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.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

You can follow us on Twitter @moviebuffs and on Facebook as well.

Related Posts

2010 Year End TV Review: Scott Malchus

2010 was another great year of television, despite the fact that most of the new fall network shows were forgettable. While the big four seem to have a handle on coming up with new comedies, they still can’t develop innovative dramas to compete with the cable channels. Fox made an attempt with their excellent “Lone Star,” but viewers stayed away and the series was quickly cancelled (despite support from the network president). With Lost leaving the airwaves, it seems that if you want to watch something other than a procedural, you’ll have to tune to AMC, FX or HBO. That’s not to say that there aren’t some great cop, lawyer or medical shows (“The Good Wife” immediately jumps to mind), but the TV landscape is wide open enough that stories about all walks of life should be able to survive.

Best Drama: Friday Night Lights (Direct TV/NBC)

There was a lot of great drama on television this year (“Southland” was exceptional, “Lost” went out in glorious fashion, “Men of a Certain Age” was moving and effective), but I would be remiss if I didn’t place “FNL” at the top of my list, just where it has been since the show premiered in 2006. It’s hard to believe that this will be its last season. No other show has me cheering and laughing and crying week in and week out. Even during the cringe worthy moments (Julie’s affair with the TA) I can’t bring myself to raise the remote and fast forward through them. I’ve stated time and again on Popdose that this show is the most realistic portrayal of small town life I’ve ever seen on television, with beautifully written and acted characters, smart direction, and perfect music selections to create the mood of each scene (not to mention W.G. Snuffy’s poignant score). I love the Taylors; I love the community of Dillon, Texas; and I love Friday Night Lights.

Best Comedy: Modern Family (ABC)

A tough category. There are so many strong comedies on television right now, including NBC’s Thursday night lineup and ABC’s Wednesday shows. Of all of them, “Modern Family” makes me laugh the hardest; so hard that my wife and I have to rewind to hear the second and third jokes of each scene. With a great cast and insightful writing, “Modern Family” is a modern classic.

Best Reality: The Biggest Loser (NBC)

I generally hate reality shows on network television, however there is something truly inspiring about “The Biggest Loser” that grabs me every week. Here is a series about people seriously having to take back their lives otherwise they could die. The money at the end never seems to be as important as the health benefits they receive. Unlike most of the reality competitions shows, the inspiration that comes from watching “The Biggest Loser” occurs from watching every contestant, not just a select few. Obesity has overtaken our country and the men and women of “The Biggest Loser” prove that you can take back your life and that you are in control of it.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

Related Posts

TCA Tour: The Vampire Diaries

What is it about the pilot episodes for vampire series that leave me generally indifferent to them? I’m a sci-fi and fantasy guy from way back, so you’d think it’d be like shooting fish in a barrel for a show about the undead to win me over, but I was underwhelmed when I first screened CBS’s “Moonlight,” and although the feeling wasn’t quite as intense, the sensations were definitely similar after I checked out The CW’s “The Vampire Diaries.” More surprising, however, was that my wife – a dyed-in-the-wool fan of both “Twilight” and “True Blood” – felt the same way I did. I had been resigned to the fact that we’d be adding it to the TiVo queue no matter what my opinion of the series might be, but, no, it didn’t earn much more than a shrug from her, either. It’s clear that neither of us are arbiters of taste for the nation as a whole, however, as the show recently took home the award for Best New Drama categories at the People’s Choice Awards.

Hey, fair enough: I gave “Moonlight” a second chance when it came to DVD, and I’ll do the same with “The Vampire Diaries.” When it comes to TV, I’m always ready, willing, and sometimes even hoping to be proven wrong.

Given that I have no particular frame of reference to the goings-on in the show, I’m having to kind of guess what information that emerged during the course of the show’s latest TCA panel is of particular interest to fans, so here’s hoping that you’ll appreciate some of these facts:

Are we going on see the cork being pulled from the church basement bottle, as it were?

“Oh, you mean the tomb?” asked Kevin Williamson, the show’s executive producer. “Well, you know, quite possibly, yes. I mean, that’s the fun of the back nine (episodes). Yes, Damon has an agenda. He’s going to save Katherine. He’s going to do everything possible he can to get to her. And so, yeah, that tomb is still in play.”

When are you going to explore more into the teacher? Is he a Van Helsing-type, or is he a vampire? Because there’s definitely something with him.

“Yes, there’s definitely something with him,” agreed Williamson. “We’re going to have fun. He just sort of has blown onto the scene, and we haven’t had a chance yet to sort of explore his background and stuff, but in the upcoming episodes, we’re actually going to learn more about him. We’re going to see some of what his past was like and what brought him to Mystic Falls, and we’re going to see what his little agenda is…because, you know, everyone’s got a little agenda.”

“We’re going to meet his wife in flashbacks, played by Mia Kirshner,” revealed Julie Plec, Williamson’s fellow executive producer.

Is Vicki really dead?

“Vicki is dead,” confirmed Williamson. “I’m so sorry. She’s gone. However, she will live in spirit and stuff, and it’s going to take a long time for Jeremy and Matt and his family to truly get over Vicki and maybe possibly start learning the truth about what happened to Vicki. That’s something, I think, Jeremy is going to struggle with. Of course, we now have Matt’s mother coming to town, so Vicki will still be talked about, but, unfortunately, Vicki left us. She was our very first vampire casualty.”

Read the rest of this entry »

  

Related Posts

Movies for sale

I’m thoroughly fried this evening having done my Southern California thing and driven 180 miles basically to run family errands, but there is some more stuff going on that’s worth a mention.

* The American Film Market opens tomorrow. In case you haven’t heard of AFM, it is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: an event at which foreign buyers come to pick up the rights to mostly American films in various states of production. It’s an pretty important slice of the film financing process and one big event of the year in the foreign sales departments of film companies. (I actually worked in one of those myself in another life.)

One project on offer: a new version of one of the least performed of Shakespeare’s plays and one of the few this ex-English major has never read or seen: a contemporary “Coriolanus” being directed by Ralph Fiennes and starring Gerard Butler, who could use a little Shakespearian cred. Also, a film of an obscure classical play can definitely benefit from some star power. On the other hand, the script is being credited to John Logan of “The Last Samurai.” Ah, reminds of “Romeo and Juliet” … “with additional dialogue by Sam Taylor.”

* Not only “Scream IV,”  but “Scream V” and “Scream VI,” may actually be coming, says writer Kevin Williamson.

* Desperate for some more potent Oscar bait in the wake of the demise of “Amelia,” Fox Searchlight may apparently be moving up the release of “Crazy Heart” a country-music drama starring Jeff Bridges which, Steven Zeitchik writes, is being touted as “The Wrestler” goes country music. Sounds good to me, but in some ways that movie was already made back in ’73 with Rip Torn.

Okay, Mickey Rourke‘s character was a lot nicer, but the underlying spirit isn’t all that different.

  

Related Posts

The CW: What’s New for Fall 2009

Melrose Place (Tues., Sept. 8 @ 9:00 PM, The CW)

The competition: “Dancing with the Stars” (ABC), “NCIS: Los Angeles” (CBS), “The Biggest Loser” (NBC), “So You Think You Can Dance” (Fox)

Starring: Laura Leighton, Shaun Sipos, Thomas Calabro, Katie Cassidy, Colin Egglesfield, Stephanie Jacobsen, Michael Rady, Jessica Lucas, Ashlee Simpson-Wentz
Producers: Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer (“Smallville”)
Network’s Description: In an elegant Spanish-style apartment building in the trendy Melrose neighborhood of Los Angeles, a diverse group of 20-somethings have formed a close-knit surrogate family. Sydney Andrews is the landlady, still beautiful at 40, and a central figure in the lives of all her tenants, especially handsome and rebellious David Breck. Sydney started an affair with David despite her turbulent history with his estranged father, Dr. Michael Mancini. Both father and son learned through experience that Sydney was not above using blackmail to control people. Another tenant, high-powered publicist Ella Simms, once considered Sydney her mentor, but their friendship was destroyed by betrayal, and Sydney threatened to evict Ella and ruin her career. Sydney also played a pivotal role in the career of Auggie Kirkpatrick. After they met at an AA meeting, she became Auggie’s sponsor and encouraged his dream to become a chef. Now a successful sous chef at the trendy restaurant Coal, Auggie has been avoiding Sydney since she began drinking again. The other tenants include Lauren Yung, a medical student in desperate need of money to pay her student loans, and Jonah Miller, an aspiring filmmaker who has just proposed to his live-in girlfriend Riley Richmond, a first-grade teacher. The newest tenant, 18-year-old Violet Foster, has just arrived in LA with her own secret connection to Sydney. When a bloody body is found floating in the courtyard pool, David is the leading suspect. However, as the police are soon to discover, almost everyone living at Melrose Place had a reason to want the deceased out of the way.
The Buzz: There hasn’t been nearly as much excitement about this reboot as there was for “90210.” After watching the pilot, there appears to be good reason for that.
Pilot Highlight: The temptation is to say either the discovery of the body or the discovery of who David’s father is, but by the time the show premieres, it’s a fair bet that both pieces of information won’t be nearly as much of a surprise for you as they were for me. As such, let’s go with the closing moment, when we’re handed a shot which implies that we’re looking at the murderer.
Bottom Line: The characters and scenarios feel clichéd, and as it stands right now, the connections to the original series seem tenuous at best. You can appreciate The CW’s desire to have lightning strike twice, but this just couldn’t feel more rushed…or unnecessary.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

Related Posts