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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5 Shows Which May Make Bullz-Eye’s NEXT TV Power Rankings

If you’ve checked out Bullz-Eye’s TV Power Rankings for April 2009, then you’ve already seen the site’s picks for the top 20 shows currently airing, several honorable-mention entries, and what series they’re most excited to see return. Given the way new programs are popping up constantly throughout the year, however, it was always inevitable that the voting for the Power Rankings would close just as a few promising series were making their debuts but before their consistency could be properly gauged. Here, then, are five shows which, at least as it stands right now, look like they have the potential to be ranked next time around.

1. “Party Down,” Starz. It’s a longstanding Hollywood tradition for producers to build themselves a gaggle of go-to actors who they can always count on to make an appearance in one of their projects, and although it’s Joss Whedon who has one of the most recognizable posses on television, it’s clear that Rob Thomas is building a pretty solid one, too. In “Party Down,” which focuses on a Hollywood catering company helmed by aspiring actors and actresses, you can’t go more than a few minutes without seeing someone who once appeared on “Veronica Mars.” Ryan Hansen is the only “Party Down” regular who held the same status on “Mars” as well, having played Dick Casablancas, but Adam Scott (“Stepbrothers”), Ken Marino (“The State”), and Jane Lynch, who most recently proved hilarious in “Role Models,” all made visits to “Veronica” at some point or other. Enrico Colentoni had an unforgettable nude scene in the first episode of “Party Down,” and it looks like Kristen Bell will be turning up in the season finale.

Paul Rudd is one of the other co-producers of “Party Down,” and it’s clear he had a hand in bringing some of his favorite talent onto the show as well. Martin Starr, late of “Freaks and Geeks,” is here, and after scoping out IMDb, it looks like Ken Jeong will be turning up in a future episode. With all this talent, you won’t be surprised to learn that this is arguably the funniest new show of the spring season…if seasons even still exist, that is…and is already shaping up to be the place for cool comedians and actors to guest-star. “Crash” may have been a bust as Starz’s first original series, but count on “Party Down” to do for the network what “Mad Men” did for AMC.

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“Veronica Mars” movie on the way?

Good news, “Veronica Mars” fans — it looks like there may be a movie in the works.

Fans of the CW drama were absolutely crushed when the network didn’t renew the show in 2007, and talk immediately turned to giving the series a proper two-hour Cineplex sendoff. Now, creator Rob Thomas has divulged the first solid details of the project, which is closer than ever to becoming reality.

Speaking to reporters at the TCAs in Los Angeles, Thomas (on hand to promote his new ABC show Cupid) confirmed that he is writing a Veronica Mars movie, according to iFMagazine.com.

Thomas says he has the movie “70 percent” down in his head, and is struggling with one crucial plot point. However, he also feels he is “on the right track now” and will clear that hurdle soon enough.

The movie is not going to take place where Veronica Mars’ would-be fourth season would have (Thomas made a presentation for network execs that proposed jumping forward in time to Veronica in the FBI). Instead, the movie is set to start just days before Veronica graduates from Hearst College.

According to the article, the cast is interested and financing shouldn’t be a problem, so this is looking very good at the moment. This comes on the heels of the news that there is also a “Jericho” movie in the works.

Count this writer amongst the fans of the show that were sorely disappointed when the CW elected not to renew it. In that final season, “Veronica Mars” was every bit as good as it ever was, and it felt like there were plenty more stories to tell. I was intrigued by the possibility of her ending up at the FBI, but I’ll take any of Ms. Mars that I can get at this point.

  

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TCA Tour, Jan. 2009: “Party Down”

Ever since the demise of “Veronica Mars,” I think most die-hard Rob Thomas fans have been following the development of his remake of “Cupid” for ABC, but he’s got another new series in the works as well, as this one – “Party Down,” which focuses on the lives of a bunch of “cater-waiters” who came to L.A. in search of careers in the entertainment industry and haven’t gotten very far with their dreams – has actually been in the works for more than five years.

“When the original British ‘Office’ started airing on BBC America, Dan (Etheridge) and John (Enbom) and I and Paul Rudd started gathering each week to watch the show and just became very intrigued about the tone of the show,” said Thomas. “And we started talking about wanting to write something that had a similar comedic tone, and we decided if that show was about people who had given themselves over entirely to the rat race that it would be interesting if we took our stab at people who had perhaps chased the dream for too long, people who had refused to join the rat race. And so we came up with this idea about a show about cater-waiters in Los Angeles, people who came here to make it as actors, writers, musicians, comedians and find themselves in their mid-30s and perhaps, uh, having chased the dream for too long.”

Thomas likens “Party Down” to “Taxi,” in that “you start off following the ongoing lives of these characters who are doing some other job while pursuing the thing they really want to do. Each week, we take an opportunity to lampoon some facet of society, some different party idea. So each episode is one catered event, and these range from a senior singles mixer to a mobster-release-from-prison party to a super sweet 16 to an adult video awards after party, each one sort of giving us a unique group of people that we can have our characters interact with.”

Cast members Jane Lynch and Lizzy Caplan have at least a little bit of first-hand experience in the show’s subject matter; Lynch did some time as a waitress in Chicago, while Caplan catered a few premiere parties. (Adam Scott, meanwhile, claims to have never worked a day in his life.)

“It was interesting, because the whole experience made me so angry,” said Caplan. “Like, having to go around and serve these people because I was so convinced that, like, ‘It should be me. You should be serving me.’ You’re positive that you can do it better than anything you’re seeing on any screen. There’s nobody really cockier than the unemployed actor.”

“Party Down” premieres on Starz in March 2009.

  

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