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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Bullz-Eye’s TCA 2010 Winter Press Tour Wrap-Up: Simon Signs, Conan Conquers, and Patrick Stewart Just Plain Rules

The 2010 winter press tour of the Television Critics Association took place at the Langham Huntington Hotel and Spa from January 8th – 18th, which you probably already know from the various postings which were done during and have continued since my attendance at the event. It’s a regular tradition, however, that I do a wrap-up piece which summarizes my experiences during the tour, and since I invariably seem to get a positive response from those pieces, I always try to make it as entertaining a read as possible. Here’s hoping I’ve succeeded as well this time as I have in the past…but if I haven’t, I feel certain you’ll let me know.

Most enjoyable panel by a broadcast network: “Great Performances: Macbeth,” PBS.

I’ll freely admit that I was predisposed to enjoy the panel due to the fact that it featured the newly-knighted Sir Patrick Stewart, but I spoke to others afterwards who declared it to have been the best panel of the tour up to that point. Partial credit for the success goes to the critics in the audience, who consistently offered up intelligent questions about the subject matter at hand…and let me assure you that this is not always the case. Even on an occasion when an attempt at going in a unique direction fell flat, such as when one writer asked Stewart if he was familiar with FX’s “Sons of Anarchy” (it’s been called a Shakespearean saga on motorcycles), it led to the revelation that Ron Perlman has played an interesting place in Stewart’s life. “I was having dinner with Ron Perlman the day that I was offered Jean-Luc Picard in ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation,’” he said, ‘so I have always looked on Ron as being a lucky omen. So you mentioning his name today, I hope, means that the rest of the day is going to be brighter than it begin.” At the very least, Sir Patrick’s remarks during the panel brightened mine.

Most interactive panel by a cable network: “The Choir,” BBC America.

Gareth Malone is a man on a mission to bring music to those who may not think that they have an interest in it, creating choirs in various schools in England and helping the youth of today raise their voices in song. We soon discovered that this extended to television critics as well. “In England, everyone knows that when I enter a room, everyone’s going to sing,” Malone began ominously, “so I would like to invite you to leave your Apples and come up onto stage, and we’re going to have a little singsong.” The immediate reaction was less than enthusiastic, with at least one person piping up, “It’s against the bylaws!” Malone would not be denied, however. “It will be very brief,” he assured us. “I’ll be very, very, kind. I promise not to do opera. Honestly, it’s going to be very, very gentle. I promise. Risk it. There won’t be very much. Typists, abandon your typing!” In the end, he managed to get a couple of dozen of us up there…yes, I was among the huddled masses…to perform a not-as-bad-as-it-could’ve-been chorus of “Barbara Ann.” As there is neither an audio recording nor a YouTube clip to prove otherwise, you may feel free to believe that I personally sounded fantastic.

Best intro to a panel from a cable network: “Dance Your Ass Off,” Oxygen.

All I know about this show is what I’ve learned from watching clips on “The Soup,” but when a panel starts off by having its panelists literally dancing their way down the aisles and onto the stage, at the very least, it gets your attention.

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TCA Tour: Lost

Let us begin our coverage of ABC’s “Lost” panel by giving all due props to Jonathan Storm, TV critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, who kicked things off with the following statement: “Hello, I’d like to ask each one of you to tell exactly what happens in the final season.”

Nice try, Mr. Storm.

Fortunately, Storm had a back-up question ready to ask of the panel – which consisted of Emilie de Ravin (Claire), Daniel Dae Kim (Jin), Josh Holloway (Sawyer), Evangeline Lilly (Kate), executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, Terry O’Quinn (Locke), Michael Emerson (Ben), and Jorge Garcia (Hurley) – once the laughter stopped: how are you feeling as this comes to an end?

“As we were walking out onto the stage and this montage was playing, I was whispering to my cast members, ‘I am going to cry like a baby when this show ends,'” said Lilly. “It’s become so nostalgic for us to look back over six years and have grown up together and grown up in front of all of you together. It’s been so intense that for it to come to an end is going to be life-changing.”

Garcia instantly agreed. “Certain places that we shoot, it’s, like, ‘Wow, I haven’t been here since season three,'” he said. “Right now, it’s very appreciative and precious.”

“There’s a lot of camaraderie on set now,” acknowledged Holloway. “It feels…a lot of magic, like the first season. It was an incredibly magical year, and the whole experience, of course, has been incredible, but this last year, everyone’s really getting that sense of camaraderie and nostalgia, and it’s just been fabulous.”

“You know, personally, I’m just feeling a tremendous amount of gratitude,” said Lindelof, “and the idea that we’re getting to end something while anybody still cares and while we still kind of love each other, as opposed to everybody saying, ‘It’s about time.’ This is sort of a once-in-a-lifetime or once-in-a-career experience, for a show that’s still performing, for the network to allow us to end it, is a tremendous gift. As Evangeline was saying, as I was walking onto the stage, I was sort of experiencing a sense of, ‘I can’t believe they’re going to actually let us get away with this.'”

When asked how long the conclusion of “Lost” had been determined, Cuse acknowledged that there really wasn’t a definitive answer to that question. “We came up with the final image of the show a long time ago back when we were first plotting out the mythology in the first season, then we started adding elements to that as we went along…and, really, between the first and the second season is when we cooked the mythology,” he said. “We kind of knew what the end point was, but as you move towards the end point, you add elements. Obviously, the end is not yet written, and there are certain sort of mythological, architectural elements that are intact for that ending, but a lot of character stuff will get worked out as we go along. I mean, that’s part of the discovery process of writing. For instance, Michael Emerson wasn’t on the show at that point. It’s a fun process because we sort of have a concept of where we’re going to end the show, but there is still the process of actually executing it and there still is the process of discovery, particularly on a character level, that will come into play as we finish the show.”

“So if you guys have any ideas,” said Lindelof, “we’re open-minded.”

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Lost 5.5 – This Island Is Death

In the mid-’90s, my then-girlfriend watched “Melrose Place” religiously. I wasn’t opposed to the show itself – any show with Heather Locklear is worth at least a look with the sound off, right? – but every time Marcia Cross came onscreen, I would repeat my mantra: “Would someone please KILL HER?” They would even tease us with promos saying, “One of these character will die,” then show all the leads and one blatant Red Shirt character. It made me crazy that these people would knock on Death’s door and ask him to punch them in the face, but they survived everything, like a bunch of bed-hopping cockroaches. For years, I would think that TV shows didn’t have the balls to kill their characters. It would be too risky, too polarizing.

Man, karma’s a bitch. This week alone, Daphne bites it on “Heroes,” and now Charlotte succumbs to Time Jumping Syndrome. TV finally gave me everything I ever wanted. It wasn’t what I wanted. Come on, they couldn’t have killed the cheerleader and Juliet instead?

Ben Linus might be the most conniving bag of douche on God’s green earth, but you have to admire how unflappable he is. He never loses his cool or panics even when someone has a gun to his head, and that happens a lot. This time it was Sun that was looking for a little payback, though one thing about her arc bugs me: she gets the gun through covert means, and is flipping through a file with shots of Jack and Ben before meeting them at the pier. At first, it looked as though she was on assignment, and Ben was the target. Is she a contract killer, or did she merely pull a few of Daddy’s strings to acquire some heat?

“You go ahead, Sawyer. I’m going to watch the love of my life regress to her childhood self and die, but not before scaring the living shit out of me.”

The bits between Rousseau and Jin were interesting, though much like everything else about “Lost,” they ask more questions than they answer. Her entire group goes to save their leader after the smoke monster drags him below (though not before he loses an arm, yikes). Then Jin jumps forward a little bit, and the rest of her group is now “infected,” though with what we’re not sure. She even thinks Jin is infected too, and since the father of Rousseau’s baby just tried to shoot her, I can’t say I blame her for being a little paranoid. Still, I hope they shed more light on what happened to them in the “temple.” I’d also love to know how Ben came to be Alexandra’s “father.”


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