×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Where’s the Pilot Pizzazz? Networks Need to Impress

The Big 4 should take some big swings in the next go-round after a ho-hum 2012-13 season

As the upfronts approach, it’s hard to scope out pilot pickup buzz at the major broadcast nets this year because there are few clear heat-seekers.

The big bets of this year’s development crop were made early on in the cycle (last summer and fall) and for the most part have retained their front-runner status: ABC’s “Marvel’s Agents of Shield” with the Whedon clan; CBS’ redo of “Beverly Hills Cop”; NBC’s 22-episode throwdown for the Michael J. Fox domestic laffer; Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher in Fox’s cop comedy “Brooklyn 99”; and the union of David E. Kelley and Robin Williams in CBS’ “Crazy Ones.”

J.J. Abrams has his minimum allotment of two pilots: Fox’s robot-cops vehicle and “Believe” with Alfonso Cuaron at NBC. David Shore is said to be looking promising with ABC drama “Doubt.”

The fuzzy picture for next season’s series pickups will clear up a little this week as the broadcast nets begin their formal pilot screenings. Here’s hoping there is more sizzle on the screen than there seems to be at this stage. The nets need some flash after a ho-hum 2012-13 season.

There are notable in-demand thesps on the pilot roster this year — Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear, Josh Holloway, Debra Messing, Rainn Wilson among them — but not so much in the way of eye-popping, mold-breaking material. Procedural dramas abound, as do ensemble comedies about various combos of thirtysomething friends (“Friends” still casts a looonnng shadow).

Some of the most creative ideas have come in the form of nontraditional casting decisions.

“Office” alum Wilson is set for a dramatic turn as a misanthropic homicide detective in CBS’ “Backstrom” (it’s got a Swedish pedigree so ’nuff said), especially with Dennis Haysbert along for the ride. Christopher Meloni is leaving the serious law-and-order biz for a sitcom turn in Fox’s father-son laffer “I Suck at Girls,” which has good buzz. Wendell Pierce of “The Wire” and “Treme” is lending his mellifluous baritone to the Michael J. Fox sitcom (he’ll have to watch his language on broadcast TV).

CBS has put Beau Bridges, Margo Martindale, J.B. Smoove and Will Arnett under one roof for writer Greg Garcia’s untitled father-son comedy, which has momentum at the Eye. With that cast, who needs a script? Also gaining steam at CBS is comedy “Friends With Better Lives,” an ensembler featuring Kevin Connolly and James Van Der Beek. It is fortified by having been directed by James Burrows, who has a hell of a pilot-pickup track record.

At ABC, Adam Goldberg’s comedy with the colorful but soon-to-change title “How the Fuck Am I Normal” is hot enough to begin making staffing offers. At Fox there’s a lot of chatter about domestic laffer “The Gabriels” from Justin Hurwitz and Andrew Gurland.

NBC is said to be high on Jason Katims’ spin on “About a Boy.” A sleeper to watch at the Peacock is comedy “Welcome to the Family” from writer Mike Sikowitz, which revolves around a culture clash of white and Latino families brought together by an unplanned pregnancy. Writer DJ Nash’s comedy “Then Came Elvis,” featuring Harold Perrineau and Parker Posey, also has traction at the Peacock.

Drama-wise, ABC is said to be ready to roll on “Lucky 7,” a redo of a British drama about a group of supermarket employees who win the lottery. Fox likes the look of Kinnear as a charming rogue lawyer in “Rake” — a tonal successor to “House,” no doubt.

There are always a few no-brainers. ABC’s “Agents of Shield” drama is getting on the air unless we all wake up on May 14 (the day of ABC’s upfront presentation) in a parallel world where Disney doesn’t control the Marvel Universe. CBS wants Kim Raver in its stable of stars, which bodes well for the “NCIS: Red” spinoff that the network test-drove as a two-episode arc last month.

Chuck Lorre’s Mom, starring Anna Faris and Allison Janney, is pretty much bulletproof at CBS, aided by a great script and swell cast.

I’m not sure what the reviews are yet for CBS’ legal drama “The Advocate,” from “Mentalist” man Bruno Heller, but I’ll be hunting down a screener just to see Ben McKenzie (fresh off a career-making role on “Southland”) work with the always-awesome CCH Pounder.

McG’s ABC drama “Westside” is also a must-obtain, if only to see what haunts he and writer Byron Balasco chose to feature in the drama set among warring families in Venice (California, not Italia). Angelenos, of course, know the beachside hamlet is not actually a city unto itself, but we’ll let that slide for artistic license — just as long as the Warner Bros. TV production doesn’t have telltale traces of Burbank in its backdrops.

More TV

  • President Donald Trump speaks before signing

    TV News, Scrambling to Cover Impeachment Inquiry, Will Break Into A.M. Schedule

    The U.S. government is getting ready to take over morning television – at least for a few hours. The three major broadcast-news outlets are preparing to break into regularly scheduled programming Wednesday morning to offer viewers information on the first public hearings of the U.S. House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, while [...]

  • Titans -- Ep. 201 -- "Trigon"

    'Titans' Renewed for Season 3 at DC Universe

    Live-action drama “Titans” has been renewed for a third season at DC Universe. The news comes ahead of the conclusion of the 13-episode second season, which launched on the streaming service back in September. New episodes of the show drop on Fridays. The third season is slated to drop in Fall 2020. In the second [...]

  • Alicia Keys

    Alicia Keys, Miguel, Ozuna, Prince Royce Added to Latin Grammy Awards Lineup

    The Latin music community will be out in force for the 20th annual Latin Grammy Awards on Nov. 14. Performers scheduled include Alicia Keys, Miguel, Beto Cuevas, Residente, Calibre 50 and Prince Royce, among others. Presenters include Ángela Aguilar, Eduardo Cabra (Visitante), Sofia Carson and Emilio Estefan. A special moment with Thalia is also on [...]

  • 'The Mandalorian': Jon Favreau and Pedro

    'The Mandalorian': Jon Favreau and Pedro Pascal on Creating a Western on Steroids

    The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) strides across a barren landscape towards a solitary drinking hole, his boots clinking like a cowboy’s spurs as he walks. Inside, he swiftly dispatches a group of vagabonds with his two fists and one blaster, whipping the weapon around like a gunslinger who can shoot faster than his own shadow. “Star [...]

  • The Mandalorian

    What to Watch on TV This Week: 'The Mandalorian' Premieres, 'The Crown' Returns

    Welcome back to Tune In: our weekly newsletter offering a guide to the best of the week’s TV. Each week, Variety’s TV team combs through the week’s schedule, selecting our picks of what to watch and when/how to watch them. This week, Disney Plus launches with Jon Favreau’s “Star Wars” series “The Mandalorian,” and “The [...]

  • “300” – When Reid and Garcia

    CBS Announces 'Criminal Minds' Final Season Premiere Date

    CBS has announced the premiere date for the final season of “Criminal Minds,” as well as for its two new midseason dramas. The 15th and last season of the Jeff Davis-created show will be given a two-hour premiere on Jan. 8. The day before that, “FBI” spinoff “FBI: Most Wanted” debuts in the 10 p.m. time [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content