It’s nearly decision time! The broadcast networks are on the verge of making a spree of tough decisions to chose which pilots will receive series orders for next season. Around this time of year, the Hollywood trades try to predict which projects will get greenlit based on industry spin. We called around town with a different question: “Which pilots actually seem like they’ll make great shows that you would actually want to watch?” We still got spun, of course—but this is at least a different flavor of spin. We mashed those opinions with our own to come up with a list of 12 titles we hope get a shot on the air, based on what we’ve heard so far…
The Muppets (ABC): Who doesn’t want to see the Muppets back on TV? We’re told the documentary-style pilot presentation made for ABC was so good it received a standing ovation in the room. “It looked awesome,” said one insider of the project, which will explore the Muppets’ relationships and personal lives for the first time. “It has an edge to it that adults will appreciate but that will safely go over kids’ heads—a quality Modern Family has as well.”
The Grinder (Fox): Terrible title. Yet we keep hearing industry insiders talk about this comedy. Rob Lowe plays a TV lawyer who takes over his family’s law firm (So wait: It’s not about a dating hook-up app?). The pilot is supposedly “really really great.” Along the same lines, we keep hearing that John Stamos’ Fox comedy Grandpa, in which the actor plays a version himself, is surprisingly good as well. “Stamos is a f–king star. It’s awesome,” said somebody who does not represent John Stamos or work at Fox.
Supergirl (CBS): Could be amazing. Could be a train wreck. Perhaps even likely a train wreck? But who doesn’t want to see even a train wreck involving an invincible flying alien office worker? We’re hearing a series order of the comic adaptation starring Melissa Benoist (Glee) is very likely. (The show’s status is technically “series commitment” already, but that just means CBS would have to pay a penalty if they don’t make it.) Also, the assumption that the show has a safety net at The CW if CBS passes is apparently not true, as Supergirl is said to be too expensive for CBS’ kid-sister network. After NBC flopped with Bionic Woman, NBC and The CW failed to adapt Wonder Woman, and ABC struggled to get viewers to watch Agent Carter, could this be a female-fronted super-hero show that becomes a hit?
Kingmakers (ABC): We keep being told by industry insiders that this is a Revenge spinoff. And ABC keeps insisting it’s not a Revenge spinoff. Either way: It’s a Revenge-y plot from a producer of Revenge, so it could help fill the void left by Revenge.
Quantico (ABC): It’s about a group of FBI recruits in training at Quantico, and one of them is a terrorist. Nice hook. We’re told: “Amazing script. The direction is great. It’s very similar to How to Get Away with Murder in its structure, so ABC has gotta get past that.” We suspect a TV network can indeed get past having a new show that’s similar to a hit show. We’re also intrigued by forensic drama The Catch, starring Mireille Enos (The Killing), simply because it’s from Shonda Rhimes.
Minority Report (Fox): The pilot is screening today at Fox, and everybody is curious about whether producers can pull off this TV-sized sequel to the 2002 Tom Cruise film. The consensus seems to be that if the crime-solving format is perfect for a broadcast network and if the production makes the ambitious script work, it could be great. Still, TV in general (and Fox in particular) has struggled to present “near-future” realities in a successful way. (Remember Almost Human, Terra Nova, and Dollhouse?)
The Player (formerly Endgame) (NBC): This Las Vegas-set drama about a sniper (Philip Winchester from Strike Back) who has to compete a series of impossible tasks sounds like it could scratch our 24 itch—though we’re told the script is merely “pretty good.” Also: We liked the previous title better. (The Player sounds like a show about a pick-up artist.)
Arrow / The Flash & Agents of SHIELD spinoffs (The CW and ABC): The former is just a presentation, a potential CW-sized, Avengers-esque superhero team drama including Brandon Routh and Wentworth Miller. The latter is just in development, and stars Adrianne Palicki and Nick Blood. Both could make for fun extensions of the original shows, though we’re still waiting for more details before getting too excited.
Super Clyde (CBS): A couple of years ago, this project about a fast food worker who tries to become a superhero was a hot pilot starring Rupert Grint (Harry Potter franchise) that did not end up getting a series order. Now it’s on Try No. 2, this time starring Charlie McDermott (The Middle). We liked this concept then, and still like it now.
Tales from the Darkside (The CW): American Horror Story and True Detective have revived the TV anthology format, but at a full-season length. It would be great if a Twilight Zone-like show could revive anthologies as single-episode stories, as the excellent Black Mirror has done in the UK. That said, we haven’t heard this title is all that likely to get a series order.
Cheerleader Death Squad (The CW): If only because it’s called “Cheerleader Death Squad.” Said one fan of the show who’s clearly not a fan of The CW: “It’s like Mean Girls meets Agent Carter. It’s a fun script that’s different than the D.C. Comics / Vampire Diaries crap they have; closer to Jane the Virgin.”
Random insight about various pilots:
Frankenstein (Fox): Stars Rob Kazinski as a cop brought back from the dead. We’re very skeptical because we’ve seen endless variations on this story and it feels tired, but we keep hearing this is a decent take.
Rush Hour (CBS): Stars John Foo and Justin Hires in the series version of the hit cop film franchise. Some are excited, but one skeptic shot back: “It has the same problem as all shows based on hit movies—it can never be as good as the movie.”
Untitled NBA comedy (ABC). That’s NBA, as in basketball. It’s a fresh TV topic. We’re told the show is being made with plenty of cooperation from the NBA (which sounds like a double-edged sword, creativity wise), but could be interesting and fill a unique space.
Uncle Buck (ABC): An African American-cast version of the 1989 John Candy movie and starring Mike Epps. We’re told the taping went very well.
Lucifer (Fox): Based on the comic about Satan living in Los Angeles helping the LAPD solve crimes. One insider says (and forgive us, we’re just quoting): “It’s the worst thing ever.”
Original Sin (previously Flesh and Blood): About a presumed dead son of a local politician (Joan Allen) who returns to a small town. This title has a few fans out there.
Blindspot (NBC): A woman (Jaimie Alexander) found naked covered with tattoos that reveal a mystery, “was really good, like a cross between Memento and an old Fox show called John Doe.”
Limitless (CBS): The crime-procedural series version of the book and 2011 film stars Jake McDorman (Greek). The pilot, we’re told, “came out amazing. It’s grounded sci-fi that explores smart drugs.” We followed up by asking, “Yes, but isn’t it yet another super-smart guy solving crimes?” The response: “Well … yeah.” So … probably a hit then!