Fall TV pilots change courses

Another batch of new series are being retooled before their fall debuts. In fact, the original concept of a pilot as the first episode of a new series is becoming almost obsolete as fewer actually make it onto the air.

Among the new shows whose original pilots are being totally or partially reshot are: NBC’s Jenny McCarthy sitcom “Jenny,” ABC’s Tim Curry sitcom “Over the Top,” Fox’s “Between Brothers,” ABC’s “Teen Angel,” Fox’s “Ally McBeal” and the WB’s “The Tom Show.”

NBC already hired a new lead actress for “Union Square” and CBS is recasting for some minor characters on “George & Leo.” Prequel episodes are also being shot for two one-hour dramas: CBS’ David Caruso starrer “Michael Hayes” and ABC’s “Timecop.”

Some shows are retooled because they just aren’t working, creatively. Few among these were considered favorites for instant hit status by advertisers.

But studio execs also contend more pilots are being tweaked because they are thrown together much quicker now than in the past. In part that’s because networks are waiting longer to order the pilots.

“The turnaround is so short, that many are now considered a work-in-progress,” said Kim Rozenfeld, director of comedy development at Columbia TriStar TV.

Columbia is reshooting “Over the Top” and moving the sitcom’s locale from rural upstate New York to New York City. Columbia is also switching locations on “Between Brothers” from Arizona to Chicago.

On “Jenny,” Paramount has decided that McCarthy’s character will not be a personal assistant to a Hollywood star. Actor Eric McCormack, who played the star, is now gone, and McCarthy’s character will be out looking for a job. Par is trying to cut a deal with actor George Hamilton to give his character more face time in future episodes, even though his character is dead and appears only on videotape.

Disney is planning to recast the lead on “Teen Angel.” Paul Winfield starred in the pilot, but NBC had first dibs on him for its new sitcom “Built to Last.” Another character will also be added to the TGIF show.

Fox is adding a few scenes to its drama “Ally McBeal,” incorporating its latest addition, Courtney Thorne-Smith.

On “The Tom Show,” Ed McMahon’s role is being reworked. In the pilot, he was a TV station exec, but he may now become a TV talkshow host at the station where Arnold works.

Some veteran shows are also being reworked. NBC’s “The Naked Truth,” “Men Behaving Badly” and “Homicide” are the most high-profile examples. On all three shows, several actors are being replaced. Sources say George Wendt is now definitely gone from “The Naked Truth,” and star Tea Leoni will get a new job at the tabloid paper.

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