Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Ideas for shows you might see in fall pitched now

Dale Roe, On TV

Staff Writer
Austin 360

Each year when baseball starts, I realize that it's time to write about TV pilot season. While I'm sitting out at the Dell Diamond watching minor league baseball during the first few weeks of the season (before the unbearable Texas heat begins to beat down), I'm distracted by thoughts of television's own minor leagues. Never mind getting called up to the major leagues of a full series order pilot season finds creative young hopefuls pitching their projects to the networks, hoping they can get just one episode of their proposed series made.

This year's roster of more than 80 shows is heavy on comedy and dramas centered around unconventional families — single dads and moms, adopted children, and widows and widowers enlisting friends and relatives in an "it takes a village" approach to child-rearing. There's also at least one "Modern Family"-influenced same-sex couple.

There are far fewer medical shows than usual, a fair number of buddy comedies/dramas/dramedies and the usual number of cop and law shows that employ "outside the idiot box," unconventional (and supernatural) twists to the formula.

Most of these shows will never see a network time slot, but I have highlighted a few that I hope get called up to the big leagues, along with some that sound truly awful and others that just beg the question "why?"

If you're one of those diligent types who sits at the ballpark with a pencil and a scorecard noting every run, hit and error, keep track and let me know how I did when the new season starts this fall.


The good

"Pan Am"

(One-hour drama)

Stars: Margot Robbie, Michael Mosley, Karine Vanasse, Christina Ricci, Kellie Garner, Jonah Lotan

With "Mad Men" delayed until 2012, I'd welcome a sexy, retro ensemble drama about pilots and stewardesses when they used to be called stewardesses. Sounds ripe for exotic locales and high-flying fun. I don't expect this to be another "Mad Men," but do you remember those episodes with Don and Sal on the plane? Didn't you want to see more of that?

The bad

"Work It"

(Half-hour comedy)

Stars: Amaury Nolasco, Ben Koldyke, John Caparulo, Rebecca Mader, Kirstin Eggers

Ready for a "Bosom Buddies" reboot? Me neither. Yet former "Friends" scribes have created this pilot in which a pair of former car salesman dress as women to gain employment as pharmaceutical reps. It's supposed to make them better husbands and dads. Because didn't you always want to be the kid at school with the cross-dressing parent?

The why?

"Charlie's Angels"

One-hour drama

Stars: Annie Ilonzeh, Minka Kelly, Rachel Taylor, Ramon Rodriguez, Robert Wagner

Did we like Drew Barrymore's movies so much that we needed a television reboot? Even with "Friday Night Lights" star Minka Kelly on board and Robert Wagner as the voice of angel guardian Charlie, this doesn't seem like much fun, in even a nostalgic way.


The good


One-Hour Drama

Cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nestor Carbonell, Mike Colter, Ioan Gruffudd, Tara Summers, Kristoffer Polaha

Gellar plays a woman hiding from the mob by impersonating her privileged twin. Unfortunately, that life has its own deadly complications. It's not the best idea, but it's the best of the CBS pilots, which should tell you something about the next two entries.

The bad

"Rob Schneider Project"

Half-hour Comedy

Stars: Rob Schneider, Tony Plana, Lupe Ontiveros, Nadine Velazquez

Former "Saturday Night Live" cast member and Adam Sandler pal Schneider co-wrote and stars in this sitcom about a confirmed and distant bachelor who finds himself part of a super-close Mexican-American family. If it doesn't sound particularly original, remember that Schneider is the guy who became famous on "SNL" for "makin' copies."

The why?

"Home Game"

Half-hour comedy

Stars: Constance Zimmer, Rob Riggle, Jenn Proske, Ken Marino, Elizabeth McLaughlin

An ex-NFL star heads home. Fox tried this in 2009 with Michael Strahan — they called it "Brothers." Does CBS think it will be funnier with Caucasians?


The good


One-hour drama

Jason Isaacs, Wilmer Valderrama, Steve Harris, Cherry Jones, BD Wong, Laura Allen, Dylan Minnette

NBC has a ton of great-sounding pilots, and that's good, because the last-place network, still not fully recovered from 2009's disastrous Jay Leno prime-time experiment, really needs them. I'm pulling for this smart-sounding show from Austin's Kyle Killen, the creator of 2010's late, lamented "Lone Star." Like that series, "REM" deals with dual lives as a cop wakes up after an auto accident living in two concurrent realities — one in which his wife is dead and the other in which his son did not survive. The boffo casting of "Harry Potter's" Isaacs is somewhat mitigated by the appearance of Valderrama of "That '70s Show."

The bad

"Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea"

Half-hour comedy

Stars: Chelsea Handler, Laura Prepon, Angela Laketa Moore, Natalie Morales, Lauren Lapkus, Jo Koy, Mark Povinelli

Chelsea Handler is not funny. How good can an ensemble sitcom about twentysomethings based on her life be?

The why?

"Wonder Woman"

One-Hour Drama

Stars: Adrianne Palicki, Tracie Thoms, Pedro Pascal, Cary Elwes, Elizabeth Hurley, Justin Bruening

Yes, we've all seen the pictures of "Friday Night Lights" star Adrianne Palicki in the superhero getup, and she looks good, in a Halloween-costume kind of way. But a "Wonder Woman" reboot? From David E. Kelley? Didn't the producers learn anything from the quick cancellation of "The Cape" and the failure of "No Ordinary Family?"


The good

"I Hate My Teenage Daughter"

Half-hour comedy

Stars: Katie Finneran, Jamie Pressly, Eric Sheffer Stevens, Kristi Lauren, Aisha Dee

Two moms who were picked on by "mean girls" in high school are alarmed to discover their own daughters are the mean girls now. The title is great and, with Jamie Pressly of "My Name Is Earl" on board, this show sounds like a lot of fun, in a Fox kind of way.

The bad


One-hour drama

Stars: Kiefer Sutherland

Oh, Kiefer, we're glad to have you back, but we're worried about this goofy-sounding vehicle that has cast you as the single dad of an autistic child who can predict the future. I'm guessing that if he could really predict the future, he'd know this project holds no long-term chance of success.

The why?

"Napoleon Dynamite"

Animated half-hour comedy

Stars: Jon Heder, Aaron Ruell, Jon Gries, Efren Ramirez, Diedrich Bader, Tina Majorino, Sandy Martin

I liked the 2004 sleeper hit movie as much as the next guy. But has anybody except the cast of "Napoleon Dynamite" been clamoring for more "Napoleon Dynamite"? And who thought this slow-moving, glacially paced property would be a good idea for an animated comedy? It's going to make the laconic "King of the Hill" look like "Family Guy."

The CW

The good

"Danny Lowinski"

One-hour drama

Stars: Amanda Walsh, Carla Gallo, Neal Bledsoe, George Dzundza, Utkarsh Ambudkar

I like the cast and premise of this quirky dramedy in which an unemployed law school grad sets up shop in a mall kiosk. It could be a winner in a "Fairly Legal" kind of way if it's not too heavy on the "CW" treatment.

The bad


One-hour drama

Stars: Ben Aldridge, Lauren Cohan, Ryan Eggold, Elizabeth Ho

A young female attorney teams up with an angel, fixing lives and saving souls. As if an angel would get anywhere near a lawyer. My prediction: Case closed.

The why?


One-hour drama

Stars: Lucy Griffiths, Meredith Hagner, Titus Welliver, Brian Hallisay, Jewell Blackman

A family drama set among a zombie epidemic? Cough. ("Walking Dead.") Cough.; 912-5923