The Best Broadcast Pilot Orders of the 2013-2014 Season: NBC and CBS
By Rachel Bennett
Television Editor & Columnist
It’s pilot season, which means your favorite out-of-work TV actors, actresses, creators and writers are getting a chance to return to the small screen once more.
Although we have yet to know what new series we’ll see next year, the networks have been busy selecting projects to consider for their schedules. So far, almost 100 scripts have been chosen, and audiences will only get to see a handful actually come to fruition.
Several are duds, but there are a few promising prospects that I hope network executives will keep around for the 2013-2014 season — even if it means they have to cancel old favorites to make room (just keep Parks and Recreation, OK, NBC?).
Check out my choices for the best prospective pilots NBC and CBS have ordered, and come back tomorrow to see my picks for ABC and Fox:
• Premise: An improbable relationship forms between a girl with a gift and a prisoner who’s responsible for protecting her from those who covet her power.
• Who’s involved: Jake McLaughlin, who’s appeared on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and CBS’s The Mentalist, will star as Tate, the prisoner, whereas the female lead has yet to be cast. Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men) will direct and executive produce as well as write the pilot alongside Mark Friedman (ABC’s The Forgotten). ABC’s Lost producers J.J. Abrams and Bryan Burk are also set to executive produce.
• Why I’m excited: Although the premise doesn’t do much for me, it’s the talent involved that makes me anxious to see this pilot. Cuarón is one of the most talented directors working today, and this will be his first venture into TV. Add in Abrams and Burk, who have proven their success with Lost, Fox’s Fringe and NBC’s highly rated Revolution, and it looks as though we could have a winner — and if NBC needs anything, it’s that.
• Premise: A clever girl is caught between two warrior suburban families in this pulpy and highly stylized drama.
• Who’s involved: Skyler Samuels (ABC Family’s The Nine Lives of Chloe King) will play lead Bird Benson (Note to NBC execs: Please change this name), with such TV vets as KaDee Strickland (ABC’s Private Practice), Jonathan Banks (AMC’s Breaking Bad) and Tom Everett Scott (TNT’s Southland) rounding out the cast. Southland producer David Graziano will create and write the pilot and executive producer with Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights).
• Why I’m excited: First of all, I’m such a fan of Berg’s Friday Night Lights, any project of his deserves attention (except for 2012′s Battleship). Graziano has also worked on several fantastic dramas aside from Southland, including NBC’s Awake and the first season of The WB’s Felicity. Lastly, the female lead sounds as if she could join the likes of Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) and Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) as a quick-witted, butt-kicking heroine, and TV could always use more of those. NBC may not want another young female-led series, but don’t we all agree that Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos), on Revolution just isn’t doing the trick?
3. Untitled Rand Ravich Project
• Premise: The U.S. president and other powerful Washington D.C. players are blackmailed by an unlikely source into an international conspiracy. A rookie Secret Service agent must work with the FBI to solve the mystery.
• Who’s involved: No roles have been cast yet, but Rand Ravich will executive produce and write the pilot. Far Shariat (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) will also executive produce.
• Why I’m excited: Ravich is responsible for NBC’s short-lived drama Life, which was beloved by critics and its small audience, and this will be his return to TV. The peacock network reportedly won the rights to the pilot after a bidding war, so it should be a promising script. Even though a cast has yet to be named, Capitol Hill politics are usually a draw for audiences, with such series as ABC’s Scandal and Netflix’s House of Cards cashing in on the subject. NBC had momentous success with The West Wing, meaning this pilot could follow in its footsteps and finally make NBC a competitor once again.
1. About a Boy
• Premise: Based on the 2002 film and Nick Hornby novel of the same name, this comedy revolves around a bachelor who befriends his self-conscious young neighbor.
• Who’s involved: David Walton will step into the lead role, which Hugh Grant filled in the film, while Minnie Driver will play the young neighbor’s mother. Jason Katims will executive produce and write the pilot, and Jon Favreau will direct.
• Why I’m excited: Although Walton was on NBC’s Perfect Couples, he didn’t really stand out to me until starring in NBC’s short-lived comedy Bent. If you watched that or saw him on Fox’s New Girl, then you know how great he is. Playing a bachelor will be second nature to him, as he’s perfected it in previous roles. Plus, Katims has been involved with not only two great TV series, but two great movie-turned-TV series: NBC’s Friday Night Lights and NBC’s Parenthood. I can’t wait to see him tackle a comedy, which is sure to be as fantastic as his dramas.
• Premise: An idealistic assistant has trouble balancing her life as she tries to please her demanding boss.
• Who’s involved: Following the cancellation of ABC’s Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23, Krysten Ritter has thankfully found work as the titular assistant. Leslye Headland (Bachelorette) will executive produce and write the pilot, while other executive producers include Will Ferrell and Adam McKay (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy).
• Why I’m excited: Ritter has been a solid supporting actress throughout most of her career, and she finally got her due with Don’t Trust the B—-. I hope Assistance will give her another chance in the spotlight and prevent her from fading into the background once more. This role may lack some of the bite of her previous one, but with Headland (who also worked on FX’s fantastic Terriers) at the helm, that shouldn’t happen too much. The project is also guaranteed to be funny and appeal to a broad audience with Ferrell and McKay involved, so NBC would be unwise to pass it up.
3. Untitled Craig Robinson Project
• Premise: A talented musician adapts to his new career as a middle-school music teacher.
• Who’s involved: With NBC’s The Office ending this year, Craig Robinson will play the teacher alongside Amanda Lund. Owen Ellickson (The Office) will write the pilot and executive produce the series with Robinson, The Office co-creator Greg Daniels and NBC’s Parks and Recreation executive producer Howard Klein.
• Why I’m excited: The Office and Parks and Recreation are two of my favorite TV comedies ever, so any new series produced by people involved with them already has my interest. Yes, the plot sounds like the 2003 film The School of Rock, but that should make it all the better. The premise shouldn’t be one-note, instead providing numerous story ideas, and it’s about time Robinson stepped into the spotlight. However, considering The Office and Parks and Recreation aren’t huge ratings draws (although they’re some of the best things going for the suffering NBC), I’m not sure the net will go for the new series.
1. Anatomy of Violence
• Premise: Dr. Raines, a criminal psychologist who researches sociopaths, partners with a female detective with whom he has a complicated past. The series is based on Adrian Raine’s nonfiction book The Anatomy of Violence: The Biological Roots of Crime.
• Who’s involved: Although the leads are not yet known, Showtime’s Homeland actor David Harewood will portray “Alejo, special agent in charge, a celebrated profiler and Raines’ boss and friend.” Harewood isn’t the only Homeland player involved: Homeland producers Howard Gordon, Alex Gansa and Alex Cary will executive produce and pen the pilot.
• Why I’m excited: Not only is this a CBS drama that doesn’t begin with CSI or NCIS, but it’s one from the people behind Homeland — that’s enough to get me to watch. The series could also partner well with Person of Interest, which has proven to be one of the network’s most inventive dramas at the moment. Apart from this, these producers know how to write strong female characters (meaning the drama could also pair nicely with The Good Wife), and the topic of sociopaths is huge right now, with Fox’s The Following and NBC’s upcoming Hannibal all taking part in the genre. I’d love to see CBS step more outside of its comfort zone, and Anatomy of Violence seems to be a great way to do so.
2. Beverly Hills Cop
• Premise: This follow-up to the 1980s and 1990s movie franchise, which starred Eddie Murphy as detective Axel Foley, will focus on Foley’s police officer son as he works in the rich and famous world of Beverly Hills.
• Who’s involved: Murphy will once again step into his role for the pilot and possibly return as a recurring character if the drama is ordered to series. Meanwhile, Brandon T. Jackson (Fox’s Raising Hope) has been cast as Aaron Foley and will work alongside Sheila Vand (Argo), who will play “a Beverly Hills detective who gave up a life of privilege for one of independence.” Other actors involved with the show include David Denman (The Office) and Kevin Pollak (The Usual Suspects). Shawn Ryan will write and executive produce the series, which Murphy will also executive produce.
• Why I’m excited: Where do I even begin? Ryan is one of my favorite TV producers and writers, and he excels at police dramas, having created FX’s wonderful The Shield. Aside from The Shield, Ryan executive produced the short-lived Terriers (FX), The Chicago Code (Fox) and Last Resort (ABC). He’s not one to play it safe, which could also be a good change of pace for CBS. Secondly, this role could be a career comeback for Murphy, who — let’s face it — hasn’t done much to talk about since his dramatic turn in 2006′s Dreamgirls. He was robbed of the Supporting Actor Oscar that year (sorry, Little Miss Sunshine‘s Alan Arkin), but maybe Murphy could nab an Emmy?
• Premise: A U.S. Cyber Command unit has been built around Gabriel Black, an agent whose brain contains an implanted microchip that enables him to access the entire electromagnetic spectrum. The drama is an adaptation of the unpublished John Dixon book Dissident.
• Who’s involved: Lost’s Josh Holloway has been tapped to portray the lead character, whereas David Semel (FX’s American Horror Story: Asylum) will direct the pilot from writer Michael Seitzman (North Country).
• Why I’m excited: I’m not so sure about the plot of Intelligence, but, boy, am I sure of its actor. Ever since he appeared on Lost, Holloway has been a fan favorite — and for good reason. He’s charismatic and talented, and it’s about time he had his own series. This will be his first regular TV role since Lost, as he’s only appeared in small roles on NBC’s Community and Lifetime’s Five since the ABC drama wrapped in 2010. I hope the series lives up to Holloway’s reputation because I, as well as many others, would really love to see him on TV again.
1. Bad Teacher
• Premise: A TV adaptation of the 2011 Cameron Diaz film, Bad Teacher revolves around a foul-mouthed, sexy divorcée who goes into teaching to find a new husband.
• Who’s involved: Ari Graynor has scored the lead role, and she will star alongside Ryan Hansen and David Alan Grier (In Living Color). Hilary Winston will write and executive produce the comedy, and Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, who wrote the film, will also executive produce.
• Why I’m excited: Sure, the film Bad Teacher didn’t make much of a critical splash, but I’m hoping the TV series will fare much better. I’m a huge fan of Graynor from her work in film and TV (For a Good Time, Call…, Fringe), and she’s more than capable of leading her own show. Hansen, whom I will forever love for Starz’s Party Down and UPN/The CW’s Veronica Mars, is also a wonderful addition alongside Grier. As for the writing, the program is in good hands. Winston worked for Community and ABC’s Happy Endings, two of TV’s best comedies, and Eisenberg and Stupnitsky were executive producers of The Office. Last but not least, Bad Teacher will be a single-camera comedy, which CBS is sorely lacking.
2. Super Clyde
• Premise: A passive, shy fast-food employee decides to become a superhero when he receives a $100,000-a-month inheritance from a dead relative.
• Who’s involved: Rupert Grint will play the lead role of Clyde, an “avid comic book reader considers himself a borderline agoraphobic with mild-to-severe anxiety issues who wishes he were a superhero himself.” The talented Tyler Labine (The CW’s Reaper) will join him as Clyde’s older brother. The project is from creator Greg Garcia, who will write and executive produce the pilot.
• Why I’m excited: Since the Harry Potter franchise ended in 2011, Grint’s costars Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson have remained on American radars, but he has sadly not. His foray into U.S. television is a nice surprise, and he couldn’t have picked a better project. Garcia has a successful track record, spearheading NBC’s My Name is Earl and Raising Hope, and if Super Clyde is ordered to series, it will be his first return to CBS since Yes, Dear ended in 2006. Super Clyde sounds ridiculous yet touching, a salty-sweet tone that Garcia has perfected throughout the years, and it’s for sure one of my most anticipated pilots for next season.
3. Crazy Ones
• Premise: A comedy about a father and daughter who work at an advertising agency.
• This comedy already has two huge names attached: Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar. Williams, whose last regular TV role was more than 30 years ago on ABC’s Mork & Mindy (1978-82), will step into the role of Simon Roberts, whereas Gellar will play his daughter, Sydney. Sydney is described as “pretty, intense, driven, organized and burdened with being practical. Sydney is the creative director and life and soul of the Roberts and Roberts Advertising Agency at the center of the comedy. She wants to be her father but is too busy having to parent him.” James Wolk is also attached as a copywriter at the agency. The pilot will be written by David E. Kelley, who will also executive produce with Dean Lorey and Bill D’Elia (Fox’s Ally McBeal).
•Why I’m excited: I’m a little worried Williams’ character will be a copycat of The Office‘s Michael Scott (Steve Carell)/David Brent (Ricky Gervais), which no one needs or wants, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. Because Williams hasn’t been a TV regular in so long, this project is certainly one to watch. As with several older movie actors, Williams’ career has stalled recently, but he’s slowly inched his way back to TV by putting in hilarious performances on FX’s Wilfred and FX’s Louie. Crazy Ones will be a homecoming for him, and hopefully it’s a testament to the show’s quality that he chose to star in it. As for Gellar, following the disaster of The CW’s Ringer, Crazy Ones could be a career rebound and a chance to show her funnier side. Kelley, who created Ally McBeal, can be hit or miss, but luckily he’s working with Lorey who’s an executive producer of Fox/Netflix’s Arrested Development.
Which is your favorite pilot from the ones I’ve chosen? Let me know in the comments, and check back tomorrow for ABC and Fox’s best 2013-2014 TV season pilots!
Tags: ABC, ABC Family, About a Boy, Adam McKay, Adrian Raine, Alan Arkin, Alex Cary, Alex Gansa, Alfonso Cuaron, Ally McBeal, Amanda Lund, American Horror Story: Asylum, Anatomy of Violence, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Argo, Ari Graynor, Arrested Development, Assistance, Awake, Bachelorette, Bad Teacher, Battleship, Beverly Hills Cop, Bill D'Elia, Brandon T. Jackson, Breaking Bad, Bryan Burk, Cameron Diaz, CBS, Children of Men, Community, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Craig Robinson, Crazy Ones, CSI, Daniel Radcliffe, David Alan Grier, David Denman, David E. Kelley, David Graziano, David Harewood, David Semel, Dean Lorey, Dear, Dissident, Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23, Dreamgirls, Eddie Murphy, Emma Watson, Far Shariat, Felicity, Five, For a Good Time Call..., Fox, Friday Night Lights, Fringe, FX, Gene Stupnitsky, Greg Daniels, Greg Garcia, Grey's Anatomy, Hannibal, Happy Endings, Harry Potter, Hilary Winston, Homeland, House of Cards, Howard Gordon, Howard Klein, In Living Color, Intelligence, J.J. Abrams, Jake McLaughlin, James Wolk, Jason Katims, John Dixon, Jonathan Banks, Josh Holloway, KaDee Strickland, Kevin Pollak, Kristen Bell, Krysten Ritter, Last Resort, Lee Eisenberg, Leslye Headland, Life, Little Miss Sunshine, Lost, Louie, Mark Friedman, Michael Seitzman, Minnie Driver, Mork & Mindy, My Name Is Earl, NBC, NCIS, Netflix, New Girl, North Country, Owen Ellickson, Parks and Recreation, Party Down, Perfect Couples, Person of Interest, Peter Berg, Private Practice, Raising Hope, Rand Ravich, Reaper, Revolution, Ricky Gervais, Ringer, Robin Williams, Rupert Grint, Ryan Hansen, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Scandal, Shawn Ryan, Showtime, Skyler Samuels, Southland, Starz, Steve Carell, Super Clyde, Terriers, The Anatomy of Violence: The Biological Roots of Crime, The Chicago Code, The CW, The Following, The Forgotten, The Good Wife, The Mentalist, The Nine Lives of Chloe King, The Office, The School of Rock, The Shield, The Usual Suspects, The West Wing, Tom Everett Scott, Tracy Spiridakos, Tyler Labine, UPN, Veronica Mars, Wilfred, Will Ferrell, Yes Dear