Pilot Buzz: What’s Heating Up as Networks Receive Early Cuts

With the broadcast upfronts around the corner, early cuts of many pilots began to roll in to networks this week. That means buzz is building on some projects, but sources caution that it’s far too soon to declare winners and losers.

Some pilots are still in the lensing or editing process and won’t be delivered for another week or so. With those caveats, here’s a look at what appears to be looking good so far. The marathon week of upfront presentations for the Big Four and CW begins May 11, when Fox and NBC unveil their 2015-16 season plans.

For detailed information on production and creative auspices of this year’s pilots, see Variety.com’s searchable Pilot Scorecard chart.


Five dramas have emerged as heat seekers: “Limitless,” “Code Black,” “For Justice,” “Rush Hour” and “LFE.” The “Criminal Minds” spinoff and “Doubt” also have a fighting chance, sources say.

“Code Black” and “LFE” reflect the Eye’s search for a medical drama franchise. Marcia Gay Harden toplines “Code Black,” set in L.A.’s notoriously busy County/USC emergency room. Melissa Leo shepherds residents at a top New York City hospital in “LFE.”


The Peacock has already loaded up with five straight-to-series orders, but it still has a lot of holes to fill after a tough season with new series. Of the five drama series launched this season, only “The Mysteries of Laura” is believed to have a shot at returning.

Dick Wolf is back in high gear on NBC as prospects for the “Chicago Med” spinoff look good, which would bring his tally of shows to four, counting “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago P.D.” and “Law & Order: SVU.” There’s still work to be done to flesh out “Med” as a series, following the planted-spinoff episode that ran as an installment of “Chicago Fire” on April 7. That probably means that “Med” would be in line for a midseason order if picked up.

On the comedy side, the straight-to-series “Telenovela” is said to be a high priority as execs are pleased with what they’ve seen so far. “Superstore,” a workplace comedy set at a big-box discount chain, has a lot of fans in Universal City. “Strange Calls,” starring Danny Pudi as a bumbling cop investigating paranormal activity, is also gaining steam.


The Rob Lowe comedy “The Grinder” has come out of the gate as a hot — and very funny — prospect on the comedy side. Lowe stars as a TV lawyer who returns to his small hometown to take over his family’s law firm. Another ’90s star, John Stamos, may be heading to Fox next season as well. His comedy pilot, in which he plays an exaggerated version of himself, is getting attention at the net. Kevin Connolly-Vanessa Williams starrer “Fantasy Life,” set in the world of fantasy sports leagues, is also revving up.

“Minority Report,” the adaptation of the Steven Spielberg feature, is seen as a comer on the drama side. Fox is also eyeing the medical genre with “Rosewood,” which has been well received so far. The investigative procedural stars Morris Chestnut as a top private pathologist who works with dead bodies.


The Alphabet has hoop dreams this year. Its untitled NBA buddy comedy has good early reviews. The pairing of Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo in “Chevy,” playing grandparents who suddenly have to raise kids again, has momentum.

Drama-wise, “Runner,” starring Paula Patton, has maintained a high profile throughout the development process, as has Shondaland’s “The Catch.”

Pictured: Rob Lowe

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