×

Pilot Buzz: Female-Led Comedies, Time Travel & Known Brands Heating Up at Broadcast Nets

May is here, which means that new broadcast TV shows are almost here.

This week, network execs are sitting in screening sessions, gathering final thoughts on pilots, some of which will be unveiled as official 2016-17 series later this month at upfronts in New York City.

Though the nets will have a better sense of their pilot slates by this week’s end, certain projects are emerging as hot — or not.

Diversity will shine this next TV season across the board, as will recognizable brands and talent. Female-led comedies are dominating ABC’s list of potential favorites, along with female-led dramas that appear to pack more procedural flare. Major male TV stars will topline the majority of programming at CBS. Fox is full of reboots, as well as some really big swings, while NBC is eyeing properties and hitmakers that have done well for them in the past. The CW is looking at yet another project from Greg Berlanti with industry insiders saying “Riverdale” is gearing up for a greenlight.

ABC

The network that brought Kerry Washington, Viola Davis and Priyanka Chopra to the forefront of broadcast TV will yet again showcase female stars, both in comedy and drama.

“Speechless,” starring Minnie Driver, impressed both the studio and network, while Candice Bergen’s comedy “Pearl” is said to be a favorite. Casey Wilson could be returning to the Alphabet with “Hail Mary” heating up, as is “The Second Fattest Housewife in Westport,” which stars “Mike & Molly’s” Katy Mixon. Another unconventional title that’s still standing is Allison Tolman’s “Downward Dog,” which has been at the top of ABC’s list since put into development. “Chunk & Bean,” which will bring “Breaking Bad’s” Anna Gunn into a family sitcom, is also strong.

On the drama side, Kiefer Sutherland’s “Designated Survivor” was ordered straight-to-series, securing a major TV name for ABC’s new slate. But the network is looking for more women to bring the drama next season with “The Jury,” starring “The Good Wife” alum Archie Panjabi, and John Ridley’s detective show “Presence,” starring breakout Stephanie Sigman, both getting positive reception. On the soapier side — which sources say ABC is trying to limit — Anna Paquin’s “Broken” from exec producer Reese Witherspoon was said to have turned out “beautiful,” while “The Death Of Eva Sofia Valdez” with “Suits” star Gina Torres pleased ABC brass.

And expanding ABC’s Marvel universe — though “Agent Carter” will likely be axed (with Hayley Atwell’s “Conviction” pilot getting great buzz) — “Marvel’s Most Wanted” isn’t quite a lock, but has a very good chance of going to series, say sources.

CBS

CBS is looking to pick up either three or five comedies, insiders say, including Matt LeBlanc’s comedy, which landed a series commitment, along with Kevin James’ comedy, which was also already ordered to series. Joel McHale’s “The Great Indoors” is an absolute favorite for the network, meaning The Eye could be home to three major male stars. On the female front, Poppy Montgomery’s “Furst Born,” based on the Australian series “Upper Middle Bogan,” is also looking good. Though it’s not sizzling as much, “What Goes Around Comes Around,” starring Alyssa Milano and Jason Lee, has a good chance, while comedies “Superior Donuts” and “Real Good People” aren’t generating much buzz.

Toplined by “NCIS” fan-favorite Michael Weatherly, the Dr. Phil-inspired “Bull” is at the top of CBS’s drama picks, along with the reboot of “Training Day.” After a not-so-stellar run of “Code Black,” which remains on the bubble, CBS may have found their next medical drama, as Jason Katims’ “Bunker Hill” apparently tested “through the roof.”

Sources caution it’s too soon to tell what may come for Nancy Drew remake “Drew” and the revival of “MacGyver,” both of which made a huge splash in the development and casting stage.

FOX

Already having ordered the “24” spinoff, Fox may be chock-full of IP next season with “The Exorcist” and “Lethal Weapon” among the network’s most hopeful pilots thus far with sources close to the latter show raving about the chemistry between co-stars Damon Wayans and Clayne Crawford. But the net is also taking some big swings, especially with the baseball bat. “Pitch,” a female-centric MLB drama, has everyone talking — especially about the show’s breakout star Kylie Bunbury who’s impressing the industry. Also out-of-the-box, time travel comedy “Making History” has held steady as one of Fox’s favorites throughout pilot season.

Female-led comedies could occupy much space on Fox’s slate with Kaitlin Olson‘s (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) “The Mick” high up on the network’s radar, along with buddy comedy “The Enforcers.” But things aren’t looking good for Courteney Cox‘s “Charity Case” or Judy Greer’s human resources sitcom.

NBC

NBC has already renewed many of its dramas, making the space overly competitive this year, but a few picks may make the cut, including Dick Wolf’s potential fourth “Chicago” show “Chicago Justice,” plus “The Blacklist” spinoff, though execs will wait to see how audiences respond to the backdoor pilot this week. Like Fox, the network is also hot on the time travel trend as “Time” has emerged as a strong suitor with insiders saying execs were glued from the moment they read the script. “Taken” has already been ordered to series, and NBC may be banking on more IP with “Cruel Intentions” still standing strong.

Dan Fogelman’s birthday dramedy, which was developed off-cycle, has industry-ites describing the project as “amazing.” As for comedies, “Good Place” is already ordered, bringing Ted Danson and Kristen Bell to the net — and more big names are expected to jump on the NBC train with Marlon Wayans’ vehicle “Marlon” coming in hot, along with Tracey Wigfield’s comedy, exec produced by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock. Sources add that “Dumb Prince” has a chance with Amy Poehler’s directing chops on the pilot impressing NBC’s higher-ups.

The CW

Berlanti’s “Riverdale,” based on the “Archie” comics, is seen as a lock with an insider firmly telling Variety, “This is getting ordered.” The younger-skewing net is looking to stay in business with more of its proven hitmakers, as “Vampire Diaries” co-creator Kevin Williamson’s paranormal drama is attracting attention.

Meanwhile, rumors are again flying that “Supergirl” could shift over to the CW, should it get renewed. While sources tell Variety there have been discussions, a network insider shot down the speculation.

More TV

  • Osmosis

    Netflix Feeds Fantasy-Hungry YAs in France

    LILLE, France —  The series the audience was about to see on Sunday night at Lille’s central UGC Cine-Cité multiplex wasn’t even playing in Series Mania’s main International Competition. But in many ways, Netflix’s” “Osmosis” was certainly among the most-anticipated of shows at this year’s festival. The excitement before the screening was palpable, and pointed [...]

  • Series Mania: Q & A with

    Series Mania: ‘Hierro’ as ‘Southern Noir’ and an Industry Groundbreaker

    LILLE, France —  Banijay Rights-sold “Hierro” begins with sea, land, air and fire: Shots of the stunning volcanic isle of El Hierro, the most westerly point of Spain’s Canary Islands, with its black basalt rock, brown iron-rich gravel, white waves pummeling the coast, trees trunks twisted by wind and lava, a juniper bent double by [...]

  • Shekhar Kapur to Direct 'Ibis' Trilogy

    Shekhar Kapur to Direct 'Ibis' Trilogy for Endemol Shine (EXCLUSIVE)

    Acclaimed Indian director Shekhar Kapur is to direct a TV series for Endemol Shine based on historical novels by Amitav Ghosh, known as the “Ibis Trilogy.” The deal was announced at Series Mania in Lille. The books “Sea of Poppies,” “River of Smoke,” and “Flood of Fire,” are set in mid-19th century Asia. They interweave [...]

  • ‘Lambs Of God’ To World Premiere

    Lingo Pictures, Endemol Shine’s ‘Lambs of God’ Set for Series Mania World Premiere

    LILLE, France — Lingo Pictures Productions and Endemol Shine’s new Australian limited series “Lambs of God,” based on the Australian novel of the same name by Marele Day, world premieres on Wednesday, March 27 in the main International Competition at this year’s Series Mania festival. The series follows three devout nuns, the last sisters of [...]

  • Bruno DEBRANDT (Florent) et Julie GAYET

    Federation Acquires Intl. Sales Rights on Series Mania French Competition Player ‘Torn’

    LILLE, France — Leading French independent production-finance-distribution sales company Federation Entertainment has secured international sales rights on upcoming French psychological thriller “Torn.” The series was created and written by director Lionel Bailliu (“Innocente”)and Yann Le Gal (“Léo Mattéï, Brigade des Mineurs”) and world premieres in the official French competition on March 25 at France’s Series [...]

  • About Premium Content Expands Scope, Rebrands

    About Premium Content Expands Scope, Rebrands as APC Studios (EXCLUSIVE)

    As it celebrates its fifth anniversary, the rising Paris-based TV production and distribution company About Premium Content is rebranding as APC Studios to reflect the expanded scope of its activities. APC Studios, which launched as a sales company in 2014, is now a producer, financier and distributor of upscale projects ranging from scripted to factual [...]

  • Win Rosenfeld, Jordan Peele and Simon

    'Star Trek: Discovery,' 'Twilight Zone' Bring Energy, Emotion to PaleyFest

    Both the CBS All Access shows “Star Trek: Discovery” and the upcoming “Twilight Zone” reboot held PaleyFest panels on Sunday, with both sets of cast and creators bringing energy, humor, and emotion to the stage. Both panels were moderated by Variety‘s executive editor of TV, Daniel Holloway. First up was “Discovery,” where series star Doug [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content