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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

The pilots I'd like to see (part two)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Last week, I wrote about a number of CBS and ABC pilots that -- based only on the show's "logline" and cast and crew information -- still managed to interest me. This week, I'll look at the offerings from NBC, FOX and The CW that do the same.

There's no guarantee that these shows will be great or good or even worth watching beyond the first few minutes (never mind if they get a full series order or not), but for right now, I have to admit, these are the ones that grabbed my eye.

NBC: 23 total pilots under consideration (14 comedy -- including 1 already ordered to series, 9 drama)

NBC apparently liked what they saw in the earliest stages of development of a new Matthew Perry-led sitcom called "Go On" -- they've already ordered it into production. That one, however, isn't on the list of that network's pilots that interested me the most. The ones that did include a sitcom adapted from a British series, an action-drama from "Law and Order" creator Dick Wolf and a mystery-adventure from the creator of the long-running CW series "Supernatural."

"Friday Night Dinner" is based on a British comedy series; it was adapted for U.S. television by Greg Daniels, who already has two sitcoms on NBC ("The Office" and "Parks and Recreation"). The Americanized version of the program revolves around the Goodmans, played by Emmy-winning actors Tony Shalhoub and Allison Janney and the events that unfold during their weekly family get-togethers. Shalhoub and Janney are two of the more reliable performers in TV; their participation in the pilot automatically draws my interest. That Daniels is writing the script is another plus -- he's proven himself to be a solid and steady hand when it comes to guiding comedies over the years.

"Chicago Fire," from executive producer Dick Wolf, concentrates on the action and drama of the daily lives of the people who fight fires in Chicago. The cast features some interesting performers, such as Eamonn Walker, Taylor Kinney and Jesse Spencer, and the pilot will likely be a big-budget affair with sky-high production values. This one is likely NBC's attempt to recapture some of the spirit (and ratings muscle) of "ER," so it will be interesting to see if the show is willing to dig deeply into its characters or if it will be more of a glossy action piece.

Previously known as "Revolution," but now untitled, the other drama I'm interested in comes from Eric Kripke, the creator of the very entertaining CW thriller "Supernatural," and counts J.J. Abrams among its executive producers. The show is being called an "epic adventure thriller" (by NBC's PR people, anyway) about a post-apocalyptic America where every single piece of technology has blacked out, and how a family struggles to reunite in the dystopia. Like "Chicago Fire," the cast features several talented performers, such as Giancarlo Esposito and Andrea Roth, and with Abrams behind it, no expense will be spared to make the show look great. High concept shows are tough to deliver (and often fail), but I must admit that I'm looking forward to seeing whether this show can reach its obviously ambitious goals.

FOX: 15 pilots (10 comedy, 5 drama)

FOX has seen success this past season with half-hour live-action comedies, so it appears that expanding their horizons there is a focus this fall. However, they aren't ignoring the high-concept drama side that has been a hallmark of the network's scheduling for the better part of the last decade. There are a number of FOX pilots that have caught my attention, chief among them a pair of sitcoms and a duo of dramas.

Perhaps the best news about sitcom pilot "The Goodwin Games" is that the very funny actress Becki Newton (often a scene-stealer on the ABC series "Ugly Betty") has a chance to be back as a television series regular. Although she had a sizable guest role on CBS' "How I Met Your Mother," the last time she was cast in a lead role (for a series called "Love Bites," on NBC), she had to step down from the part before the show went into production. I'm hoping that doesn't happen this time; Newton's a major-league talent who's been on the cusp of stardom for the better part of a decade. She plays one of three siblings -- along with Scott Foley and Jake Lacy -- who are in line to receive a large inheritance if they can meet the requirements set forth by their father's estate. Co-created by Carter Bays and Craig Thomas of "How I Met Your Mother," along with fellow writer Chris Harris, this comedy could fit right in with FOX's line-up.

Bill Lawrence has one of the more distinctive voices in television comedy today. His creations include "Scrubs" and "Cougar Town," two shows that weren't (and aren't) the highest-rated, but certainly have their fans, including me. Now he has another possible series on the horizon in "Like Father," which centers on a father-son relationship inspired by his real-life experience. As a writer, Lawrence has a knack for mixing off-beat, even zany, humor with genuinely heartfelt emotional content. If "Like Father" is anything like his most recent efforts, it could be something special.

The FOX drama pilot "Guilty" stars Cuba Gooding, Jr., as "a smart and ethically questionable defense attorney" who finds himself stripped of his license to practice law, but continues to work on cases. Okay, so the plot isn't exactly groundbreaking, but the show was created by Greg Berlanti, an expert hand at building unusual and interesting shows out of parts that don't seem to fit -- at first glance, anyway. Gooding is an actor who can bring a lot of energy and creativity to a role (or he can star in movies like "Boat Trip"), so this pilot has the potential to be a high-flier -- or a deep-sinker. Either way, it's one that I'm wanting to see.

The CW: 8 pilots (Zero comedy, 8 drama)

Over at the so-called "netlet" The CW, only 8 pilots are in consideration, none of which are comedies. I don't quite understand the reasoning on that, considering that a few young-skewing comedies could provide some variety to their line-up. (Then again, I'm not sitting in their executives' chairs, and there's probably a good reason for that.)

Among the drama pilots, two stuck out to me: one a comic book adaptation, the other a thriller. Both of the shows sound like they would fit in with the network's history, including its earlier incarnation as The WB.

Based on the DC Comics character "Green Arrow," the new pilot "Arrow" is a modern retelling of the heroic archer. Although the character was previously portrayed in the long-running series "Smallville," this version -- written by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg -- is not related to that one, and will not be carrying on any of the storylines from that series. Berlanti (who also wrote last year's "Green Lantern" feature film) has assembled an interesting cast for this new drama, including a trio of dependable character actors in Paul Blackthorne, Susanna Thompson and Jamey Sheridan, and it's a good bet that the pilot will be a good-looking one. But is Green Arrow a character that an audience can latch on to?

"Cult," a meta-mystery-drama from executive producer Josh Schwartz, is about a TV show's production assistant who joins forces with a blogger to investigate her own program's rabid fanbase. As they look closer, they discover that fans might be re-creating scenes from the crime show -- possibly including a murder. Schwartz has had experience with cult hits and their fans (he was the creator/executive producer of "Chuck," "The O.C." and "Gossip Girl"), so I'm guessing that there's more than a little potential for this show to have a darkly satirical edge to it, not only about the fanbase, but also the people who make these programs and the networks that air them.

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Jeremy Blomstedt
The Entertainment Center