Pilot Season: A Look at Key TV Shows in Development

  • Publish Date: March 22, 2012
  • Comments: ↓ 1 user comment

The dramas

666 Park Avenue ABC

Key people: Creator David Wilcox (a producer on Fringe), producer Matt Miller (Chuck), stars Terry O'Quinn (Lost), Vanessa Williams (Desperate Housewives), Dave Annable (Brothers & Sisters), and Rachael Taylor (Grey's Anatomy).

The pitch: Based on the book by Gabriella Pierce, this supernatural drama finds Lost's O'Quinn dealing with a dangerous and mysterious Manhattan building rather than a dangerous and mysterious island.

Americana ABC

Key people: Stars Anthony LaPaglia (Without a Trace), Emilie De Ravin (Lost), Ashley Greene (The Twilight Saga), Ken Olin (Thirtysomething), and Christine Adams (Terra Nova); producer/director Phillip Noyce (Salt, Rabbit-Proof Fence).

The pitch: LaPaglia stars as a legendary fashion designer in a soapy drama revolving around his business empire and his family.

The Americans FX

Key people: Producer Graham Yost (Justified, Boomtown); stars Keri Russell (Felicity, Running Wilde), Matthew Rhys (Brothers & Sisters), and Noah Emmerich (The Walking Dead); creator Joe Weisberg (Falling Skies, Damages).

The pitch: Russell and Rhys are KGB spies posing as a married American couple (with two kids who are ignorant of their parents' true identities) in the U.S. in a 1980s-set drama from former CIA agent-turned-writer Weisberg. Noah Emmerich (Super 8) is also in talks to join the cast.

Antichrist ABC

Key people: Creator/director/producer/writer Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, 2012), stars Martin Landau and Max Thieriot.

The pitch: A supernatural drama set against the backdrop of the 2012 presidential election, Antichrist centers on an astrophysics grad student (relative newcomer Thieriot) who learns that he has been chosen to defend the world against the forces of evil. It's disaster master Emmerich's first directing gig for TV; he also scripted the pilot with his 2012 co-writer Harald Kloser.

Arrow The CW

Key people: Creators Greg Berlanti (No Ordinary Family) and Marc Guggenheim (TV's Eli Stone, writer for DC and Marvel), star Stephen Amell (Hung), director David Nutter (Supernatural, Roswell).

The pitch: Amell stars as the DC Comics hero Green Arrow in a dark, "harder-edged" modern retelling of the billionaire-turned-crimefighter tale. Note that 16 of the previous 17 pilots directed by Nutter were ordered to series. (Berlanti and Guggenheim, meanwhile, also have the Cuba Gooding Jr. legal drama Guilty in development for Fox.)

Bates Motel A&E

Key people: Producer Carlton Cuse (Lost), writer/producer Kerry Ehrin (Friday Night Lights).

The pitch: This horror series prequel to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho is still under development (there's no cast attached or word on when a pilot will be shot), but the eventual goal is for a Walking Dead-style rollout, with a six-episode first season followed by additional seasons should the series prove successful. It is being described as a cross between Twin Peaks and Smallville, and will focus on Norman Bates' formative years.

Beautiful People NBC

Key people: Stars Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under, American Horror Story), James Murray (Chaos), Megalyn Echikunwoke (Damsels in Distress), Patrick Heusinger (Royal Pains).

The pitch: Just because it canceled Caprica (on sister network Syfy) doesn't mean that NBC has given up on androids. This new sci-fi drama is set in the near future where human-like robots ("mechanicals") exist but are treated as second-class citizens denied basic civil rights and forced to serve humans ... that is, until they begin to realize that it's a bum deal.

Head to head: Dueling Beauty and the Beast projects

Last season brought us competing fairy tale series (the successful Once Upon a Time and Grimm) as well as dueling 1960s period dramas (the doomed Playboy Club and Pan Am). Next season could see a similar matchup of dramas based on the classic Beauty and the Beast premise which has already been turned into a TV series once before (for CBS in the late 1980s) and which recently came to the big screen (yet again) in the form of 2011's forgettable Beastly 40.

ABC The Network The CW
Beauty & The Beast The Title Beauty & The Beast
Ruth Bradley (ABC's upcoming Titanic miniseries) The Beauty Kristin Kreuk (Smallville)
Darius Campbell (former Pop Idol contestant and stage actor) The Beast Jay Ryan (Terra Nova)
Creator/producer Jonathan E. Steinberg (Jericho) The Brains Jennifer Levin and Sherri Cooper, with original series creator Ron Koslow
A drama emphasizing the fantasy aspects of the story, centering on a princess and her beastly bodyguard. The Pitch A remake of the CBS series retaining its detective/crime procedural premise and set in present-day New York.
Fleder serves as executive producer. The Gary Fleder Fleder serves as director.
The Votes

The Carrie Diaries The CW

Key people: Creator Amy B. Harris (Sex and the City), stars AnnaSophia Robb (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Soul Surfer), director Miguel Arteta (Chuck & Buck, Cedar Rapids).

The pitch: Based on Candace Bushnell's novel, it's a prequel to HBO's Sex and the City centering on a young Carrie Bradshaw as a high school student in 1980s New York City.

Chelsea General ABC

Key people: Creator David E. Kelley (Chicago Hope, The Practice), producer Dr. Sanjay Gupta (CNN), stars Alfred Molina (Law & Order: Los Angeles), Jamie Bamber (Battlestar Galactica), Ving Rhames (Pulp Fiction), and Keong Sim (Glee).

The pitch: Based on Gupta's novel Monday Mornings, this medical dramedy from serial dramedy creator Kelley follows the personal and professional lives of five surgeons, using their weekly morbidity and mortality conference as a framing device.

Chicago Fire NBC

Key people: Producer Dick Wolf (Law & Order), stars Jesse Spencer (House), Monica Raymund (The Good Wife), Eamonn Walker (Oz), Lauren German (Hawaii Five-0).

The pitch: If you can't guess the premise (or the setting) of this action-filled procedural from its title, then NBC is doing something wrong.

The Corrections HBO

Key people: Creator/producer/director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Greenberg), creator/producer/writer Jonathan Franzen, stars Ewan McGregor, Dianne Wiest, Chris Cooper, Greta Gerwig, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Rhys Ifans; producer Scott Rudin.

The pitch: A cast loaded with film stars teams with noted indie director/screenwriter Baumbach to bring Franzen's acclaimed, best-selling novel about a Midwestern couple and their three grown children to HBO after a planned big-screen version fizzled out. The creative team has already sketched out four 10-episode seasons, though the network has yet to give the series a green light.

County NBC

Key people: Creator Jason Katims (Roswell, Friday Night Lights, Parenthood), stars Michael Imperioli (The Sopranos, tequila commercials), Michael B. Jordan (Friday Night Lights), Jason Ritter (Joan of Arcadia).

The pitch: Set in a troubled government-run hospital in Los Angeles, NBC's latest medical drama should be less glamorous than ER, but even more hectic.

Defiance Syfy

Key people: Creator Rockne S. O'Bannon (Alien Nation, Farscape); stars Julie Benz (Dexter), Grant Bowler (True Blood); producer Michael Taylor (Battlestar Galactica).

The pitch: Billed as "the first-ever series to unite television and MMO gaming," the sci-fi western Defiance is set in a post-apocalyptic Earth, where the few survivors of a global war must band together to form a new society. A companion open-world shooter of the same name from Trion Worlds (Rift) will be set in the same world, and stories from the game will impact those in the series (and vice versa).

Devious Maids ABC

Key people: Creator Marc Cherry (Desperate Housewives), stars Ana Ortiz (Ugly Betty), Judy Reyes (Scrubs), Grant Show (Melrose Place), Susan Lucci (All My Children).

The pitch: Four maids working for the rich and famous in Beverly Hills have ambitions of their own in Marc Cherry's soapy follow-up to Desperate Housewives, based loosely on a Mexican telenovela.

Elementary CBS

Key people: Creator Rob Doherty (Medium); stars Jonny Lee Miller (Dexter, Eli Stone, Trainspotting), Lucy Liu, and Aidan Quinn; director/producer Michael Cuesta (Dexter, Homeland).

The pitch: Miller attempts to do what his recent London stage co-star Benedict Cumberbatch has done to great acclaim for the BBC and PBS: portray Sherlock Holmes in a modern-day retelling of Arthur Conan Doyle's stories. Liu plays Watson to Miller's Holmes, who works for the NYPD after moving on from a consulting gig for Scotland Yard.

Gateway ABC

Key people: Creator Bruce C. McKenna (The Pacific, Band of Brothers), stars Keith Carradine (Deadwood, Dexter), Donal Logue (Terriers), Cam Gigandet (Twilight), David Denman (The Office), and Karen Allen (Raiders of the Lost Ark).

The pitch: Set in Colorado in the 1880s, this western would follow three brothers who unite to save their town from a corrupt cattle baron after their sheriff father is murdered.

The Gilded Lilys ABC

Key people: Producer Shonda Rhimes (Grey's Anatomy), stars Blythe Danner, John Barrowman (Torchwood), BrĂ­an F. O'Byrne (Mildred Pierce), Madeline Zima (Californication), and Matt Lauria (Friday Night Lights).

The pitch: ABC loves shows about wealthy people, and can't stop working with Shonda Rhimes. Put the two together and you have this soapy period drama set against the backdrop of New York City's first luxury hotel in 1895.

L.A. Noir ABC

Key people: Creator/director Frank Darabont (The Walking Dead, The Shawshank Redemption), stars Neal McDonough (Justified), Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead), Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes, Gilmore Girls), and Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead).

The pitch: Think TNT is envious of the critical success of cable networks AMC and FX? It may not have to be if this new period crime drama pans out the way it could. Based on John Buntin's acclaimed book of the same name, L.A. Noir will depict the battle between Los Angeles Police Chief William Parker (McDonough) and mobster Mickey Cohen (not yet cast) beginning in the 1930s.

Last Resort ABC

Key people: Creator Shawn Ryan (The Shield, The Unit, Terriers); stars Andre Braugher (Men of a Certain Age, Homicide: Life on the Street), Robert Patrick (Terminator 2), Dichen Lachman (Dollhouse), Autumn Reeser (The O.C.), Bruce Davison (X-Men), Max Adler (Glee), Scott Speedman (Felicity), and David Rees Snell (The Shield); director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale).

The pitch: Boasting one of the more intriguing premises of any drama pilot (at least on paper), the latest drama from Shawn Ryan follows the crew of an American nuclear submarine who refuse a suspicious order to fire their nuclear missiles, become fugitives, and escape to a small island, where they declare their independence as the world's smallest nuclear-armed nation. The pilot is being filmed on location in Hawaii, which certainly worked for Lost.

Masters of Sex Showtime

Key people: Creator Michelle Ashford (The Pacific); stars Michael Sheen (The Queen, Frost/Nixon), Lizzy Caplan (Party Down), Beau Bridges (Brothers & Sisters), Caitlin Fitzgerald (Gossip Girl), and Margo Martindale (Justified); director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love).

The pitch: Sheen and Caplan star as famed sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson in this 1960s-era drama based on Thomas Maier's book of the same name.

Mockingbird Lane NBC

Key people: Creator Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies), star Eddie Izzard, director Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men, House).

The pitch: Izzard is the only actor to be cast so far in NBC's remake of the 1960s monster series The Munsters. Unlike the original (which was a 30-minute sitcom), Mockingbird Lane will be a darker, hourlong drama, though it will have elements of humor (and is expected to emphasize striking, oversaturated visuals, like Fuller's Pushing Daisies before it). Izzard will play Grandpa, the vampire role first inhabited by Al Lewis.

Nashville ABC

Key people: Creator Callie Khouri, stars Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights), Hayden Panettiere (Heroes), Eric Close (Without a Trace), and Powers Boothe (Deadwood); director R.J. Cutler (Black. White., The War Room).

The pitch: Yet another soapy drama vying for ABC's fall schedule, the music-oriented Nashville comes from the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Thelma & Louise and centers on an aging country music star (Britton) and her young rival (Panettiere); expect them both to sing on the show. Award-winning documentarian R.J. Cutler will direct the pilot and produce.

Powers FX

Key people: Creator Charles Eglee (The Shield, The Walking Dead, Dexter), stars Jason Patric, Charles S. Dutton (Roc), and Titus Welliver (Deadwood).

The pitch: Although production of the pilot has been troubled (a version filmed last year didn't go over well with network execs, and has since been partially re-written and re-cast), there is still a chance this adaptation of the comic book series by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming could end up on FX's schedule next season. The ultimate goal is to do for superhero stories what Game of Thrones did for fantasies: use the genre as a jumping off point to tell a serious and complex story (here, mainly a police procedural revolving around Patric's superhero-turned-detective character) that could be accessible even to non-genre fans. Co-star Lucy Punch recently left the project, and more cast changes could be in store, though fans can be encouraged that FX just ordered scripts for additional episodes.

Ray Donovan Showtime

Key people: Creator Ann Biderman (Southland), stars Liev Schreiber (Salt), Elliott Gould, Jon Voight (former owner of a 1989 LeBaron convertible), Peter Jacobson (House), Paula Malcomson (Deadwood), and Steven Bauer (Breaking Bad).

The pitch: If Showtime is going to duplicate the critical success of Homeland next season, it could be with this "novelistic" Los Angeles-set dramedy about a professional fixer (Schreiber) to the rich and famous, who can solve any problem but his own.

Revolution NBC

Key people: Creator Eric Kripke (Supernatural); producer J.J. Abrams, stars Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad), Andrea Roth (Ringer, Rescue Me), and Billy Burke (Twilight); director Jon Favreau (Iron Man).

The pitch: Can you imagine a post-apocalyptic world "where all forms of energy have mysteriously ceased to exist"? We can't, exactly, but Kripke and Abrams can, as that's the premise for their new high-energy (ironic!), action-filled drama.

Scruples ABC

Key people: Producer Natalie Portman; stars Chad Michael Murray (One Tree Hill), Claire Forlani (NCIS: Los Angeles), Mimi Rogers, Gary Cole (Entourage), and Boris Kodjoe (Undercovers).

The pitch: Based on the 1978 novel by Judith Krantz (which was previously adapted as a miniseries back in 1980), this drama centers on the luxurious but scandalous life of a Beverly Hills family involved in the fashion industry. (If for some reason you haven't already marked "rich people" and "primetime soap" on your ABC pilot bingo card, please do so now.)

The Selection The CW

Key people: Creators Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain (Angel, The Vampire Diaries), stars Aimee Teegarden (Friday Night Lights), William Moseley (The Chronicles Of Narnia films), and Martin Donovan (Weeds).

The pitch: Set 300 years in the future, this Hunger Games-esque drama centers on a poor young woman (Teegarden) who is selected by lottery to enter a competition where the winner will marry the prince and become queen of a war-torn nation. Where are the books, you ask? Those are coming soon, too (by Kiera Cass).

Untitled Karyn Usher/Brett Ratner drama Fox

Key people: Creator Karyn Usher (Bones, Prison Break); stars Julian McMahon (Nip/Tuck), Angela Bassett (ER), and Rick Schroder (Silver Spoons); director/producer Brett Ratner (Tower Heist, Prison Break).

The pitch: This Hanna-esque action drama centers on a feisty, orphaned 14-year-old girl (newcomer Saxon Sharbino) who is mentored by a rogue CIA assassin to become a spy.

Untitled Kevin Williamson drama Fox

Key people: Creator Kevin Williamson (Dawson's Creek, Secret Circle), stars James Purefoy (Rome), Kevin Bacon, Maggie Grace (Lost), and Natalie Zea (Justified).

The pitch: An FBI profiler (Bacon) tries to hunt down a deranged serial killer (Purefoy) who has created his own cult of murderers using "technology" (i.e., he probably has a Tumblr).

Untitled Nicholas Pileggi/Greg Walker drama CBS

Key people: Creators Nicholas Pileggi (Goodfellas, Casino) and Greg Walker (Without a Trace); stars Dennis Quaid, Michael Chiklis (The Shield), Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix), and Jason O'Mara (Terra Nova); directed by James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma).

The pitch: This 1960s-era drama is based on the true story of rodeo cowboy-turned-Las Vegas sheriff Ralph Lamb (Quaid); Chiklis plays a mobster who clashes with the lawman. Note that O'Mara will need to be replaced if another network picks up the canceled Terra Nova (doubtful).

Zero Hour ABC

Key people: Creator Paul Scheuring (Prison Break), stars Anthony Edwards (ER), Michael Nyqvist (Sweden's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and Jacinda Barrett (Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason).

The pitch: Edwards returns to a regular TV role for the first time since ER as the longtime editor of Modern Skeptics magazine (no, there isn't really such a thing ... or is there?) who becomes caught in a real conspiracy when his wife is kidnapped. We're skeptical ourselves, but perhaps Edwards can make it work.

Already picked up

Fox has ordered two series from Seth MacFarlane without shooting a pilot for either one; his revival of the animated classic The Flintstones and a new version of Carl Sagan's legendary documentary series Cosmos (to be hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson) are both slated for the coming season. NBC has similarly given a 13-episode order to Hannibal without a pilot (or even a cast); that series will be based on the early life of serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter from Thomas Harris' novels. MTV has a series based on the controversial movie Catfish, while Netflix is producing House of Cards, a political drama from David Fincher that will star Kevin Spacey, as well as the horror tale Hemlock Grove from director Eli Roth.

Rejected pilots

It is still early in pilot season, but a few potential series have already been passed on by networks, including Doug Ellin's Entourage follow-up for HBO (40, shockingly about four male friends), and Doug Ellin's other Entourage follow-up for HBO (Mike Tyson-produced boxing drama Da Brick, which was to be directed by Spike Lee). Yesterday, Syfy also announced that it would not pick up BSG prequel Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome as a series, though the completed 90-minute pilot will air on the network as a movie (and the show may still have a future as a web-only series, though that seems unlikely given its cost).

What do you think?

Which of these shows would you like to see get picked up for next season? Do any of the pilots that we omitted seem promising to you even though they didn't to us? Let us know in the comments section below.

Comments (1)

  • cristane  

    Great round up as usual guys, thanks for the effort. Lots of interesting projects, I'm really looking forward to Darabont's LA Noir.

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