-enforcement agency’s moniker stands for Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistic Directorate, which also has evolved over time in the comics.
Thoughts: For those that don’t know, I am a huge Joss Whedon fan. So I would have been on-board even without The Avengers tie-in. I only hope that ABC gives the show a chance because Whedon’s series are always a slow burn and require time to develop.
Creator(s): Hilary Winston
Network/Writer(s): FOX/Hilary Winston
Actors: Ari Graynor, Ryan Hansen, David Alan Grier, Sara Gilbert, Kristin Davis
Logline/Summary: Based on the film, a sexy, foul-mouthed divorcee becomes a teacher to find her next husband.
Thoughts: I feel that I’m in the minority here, but I feel that the plot of the original movie lends itself perfectly to a serialized show. Also, the cast is really good, even if it lacks a huge name. And if you are an avid reader of The Main Damie, you know I love all things Ari Graynor.
Creator(s): Meredith Averill
Network/Writer(s): FOX/Meredith Averill
Actors: Aimee Teegarden, Matt Lanter, Malese Jow, Titus Mankin Jr.
Logline/Summary: Passion and politics threaten the peace and an epic romance ignites between a human girl and an alien boy when he and eight others of his kind (The Orion 9) are integrated into a suburban high school ten years after they and hundreds of others landed on Earth and were immediately consigned to an internment camp where they’ve been imprisoned ever since.
Thoughts: My interest may stem from the fact that I enjoyed the main concept when it was called, Roswell, and aired on The WB. But mostly, I think it’s because this means Aimee Teegarden will be on my TV again.
The Black List
Creator(s): Jon Bokenkamp, John Eisendrath
Network/Writer(s): NBC/Jon Bokenkamp, John Eisendrath
Actors: James Spader, Megan Boone
Logline/Summary: The world’s most wanted criminal mysteriously turns himself in and offers to give up everyone he has ever worked with. His only condition is he will only work with a newly minted FBI agent with whom he seemingly has no connection.
Thoughts: James Spader, enough said.
The Crazy Ones
Creator(s): David E. Kelly
Network/Writer(s): CBS/David E. Kelly
Actors: Robin Williams, Sarah Michelle Gellar, James Wolk
Logline/Summary: A father-daughter workplace comedy set in the world of advertising.
Thoughts: This is the opposite of Bad Teacher because they went all-in with big-time actors, and hope they mesh well together. I just fear that this will be more like Partners; where the stars were terrific, but the supporting cast is awful.
Creator(s): John Lucas, Scott Moore
Network/Writer(s): ABC/John Lucas, Scott Moore
Actors: Kate Simses, Ginger Gonzaga, Vanessa Lengies
Logline/Summary: A high-concept, single-camera comedy from the writers behind The Hangover set in the world of a sexy Manhattan bar chronicling the exploits of singles in search of love — all over the course of one night.
Thoughts: High-concept is usually a phrase that makes me immediately weary of a project because they have a better-than-average chance to be a train wreck. But I think my apprehension comes from the sinking feeling that the show will be a serialized version of The Hangover — which would be terrible and boring.
Creator(s): Matt Lopez
Network/Writer(s): ABC/Matt Lopez
Actors: Janet Montgomery, Chris Egan, Tom Ellis
Logline/Summary: A sexy gothic soap set in the present day that weaves together a mythology that incorporates the legends of Dracula, Jekyll and Hyde, Frankenstein and Dorian Gray, among others.
Thoughts: Cause Do Know Harm did so well. This is clearly ABC trying to catch lightning in a bottle again like they did with Once Upon a Time. They won’t.
Beverly Hills Cop
Creator(s): Shawn Ryan
Network/Writer(s): CBS/Shawn Ryan
Actors: Brandon T. Jackson, Eddie Murphy, Christine Lahti
Logline/Summary: Continuation of the movie franchise, centered around Axel Foley’s police officer son, who takes down the criminal elements of the rich and famous in Beverly Hills.
Thoughts: Don’t get me wrong, I love the movie. But let’s be honest, Eddie Murphy was the only reason that it’s a classic. If he’s not a main character, I can’t see it succeeding. But one thing I do know for sure, the pilot will be amazing because Shawn Ryan is a master of the pilot episode. Come to think of it, go watch The Shield pilot instead of this one.