At this point in the TV season, viewers begin to fret about the status of their favorite shows. But even as network executives ponder the fate of shows, they are also playing judge, jury and executioner on a raft of pilots for prospective news series.
It’s pilot season, and these test episodes – research and development for the TV biz – are in production, including NBC’s Pittsburgh-set modern-day Hatfields & McCoys pilot that’s filming in Boston. It stars Virginia Madsen (Smith) as blue-collar-family matriarch Eloise McCoy and Rebecca DeMornay as wealthy Mary Hatfield. The official description of the show says the family feud is reignited by a startling death that unleashes decades of resentment that leads the clans to do battle for control of Pittsburgh.
This year NBC has the most pilots in production – 26 – followed by CBS and ABC with 24 each, 16 for Fox and eight for The CW, according to TheWrap.com.
At most, 35 of the 98 commissioned pilots will be picked up to series.
Which potential shows stand the best chance? Networks love a known quantity. So anything that sounds familiar in title or topic (see: Hatfields & McCoys) probably stands a better chance. Same goes for a known star or producer, which is why NBC ordered a new Michael J. Fox comedy to series without shooting a pilot first.
This pilot season a couple of programs with a military backdrop are in production as are shows about adult children and their parents. The CW has several shows set in the future, including one about humans re-colonizing a nuked-out Earth and another about aliens and humans co-existing. A couple of comedies are about assistants to demanding bosses.
Here are a few of the shows being produced that could become series this fall or next midseason – we’ll know for sure when networks announce their fall schedules the week of May 12:
Big Thunder (ABC): Ever ridden the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride at a Disney park? That ride was the inspiration for a drama about a New York doctor and his family relocating to a frontier mining town that turns out to have a mysterious underbelly. But does the town have a roller-coaster train?
S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC): Avengers director Joss Whedon directs this small-screen spinoff about a Marvel-universe, secret law-enforcement agency. Clark Gregg (Avengers) and Ming-Na star.
Beverly Hills Cop (CBS): The movie series becomes a TV series with Eddie Murphy and Judge Reinhold back as guest stars, but the focus shifts to Aaron (Brandon T. Jackson), son of Axel Foley (Murphy). Shawn Ryan (The Shield) wrote the pilot.
The Surgeon General (CBS): Still searching for a successful medical show, CBS goes all the way to the top with this drama about the surgeon general of the U.S. (Jason Isaacs).
NCIS: Red Team (CBS): An introduction to the characters from this planned spinoff aired recently on NCIS: Los Angeles. John Corbett, Scott Grimes and Kim Raver star.
Crazy Ones (CBS): Drama writer David E. Kelley tries a half-hour comedy about a father (Robin Williams) and daughter (Sarah Michelle Gellar) who work in the same ad agency.
The Originals (The CW): A Vampire Diaries spinoff that will first air as a VD episode on April 25, this drama follows Klaus (Joseph Morgan) to the French Quarter of New Orleans.
Delirium (Fox): Sort of a sexualized version of Logan’s Run, this drama, based on a book series, is set in a world where love is illegal and is eradicated by a procedure when people reach a certain age; so naturally a young woman (Emma Roberts) falls in love 95 days before she’s due to get that treatment.
Rake (Fox): Imagine House but with a lawyer (Greg Kinnear) at the center.
Untitled Dan Goor/Mike Schur Project (Fox): Andy Samberg (Saturday Night Live) stars in this comedy about police detectives in a New York City neighborhood.
Ironside (NBC): A remake of the 1970s Raymond Burr drama about a police detective in a wheelchair.
About a Boy (NBC): Parenthood and Friday Night Lights writer Jason Katims adapts the Hugh Grant movie for TV with David Walton (New Girl) in Grant’s role.
Untitled Victor Fresco & Sean Hayes Project (NBC): Hayes, the former Will & Grace star, teams with Fresco, the producer of Better Off Ted, for a comedy about a man learning to parent his 14-year-old daughter. Linda Lavin (Alice) co-stars.