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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Joan, Joan, Joan

Pretty much as far back as I can remember, I’ve never been 100% sure how to take Joan Rivers. Funny or merely catty? Persecuted or bitter and paranoid? Of course, all of that may be true but just where I ultimately come down on her is still a question. Maybe the aptly titled and well-buzzed about biographical documentary, the upcoming “A Piece of Work,” might answer some of those questions, maybe.

Below, via /Film, is the trailer and some interesting Sundance Q&A excerpts.

And now for a bonus after the flip.

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Kids Today: So You Want to Be President…and More Stories to Celebrate American History

I originally kicked off this column with a review of “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Chipettes” back in January 2009, intending to regularly sit down with my daughter, watch whatever DVDs of child-friendly programming came into the Bullz-Eye offices, and get her take on them. Seemed like a great plan at the time, but if you click on the category for “Kids Today” at the bottom of this posting, however, you’ll find that I, uh, haven’t actually written another column since I kicked it off. The problem, you see, is that Ally, God bless her, is a lot like me…which is to say that, when it comes to TV, she has a short attention span which is only lengthened when we’re watching one of what she refers to as her shows. Although this list of shows varies, some of the stalwarts over the course of her 4-year life span have included “The Simpsons,” “Sesame Street,” “Curious George,” “Arthur,” and the God-awful “Caillou,” along with relatively recent additions like “Sid the Science Kid” and “Dinosaur Train.” For better or worse, however, we don’t tend to get those titles, and the kid stuff that we do get…? 9 out of 10 times, she simply can’t be bothered.

But Ally’s a smart kid, and an observant one as well, so you never know what’s going catch her interest. Take, for instance, her fascination with the President of the United States. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that she was intrigued by last year’s Presidential election, given that she had to endure people talking about Barack Obama and John McCain for quite a few months there, but she’s continued to ask us about this President and that, even picking up a few names and facts about previous Commanders in Chief along the way. With this being the case, I thought that, for once, I might actually be able to hold her interest with a DVD that was being offered up for review: So You Want to Be President…and More Stories to Celebrate American History, the latest release from Scholastic.

When the DVD arrived, I showed it Ally and explained that it contained animated readings of four stories: “So You Want To Be President,” by Judith St. George, “My Senator and Me: A Dog’s-Eye View of Washington, DC,” by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, “Madam President,” by Lane Smith, and “I Could Do That! – Esther Morris Gets Women the Vote,” by Linda Arms White. She seemed cautiously optimistic but warned me ahead of time, “All right, but I only like George Obama.” Yeah, I know, that’s the sort of silly-kid punchline that even “Family Circus” would throw into the reject pile, but she was really tired. As a proud father, I must assure you that she knows that Washington was the first President of the United States, can identify Obama as the current President and George W. Bush as his predecessor, and – courtesy of her mother – can identify a piece of trivia about Abraham Lincoln, which you’ll read about in a moment.

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