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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Nip/Tuck: Season Five, Part One

At the conclusion of Season Four, plastic surgeons Drs. McNamara (Dylan Walsh) and Troy (Julian McMahon) had packed up their scalpels and headed for sunny Beverly Hills – after all, what better place for two amoral surgeons than Hollywood – so Season Five is something of a new start for the offices of McNamara/Troy. At season’s start, however, business isn’t so hot, so they agree to join a crappy TV series called “Hearts ‘N Scalpels” as technical advisors who will also briefly appear onscreen during the surgery sequences. At first, Christian is certain that this is his ticket to fame, while Sean is reluctant about the entire affair, but the tables quickly turn when the camera favors Sean, and Christian sulks away to soothe his bruised ego in all manner of seedy ways. Sean becomes the toast of the town, begins dating the show’s leading lady, Kate (Paula Marshall), and becomes party buds with the vacuous leading man, Aidan (Bradley Cooper). Then Sean’s ex Julia (Joely Richardson) shows up with kids Annie and Connor in tow, and mama’s got a new brand new bag: a girlfriend, Olivia, played by none other than Portia de Rossi! Olivia’s got a kid, too: Eden (Annalynne McCord, “90210”), a twisted little teen who sets her sights on destroying everything in her path. But an even greater evil lurks in the shadows, waiting to pounce, and perhaps there are worse things waiting in Hollywood than an attention-starved teenager.

Oddly, when this batch of episodes played on FX, I really didn’t care for them and saw a show struggling for air. If you felt at all the same, I urge you to give this set a spin, because I saw the season in a whole new light this time around and actually found myself having a lot of fun with the series, something I hadn’t really done in a couple years. As far as the whole “Season Five, Part One” thing goes, the series is gearing up another round of eight episodes which technically will finish up Season Five, although creator Ryan Murphy has said that the labeling is more of an internal thing, and that the new episodes probably won’t have much to do with what’s on this set. In other words, just think of this as Season Five and be done with it.

Click to buy “Nip/Tuck: Season Five, Part One”

  

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Greetings to the New Show: “Gary Unmarried”

If you saw Bullz-Eye’s Fall TV Preview, you already know that the primary reason that I selected “Gary Unmarried” as one of the top 10 shows I’m most interested in watching unfold this season is that I think Jay Mohr is funny…but, c’mon, it’s about time the guy had a hit sitcom, don’t you think?

The guy did his time at “Saturday Night Live,” even writing a book about the experiences he suffered through as a featured player on the show (Gasping for Airtime: Two Years in the Trenches of Saturday Night Live). He survived the experience of playing a redneck’s brother on “The Jeff Foxworthy Show,” earned a memorably sleazy supporting role in “Jerry Maguire” which almost certainly was what led him to the starring role in the short-lived but fondly-remembered Fox sitcom, “Action.” Great show, but you can’t really call a 13-episode run a hit. And since then, Mohr’s career has mostly been an ongoing series of voiceover work, small film roles, one-off guest spots on various TV series, and…well, okay, yeah, he was a regular on “Ghost Whisperer” for the better part of two years, but serving as third fiddle to Jennifer Love Hewitt’s breasts is hardly playing to the guy’s strengths as a comedian.

Please.

Don’t make Jay Mohr beg.

Just make “Gary Unmarried” a hit.

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