There have been over 100 pilots announced this television season, but as usual, most of them sound dreadfully generic: Lawyers, doctors, procedurals, friends hanging out together, single-moms, blah blah blah. However, there were several with great promise, either because of the showrunner, the talent involved, or because of an intriguing premise (although not necessarily because they sound good).
There’s no promise, of course, that any of them will be greenlit to series for next fall (only about 40 percent of pilots are picked up to series), but of the announcements made so far, these are the 21 Most Promising Pilots. A few of these will vie for the slots left by the slew of cancellations we can expect in March and April, and if NBC was smart, they’d just greenlight their whole damn slate and start from scratch (except for Parks and Recreation). Not included among the 12 are those pilots that were picked up for series before a pilot was even shot, like the new Michael J. Fox sitcom and CBS’s summer series, Under the Dome.
21. Super Fun Night (ABC) — With the departing Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23 and the likely departure of Happy Endings, ABC is struggling to find a successful sitcom, and they still have the post-Modern Family timeslot with which to play. Super Fun Night follows three nerdy female friends: Kimmie (Rebel Wilson), Helen-Alice (Lisa Lapira) and Marika (Lauren Ash) on their “funcomfortable” quest to have “super fun” every Friday night. The pilot was pitched to CBS last year as a multi-camera, but they’re trying again as a single camera for ABC and with the growing popularity of Rebel Wilson and departing The Mindy Project co-star, Anna Camp (both previously of Pitch Perfect), this seems like a solid bet.
20. Bad Teacher (CBS) — Name recognition still holds a lot of value, and while CBS is easily the highest rated network on television, it still has a problem with younger viewers (the average age of a CBS viewer is around 55). Bad Teacher — about a foul-mouthed school teacher searching for her next husband — would seem to fit the bill. Ari Graynor has landed the lead, and Party Down’s Ryan Hansen and David Allan Grier are also in the cast as fellow teachers.
19. Rake (Fox) — It is yet another legal drama, but this one is based on an Australian series, and those who have seen it speak incredibly highly of it. Greg Kinnear, making his television series debut, stars as a criminal defense attorney. Brilliant, frustratingly charming, and with zero filter, Keegan is one of life’s great addicts. His staggering lack of discretion and inability to self-censor land him the cases that nobody else wants, but behind that lies a resolute optimism and belief in justice that fuel his dogged determination to defend those who seem beyond redemption. He’s also got a lot of personal problems. It sounds like a suitable show to replace the hole still felt by the absence of House.
18. Gillian Anderson (NBC) — Conspiracy dramas are kind of hit and miss, but NBC is desperate, and since big titles haven’t really worked for the network (Prime Suspect, The Firm), they’re going after big stars. Gillian Anderson stars as a CEO named Meg Fitch whose daughter and daughter’s classmates are taken prisoner. The show itself, which will be produced and written by Rand Ravich with Far Shariat, will center on a vast conspiracy that comes to involve some of the most powerful people in Washington, D.C. Rachel Taylor (Charlie’s Angels) co-stars, and it sounds like the kind of show that wants to grab some of the success that Scandal has gotten.
17. Hatfields and McCoys (NBC) — It was only a matter of time after the massive success of the A&E Hatfields and McCoys miniseries before one of the networks would try to capitalize. A desperate NBC leapt. Set in present day Pittsburgh, a startling death re-ignites the feud between these two legendary families. It’s got a decent cast, and all the hallmarks of a Dallas-like soap opera. On any other network, I wouldn’t give it a huge shot at a greenlight, but on NBC and with Rebecca De Mornay, Sophia Bush, and Virginia Madsen in the cast, I suspect it will get the go.
16. Bad Robot Pilot (Fox) — J.J. Abrams’ production company, Bad Robot, isn’t exactly stellar with keeping shows on the air, but they are good at creating pilots and getting them greenlit. This one is interesting, and my biggest hesitation is that it might be too high concept for network television. The buddy cop show is set in the near future when all LAPD officers are partnered with highly evolved human-like androids. It centers on one such pairing, cop John Kennex and his android partner Dorian, who is played by the awesome Michael Ealy. Michael Irby (The Unit) and Brit Mackenzie Crook (The UK’s The Office) are also on board.
15. Bill Lawrence’s Pilot (TBS) — This may be a simple case of wishful thinking, but Bill Lawrence does have a good working relationship with TBS — which airs Cougar Town — and reuniting with John C. McGinley from his Scrubs days pleases me to no end. It’s a multi-camera sitcom set in the world of corporate America, where a 29-year-old successful alpha male crosses paths with his company’s support staff, a tight-knit group of truly happy and care-free people, and quickly realizes he’s not nearly as happy as he thought he was. McGinley will play his overbearing boss, obviously.