The current TV season is far from over, but Hollywood is already hard at work on next season. Right now, the TV industry is abuzz with the annual tradition known as "pilot season," as production companies cast and film dozens of pilots that are hoping to become one of the new TV shows you'll be watching this fall.
Of course, just a small fraction of these pilots will actually make it on the air. (CBS, for instance, has ordered a whopping 26 pilots this year, but only has about three or four slots to fill next season.) But looking at the talent involved and each network's individual needs, we have a pretty good idea which pilots have the best chance at scoring a pickup. Here are ten we're expecting to see on this fall's primetime schedule.
Untitled Michael J. Fox comedy (NBC)
Get ready for a dose of NBC nostalgia: This much-anticipated comeback vehicle for TV icon Michael J. Fox has already been picked up for a full 22-episode season. (Although that might say more about NBC's desperation than the show itself.) The former Alex P. Keaton returns to the Peacock Network with this semi-autobiographical sitcom, playing a TV news reporter suffering from Parkinson's disease who returns to work once he has the condition under control. NBC is obviously hoping to recreate some of that old "Must-See TV" magic, so don't be surprised to see Fox right back in his old stomping grounds on Thursday nights. Now all this show needs is a title. (Please, not "Crazy Like a Fox.")
"Beverly Hills Cop" (CBS)
Somebody cue "Axel F." CBS is also reaching back to the '80s to resurrect Eddie Murphy's hit action comedy for the small screen. And while we're not big on reboots, they're doing this one the right way, with "The Shield" creator Shawn Ryan at the helm and Murphy himself onboard to reprise his role as cop Axel Foley. But Murphy's role here is just a cameo; Brandon T. Jackson from "Tropic Thunder" stars as Axel's son, who follows in his dad's footsteps as a street-smart detective solving crimes in swanky Beverly Hills. We're not sure this one feels like a CBS show, but the star power and brand recognition here should be enough to earn it a spot on the fall schedule.
ABC has no problem cranking out female-driven hits like "Once Upon a Time" and "Revenge," but has struggled to find a drama that appeals to male viewers; last fall's macho submarine thriller "Last Resort" sank without a trace. But they look to have a guaranteed dude magnet with this spinoff of the big-screen megahit "The Avengers," produced by "Avengers" director Joss Whedon. Clark Gregg is back in his "Avengers" role as Agent Coulson, who leads a team of highly trained peacekeeping agents. You can't go wrong with Marvel superheroes these days… but will the tight budgets of TV allow for the slam-bang comic-book action we're used to seeing? (And might we see Cobie Smulders take a break from "How I Met Your Mother" to reprise her role as Maria Hill?)
Clark Gregg and Cobie Smulders talk about playing S.H.I.E.L.D. agents in "The Avengers":
Untitled "NCIS" spinoff (CBS)
The "NCIS" franchise is still going very strong for CBS: "NCIS" pulls in 20 million viewers a week in its tenth (!) season, and "NCIS: Los Angeles" is performing admirably right behind it. So it's no surprise that CBS is looking to cash in with yet another spinoff this fall. This one stars "Sex and the City's" John Corbett and "Grey's Anatomy's" Kim Raver as part of a team of mobile agents that travels the country solving crimes; the characters will debut in an "NCIS: LA" episode later this season. CBS can't air all three "NCIS"s on Tuesday nights (or can they?), so picking this one up will call for a little schedule shuffling. But they also run the risk of stretching a beloved franchise too thin. (Remember what happened to "Law & Order"?)
Untitled Andy Samberg comedy (Fox)
Andy Samberg shot to stardom on "Saturday Night Live" with his three-minute viral videos, so we look forward to seeing what he can do with a full half-hour as he takes on his first sitcom starring role. Samberg plays a cop who works at a far-flung precinct located at the very edge of Manhattan, with Andre Braugher as his hard-nosed captain. This one doesn't have as strong a hook as some of the other pilots; it's not based on a comic book or an '80s movie. But it does come to us from Mike Schur, the man behind NBC's "Parks and Recreation" (which we love), so we're rooting for this offbeat cop comedy to see the light of day.
Check out Andy Samberg's cameo on last week's "SNL" with host Justin Timberlake:
"Hatfields & McCoys" (NBC)
History struck ratings gold last year with its "Hatfields & McCoys" miniseries starring Kevin Costner, so NBC is hoping to mine the same territory with a TV-drama version of the classic family feud. But don't expect ten-gallon hats and muskets: This "Hatfields & McCoys" takes place in modern-day Pittsburgh, where a shocking murder reignites the bad blood between the two warring families. The cast is full of familiar faces -- Virginia Madsen, Sophia Bush, Rebecca De Mornay -- and NBC has plenty of holes to fill, so we're expecting to see these two fightin' families duke it out once again this fall.
"Crazy Ones" (CBS)
Michael J. Fox isn't the only former TV star trying to relive his glory days this fall. Robin Williams returns to the small screen thirty years after "Mork & Mindy" with this workplace sitcom from super-producer David E. Kelley ("Ally McBeal"). He'll play an ad executive who works alongside his daughter, played by Sarah Michelle Gellar of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" fame. The pairing of Williams and Gellar feels like an odd combination (and the tentative title sounds a little too '80s-wacky), but the sheer star power on display here gives it a serious leg up on the competition.
Watch Robin Williams tell a funny anecdote about Marlon Brando in this "Late Show" clip:
This ambitious drama is based on a bestselling series of futuristic sci-fi novels -- which worked pretty well for "The Hunger Games," didn't it? "Delirium" is set in a world where love is considered a disease and all romantic impulses can be wiped out with a surgical procedure; Emma Roberts stars as a young girl who's about to undergo this procedure… but then falls in love and reconsiders her fate. We like the concept, and Fox tends to do sci-fi well, but it has been a while since they've had a hit in that arena. Is this the next "X-Files," or the next "Dollhouse"?
"The Originals" (The CW)
With "The Secret Circle" dead and "Beauty and the Beast" teetering on the brink of cancellation, The CW is still looking for the perfect companion series to pair with its signature series, "The Vampire Diaries." So why not just spin off some of those vampires into their own series? Joseph Morgan will headline this offshoot in his "Vampire Diaries" role as the villainous Klaus, joined by his family of bloodsuckers in New Orleans. It may not bring any new viewers to The CW, but it might finally solve their Thursdays at 9 PM problem. Now they only have six or seven other timeslots to worry about.
This new comedy, about a single mom trying to maintain her sobriety while living in Napa Valley, has three big things going for it: (1) It stars Anna Faris, an in-demand comedic actress who we can definitely see headlining her own sitcom, (2) "The West Wing's" Allison Janney is playing Faris's mom, and most importantly, (3) it comes from Chuck Lorre, who created huge hits like "The Big Bang Theory" and "Two and a Half Men" for the network. But even though "Mom" sounds like a sure-fire winner, there might only be room for one new comedy on CBS's fall schedule -- so look for a fierce battle between this and "Crazy Ones" for that coveted slot. (Unless the creaky "Two and a Half Men" finally gets put out of its misery… we'll keep our fingers crossed on that one.)
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