Can this pilot season win me over?
Yeah, I’m really not loving this pilot season.
The early choices for pilot season were pretty meh to me, but things may be looking up.
What options should the networks choose this pilot season?
With all the pilot pickups known, and all but the CW’s fall schedule announced, it’s time to say what could work for each network, and what I kind of hate about their plans.
First, it seems like there are a lot of projects being held back for midseason, thought maybe I just don’t remember how many show are typically reserved for later launch dates. And in theory this seems to make sense. Why not wait to launch a show till you can place it in the perfect spot on the schedule and not have it get lost amongst all the other shows premiering at the same time? But in practice, how often does a midseason show become a big success?
Anyway, right now ABC needs some consistent performers. After seeing Quantico and other show drop drastically from their first year, the network needs some stability. To that end they’ve picked up a couple procedurals in Deception and The Good Doctor, as well as rebooting American Idol. While some may scoff at this, arguing that the era of idol and procedurals has passed, there are still a lot of casual viewers out there who could be interested in shows they could watch each week and then not think much about until the next episode rolls around.
That said, I really hate that Idol is back again! We finally got rid of it, and a year later it rises from the grave? And on the topic of procedurals, I think ABC should have found a spot for the lighthearted spy show Unit Zero. Maybe in place of Once Upon a Time, especially given that they apparently want to try to keep Hook around even with all the people he care about being gone. I could have gotten behind a new season focusing on the reformed villains Rumple, Regina and Zelena trying to find their way in the new world, but I don’t have high hopes for the next season.
Speaking of low expectations, I feel like The Gospel of Kevin could be DOA. Maybe I’m wrong, and I don’t want to criticize a network for trying something new, but I’ll be surprised if it works out for ABC.
The new ABC show I’m most looking forward to is The Crossing. I had my doubts about it working as a long-term series, and I can’t say those are completely allayed, but I’ll definitely be tuning in when the show makes its debut.
Moving on to CBS… it’s CBS. It picked up exactly what you would expect CBS to pick up. The good news is that after a year where the network was criticized for a lack of diversity, the new show include one a black actor in the starring role of one, and a bisexual actor playing a gay character in the lead of another. The network also passed on Missions Control, which would have been a unique choice for the network, but also would have opened the door to some more controversy given that the two lead characters were cast with white actors in spite of being intended to be minorities in the concept stage.
As for the bad moves, I feel like Wisdom of the Crowd could challenge The Gospel of Kevin to be the first show cancelled, while a show like The Get could have at least had a chance. I’m also a bit surprised that the net is going with both military shows in the fall, when it seems like they could be fighting for the same audience.
Fox has one of the more buzzed about projects this year with the Marvel Comics show Gifted. Interestingly enough, they will be trying to use the DC Comics show Lucifer to launch it. I do expect the pairing to work well enough, though a case could be made for using Gifted to lead off a night at 8.
Fox’s other new Fall “drama” is The Orville, the tongue-in-cheek space exploration show from Seth MacFarlane. It has been placed Thursday at 8. I have my doubts about how well the show will work, but it shouldn’t have much audience overlap with the other shows in that time slot. There’s not a lot I really dislike about the Fox schedule, and I’ll definitely be watching Gifted this fall.
NBC basically has two goals this fall, launch Brave on Mondays, and try to take over Thursday night. So for the second year in a row, NBC is trying to use The Voice to premiere a new show which is part of the fall’s biggest trend. Hopefully for the network, military shows will go over better than the time travel shows did this past year.
As for Thursday, NBC is putting freshman star This is Us in the middle of the night, which seems like a good, aggressive move. But of all the show to follow up their new hit with, they choose the true crime series about the Menendez brothers. Because what better to watch after a heartfelt family drama than a show about brothers who murdered their parents? I also think putting Will & Grace opposite The Big Bang Theory is expecting a bit much from the reboot.
CW has yet to release their schedule, but we know they will be picking up Valor, Dynasty, Life Sentence and Black Lightning, while passing on Searchers and Insatiable. If you’ve read my previous posts, you know I’m disappointed Searchers didn’t make the cut. And honestly, I’m more than a little confused. A few years ago the CW seemed determined to use Supernatural to launch a new show or two, even trying to put together a spinoff for the long-running fantasy show. But since then they just keep passing on all the potential shows they could have used to appeal to the Supernatural audience Searchers, Transylvania, Tales From the Darkside, maybe the Mars project. Has there rally not been even one of these shows that could have found an audience.
As for the shows the network did pick up, CW head Mark Pedowitz has apparently always wanted a military show, though I’m really not sure why. It just doesn’t seem to me like a good fit for The CW audience. Life Sentence is another dramedy, which I expect to do about the same in the ratings as the ones that came before. I’ve seen some people suggesting that having Lucy Hale as the star could bring in a bigger audience, but I’m skeptical. Nothing against her, but I just don’t think she’s got that kind of drawing power.
Black Lighting will probably get good numbers to start with. Much as I don’t think the network needed another superhero show, these shows are still their best performers. And Black Lighting should be a different take on the genre, with an older hero who has a grown family to care for. Then there is Dynasty. I’ve seen some people saying it will flop because the CW audience won’t watch a show with old people. I can’t agree with that, as the people behind the show has good track record of meshing stories about older characters with younger ones. My concern is that it seems like the creators of the show and the people at the network expect the show to sell itself, with people tuning in just because it’s Dynasty. But does the CW audience really care about the original Dynasty, let alone a reboot? And what in the recent history of reboots makes anyone think that any reboot is a guaranteed success? Ultimately I think it will do okay, but be a big disappointment for the network if they really are expecting it to be a massive success.
We are rapidly approaching the network upfronts, where we will find out the TV schedules for next year!
Deadline has released their first buzz on the pilots likely to be picked up, as well as a look at shows on the bubble of renewal and cancellation. The reports here do need to be taken with a grain of salt. As the comments in the spoiler TV links to these articles note, it is too early to draw any conclusions about the pilots, and eve the later buzz reports have historically predicted pick-ups for show that got passed over, and failed to mention pilots that would end up making the cut. The accuracy of the bubble show reports is also not exactly pristine.
Throwing out some of my own predictions, I expect ABC to go big on procedurals this year, picking up magician crime show Deception, medical show The Good Doctor, and Unit Zero, a show about unlikely spies. This won’t generate much excitement, but procedurals are still shows that can be consistent performers if they find an audience, and cruise to triple-digit episode counts. And Season Zero has written up very positive reviews for all three of these potential shows.
I also expect ABC to give the green light to at least one of a few shows with family soap elements. Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry has a show about a small-town in America which becomes the sight of an apparent terrorist attack, while there is also a show called The Crossing about refugees arriving in America from a dystopian future, and a show about a man who comes into contact with a messenger from God. The Marc Cherry pilot probably has the edge, though the review from a Marc Cherry fan at Season Zero notes that the investigation elements, never a strong point of Desperate Housewives, remain a weak point in the new show. This is a pretty big red flag for me, given that investigations seem set to be at the forefront of the show. Personally I’m most interested in The Crossing out of these three, though Season Zero wasn’t particularly impressed.
CBS may only pickup a few new shows this year, with the most ambitious option being Mission Control from The Martian author Andy Weir. Other options that could catch my attention is The Get, a show about journalists that received a positive review from Season Zero, and Instinct a show headlined by Alan Cumming which seems to follow the basic formula of a man and a woman solving crimes together, except for the fact that the man is actually gay in this case. I expect the Cumming vehicle to go to series, as well as the law show starring former ER actor Noah Wyle.
The last three years has seen the CW follow three rules. First they pickup a superhero show, then they give the green light to a dramady, and third they pass on a show that could have served as a companion to The Never Ending Story… I mean, Supernatural. The Supernatural spinoff was dead on arrival, anthology-esque Tales from the Darkside never saw the light, and last year Transylvania was passed over in spite of getting some solid buzz. This year seems like it might follow the same patters, with Black Lightning and Life Sentence seeming set to get the green light, while The Searchers may miss the cut in spite of getting some good feedback.
One other thing to watch from The CW this year is that many seem to prefer their three WB pilots, Black Lightning, Life Sentence, and The Searchers, with the CBS options Dynasty, Valor and Insatiable getting less positive buzz. Could the network pick up all three WB options and completely pass over the CBS slate? Probably not, since reports suggest the network is actually pretty high on Dynasty, though many others aren’t sure what it is that makes the net think the soap reboot while hit with their audience. I’m pulling for the WB sweep, but sadly I’m predicting that the Supernatural companion show will once again get squeezed out, with Dynasty getting the nod instead.
Fox has only four drama pilots to choose from, with The Beast and Passage both being delayed until next year. Their m/marvel comics show seems all but a sure thing, while medical show The Resident, move reboot Behind Enemy Lines and a show about a rape accusation at a University have been getting less positive feedback. As I noted in an earlier post, Fox passed on some intriguing options when choosing what pilots to make, something which could become a bigger problem with such a limited group of options to choose from. I expect the Marvel show and The Resident to go to series.
Finally, we come to NBC, which has a military show in For God and Country, as well as a hospital in crisis option with Shelter. Other options include the Glee-esque Rise and the Charlene Harris adaptation Redliners, as well as Good girls, about ordinary women who turn to crime and Reverie, a crime show in a world where virtual reality has become part of daily life. Deadline notes that Rise is getting some strong early buzz, and Season Zero gave it a very good review. Season Zero gave a mixed review to Good Girls, as well as Reverie. For God and Country got a more positive report, While Redliners earned one of the more negative reviews so far this year. I expect Rise, Reverie and For God and Country to hit the airwaves next season, which is pretty much what I’m hoping for, though I’d put Good Girls in place of For God and Country.
We continue our look at the drama pilots of 2017 with CBS. The usually predictable network may actually have a surprise or two for viewers this year.