Hot Pilot Prospects Emerge After Week of Screenings

Natasha Lyonne Pilot Old Soul
Robin Marchant/Getty Images

Broadcast network execs have been ensconced in darkened rooms most of this week, screening dozens of pilots in preparation for upfront presentations during the week of May 12.

NBC is first out of the gate on the morning of May 12, followed by Fox in the afternoon. The Peacock already has given series commitments to several projects, including comedy “Tooken” from the potent combo of Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, toplined by Ellie Kemper. By multiple accounts, the first episode lives up to its promise.

Another comedy project that continues to look like a lock for an order at the Peacock is the Amy Poehler-produced “Old Soul,” starring Natasha Lyonne (pictured). “Ellen More or Less,” from Jason Katims’ busy shop, has execs impressed with the potential of star Stacey McGunnigle.

Two other laffers with strong femme leads are also generating heat: Kate Walsh in “Bad Judge” and Krysten Ritter in the 1960s astronaut comedy “Mission Control.” Both projects hail from the Gary Sanchez Prods. banner run by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay.

On the drama side, spy thriller “Coercion,” a redo of a Keshet format, has momentum, as does conspiracy vehicle “Odyssey.” Peacock execs have high hopes that the Debra Messing starrer “The Mysteries of Laura” can become a solid detective procedural vehicle for the network but specifics about the reaction to the pilot are still unclear.

At ABC, comedies with big mo include three domestic vehicles: the untitled Kevin Hart domestic, Anthony Anderson starrer “Blackish” and Michael Imperoli’s “Saint Francis.” “An American Education,” about a Briton who becomes a school teacher in San Diego, has good reviews particularly for star Jack Whitehall.

The Alphabet’s ambitious musical comedy “Galavant” is drawing mixed reviews but is still said to be in the mix. “Selfie,” from writer Emily Kapnek; “Irreversible,” based on an Israeli format; “Bambi Cottages,” from writer Brian Gallivan and Will Gluck; and “My Thoughts Exactly” from scribe Jeff Lowell are also seen as contenders.

Drama-wise, word is that Viola Davis will be in NYC week after next as Shonda Rhimes’ “How to Get Away with Murder” has been a crowd-pleaser in screenings.

“Secrets & Lies,” a remake of an Aussie crime drama, has also been hot and shows no sign of cooling off. But ABC may have to make some tough calls as other crime procedurals are rising to the top: John Ridley’s “American Crime” and “Agatha,” from scribe Tom Donaghy. “Clementine,” from writer Dean Georgaris, is also in the mix.

Over at Fox, the number of pilots that wind up fitting the glass slipper will be down this year, of course, because of all the re-engineering of development processes at the network (For a refresher read this: Big Four Networks Tear Up Pilot Season Rulebook).

“Gotham,” the Batman prequel, is said to be zooming toward next season’s lineup, along with “Red Band,” a remake of a Spanish series about hospitalized youths; and “Empire,” a sprawling hip-hop drama written by Danny Strong and starring Terence Howard.

On the comedy side, another Tina Fey/Robert Carlock production, “Cabot College,” from scribe Matt Hubbard, is looking strong. So is the odd couple at the heart of “Sober Companion,” along with Brit-com redo “Dead Boss” starring Jane Krakowski, Amy Sedaris and Rachel Dratch.

And Fox already has six episodes of “Mulaney,” starring “Saturday Night Live” vet John Mulaney, in the can.

CBS is always a harder nut to crack, as Team Moonves circles the wagons at this time of year. The Tea Leoni starrer “Madame Secretary” seems to have momentum, along with the “CSI” planted spinoff starring Patricia Arquette that aired on Wednesday. Kevin Williamson’s stalker drama starring Dylan McDermott is being talked about for midseason.

Among comedies, the Matthew Perry-Thomas Lennon take on “The Odd Couple” is said to be headed for the schedule.

At CW, “The Flash” is buffing up the suit for an upfront appearance. Rob Thomas’ “iZombie” has a lot of heat, as does the telenovela-inspired “Jane the Virgin.”

For details on pilot and series orders go to’s Pilots/Development Scorecard


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