‘Tis the season for development, and Lynette Rice at EW.com has released a list of the pilots the broadcast networks are considering. (Bear in mind that only a fraction of these shows will make it to the airwaves.) After perusing the list, I’ve reached the following conclusions:
- The public’s desire for shows about cops, doctors, and lawyers is still insatiable. By my count, 25 of the pilots are about these three professions. But some of these procedurals might be worth watching because of the attached talent: Forest Whitaker is heading up CBS’s Criminal Minds spin-off, NBC is pursuing Julianne Moore for their adaptation of BBC’s Prime Suspect, and Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica, 24) will star in a yet-to-be-titled detective series.
- Multi-camera comedies are coming in droves. If the term “multi-camera” doesn’t ring a bell, it refers to the traditional type of sitcom with live (or implied) audiences, three-sided sets, and cue cards. Seinfeld is a multi-camera comedy, whereas 30 Rock is a single-camera one. After the critical success of 30 Rock, there was high demand for single-camera comedies, but now it looks like the trend is reversing, probably because multi-camera ones are cheaper to produce. The multis on the development slate outnumber the singles 21 to 12. This disappoints me. I have a knee-jerk disgust to the very word “multi-camera.” I don’t like for the canned laughter, the fake-looking sets, the bland lighting, and—often times—the type of comedy itself. I know good work is being done on sitcoms like How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory, but I just haven’t been able to get into them. I’m not even making much headway on Seinfeld.
- The remake fever might not be a the pitch it was a couple of seasons ago, but we still have a few. CBS is updating Hawaii Five-O with Lost’s Daniel Dae Kim and Moonlight’s Alex O’Loughlin. NBC is taking another stab at The Rockford Files, this time under the direction of David Shore (House). And, interestingly, the CW is producing Nikita, an adaptation of La Femme Nikita.
- Spies and the CIA are once again in vogue. Now this is a trend I can get behind, mainly due to my undying love for Alias. All of the espionage series on the slate sound intriguing. CBS’s Chaos has Freddy Rodriguez heading up a “ragtag group of CIA operatives ensnared by backstabbing and bureaucratic snafus.” Fox’s The Station is a single-camera (huzzah!) comedy focusing on a “covert CIA operative and his work buddies embedded in South America.” Even the CW is getting in on the action with Nomads, a drama about “free-spirited” backpackers who carry out CIA missions around the world. But the pilot that I’m most excited about bar none is Undercovers, an NBC drama about married spies who pulled back into service. Why am I pumped? It’s created by my hero, god-among-men J.J. Abrams.
- Remember the 2005-2006 season when everyone wanted a piece of delicious Lost pie? Now everyone seemingly wants to replicate the critical and commercial success of Modern Family. ABC’s It Takes a Village and NBC’s Perfect Couples and Love Bites are all about various couples and their various intersections and intertwinings. I’m thanking God that Love Bites isn’t the name of another vampire series.
- I kind of miss the Lost knock-off trend, though. I want more heavily-serialized stuff, like this season’s intriguingV and FlashForward. There’s only one enigmatic-sounding pilot on the list, NBC’s The Event, a “thriller about a regular Joe caught up in a large conspiracy.”
- We may have dodged a bullet on Love Bites, but terrible names abound elsewhere. Some names are yawningly on-the-nose (Friends with Benefits), some are pun-ishing (Strange Brew—a brewery comedy), some have unfortunate connotations (The Wyoming Project, which brings to mind The Laramie Project), and some are just bizarre (Edgar Floats—a type of inner tube or a soda-fountain treat?). The worst one, however, is The Quinn-Tuplets. Naming characters to serve a pun in the title is a practice that needs to end. I’m still not convinced that Meredith Grey was so-named before the show was christened Grey’s Anatomy.
- Shonda Rhimes’ new show Off the Map is, once again, about doctors (presumably) in love. Okay, Shonda, you have a formula that works—I understand. But what’s neato about this ABC pilot is that it’s being filmed in Puerto Rico. As much as I love Los Angeles, New York City, and Vancouver (woohoo!), I appreciate when a show is filmed in the actual place (like Breaking Bad, which is filmed in New Mexico) or a reasonable stand-in (like Lost and Hawaii).
- There are two dramas about superheroes, NBC’s The Cape and ABC’s No Ordinary Family, the latter of which marks the small-screen return of The Shield’s Michael Chiklis.
- The rotten banana of the bunch seems to be Chuck Lorre’s latest sitcom for CBS, Mike and Molly, about “a couple that overeats.” If that right there is the punchline for the whole show, it sounds abysmally bad. As much as Eddie Murphy might disagree with me, obesity isn’t that funny, especially in today’s America.
- But on the other end of spectrum are pilots that seem quite promising. Reno 911! creators and Night at the Museum scribes Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant are producing a sitcom for NBC about a ex-child star who opens a bar in Vegas. ABC has a drama pilot in the works called Matadors, which centers on two feuding Chicago families and stars David Strathairn (of Good Night, and Good Luck fame). And the Alphabet Network is also developing a comedy called Mr. Sunshine starring Matthew Perry as a “self-absorbed manager of a sport arena” and co-starring Allison Janney. (Both of those stars previously guest-starred on each other’s Aaron Sorkin show, Perry on Janney’s The West Wing, and Janney or Perry’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.)
Of course, everything is subject to change before May, when the networks present the shows that survive this phase to the advertisers at their “upfront” events. That’s when all this speculation will end, and hopefully by then the wheat will be separated from the (ahem, Mike and Molly) chaff.