9 TV Pilots We Can’t Wait to See This Fall
There’s a smorgasbord of midseason television hitting the airwaves over the next couple of months. But the major networks are already hard at work putting together new shows for the summer and next season. Early January brings with it the annual Television Critics Association Winter press tour; while much of that time is dedicated to soon-to-debut shows, it’s also a time for networks to announce new pilot projects for next season. Right now, we’re only looking at the four major broadcast networks—ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX—but we’re keeping our ears open for news about the 4,179 cable networks and the 3.2 x 105 scripted shows gestating in the Large Hadron Collider we call a “development pipeline.” For now, consider this your first look at a handful of promising show ideas you’ll be hearing more about in six months. (A workplace comedy set in the DC Universe? Bring it on!)
Designated Survivor, ABC
Whenever major U.S. government officials get together in the same place (like say, last night’s State of the Union), there’s always one person who gets shuttled to a different location, in the event of a national disaster. Why hasn’t there been a show about that person? you ask. To which we say, What do you think ALF was about? But now there’s another one, in which Kiefer Sutherland plays that lone remaining cabinet member who ascends to the Presidency after just such an event. It’s the kind of political thriller that Sutherland built his television stardom on in the post-9/11 era, and with the success of ABC’s Homeland-ish series Quantico, it should be another dose of Beltway action and intrigue.
Marvel’s Most Wanted, ABC
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. hasn’t held up as strongly in the ratings as its pedigree would suggest—but that isn’t stopping ABC from going ahead with a pilot for the long-rumored spinoff starring Bobbi Morse (Adrianne Palicki) and Lance Hunter (Nick Blood). It’s up for debate whether there’s enough fertile material for another television offshoot of the blockbuster films, even one featuring the woman known in the comics as Mockingbird. But at the very least, it should be a better career bet for Palicki’s than that Wonder Woman pilot for NBC a few years ago.
Husband-and-wife creative team Robert and Michelle King will leave their successful legal drama The Good Wife after this season, but they’ve still got this summer series with CBS, and it’s a huge departure from the ripped-from-the-headlines feel of their long-running hit. The Kings envision Braindead as a combination of The Strain and The West Wing, centering on a young Washington, D.C. staffer (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who discovers that aliens have arrived on Earth and already consumed the brains of several politicians. Feels perfect for the summer television doldrums—as well as the year of a presidential election.
American Gothic, CBS
A Steven Spielberg executive-producer credit doesn’t always signal a must-see series (see: Terra Nova). A co-creator credit for James Frey (see: that whole memoir dust-up) may inspire rampant skepticism. But American Gothic also comes from former Good Wife, Boston Legal, Elementary, and Jane The Virgin writer Corinne Brinkerhoff, with a story focused on a prominent Boston family that discovers that its now-deceased patriarch may have been a prolific serial killer. Think Gossip Girl meets Dexter.
Son Of Zorn, FOX
The high-concept heroics of executive producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller continue with this live action/animation hybrid comedy that, frankly, sounds impossible. OK, so Jason Sudekis plays a animated warrior who returns to his Earth family (Cheryl Hines, Johnny Pemberton) after 10 years of war in his (presumably animated) homeland of Zephyria. Given the slow-burn success of The Last Man On Earth, anything with the Lord/Miller stamp of approval deserves a shot—and this may well be Sudeikis’ chance to be the next SNL standout headlining an outlandish, hilarious series (along with Andy Samberg on Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Will Forte on Last Man).
Shots Fired, FOX
Husband and wife writing/directing team Gina Prince-Bythwood (Beyond The Lights, Love & Basketball) and Reggie Rock Bythewood (Notorious) are behind this event series about the aftermath of a series of shootings in rural Tennessee. The Good Wife engaged the issue of racial tensions and police violence last year, but the results were clumsy and underwhelming; in the hands of the people behind the vastly underrated Beyond The Lights, a limited series that examines this country’s simmering racial issues could yield something truly compelling.
The Good Place, NBC
On the heels of the final season of Parks and Recreation and the similarly successful Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Michael Schur heads back to NBC with the giant one-two punch of Kristen Bell and Ted Danson for a new sitcom. (Schur has repeatedly stated his favorite show of all time is Cheers. Now he has Sam Malone.) There aren’t many plot details about The Good Place other than Bell’s character grappling with how to be a better person. But it got a straight-to-series order. And given Shur’s track record of turning rocky debut seasons into dependably funny comedies, along with Bell’s reputation for witty banter and Danson’s darkly comic tendencies (see Bored To Death), this sounds like another winner.
CBS has Supergirl. The CW has Greg Berlanti’s DC empire (Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow). ABC and Netflix have their respective Marvel shows. So of course NBC ends up with a comedy set at an insurance company within the DC Universe. That’s either the most boring premise ever conceived for a superhero show—or the most brilliant approach no one ever thought to do.
Untitled Tracey Winfield, Tina Fey, Robert Carlock Project, NBC
The last time NBC declined to air a show from 30 Rock titans Fey and Carlock, they missed out on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which was better received than almost every other original comedy the network put out in 2015. So maybe this time around, Fey and Carlock’s idea—of a mom who gets an internship at her daughter’s company—will get to test the broadcast television waters.
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