2011 Pilot Watch: The Best of the Winners

By on May 27, 2011 in Tinseltown |

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The tribe has spoken. The networks have voted. And this development season’s pilots have either received series orders or have been all but forgotten about. After watching clips of (or, at least, reading synopses of) the new shows, I’ve decided which shows I can’t wait to check out. (And my track record is pretty great: only two-thirds of the shows I recommended last year were cancelled! Hey!)

  1. Alcatraz Another in a proud line of mysterious dramas from J.J. Abrams, FOX’s Alcatraz deals with the sudden reappearance of prisoners and guards who had disappeared three decades prior. I’d be excited for the Abrams-ness of it all, but it also features an enviable cast (Lost‘s Jorge Garcia, Jurassic Park‘s Sam Neill, ER‘s Parminder Nagra).
  2. Apartment 23 ABC’s roommate-from-hell comedy works because Krysten Ritter (Veronica Mars) is surprisingly good at playing a lovable bitch and her character’s best friend James Van Der Beek is played by James Van Der Beek.
  3. Awake This NBC drama (originally titled R.E.M.) features Brotherhood‘s Jason Isaacs as a cop who survives a car crash to find himself torn between two realities: one in which his son survived and one in which his wife did. The mind-tripping nature of the show coupled with Isaacs’s understated performance makes it the show to beat, in my book.
  4. New Girl Two words: Zooey Deschanel. She’s adorable and goofy as ever in this FOX comedy. Even though she’s the main attraction, her character’s three male roommates might even be funny enough rival her comedic chops.
  5. Once Upon a Time I’m cautiously optimistic about ABC’s supernatural thriller in which a town’s residents are unknowingly living parallel lives in a Snow-White-like fairy tale. The tunics and sword fights make it look a little cheesy, but I still have hope. And I do like House‘s Jennifer Morrison, Big Love‘s Ginnifer Goodwin, and Swingtown‘s Lana Parilla.
  6. Pan Am I do love me some period dramas, and I love the swankiness of the Jet Set Era. (Y’know, that time when air travel was fun.) This soap for ABC seems a little derivative of that memorable sequence from Catch Me If You Can, but that’s not a bad thing. Let’s face it: well-coiffed flight attendants plus handsome pilots plus retro design plus exotic locales (plus Christina Ricci) cannot not be fun.
  7. The Playboy Club What did I just say about period dramas? Admittedly, I was skeptical when I heard about NBC’s Playboy pilot, but the preview has piqued my curiosity. Are there lots of gratuitous bunny-tail shots? Yes. Are there moments of female empowerment? Yes. This is all to be expected. But it also coats a seedy storyline in a sleek veneer, so this will be one to check out.
  8. Ringer After nearly a decade off, Sarah Michelle Gellar is back on television! And she plays two characters: twin sisters both escaping their respective bounties. The cast also features Life Unexpected‘s Kristopher Pohala, Lost‘s Nestor Carbonell, and Fantastic Four‘s Ioan Gruffudd. Also, this series makes for the comeback story of the season: CBS declined to pick it up but handed it off to its sister network, The CW.
  9. Smash It’s a musical show, but it’s not Glee. Rather, it’s a show about putting on a musical, and I love making-of dramas. (Hell, I wrote a making-of drama.) Plus, it has a laudable cast that includes Debra Messing, Angelica Huston, and American Idol contender Katharine McPhee.
  10. Terra Nova Refer to my last post on the subject. (FOX has had the show in development for awhile.) But add Life on Mars‘s Jason O’Mara and Avatar‘s Stephen Lang, a massive set in Hawaii, some impressive CGI; and the most ambitious new show on the slate (for the second year running) is even more intriguing.
  11. Up All Night Any comedy with Christina Applegate, Will Arnett, and Maya Rudolph can’t be bad. It just can’t be. Props, NBC.