Friday, March 4, 2011

Pilots 2011-What's Interesting? What could be good? What looks awful?

Pilot season is upon us again. This is where the broadcast networks decide on the shows that they will air next year by making one episode of a show and seeing what that makes. The pilots are casting now, I see notices daily. I thought I'd take repeats of NBC comedies as an opportunity to share my thoughts on the best and worst of pilot concepts and casting. 

There seem to be some outside-the-box shows that are being developed, look in the list for specific examples. I'm glad that some of these shows are being developed and I'm glad that the networks are taking these risks.

You can find them after the jump. (This post will be updated with more information as pilots are cast and development continues).

Disclaimer: This is based purely on the concepts and early casting. I have not read any scripts and footage doesn't exist for these pilots so I cannot judge based on the actual content, only the concept, casting, and what other people have said. These judgements are very loose and can change easily when I see an episode of the show. Also, the pilots I discuss are not the only pilots in contention, just what in my mind are the most notable. And finally, these are pilots, not full fall commitments so some, if not most, of these shows will not make it onto network schedules.



  • Charlie's Angels:
    • Logline: Reboot of the 1970s classic estrogen-soaked detective saga that takes a “modern spin” on the Angels, with the action set in Miami.
    • Thoughts: This could be pretty damn good. They have a talented trio, including the fantastic Minka Kelly (Parenthood, Friday Night Lights). It has potential and I'm excited to see what they do with it.
  • Georgetown:
    • Logline: A sexy soap centered around the young people behind the power brokers of Washington, D.C.
    • Thoughts: This is a pilot that I'm only interested in because of Josh Schwartz's name being on the Executive Producer list.
  • Hallelujah:
    • Logline:Drama set in the town of Hallelujah, Tenn., which is being torn apart by the forces of good and evil and whose fortunes change when a mysterious, charming drifter (Jesse L. Martin) arrives in town bringing justice, peace and possibly faith. Episodes will be punctuated by songs sung by a gospel choir.
    • Thoughts: An interesting idea. This pilot comes from Marc Cherry ("Desperate Housewives") and actually sounds like it could be pretty interesting. The only con is there will probably be heavy religious overtones, which if mishandled can ruin a show. Update: My interest in the pilot has just grown 100% because of Terry O'Quinn (Locke from "Lost") being cast in the pilot. This pilot has just gained my interest. Update 2: As if the casting on this pilot couldn't get any better, the brilliant Donal Logue was cast in the pilot. This is shaping up to be a very interesting show.
  • Poe:
    • Logline: A crime procedural following Edgar Allan Poe, the world’s very first detective, as he uses unconventional methods to investigate dark mysteries in 1840s Boston.
    • Thoughts: Not necessarily good as much as it is notable. It sounds kinda terrible but if well executed it could be interesting. Update: With the casting of Christopher Egan ("Kings") as Poe, this could actually be pretty decent. 
  • Grace:
    • Logline: Dysfunctional family drama set in the world of professional dance, telling the story of a famed choreographer (Eric Roberts) who sleeps with his dancers and has three daughters with different mothers – with one of the daughters stepping in as manager to save dad’s dance studio.
    • Thoughts: Another pilot that sounds more notable then interesting. It sounds like it could be decent, and I like Eric Roberts, but this pilot sounds kinda awful
  • Once Upon A Time:
    • Logline: When a young boy who purports to be her son shows up on her doorstep, a woman is drawn into a town where the magic and mystery of fairy tales may be real and hold the key to unlocking the mysteries of her troubled past.
    • Thoughts: Interesting premise+Lost Producer and writer=I'm in. This sounds interesting and the type of pilot of which I want to see a few episodes. Update: The talented and beautiful Jennifer Morrison (who you probably know as Cameron from "House") was cast in this pilot. This makes it more interesting but my level of intrigue hasn't changed.
  • Damage Control:
    • Logline: Ensemble based on the career of legendary crisis management consultant Judy Smith, with Kerry Washington starring as a professional fixer with a dysfunctional staff.
    • Thoughts: Honestly, this pilot is only on the list because Henry Ian Cusik (Desmond from Lost) is in the cast. It's a Shonda Rhimes ("Grey's Anatomy) pilot so I'm not excited, but it could be somewhat interesting. 
  • Good Christian Bitches (I thought this was a comedy, but deadline listed as a drama so I trusted them)
    • Logline: Sexy soap (Desperate Housewives in Dallas) that centers on Amanda, mother of two and onetime “mean girl” in high school, who returns home humbled following a scandalous divorce, hoping to get a second chance at winning over her old classmates. Based on the book by Kim Gatlin.
    • Thoughts: This is mainly notable because of its PTC criticized title and because Kristin Chenoweth was cast in the pilot. It should be interesting to watch the development of this one, although it doesn't sound particularly interesting as a logline.
  • Don't Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23 (Single-camera)
    • Logline: An earnest, optimistic girl from the heartland (Dreama Walker) is forced to move in with a sexy, unstable New York City party girl (Krysten Ritter) who has the morals of a pirate.
  • Untitled Tim Allen (multi-camera, now has Hector Elizondo and Nacy Travis have been cast in leading roles, opposite Tim Allen)
    • Logline: A man (Tim Allen) must fight for his manhood in a world increasingly dominated by women.
    There's really not much interesting in the batch of ABC comedy pilots but these two were pilots that jumped out at me as notable. It's difficult to judge comedy from a logline so I won't do that, I'll only list the major projects.


    • Hail Mary:
      • Logline: Buddy P.I. show centered on a suburban single mom in Atlanta who teams up with a streetwise hustler to solve crimes.
      • Thoughts: The major reason I'm interested in this is the star, Minnie Driver. This is clearly a star vehicle for her and it could be a good procedural.
    • Ringer:
      • Logline: On the run from the mob, a troubled young woman hides out by inhabiting the life of her wealthy twin sister, until she learns that her twin’s life has a bounty on it as well.
      • Thoughts: This is one of my favorite pilot ideas of the season. It has Sarah Michelle Geller ("Buffy") and Nestor Carbonell (Richard on "Lost") in the cast and it's an interesting concept. I'm really looking forward to this one, and not just because it's Geller's first broadcast pilot since "Buffy" ended.
    • Person of Interest:
      • Logline: Crime drama centered on Reese, an ex-CIA agent, presumed dead, who teams up with Finch, a reclusive billionaire, to prevent violent crimes in New York City.
      • Thoughts: This is another pilot that the star and EPs interest me greatly. Jonathan Nolan and JJ Abrams are listed as executive producers with the fantastic Michael Emerson starring. This could be a great one folks. 
    • Untitled Susannah Grant Project 
      • Logline: The life of ultra-competitive surgeon Michael is changed forever when his ex-wife Anna dies and begins teaching him what life is all about from the hereafter.
      • Thoughts: Quite frankly, the reason why this has been added to the list was the casting of Margo Martindale (who is giving the performance of her career on Justified). She's fantastic and I'm glad to see her in a pilot, only time will tell if it's good or not, or if we'll even see it.
    Comedies (all CBS comedies are multi-camera):
    • Rob Schneider Project 
      • Logline: Schneider vehicle finds him starring as a confirmed bachelor who has just married into a tight-knit Mexican-American family.
    • Untitled Sports Radio Show (now starring Damon Wayans and Eliza Dushku ("Buffy", "Dollhouse")
      • Logline: Comedy inspired by ESPN personality Colin Cowherd’s outspoken sports talk show.
    • Two Broke Girls (from an EP of "Sex in the City")
      • Logline: Two broke 22-year-old women tackle life in Brooklyn as they try to make their dreams come true.
    • Vince Uncensored (From Conan O'Brien's production company and it stars the brilliant Michael Chiklis as Vince)
      • Logline:After a life-changing experience, a man (Vince) decides to take a more honest approach to his life, work and family.
    There's not much interesting in terms of CBS comedies and it's difficult to judge comedy by loglines so I listed the most notable of the comedies.


    Dramas (the only type of show the CW produces):

    • Secret Circle:
      • Logline: Based on the book from the The Vampire Diaries author L.J. Smith, drama tells the story of a young woman (Britt Robertson) who moves to a new town and discovers that not only is she a witch and part of a secret coven, but also the key that will unlock a centuries-old battle of good vs. evil.
      • Thoughts: This seems like it could be a very interesting series. This is definitely in the CW's wheelhouse and it could be a half decent pilot (which is more then I can say for most CW shows).
    • Heart of Dixie:
      • Logline: Comedic drama centered on a young New York City doctor (Rachel Bilson) who inherits a medical practice in a small Southern town populated by an eclectic and eccentric group of characters.
      • Thoughts: Is it OK to say that I'm only interested because of EP Josh Schwartz and star Rachel Bilson? OK? Good, because it's true.
    • Awakening:
      • Logline: Two sisters come of age and face off against one another amidst the beginning of a zombie uprising, with the older one a public defender.
      • Thoughts: ZOMBIES!!!! This could be a half decent bad series, we'll have to see. Update: Although this isn't enough for me to take this pilot seriously, Titus Welliver was cast in this pilot. He's brilliant, but this sounds like a cash-in show.



    • Terra Nova (Already has series order, but it's a new show for next fall on FOX. Premieres in September, Not May)
    • Weekend at Bellevue:
      • Logline: Medical drama based on Dr. Julie Holland’s memoir, Bellevue, centering on a psychiatrist in charge of the weekend shift of Bellevue Hospital’s psychiatric unit.
      • Thoughts: This is probably most notable because of its star, Lauren Ambrose (whom I saw on Broadway, and she was great). 
    • Exit Strategy:
      • Logline: Spy thriller about a team of five experts deployed by the CIA after an operation goes bad to extract the involved agents before it’s too late, with Ethan Hawke and Megan Dodds playing the leads.
      • Thoughts: This pilot, with the  "Fringe" creators as EPs could be good, but we'll have to see if it's picked up.
    • Touch:
      • Logline: A father (Kiefer Sutherland) discovers that his autistic, mute son is communicating with him through a complex series of numbers and may even be able to predict events before they happen.
      • Thoughts: This is most notable because it's from "Heroes" creator Tim Kring and it stars Kiefer Sutherland ("24"). This pilot won't be filmed for fall, so we won't see it then (because of Sutherland's Broadway commitment. It sounds interesting but it also sounds like it could be awful.
    • Alcatraz:
      • Logline: A crime drama set at the country’s most infamous prison on Alcatraz Island and involving a team investigating the mysterious disappearance of its 1960s inhabitants in the present.
      • Thoughts: A drama with Jorge Garcia (Hurley from "Lost") on a mysterious island from JJ Abram's production company? Count me as excited! This sounds like it could be pretty awesome.
    • The Finder:
      • Logline: Planted Bones spinoff based on the The Locator books series from Richard Greener, telling of a military-trained “finder” (Geoff Stults), a former military policeman, who specializes in finding people and things that no one else can.
      • Thoughts: This is a "Bones" spinoff. This is more notable then interesting. Look for the backdoor pilot with episode 19 of this season of Bones (airing TBD).
    • Locke and Key:
      • Logline: A suspense thriller based on the graphic novel of the same name by Joe Hill, following a family in crisis as it moves into a haunted house full of “secrets, dangers and wondrous opportunities.”
      • Thoughts: This is another pilot that's more notable then interesting. It could be good, but we'll have to see if it's picked up.


    • Alien Gregory (animated, already has 7 episodes ordered for next season)
    • Napoleon Dynamite (animated, already has six episodes ordered for next season)
    • Untitled Liz Meriwether Comedy (Single-Camera, Zooey Deschanel attached to star)
      • Logline: Young ensemble starring Zooey Deschanel as an unlucky-in-love elementary school teacher who moves away from her former boyfriend and in with three unruly guys.
    • Family Album (Single-camera, Mike O'Malley ("Glee") is attached to star)
      • Logline: Centers on a passionate, overly enthusiastic former jock (Mike O’Malley), who, determined to get some quality family time, embarks on a vacation with his extended family.
    Again, I won't review loglines for comedies but listed notable comedies.



    • Wonder Woman:
      • Logline: David E. Kelley’s re-imagining of the iconic D.C. comic that casts Wonder Woman/Diana Prince (Adrianne Palicki) as not only a vigilante crime fighter in L.A. but also a successful corporate exec and modern woman working to balance all of the elements in her complicated life.
      • Thoughts: I like Adrianne Palicki and the idea of a reimagining of Wonder Woman but David E. Kelley can't write women. If it were in different hands I would be feeling differently but I have no confidence in this pilot. Everyone who has read the script has looked at it in a negative light. I don't see this being good at all.
    • REM: 
      • Logline: An Inception-style thriller centering on a cop (Jason Isaacs) who wakes up after an accident to find he is living in two different realities.
      • Thoughts: Jason Issacs (Lucius Malfoy) is awesome so I am really looking forward to this pilot, if it gets picked up of course Update: Awesome casting news, the fantastic actress Cherry Jones has been cast in the pilot. This is really shaping up to be awesome. I hope this gets picked up so that I can watch it.
    • Smash:
      • Logline: Follows a cross-section of characters who come together to put on a Marilyn Monroe musical on Broadway.
      • Thoughts: This is a musical series from EP Steven Spielberg that stars Debra Messing, Christain Borle, Megan Hilty, Jack Davenport, and Katherine McPhee. It doesn't look particularly good but it certainly is notable.
    • 17th Precinct:
      • Logline: Sci-fi drama set in the fictional town of Excelsior, where magic and supernatural elements rule over science.
      • Thoughts: This could be an interesting pilot. It is from the mind of Ron Moore ("Battlestar" reimagining) and stars Stockard Channing and Tricia Helfer. It's an interesting idea and if it's executed well it could be pretty damn good.
    • Prime Suspect:
      • Logline: Reboot of the iconic British series that starred Helen Mirren, centering on an iconoclastic female detective (Maria Bello) struggling to make her bones in a tough New York precinct dominated by men.
      • Thoughts: This pilot is a tough nut to crack. No one can possible beat Helen Mirren in this show, she's amazing. Maria Bello is talented but is she talented enough to play this role? I'm not sure that this remake is a good idea but it's happening, so I won't complain about it.
    • Playboy:
      • Logline: Historical drama set at the famed Playboy Club in Chicago in 1963, with Laura Benanti starring as a 30-year-old bombshell and an established star at the club who knows her days as a Bunny are numbered due to age.
      • Thoughts: This could be interesting. The pilot is clearly playing the "Mad Men" period piece vibe so it could be good. Laura Benanti is talented and I think she can carry her own show, so this could be good. Update: Sean Maher (a "Firefly" alum) was cast in this pilot as a potentially recurring character. I love this actor and can't wait to (maybe) see him in this pilot.
    • Grimm:
      • Logline: Dark but fantastical cop drama about a world in which characters inspired by Grimm’s Fairy Tales exist, starring David Giuntoli as a detective who starts to see humans as beast/animals and discovers he has a mandate to protect “humans” from the beasts.
      • Thoughts: Hmmmm... This could be an interesting pilot. It's from a "Buffy" and "Angel" alumnus so it has potential. This is definitely a wait and see for quality but it has my interest


    • Brave New World (Single-camera, Starring Ed Bagley Jr. and Anna Poppelwell ("Narnia")
      • Logline: Workplace comedy that follows a group of unusual characters at Pilgrim Village, a theme park that specializes in recreations of New England in 1637.
    • Are You There Vodka? It's Me Chelsea (multi-camera)
      • Logline: Inspired by late-night star Chelsea Handler’s bestselling autobiographical book of the same name about her party-rich life in her 20’s, with Laura Prepon starring as Handler during her years as an alcohol-loving, oversexed cocktail waitress.
    • Untitled Whitney Cummings Comedy (multi-camera, starring Whitney Cummings and Natalie Morales)
      • Logline: Whitney Cummings stars as half of a young couple who tackle the ups and downs of a committed relationship in today’s complicated world.
    • Lovelives (multi-camera, starring Ryan Hansen ("Party Down")
      • Logline: A comedy about a couple who explore cheating on their spouse and the friends and family members around them who encourage it.
    • Bent (Single-camera, starring Amanda Peet)
      • Logline: Romantic comedy about a recently divorced Type A single mother (Amanda Peet) who tries hard not to fall for the sexy surfer dude contractor she’s hired to re-do her kitchen.
    • Untitled Dan Goor Project (multi-camera, starring Jean Smart ("24")
      • Logline: A young doctor joins his parents’ medical practice and spends as much time tending to his family as to his patients.
    • Free Agents (Single-camera comedy starring Hank Azaria and Anthony Head (of Buffy fame)
      • Logline: Romantic comedy based on a UK series that explores the attraction between two quirky PR executives who work together who both are on the rebound – one from a divorce, the other from the loss of a fiance’.
    • Untitled Emily Spivey Project (Single Camera Comedy starring Will Arnett and Christina Applegate)
      • Logline: An irreverent look at parenthood through the POV of an acerbic working mother – who never thought she’d be a mom – along with her stay-at-home husband and opinionated parents.
    Again, I don't review loglines for comedies. 

    That's it on the pilots. There are some really cool ideas but there are also some huge duds. 

    What do you guys think? Anything jumping out to you as particularly good or bad?

    (Source on loglines:

    1 comment:

    1. "...David E. Kelley can't write women."

      Umm... what? I'm pretty sure Camryn Manheim, Lara Flynn Boyle, Kathy Baker, Lauren Holly, and most of all Calista Flockhart would strongly disagree with that statement.

      I think Kelley has a better sensitivity towards writing for women than nearly anyone in television.

      That having been said, though -- I think Wonder Woman is doomed to fail, for numerous other reasons that have nothing to do with its star or its show runner.


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