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.
13. Ringer (CBS): A troubled young woman on the run (Sarah Michelle Gellar) hides out by living the life of her wealthy twin sister. One problem: Her sibling has a bounty on her head as well. Eric Carmelo and Nicole Snyder (“Supernatural”) will executive-produce. Nestor Carbonell, Tara Summers, Mike Colter and Ioan Gruffudd will also star.
14. The River (ABC): When a famed adventurer and TV personality (Bruce Greenwood) goes missing in the Amazon, his family (among them, Joe Anderson) tries to find him. Project comes from the team behind “Paranormal Activity.” Oren Peli and Jason Blum will executive-produce. Eloise Mumford will also star.
15. Secret Circle (The CW): Based on the three-book series from “The Vampire Diaries” author L.J. Smith, a young witch (Britt Robertson) is the key to a battle between good and evil. “Diaries”‘ Kevin Williamson will executive-produce.
16. 17th Precinct (NBC): “Battlestar Galactica” executive producer Ron Moore created this supernatural police drama set in the fictional town of Excelsior. “Battlestar” vets Jamie Bamber, James Callis and Tricia Helfer, along with Eamonn Walker, Matt Long and Stockard Channing, will star.
17. Smothered (ABC): A young couple struggles to deal with their respective parents in this sitcom from “Friends” writers Andrew Reich and Ted Cohen, who based it on their real-life experiences. Kyle Howard, Marcia Gay Harden, John C. McGinley and Julie White star.
18. Untitled Emily Spivey Project (NBC): The project is an irreverent look at parenthood from the perspectives of an acerbic working mother, her stay-at-home husband and her outspoken parents. “Parks and Recreation” writer Emily Spivey wrote the pilot and will produce with “Saturday Night Live”‘s Lorne Michaels.
19. Vince Uncensored (CBS): A man tries to take a more honest approach to his life, work and family after a life-changing experience. Phoef Sutton (“Cheers”) and Conan O’Brien will executive-produce.
20. Wonder Woman (NBC) – In this reboot of the 1970s series, vigilante superhero Wonder Woman (Adrianne Palicki) juggles two other identities, Diana Themyscira, a shrewd corporate executive and Diana Prince, an assistant at Themyscira Industries. “Ally McBeal”‘s David E. Kelley wrote the pilot and will executive-produce. Elizabeth Hurley, Tracie Thoms, Pedro Pascal and Cary Elwes also star.
Be sure to check out all of TV Guide’s list, then pop back ’round and let us know if you’d like to see any of the other pilots come to fruition!