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Pilot Buzz: What Shows Are Heating Up for the 2016-17 Season?

With less than one week to go until network execs have to make final decisions for the 2016-2017 television season, buzz on which pilots will be getting greenlit is becoming more clear. Since Variety‘s last pilot buzz report, a few projects have been deemed dead, while others continue to heat up.

Of course, anything can change before upfronts, which kick off May 16 in New York City, but here’s the latest on the broadcast pilots.


Already Ordered: “Designated Survivor”

Top of the Crop: “Presence,” “The Second Fattest Housewife in Westport”

Hot: “Conviction,” “The Jury,” “Notorious,” “Time After Time,” “The Death of Eva Sofia Valdez,” “Dream Team,” “Speechless,” “Downward Dog”

In The Mix: “Broken,” “Marvel’s Most Wanted,” “Toast,” “Pearl,” “Chunk & Bean,” “Imaginary Cary”

ABC is looking to pick up around four new dramas and either five or six new comedies, sources say. While the network is hot on many of their pilots, two are seen as major frontrunners: John Ridley’s “Presence” in the drama department, and “The Second Fattest Housewife in Westport” in the comedy crop.

Many of the favored dramas fall into the legal or political categories with “The Jury,” “Notorious” and “Conviction” all worthy of good shots. Insiders explain that execs may pick either “The Jury” or “Conviction,” which stars Hayley Atwell. (“Agent Carter” is a long shot for a third season renewal.) “Most Wanted” is still in the mix, but has cooled down a bit, as has “Broken,” which hails from exec producer Reese Witherspoon and stars Anna Paquin.

As for comedies, “Downward Dog” is next in line after “Fattest Housewife.” The Alphabet will have many female-led family comedies, as ABC is still gunning for Minnie Driver’s “Speechless.” The network really likes Scott Foley’s “Toast,” making it Shondaland’s first comedy. As for Candice Bergen’s “Pearl,” a source says it probably won’t be greenlit for air, as the net is considering the cancer-themed dramedy as a digital series.


Already Ordered: Kevin James comedy

Top of the Crop: “Bull,” “I’m Not Your Friend”

Hot: “Training Day,” “Bunker Hill,” “The Great Indoors”

In The Mix: “Drew,” “Doubt,” “MacGyver,” “Four Stars,” “My Time/Your Time,” “What Goes Around Comes Around”

Cooling Down: “Furst Born,” “Superior Donuts,” “The Kicker”

Though he’s departing “NCIS,” fan-favorite Michael Weatherly won’t be off CBS’s air for long, as his Dr. Phil-inspired drama pilot “Bull” has been receiving consistent rave reviews and is expected to land on the net’s 2016-2017 slate. So is another familiar face: Matt LeBlanc, whose comedy “I’m Not Your Friend” landed a hefty series commitment and CBS seems to making good on that deal.

With Kevin James’ comedy already ordered and LeBlanc’s nearing a formal order, a third comedy expected to be greenlit is Joel McHale’s “The Great Indoors,” but should that not go, insiders say the project will be taken out to Netflix for consideration. Sources maintain that CBS is looking to order either three or five comedy series, so the network still has an eye on the rom-com “My Time/Your Time” and the Alyssa Milano-starrer “What Goes Around Comes Around.” Though it was gaining steam at the time of last week’s buzz report, “Furst Born” has considerably cooled down since a top exec was not impressed by the project. So has “Superior Donuts,” as the network is apparently concerned it’s too similar to “2 Broke Girls” — but another source tells Variety there’s a possibility the comedy could be picked up with plans to re-cast and re-shoot the pilot. “The Kicker,” which hails from power producers Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, was heating up and had a 50/50 chance last week, before essentially getting the kibosh from the network late last week.

Lots of projects are also floating around on the drama side from “Training Day” to “Bunker Hill,” which are both major favorites, to “Drew,” “Doubt” and “MacGyver,” all of which have a lesser shot than the former two.


Already Ordered: “Taken,” “The Good Place”

Top of the Crop: Tracey Wigfield comedy, “Marlon”

Hot: “Chicago Justice,” “Blacklist” spinoff“Timeless,” “Powerless,” “Trial & Error”

In The Mix: “Cruel Intentions,” “This Is Us,” “Me and Mean Margaret,” Matt Hubbard comedyVladimir Caamaño comedy

Cooling Down: “Midnight, Texas”

NBC’s 2016-17 drama slate is very full with a slew of returning staples coming back and “Taken” ordered straight-to-series — that makes the pilot game more competitive for dramas than comedies this year. The Peacock is looking to order up to three dramas and up to four comedies.

“The Blacklist” spinoff and the fourth “Chicago” show, which is of the legal fare, are likely locked into next season’s schedule, but nothing is set in stone, as the backdoor pilots have yet to air. The longstanding drama frontrunner remains Eric Kripke and Shawn Ryan’s time-travel vehicle “Timeless.” Insiders close to “Cruel Intentions” say the reboot, which has original star Sarah Michelle Gellar on board, is still very much in the mix with the studio and network both impressed by the pilot, which could bring some younger, soapy fare to NBC’s very procedural drama offerings. Though the fantasy drama “Midnight, Texas” was heating up in weeks past, sources say the final cut did not screen well.

Tracey Wigfield’s comedy, which is being exec produced by Tina Fey, has gotten rave reviews with a source telling Variety “it is 90% a lock.” Marlon Wayan’s self-titled sitcom “Marlon” is also said to be a sure thing, while other laffers in serious contention are “Trial & Error” and the DC Comics workplace comedy “Powerless,” which has Vanessa Hudgens on board who could be a draw for a young, social-savvy audience. Still kicking around is Dan Fogelman’s off-cycle birthday ensembler “This Is Us” (formerly titled “36”), which has all types of industry-ites from agents to executives saying the pilot looks amazing, but still, the project’s future remains unclear.


Already Ordered: “24: Legacy,” “Star,” “Prison Break,” “Shots Fired,” “Son of Zorn”

Top of the Crop: “The Exorcist,” “Lethal Weapon,” “Pitch,” “Making History,” “The Mick”

In The Mix: “APB,” “The Enforcers,” Chris Case comedy

Fox got a jump start on mapping out their 2016-2017 schedule, giving early series orders to “24: Legacy,” “Star,” “Son of Zorn,” plus event series “Prison Break” and “Shots Fired.”

With much already greenlit, insiders say the network is looking to order three to five dramas and only two to three comedies — that low number of comedies could signal potential good news for bubble sitcoms “Grandfathered” and “The Grinder,” though sources say at least one will likely be cancelled. But Fox may be looking to keep an open slot, as the net is hopeful about picking up Nasim Pedrad’s “Chad” for a midseason premiere, the same source tells Variety. (Production on “Chad’s” pilot was pushed back to May, as casting was still in session.)

For now, the two most promising comedies are “The Mick,” starring “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s” Kaitlin Olson, and the time-travel comedy “Making History.” Female buddy cop comedy “The Enforcers” received terrific early buzz, but that has cooled down a bit with Chris Case’s interracial family sitcom creeping up into Fox’s hot list.

As for dramas, the female baseball vehicle “Pitch” has been a frontrunner all pilot season long and it appears the Dan Fogelman project could hit a home run. The network will be full of reinvented remakes next season — besides the already-ordered “24” and “Prison Break” reboots, “The Exorcist” and “Lethal Weapon” are the two favorite drama pilots at Fox.


Top of the Crop: “Riverdale,” “No Tomorrow”

Hot: “Transylvania”

In The Mix: Kevin Williamson paranormal project

Cooling Down: “Frequency”

Having picked up its entire slate of shows (other than late bow “Containment”), the CW is looking to pick up either two or three series, Variety has learned. You can count on “Riverdale” being on the CW next year, joining Greg Berlanti’s slew of superhero hits. Last week, Variety reported that the pilot tested “through the roof,” and the network is still hot on the Archie Comics inspired series.

Hourlong comedy “No Tomorrow” is also seen as a lock with the network already thinking about pairing it with “Jane the Virgin” next season.

Though “The Vampire Diaries'” Kevin Williamson is a major player at the CW, his paranormal project isn’t a sure thing. While it’s still on the net’s radar, sources say the period drama “Transylvania” has a better shot at getting the greenlight. But don’t feel bad for Williamson — his ABC drama pilot “Time After Time” is really heating up. And as for the much buzzed about “Frequency” revival, the drama appears to be fourth or fifth in line, as Williamson’s paranormal project tested better than the potential reboot.

And as for those “Supergirl” rumors, while the network has declined to comment on the Melissa Benoist drama flying over to the CW, insiders confirm to Variety that discussions are very much happening, as well as talks about the show moving from L.A. to Vancouver to reduce production costs, which may be the golden ticket to a Season 2 renewal.

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