Greetings to the New Pilots: 20 Series We Hope to See in Fall 2011

Yes, once again, it’s pilot season: the time when the broadcast networks put all of the potential projects for the 2011 – 2012 season on the table, take a cold, hard look at what’s available to them, and decide which ones have the most potential for success come the fall…or spring, depending on how much or how little confidence they end up having in the final product.

Critics everywhere should be throwing parades in honor of TV Guide’s Natalie Abrams, who has done the heavy lifting for the rest of us and offered up The Complete Pilot Report, listing off all of the pilots currently in the running for ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox, and NBC, along with their creators, their premises, and the actors currently attached to them as of this writing.

Having taken a gander at Abrams’ decidedly comprehensive list, here’s our list of the 20 shows we’d most like to see turn up come the kickoff of the Fall 2011 season:

1. Alcatraz (Fox): A cop (Sarah Jones) and a team of FBI agents track down a group of missing Alcatraz prisoners and guards who reappear in the present day after disappearing 30 years earlier. J.J. Abrams will executive-produce and Liz Sarnoff (“Lost”) will be the showrunner. Jorge Garcia, Sam Neill, Jonny Coyne, Jason Butler Harner, Parminder Nagra, Santiago Cabrera and Robert Forster also star.

2. Awakening (The CW): Two sisters (Lucy Griffiths and Meredith Hagner) face off during a zombie uprising. William Laurin, Glenn Davis, Howard T. Owens, Carolyn Bernstein and Todd Cohen will executive-produce.

3. Brave New World (NBC): The project centers on a group of characters at Pilgrim Village, a theme park that recreates 1637 New England. Peter Tolan (“Rescue Me”) wrote the pilot and will executive-produce with Michael Wimer (“2012”). Ed Begley Jr., Nick Braun, Will Greenberg, Jazz Raycole, Robbie Benson and Anna Popplewell will star.

4. The Council of Dads (Fox): Based on the non-fiction book by Bruce Feiler, a man who learns he’s dying enlists five men to help his wife raise their two children. The project comes from “Rescue Me” creator Peter Tolan. Kyle Bornheimer, Diane Farr, Patrick Breen and Ken Howard will star.

5. Hail Mary (CBS): An Atlanta-set P.I. drama tells the story of a suburban single mom (Minnie Driver) who teams up with a street hustler (Brandon T. Jackson) to solve crimes. Jeff Wadlow will write and executive-produce with Joel Silver and “The L Word” creator Ilene Chaiken. Enrique Murciano and Stephen Tobolowsky will also star.

6. How to Be a Gentleman (CBS): An uptight guy (David Hornsby) learns to live his life with the help of an old high school friend. The project comes from Hornsby (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”). Dave Foley, Nancy Lenehan and Rhys Darby will also star.

7. Little in Common (Fox): This project revolves around families whose children play Little League together. “Veronica Mars”‘ Rob Thomas will write and executive-produce. Rob Corddry, Paula Marshall, Kevin Hart and Gabrielle Union star.

8. Pan Am (ABC) – The stewardesses and pilots of the titular airline are the stars of this soap set in the Jet Age of the 1960s. Jack Orman (“ER”) wrote the pilot and will executive-produce with Nancy Hult Ganis and Tommy Schlamme (“The West Wing”). Christina Ricci, Margot Robbie, Karine Vanasse and Michael Mosley will star.

9. Person of Interest (CBS): A presumed-dead CIA agent (Jim Caviezel) is recruited by a billionaire (Michael Emerson) to catch violent criminals in New York City. “Memento”‘s Jonathan Nolan and J.J. Abrams will executive-produce. Taraji P. Henson will also star.

10. Playboy (NBC) – At the Playboy Club in Chicago in 1963, “bunnies” (incuding Amber Heard and Naturi Naughton) flirt with danger. Chad Hodge and “Apollo 13″‘s Brian Grazer will executive-produce. Jeff Hephner, Laura Benanti, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Leah Renee, David Krumholtz and Wes Ramsey also star.

11. Reconstruction (NBC) – In the aftermath of the Civil War, a soldier (Martin Henderson) crosses the country and settles in a complicated town where he is welcomed as its savior — whether he likes it or not. “St. Elsewhere” co-creator Josh Brand wrote the pilot. Bill Sage, Claire Wellin, Emma Bell and Rachelle Lefevre will also star.

12. REM (NBC): A police detective (Jason Isaacs) who’s involved in a traumatic car accident wakes up in two fractured realities. The project comes from Kyle Killen, creator of Fox’s short-lived “Lone Star,” and “24”‘s Howard Gordon will also executive-produce.

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ABC: What’s New for Fall 2010

TUESDAY

No Ordinary Family (Tues., Sept. 28 @ 8:00 PM, ABC)

* The competition: “NCIS” (CBS), “The Biggest Loser” (NBC), “Glee” (Fox), “One Tree Hill” (The CW)

Starring: Michael Chiklis, Julie Benz, Romany Malco, Autumn Reeser, Kay Panabaker, Jimmy Bennett, Stephen Collins

Producers: Greg Berlanti (“Eli Stone”), Jon Harmon (“Tru Calling”), David Semel (“Life”), Morgan Wandell

Network’s Description: The Powells are about to go from ordinary to extraordinary. After 16 years of marriage, Jim feels disconnected from his workaholic wife, Stephanie, and two teenage children, Daphne and JJ. To encourage family bonding time, Jim decides the family will join Stephanie on her business trip to South America. When their plane crashes into the Amazon River, they barely enjoy a moment to celebrate their survival before returning to the grind of everyday life. But they will soon realize that their lives have been forever changed. Each member of the family starts to show signs of new, unique and distinct super powers. Will their newfound abilities finally bring them together or push them further apart? For the Powells, embarking on a mission to understand their new abilities becomes the key to rebuilding their family life, as they learn what defines and unifies them. Despite the fact they can collectively lift a car, run at lightning speed, read your mind and calculate the dimensions of the Eiffel Tower — all before you say “superhero” – they are first and foremost an average family with everyday problems.

The Buzz: Decidedly strong at Comic-Con, as you’d expect, and there’s no question that ABC’s treating it as a major player in the season, given all of the intrusive pop-ups promoting the series during its current programming. The big question, though, is whether or not non-nerds (and as a nerd myself, please understand that I’m simply using this phrase as to separate us cool kids from those other people) can be sold on the show.

Pilot Highlight: Perhaps unsurprisingly, the members of the family discovering their respective abilities make for the most fun, but as for the best of that bunch, it’s a tie between Jim learning how to jump and Stephanie speeding around the track.

Bottom Line: The pilot is a heck of a lot of fun, offering a sense of humor and a sense of adventure that’s more like a live-action “Incredibles” than another “Heroes,” but given the tough competition, superhero fans had better tune in from the get-go, keep on coming back for more, and spread the good word on the show for all they’re worth if they want “No Ordinary Family” to stick around.

Detroit 1-8-7 (Tues., Sept. 21 @ 10:00 PM, ABC)

* The competition: “The Good Wife” (CBS), “Parenthood” (NBC)

Starring: Michael Imperioli, James McDaniel, Aisha Hinds, D.J. Cotrona, Jon Michael Hill, Shaun Majumder, Natalie Martinez, Erin Cummings

Producers: David Zabel (“ER”), Jason Richman (“Bangkok Dangerous”), Kevin Hooks (“Prison Break”), David Hoberman (“Monk”), Todd Lieberman (“The Kill Point”)

Network’s Description: What does it take to be a detective in one of America’s toughest cities? Follow one homicide unit as Detroit’s finest reveal the crisis and revelation, heartbreak and heroism that characterize these inner city cops in this series shot entirely in Detroit, Michigan. There’s the damaged but driven Detective Louis Fitch, a wily homicide vet who is the most respected — and most misunderstood — man in the division; Detective Damon Washington, Fitch’s new partner, who finds the first day on the job is a trial by fire, complicated by the imminent birth of his first child; Detective Ariana Sanchez, sexy, edgy and beautiful, who has emerged from a rough background to become a rising star in the department; narcotics undercover cop John Stone, a streetwise smooth talker, clever and quick with a smile made for the movies, who is teamed with Sanchez — a combustible pairing rife with conflict and sexual tension; Sergeant Jesse Longford, a 30-year veteran and sage of the department struggling with his impending retirement from the force and the city he loves, who, together with his partner, Detective Vikram Mahajan — a fully Americanized son of Indian immigrants — form an amusing mismatch of experience and enthusiasm, intellect and instinct, old school and new world, but whose combined skills have never encountered a case that couldn’t be cleared; and all are headed by Lieutenant Maureen Mason, a strong-willed single mom struggling to balance home and work. The unit works with the primary medical examiner, Dr. Abbey Ward, who has an unusual hobby in her off-hours-roller derby. The men and women of Detroit Homicide are as smart and tough as they come. They have to be, as they struggle with their own inner demons, using only their sharp sense of humor to keep them grounded while working the neighborhoods of the historic Motor City.

The Buzz: The show earned a few headlines when it had to deal with an impossible-to-predict change from its original faux-documentary format after a real death in Detroit during the filming of an episode of A&E’s “The First 48” led the city to ban camera crews from following cops around. The producers, of course, have put the most positive possible spin on the situation, but given that it was one of the few things that instantly helped the show stand out from its fellow police dramas, you know it had to hurt, especially since there hasn’t really been any buzz about the show.

Pilot Highlight: The conclusion to Washington’s first day as a detective. You won’t see it coming, and it wipes away many of your concerns that the show might wallow in schmaltz.

Bottom Line: The cast is strong, but the show still ends up feeling like a typical cop drama. Having both Imperioli (“Life on Mars”) and McDaniel (“NYPD Blue”) back on the beat is nice, and the last scene of the first episode will no doubt bring just about everyone who’s watching back for Episode #2, but it still may not be enough to help “Detroit 1-8-7” compete against two shows that absolutely do have buzz.

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