I know, it's only April. But this is the time of year when the networks are shoring up their fall schedules, and part of that is deciding which of the filmed TV pilots are good enough to be ordered to series. We won't know the real answers until the May upfront presentations, but I've done my homework and I have some thoughts on the most likely to be picked up, and which could actually be worth your time.
Maybe I'm biased because of the crush I still harbor for former Doctor Who co-star Karen Gillan, but the buzz around this proposed sitcom seems pretty strong. Loosely based on My Fair Lady, Gillan would star as a self-absorbed young woman who ends up starring in an embarrassing viral video, and hires a marketing expert to help undo the damage. Sleepy Hollow's John Cho co-stars. Honestly, it sounds horrible and has way too many moderny "gimmicks," but I have a feeling we'll at least see ABC give a shot.
A modern-day reinterpretation of the classic tale, this one will see a series order based solely on its leading lady: Katie Holmes. Following her divorce from Tom Cruise, this will be Ms. Holmes big return to the spotlight and ABC would be nuts not to pick it up. It co-stars Rufus Sewell and the pilot was directed by Taylor Hackford, so there's that going for it, as well.
A military medical drama, "inspired" by the Walter Reed Military Medical Center, starring Courtney B. Vance, Morena Baccarin (Homeland), and J.J. Abrams favorite Greg Grunberg. Not my cup of tea, but people can't get enough of medical dramas and the military slant gives it that schmaltzy "feel good" angle that mid-America loves.
Untitled Kevin Hart Sitcom
After the unexpected success of his movie Ride Along (co-starring Ice Cube), Kevin Hart is now a hot commodity. And that's fine with me; I've thought he was hilarious for years now. So there's literally no possible way that ABC is going to pass up on this multi-camera comedy based on Hart's stand-up material.
An American Education
Based on the British sitcom Bad Education, star Jack Whitehall hops across the pond to reprise his role as Alfie Wickers, a new teacher determined to stand out with his unorthodox teaching methods. The original version (which I haven't seen) is very highly regarded, but American adaptations of Britcoms are pretty hit-and-miss. I have a hunch ABC will give this one a shot, though.
Ioan Gruffudd (who was absolutely terrible in those two Fantastic Four films) stars as Dr. Henry Morgan, a highly acclaimed NYC medical examiner. But the reason he's so fascinated with the dead is that he himself cannot die — he's immortal! Oooh! Twist! Okay, seriously, this is gimmicky as hell, but it's that interesting kind of goofy that usually leads to a series.
How to Get Away With Murder
Other than Viola Davis in a minor role, most of the cast of this show are young unknowns. But it's the strength of the plot that makes me think we'll see a series pickup. It's a legal thriller about a class of law students and their star professor, who becomes embroiled in a murder plot that shakes up the entire university. It's one of those sexy, high concept shows that you can definitely see making headlines.
Although I think Kevin Hart is hilarious, I personally think the multi-camera sitcom format is dead. So I'm gonna pick An American Education. Based on the rave reviews of the original and the fact that they brought over its energetic lead, I'm crossing my fingers that this will be a sure thing.
NCIS: New Orleans
This one seems like a no-brainer. NCIS and its existing spin-off, NCIS: Los Angeles, are both consistently at the top of the ratings board. CBS actually did a backdoor pilot for a NCIS: LA spin-off last season, to be titled NCIS: Red, about a team of mobile agents who travel around the country. John Corbett would've starred, but ultimately CBS didn't pick it up. This makes me think it must've been pretty bad. This new, New Orleans-set spin-off was introduced in a backdoor pilot on the original NCIS a few weeks ago, and is meeting with more enthusiasm. They got veteran TV stalwart Scott Bakula to star, and the premise itself is more of the same. I'd be surprised if CBS passes again.
The Odd Couple
A reboot of the classic Tony Randall/Jack Klugman sitcom, based on the classic Walter Matthau/Jack Lemmon film, based on the classic Neil Simon play. This one is the brainchild of Friends alum Matthew Perry, who will also star as Oscar Madison. Thomas Lennon of Reno 9-1-1 fame will fill Felix Unger's shoes. Perry has had several tries at a hit after Friends and keeps striking out. I don't expect much out of this ill-conceived sitcom, but I expect we will see it go to series.
Field of Play
Formerly known as Red Zone, this drama/action hybrid is about a terrorist attack on the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. that pulls a retired CIA operative back into the fold. Anthony LaPaglia stars as the retired agent, Holden Weller. Field of Play was conceived by Nikki Toscano, the creator of ABC's Revenge, which was highly regarded when it first began. I can't speak to the quality of the pilot, but the high profile nature of the story and the draw of star Anthony LaPaglia leads me to believe this one will make the cut.
Untitled CSI Spin-off
Remember when CSI ruled the airwaves? Even though it's not the ratings powerhouse it once was and former spin-offs CSI: Miami and CSI: New York have both bitten the dust, the franchise starter is still chugging along and, let's face it, we're still seeing dozens of CSI-inspired forensics shows every new season. Before you roll your eyes at the thought of another CSI spin-off, know that this is no cookie-cutter show idea. In fact, I wouldn't be completely surprised to see the new show drop the "CSI" from its title altogether (although I think the franchise probably has enough draw to make them keep it). The new show would star Patricia Arquette (Medium) as FBI agent Avery Ryan, who runs the bureau's Cyber Crime Division in Quantico, VA. So rather than the traditional murder scenarios we see each week on CSI, the new show would focus on the forensics of computers and networking. How you make that interesting to watch is beyond me, but I have faith that CBS will give this one a go. Look for a backdoor pilot on CSI later this season.
How I Met Your Dad
Ugh. This is the stupidest show idea I've heard in a long time. Literally the next season after How I Met Your Mother finally ended, CBS has enlisted its producers to create this new show, which is not technically a spin-off. It has the same basic premise as HIMYM but with the genders reversed and a completely new cast of characters who supposedly will have no connection to the original show. Why, you ask? Money. HIMYM was one of the top shows on TV for almost its entire run. Greta Gerwig is slumming it as the main star and Meg Ryan was recently announced to be filling the Bob Saget role of narrator. I don't expect this drivel to last even a full season, but there's no way CBS isn't at least picking it up.
I'm going to go with Field of Play. I actually don't currently watch anything on CBS and haven't in a while. I abhor the NCIS shows and although the new CSI spin-off sounds intriguing, it does seem a little played out. I generally like Anthony LaPaglia, though, and the concept behind Field of Play is at least an interesting one.
Rob Lowe stars as a former doubles-tennis champion who is forced to re-unite with his former partner. Yes, this is the show that Rob Lowe left Parks and Recreation for. It sounds terrible, even with Rob Riggle as the former partner. At any rate, I have little doubt that NBC will make us watch it either way.
State of Affairs
Another show that's almost guaranteed a pickup order based on its leading lady. This time it's former Grey's Anatomy star Katherine Heigl (who has apparently abandoned her quest to become a big-screen star) as a CIA attaché who is tasked with advising the President (played by Alfre Woodard) on critical world events. Sounds like a snooze-fest to me, but NBC's not gonna pass up on Heigl.
This one actually sounds interesting. Three separate story threads converge as a US soldier, a corporate lawyer, and a Wall Street activist all separately uncover a massive conspiracy involving the US government, a major corporation, and a terrorist cell. And it stars the fantastic Anna Friel. Let's hope it's as good as it sounds.
One of my favorite people, Craig Robinson (The Office), finally gets his own show as a music teacher in a setup that sounds surprisingly similar to Jack Black's School of Rock. Robinson is funny in almost everything he's done, though, so I have high expectations for this one.
This comedy has gold written all over it. Conceived by 30 Rock creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock and starring Ellie Kemper of The Office and Bridesmaids, it centers on a woman who is rescued after spending 15 years in a cult, and her attempts to start a new life. Kinda dark material for a comedy, but the pedigree behind it can't be argued with.
It boggles the mind as to why Warner Bros. can't figure out how to create a viable shared universe for their DC comics properties the way that Marvel has with theirs. With that said, this looks like a solid adaptation. Forget about the crap Keanu Reeves movie; Matt Ryan looks perfect as occult master John Constantine, and the producers promise to follow the tone and style of the comics (minus Constantine's ever-present cigarettes, unfortunately).
Constantine. By a country mile. Actually, NBC looks to have one of the strongest pilot seasons among the four networks, and they need it after the ratings disasters of the last few seasons. My money is on Constantine, but there are a lot of good offerings both in what I mentioned above and the stuff I skipped.
Remember what I just said about DC's lack of a shared universe? Yeah. Here's another perfect example. A Batman prequel series that isn't tied to the upcoming Superman vs. Batman movie, isn't tied to NBC's Constantine (although that would admittedly be a stretch), nor is it tied to CW's hit Arrow. Not only that, but everything about it seems pretty awful. Do we really need to see James Gordon when he was a rookie detective? Or Bruce Wayne as a bratty kid? Or the rogue's gallery of Bat-villains before they became evil? No, no, and no. I have a feeling this is going to be a hit, though, and there's no way FOX won't order it to series.
FOX doesn't have the strongest record when it comes to comedy, but they're starting to turn that around with New Girl, The Mindy Project, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. This one sounds like it could be a hit, too. Justin Long (meh) stars as a lawyer whose life takes a drastic turn when the court orders him a sober companion. Simon Pegg's buddy, Nick Frost, plays the unorthodox companion. I give it a 50/50 shot of being picked up and a 50-1 shot at being funny.
Another new show based on a British sitcom, although this one is decidedly shakier. The original Dead Boss only ran for 6 episodes in 2012 and obviously wasn't a runaway hit. This new version stars Ally McBeal vet Jane Krakowski (whom I can't stand), Amy Sedaris (whom I love), and Rachel Dratch (whom I also love). I honestly don't have a lot of hope in it, but I think FOX will pick it up based on their past success with Krakowski.
This new animated series actually already has a 13-episode order for next season, but I thought it was worth mentioning. Executive-produced by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, but without his trademark visual style and with no ties to his existing shows. It seems this one will be its own animal, despite MacFarlane's attachment. It remains to be seen whether it will be funny, but here's hoping.
The pilot for this dramedy was originally shot for CBS's 2012-13 season, but they ultimately passed on it. It was shopped around until finally getting a pick-up from FOX. It stars The Office vet Rainn Wilson as self-destructive detective Everett Backstrom, based on the Swedish book series by Leif G. W. Persson. I thought it sounded like a winner when it was originally announced two years ago so I'm glad to see FOX picked it up.
Gotham. I still think it's a dumb idea, but it's the strongest thing FOX has to offer. The cast seems pretty solid, too, so hopefully I'll be pleasantly surprised.
Remember what I just said about DC's lack of a shared universe? Okay, nevermind. This is a new series version of the classic DC superhero, spun-off from surprise hit, Arrow. Grant Gustin has already put in several appearances as Barry Allen and with the same creative time in place, this one is a no-brainer.
Another comic adaptation, this time based on DC Vertigo title about zombie medical student who inherits the memories of each person whose brain she consumes. Zombies are still hot properties right now, so expect this one to do well.
Another spin-off, this time from one of my all-time favorite shows. Bloodlines follows the conflicts of various mafia-esque monster gangs in their attempts to rule the Chicago underworld. Honestly, it sounds ridiculous. I guess we'll find out soon, since the backdoor pilot episode of Supernatural airs next week.
Flash, without a shadow of a doubt. This is going to be a runaway hit. Look for both Flash and Arrow to continue with the cameos from other DC comics characters, and I'd bet money on another spin-off hitting the airwaves next season, as well.
Those are my picks for the network pilots worth talking about. Bear in mind, there are plenty more that I didn't mention, and plenty of those will get series pick-ups as well. And don't be surprised if a few of my picks DON'T get picked up. You just never know, especially without having actually seen any of the finished pilots.
Any pilots I missed that you think will definitely get a series order? Any that I mentioned that you disagree with? Bring it on and let's hash it out in the comments.
Until my own pilot, Werewolf Public Defender, is picked up for a series, you can follow me on Twitter @barryerice.