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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SXSW 2010: Skeletons

Set in the picturesque East Midlands, Nick Whitfield’s “Skeletons” stars Ed Gaughan and Andrew Buckley as Davis and Bennett, a pair of traveling salesmen who literally clean skeletons out of closets. The Procedure, as it’s known, magically transports them into their clients’ deepest, darkest secrets, where they can then assume control of the people within the memory and free them of their guilty conscience. When their boss, The Colonel (Jason Isaacs), assigns them to an especially tricky case with the promise of a promotion to higher-profile clients like politicians, Davis and Bennett jump at the chance. But after a rare mistake leaves Davis in an indefinite trance, The Colonel arrives in town to clean up the mess.

skeletons

Based on Whitfield’s 2006 short film of the same name, “Skeletons” is very much a tale of two movies. While the first half is a decidedly more comedic take on the skeleton cleaning business – with several laughs coming from Davis and Bennett’s humorous relationship – the second half gets a whole lot darker. The stakes are raised and the mysticism behind The Procedure plays a bigger role in the story. Whitfield never quite explains how everything works, but he shows the audience enough that you sort of just take his word for it. It’s a one-of-a-kind idea that’s ultimately undone by a confusing final act, and although it probably worked better in its shorter format, “Skeletons” is still something you have to see at least once. And even then, regardless of whether you liked it or not, you might want to watch it again just in case you missed something the first time around.

  

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Entourage 5.7 – Gotta Look Up To Get Down

Lately, this blog has been getting a lot more comments than usual, and to that I say “thank you.” The debates might get a little heated once and awhile, but if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that we love watching “Entourage.” With that said, however, this week’s episode was a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, we have yet another totally pointless story about Vince falling for some model, and on the other hand, we have a subplot involving Ari that could potentially transform the series forever.

Let’s save the best for last, though, and jump straight into the other half of the episode first. It’s been a long time since Vince last worked in Hollywood, and in that time, he’s turned down an awful lot of opportunities to make some fast cash. Granted, some of them (like the “Benji” film) showed real integrity on Vince’s part, but why in the world would he turn down a one-day modeling gig for Dolce & Gabana worth $1 million? He may not care about money, but one of the reasons he’s suffering through such a job drought is because he ran away to Mexico for six months. That may not sound like a very long time to most people, but in Hollywood, it’s the equivalent to being gone for several years. That Dolce & Gabana gig would have gotten his face back out into the public (or at least the people that matter), and it would have gone a long way in helping to restore his image.

Entourage 5.7

Of course, he decides not to do it. Why? Because he likes the model that was fired, and instead of making a little extra cash and working on getting a job, he decides that hopping on a plane to Hawaii with a bunch of hot women is a much better idea. Under any other circumstance, it probably would have been, but Vince is supposed to be responsible these days and, well, that wasn’t a very responsible decision. He can party as much as he wants once he’s a star again, but honestly, why is he still being treated like royalty when he’s clearly far from it? Forget for a moment that the writers used this exact same storyline with Leighton Meester only a few weeks ago and ask yourself this: if it weren’t absolutely necessary to get Vince and Ari in the same room (or in this case, airplane hangar) together for the final scene, would this subplot have ever been written?


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