Upcoming pilots: The good, the bad, the puzzling
Ah, spring! When a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. And crime. And medicine, law, politics, families and spies, too. It's TV pilot season, where there's little pitching of woo, but plenty of pitching as producers and stars attach themselves to projects they hope will be picked up by networks and blossom into long-running series.
Most of those hopes will be dashed this summer when the networks reveal their fall lineups. Putting on my television procedural detective hat, I found evidence of 40 drama and 43 comedy pilots being produced by the four major broadcast networks and The CW. Last season, only around 20 new shows premiered in the fall. There were five fewer slots than usual due to NBC's prime time "The Jay Leno Show" debacle, but still ... there are going to be a lot of disappointed Hollywood elite come decision time (hey — isn't that Christian Slater sulking over in the corner?)
It's impossible to do a detailed analysis of 83 programs, so I'll just highlight a few choice efforts from each network. Keep in mind that I haven't seen any of these pilots. Many of them are currently filming or have yet to do so and the networks really haven't had much of a chance to muck around with the creators' visions, so cast information and titles might change for those efforts that are eventually picked up.
The good: "Generation Y"
I've already written plenty about this dramatic pilot that creator Noah Hawley based in Austin and went the extra mile by shooting here, too. Even if it didn't have such an intriguing premise — using flashbacks to explain how a disparate group of documentary-subject high schoolers ended up as they have currently, 10 years later — a series pickup would mean more filming here and you have to root for the home team (even if it isn't the Dillon Panthers).
Starring: Michael Stahl David, Keir O'Donnell, Kelli Gamer, Daniella Alonso, Julian Morris, Mechad Brooks (son of the American-Statesman's Alberta Phillips), Jamie King and Anne Son.
The bad: "Wright vs. Wrong"
OK, "Arrested Development" auteur Mitch Hurwitz is attached to this project, but in today's bitterly divided political climate, a comedy about a vulnerable, female conservative pundit seems poised to offend viewers on the right and the left. And the title is just horrible.
Starring: Debra Messing
The why?: "No Ordinary Family"
Hot off "The Shield," Michael Chiklis plays another cop — well, a police artist — who finds himself the patriarch of a family reluctantly developing superpowers. I guess with "Heroes" on the way out there's room for a successor, but this sounds iffy. Still, Chicklis has experience playing both cops and superheroes ("Fantastic Four") and casting "Dexter's" Julie Benz as his wife can't hurt.
Starring: Michael Chiklis, Julie Benz, Autumn Reeser, Romany Malco, Jimmy Bennett, Kay Panabaker, Christina Chang
The good: "Hawaii Five-o"
It's a smart time for this dramatic reboot. For starters, writer (and University of Texas alum) Roberto Orci knows how to make a remake, if last summer's "Star Trek" reinvention was any indication. Plus, he gets bonus credit for choosing the right Hawaii crime series to redo (sorry, "Magnum, P.I."). Finally, Hawaii-filmed "Lost" is going to end with a million unanswered questions and Steve McGarrett might just be the guy to answer 'em.
Starring: Alex O'Loughlin, Daniel Dae Kim , Grace Park, Taryn Manning
The bad: "Defenders"
Jim Belushi? As a lawyer? In a drama? Do you want me to go on?
Starring: Jim Belushi, Tanya Fischer, Jurnee Smollett
The why?: "(Expletive) My Dad Says"
Yes, it's a television pilot based on a Twitter account. Yes, it has come to this. Next year, look for new prime-time game show "Tweet the Clock" and "(Expletive)faced!," a half-hour comedy based solely on unwelcome Facebook friend requests.
Starring: William Shatner, Ryan Devlin, Nicole Sullivan
The good: "Our Show"
Buried beneath all of this pilot season's tired genre concepts is this intriguing comedy premise from creator Larry Charles ("Seinfeld," "Curb Your Enthusiasm"): Small-town sci-fi fanboys continue filming their own episodes of their favorite, canceled TV show. If this show gets picked up, then canceled, and fans continue filming their own episodes of it, the universe could collapse upon itself.
Starring: Dan Bakkedahl, Jonathan Sadowski, Lauren Weedman, Mahaley Hessam, Maria Thayer, Nate Corddry, P.J. Byrne
The bad: "Rockford Files"
This reboot seems less than promising. I like Dermot Mulroney, but James Garner's Jim Rockford is about as iconic as TV detectives get. Plus, Steve Carell — who poorly reimagined another iconic small-screen character, Maxwell Smart, for the big screen — executive produces.
The why?: "Next"
Remember when Paul Reiser was a big NBC star? Yeah, I'm a little fuzzy on it, too — it was a long time ago. I'm less than mad about this Paul Reiser "Curb Your Enthusiasm"-esque comedy, but it sounds like just the kind of derivative tripe that could be a big hit. Still, do you want to name your prospective series after the word every "American Idol" hopeful and chat roulette player fears hearing?
Starring: Paul Reiser. Written by: Paul Reiser. Executive Producer: Paul Reiser. Kraft Services Manager: Paul Reiser.
The good: "Bob's Burgers"
"King of the Hill" scribe Jim Dauterive created this animated pilot (with stellar voice talent) centered on a family that runs a burger joint. I'll take mine medium rare; hold the Seth McFarlane.
Starring: H. Jon Benjamin, John Roberts, Kristen Schaal, Dan Mintz, Eugene Mirman
The bad: "Ride-along"
Your pitch is "Chicago's first female police chief and a renegade cowboy cop clean up the Windy City's streets" and it's a drama? Really? The streets will be cleaner if the renegade cowboy cop doesn't actually ride a horse.
Starring: Matt Lauria, Devin Kelley, Todd Williams
The "why?": "Midland"
This prime-time soaper features a conflicted con man in the world of big Texas oil. It's like "Dallas," except a little bit south and a lot farther west.
Starring: Jimmy Wolk, Adrianne Palicki, Bryce Johnson, Eloise Mumford
The good: "Hellcats"
It seems like there could be lots of evil, backstabbing, sexy, CW-style fun in this pilot about competitive college cheerleaders starring Disney Channel alumni eager to shed their wholesome images.
Starring: Ashley Tisdale, Aly Michalka, Gail O'Grady
The bad: "Betwixt"
"Changelings" are tasked with keeping humanity safe from the powers of evil. Which begs the question, where are these changelings when stuff like this gets pitched? Still, this kind of supernatural mumbo jumbo seems to cast a spell on CW viewers, so what do I know?
The why?: "Untitled Wyoming Project"
This family soap takes place at a small town-horse farm in either the Midwest or the Rockies. Well, that narrows it down.
Starring: Sean Faris, Renee Smith, Scarlett Johnson, Alan Ruck