Pilot Order Analysis
Last year, I provided some analysis and predictions for the shows NBC presented at their upfront.
How did I do? Well, there were a total of 13 shows presented at the NBC upfront and if we factor out the MIA shows but leave the neutral in (not predicting is still a choice), that leaves a total of seven. Of the 13 shows presented, only seven have made it to air as of January 30, 2014.
Of the seven shows, I accurately predicted five of the outcomes, making my success rate 71.4%. Hardly Nate Silver territory, but not bad.
This year I am starting earlier and branching out. I am providing some analysis across all four networks (CBS, ABC, Fox, NBC) and the shows they have ordered a pilot for.
A pilot simply means the network wants to see what the show will look like and does not guarantee that the show will get a series order or even that we will ever see the show broadcast. It’s the networks way of saying “I like this, let’s pony up some money and see what they can do.”
Now, before I go into my analysis, I think it’s only fair to say that getting a script to this level is a herculean task and anyone who makes it to this point is clearly very talented and, in most cases, deserves to be here. I may personally dislike their shows, or the premise of their shows, but I won’t deny their hard work and I would be remiss to not acknowledge the creative and intestinal fortitude it took to get to a point where a network orders a pilot.
So hats off the the creative teams who made it here.
Today I will look at the shows NBC and Fox have ordered pilots for. First up is NBC.
As of this writing, NBC has ordered pilots for the following shows:
Robert Greenblatt and his team, with Steve Burke’s blessing I am sure, has cast a wide net. Smart move because they have a ton of holes to fill (Sean Saves the World is officially cancelled & The Michael J. Fox Show is next) and continue to have problems in the 10pm hour. There is only so much of The Voice and America’s Got Talent we can take.
There were some rumblings that NBC was FINALLY getting rid of “Must See TV”. Could they have finally come to their senses that it no longer is “must see”? Wishful thinking.
Shortly after that they announced a deal with Bill Cosby to develop a show. I love Bill Cosby, the man is a genius, truly. But we don’t need another Cosby show. What next, new deals with Harry Anderson and Markie Post?
Was nothing learned from The Michael J. Fox Show or ANY of the Matthew Perry shows?
NBC seems to take two steps forward and one step back.
Ordering 25 pilots is bold and while the shows are a little all over the place, that’s not necessarily a bad thing for them. They represent real scope and growth, which NBC has needed for eons. Robert Gleenblatt and his group are making a statement. And it’s a good one.
Here we go:
A to Z (Comedy)
LOGLINE – Whimsical romantic comedy set in the world of an online dating company that details the “A to Z’s” of a relationship, from meeting to breakup. The ensemble navigates the complicated world of modern dating and poses the question: Is there such a thing as destiny?
My Analysis – Should NOT order series. This concept is beyond silly. They’re idiots if they order this.
Babylon Fields (Drama)
LOGLINE – The dead are rising in Babylon, NY, and as a result, lives are regained, old wounds are reopened and families are restored — for better or worse. The newly regenerated bodies are healing faster and growing stronger than anyone else, leading to the suspicion that they might be the next step in human evolution.
My Analysis – This WILL get a series order. After having just finished the first season of the brilliant French series The Returned this had my interest. The “human evolution” part seems dumb but outside of that, this is good.
Bad Judge (Comedy)
LOGLINE – It centers on a hard-living, sexually unapologetic woman who plays with the law and whose life on the edge is constantly in balance because she also happens to be a judge in the criminal court system.
My Analysis – This WILL get a series order. Starring Kate Walsh and comes from Adam McKay and Will Ferrell. Everyone really likes Walsh and probably don’t realize how funny she is.
LOGLINE – Thriller revolving around the O’Connor family and their son, Alex, a decorated American war hero and CIA analyst who is a true patriot and loves his country and family. Unbeknownst to him, both of his parents and his sister are part of a dormant Russian sleeper cell that has just been reactivated. Once the parents are reluctantly pulled back in, the stakes rise they are coerced into spying on their own son and turning him against his country.
My Analysis – Should NOT order series. Attempting to re-kindle the cold war just seems like an absolutely ridiculous idea to build a show around. FX did it, but placed the show in the correct decade.
LOGLINE – Based on the characters in DC Comics’ stories about John Constantine, an enigmatic and irreverent con man-turned-reluctant supernatural detective who is thrust into the role of defending us against dark forces from beyond.
My Analysis – Should NOT order series. This type of shit works in film (for reasons still unknown to me), not episodic television. It’s cost prohibitive and just plain dumb.
Ellen More or Less (Comedy)
LOGLINE – An average-size woman who, after losing 100 pounds, begins reinventing herself in life and love.
My Analysis – Maybe. I like the idea, more or less, but would be really concerned to see how they handle female weight issues. What is “average-size” to Hollywood is not true in the fly over states.
Emerald City (Drama) — ORDERED TO SERIES
LOGLINE – A modern and dark reimagining of the classic tale of Oz that includes lethal warriors, competing kingdoms, and the infamous wizard as we’ve never seen him before. A headstrong 20-year-old Dorothy Gale is unwittingly sent on a journey that thrusts her into the center of an epic and bloody battle for the control of Oz.
My Analysis – Well, this is clever, sure, but ultimately dumb. I can’t imagine this sticking around too long. It’ll be way to expensive to keep producing unless it blows up out of the gate and stays HUGE…which seems unlikely.
Fifth Wheel (Comedy)
LOGLINE – A multi-cam ensemble comedy of a tight-knit group of friends centers around a young woman who confronts her new reality after her last single friend gets engaged.
My Analysis – Should NOT order series. This is beyond idiotic.
LOGLINE – How do you get rid of the most maddening person in the world after he’s given you a kidney? An odd couple comedy in which two polar opposites become inextricably linked.
My Analysis – This WILL get a series order. And it will fail. This is the type of pap network suits THINK people want. The Odd Couple with human organ transplant? Go fluck yourself.
Love Is Relative (Comedy)
LOGLINE – A wife and husband begin to see their marriage in a whole new way after her newly divorced brother moves in.
My Analysis – This WILL get a series order. No real thoughts. Same old tired story.
Marry Me (Comedy)
LOGLINE – A young couple gets engaged — and they quickly realize it’s harder than it looks.
My Analysis – Should NOT get order, but probably WILL get a series order. This IS the type of pap middle America seems to like. God help us.
Mason Twins (Comedy)
LOGLINE – Having been estranged for 15 years, fraternal twins Pender and Lizzie Mason reconnect after Lizzie’s perfect city life has fallen apart and she returns to her suburban town to find that her sister hasn’t matured past her teen queen days.
My Analysis – Should NOT get order. I mean really?
Mission Control (Comedy)
LOGLINE – Set in 1962, it examines what happens when a strong woman butts heads with a macho astronaut in the race to land on the moon.
My Analysis – This WILL get a series order. From Adam McKay and Will Farrell along with David Hornsby (Rickety Cricket from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia). Anchorman for space race. Unless they fluck it up, this should be really good.
The Money Pit (Comedy)
LOGLINE – Inspired by the DreamWorks movie, a humorous look at biting off more than you can chew. A newlywed couple navigates the challenges of modern romance while their house crumbles around them.
My Analysis – Should NOT get order. No one remembers the movie and I’m fairly certain no one cares.
Mr. Robinson (Comedy) — ORDERED TO SERIES
LOGLINE – A talented musician adjusts to his new life as a middle school music teacher, where he maneuvers precocious kids, teacher politics, and the temptations of single moms.
My Analysis – Initial success, but will quickly fall into typical sitcom genre tripe. Sounds broad enough to appeal across races, which NBC (and all networks) could use. And people like the star, Craig Robinson.
The Mysteries of Laura (Drama)
LOGLINE – Based on the popular Spanish series Los Misterios De Laura, it follows the life and relationships of a female homicide detective who can handle murderous criminals — but not her evil twins.
My Analysis – This WILL get a series order. I like this but remain unclear how to interpret “evil twins”. If there is a supernatural element to it, I like it more but if the kids are just twats, I am less interested.
LOGLINE – Traffic-like thriller revolves around three families whose lives are torn apart when a stranded female soldier, a disillusioned corporate attorney and a disrespected political activist are pulled into the same shocking international military conspiracy.
My Analysis – This WILL get a series order. If it were me, I would order this as a one off series, maybe 12 episodes spread out over two seasons. It’s probably a little too smart for the fly over states, but NBC has been taking a chance here and there.
Ultimately, a show like this is probably too complicated as a serial, but as a “mini-series”? YES!
Old Soul (Comedy)
LOGLINE – A young woman is trying to find herself, but in the meantime she’s working as the aide to a group of opinionated elderly people.
My Analysis – This WILL get a series order. From Amy Poehler and starring Natasha Lyonne, this could really be a break out hit.
One Big Happy (Comedy)
LOGLINE – Follows gay and straight best friends whose mission to have a baby together is complicated when one of the potential parents finds the love of his or her life.
My Analysis – Should NOT get order. Haven’t we been down this road a lot recently? This is fast becoming a sitcom genre that won’t work on network television and yet they show no signs of trying to stop it.
I hate to be the asshole who says it, but middle America BEGRUDGINGLY accepts homosexuality. They don’t exactly embrace it. And don’t cite Modern Family, that’s smart, well written AND NOT CENTERED AROUND Cam and Mitchell.
The Pro (Comedy)
LOGLINE – Former tennis doubles champion “Big Ben” Bertrahm’s career flame-out and misguided investments have left him working as the pro at a tennis and golf club, where he tries to hustle and charm his way back into America’s 1%.
My Analysis – This WILL get a series order. Rob Lowe playing a douchebag tennis pro? I’m in.
LOGLINE – Set against the backdrop of a prominent Texas church where faith, family and corruption are explored in equal measure. It centers on Jennifer Strickland, who has to defend her children, church and religious beliefs after her husband dies under mysterious circumstances.
My Analysis – Maybe. If they distance the church and focus on the mystery, it could work. Exploring corruption in a church is not gonna play well. This is a wild card.
State of Affairs (Drama)
LOGLINE – Centers on a key CIA attaché who counsels the president on high-stakes incidents around the world. She balances her intense political responsibilities with a complicated personal life.
My Analysis – UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD THIS GET A SERIES ORDER. Starring the increasingly toxic (both on and off set) Katherine Heigl as an adviser to the President? Really? Is this supposed to be Miss Congeniality, via the CIA and Washington? Heigl’s toxicity aside, even a rudimentary understanding of American politics tells you that a CIA attache’ would not advise the President. Seriously, this is beyond ridiculous.
Tin Man (Drama)
LOGLINE – Psychological crime thriller set in the near future focuses on a fugitive robot accused of first-degree murder, who may hold the key to the future of human evolution, and the young female public defender forced to fight for his cause.
My Analysis – Should NOT get order. I mean, who gives a shit about the plight of a god damn robot? We’re a long way off from making AI interesting a scale that has mass appeal. Kudos for the try but a swing and a miss on this one.
Tooken (Comedy) — ORDERED TO SERIES
LOGLINE – Centers on a woman who escapes from a doomsday cult and starts life over in New York City.
My Analysis – Success. It’s from Tina Fey so the odds are that it will be both smart AND funny!
Two to Go (Comedy)
LOGLINE – Long-time best friends Kurt and Laura grapple with the challenges of modern-day dating while their group of friends try and prove that they are destined to be together.
My Analysis – Should NOT get order. Enough already on this shit! Hilarity will NOT ensue.
PREDICTIVE SNAPSHOT OF NBC PILOTS:
Considering Reilly’s recent announcement that Fox will be bypassing the upfront season this year because ““The broadcast development system was built in different era with three networks and is highly inefficient. It is nothing short of a miracle that talent can produce anything of quality in that environment.” Yowzah!
Throwing the gauntlet down and acknowledging, at least at Fox, that development is now on a rolling basis. Smart move. Once again Kevin Reilly proves why he is truly the only real TV executive with both balls and brains. Bravo sir, bravo!
Kevin Reilly and Fox are sticking to what they do best, politically incorrect comedy. They could use some good drama and just may get it with Ben Affleck’s The Middle Man.
Backstrom (Drama) — ORDERED TO SERIES
LOGLINE – Offensive, irascible Detective Everett Backstrom tries, and fails, to change his self-destructive behavior while leading his team, the Serious Crimes Unit, as they navigate Portland’s most sensitive cases.
My Analysis – Success. Sounds more comedic in tone.
Cabot College (Comedy)
LOGLINE – A women’s college begins accepting men for the first time in its history.
My Analysis– This WILL get a series order primarily based on the cache’ of Executive Producer Tina Fey. Sounds silly to me.
Dead Boss (Comedy)
LOGLINE – Based on the British series, it’s a comedic mystery that finds overachiever Helen Stephens wrongfully convicted of murdering her boss and forced to rely on her train wreck of a sister to prove her innocence.
My Analysis – This WILL get a series order. I actually laughed out loud just reading this.
LOGLINE – A unique family drama set in the world of a hip-hop empire.
My Analysis – Should NOT get order. Fox is still owned by Rupert Murdoch and frankly, this just sounds dumb. NOW if it took place in the late 80’s as hip-hop was breaking? Yea.
LOGLINE – Realizing that his life isn’t quite where it should be, a thirtysomething moving man and formerly fat kid is forced to face the damage caused by years of being Fatrick: a chubby little kid just trying to survive.
My Analysis – This WILL get a series order. And it should. This may finally be the right vehicle for Zach Cregger. As part of the sketch group The Whitest Kids U’Know and then in the ensemble NBC shows, the underrated Friends With Benefits and Guys With Kids he’s always shared the spotlight.
Fatrick looks like he’ll have the opportunity to show everyone his mettle AND that he can carry a show (Marcia Cross doesn’t hurt either). If the title doesn’t make you laugh, then you never had a fat kid in your school.
Hieroglyph (Drama) — ORDERED TO SERIES
LOGLINE – A notorious thief is plucked from prison to serve the Pharoah, navigating palace intrigue, seductive concubines, criminal underbellies and even a few divine sorcerers.
My Analysis – Huh? Why did this go to series? It sounds ridiculous.
The Middle Man (Drama)
LOGLINE – Set in 1960s Boston, it follows the story of Rudy MacAteer, an FBI agent charged with taking down the Italian Mafia, and his confidential informant, Irish-American gangster Mickey Flood. MacAteer’s efforts inadvertently give rise to the Irish mob, as he finds himself bending the laws he is governed by.
My Analysis – This WILL get a series order. Sounds smart and just the type of mob story we love and it’s rooted in real life. Oh, yea, and its from Ben Affleck.
Mulaney (Comedy) – ORDERED TO SERIES
LOGLINE – Follows an aspiring comedian coming of age in NYC under the influence of his over-the-top boss – who was a major stand-up comedian in the 1980’s and ’90s and now hosts a game show — his roommates and his neighbors.
My Analysis – Meh. Honestly, couldn’t care less about this one. Great cast, but it will probably sputter along and ultimately fail.
Sober Companion (Comedy)
LOGLINE – A charming but self-destructive attorney finds his world turned upside down when a court-appointed, and highly unconventional, sober companion takes control of his life.
My Analysis – This WILL get a series order. I would love to see more of this AND it would be perfection if they cast Patrick Warburton as the sober companion.
Untitled Ricky Blitt Project (Comedy)
LOGLINE – A stunted, set-in-his-ways thirtysomething man living with his mom finds his perfectly organized world upended when his mother/roommate gets married, and her new husband moves in along with his three teenage children.
My Analysis – This WILL get a series order. It could be funny, but it seems slightly out of place on Fox.
PREDICTIVE SNAPSHOT OF FOX PILOTS:
It’s worth noting that all of my assumptions and analysis are based solely on these loglines and my own instinct. I’ve not read any script or seen any preview.
I did the same with the shows from NBC’s upfront last year and had a predicted the outcome of five of seven shows.I’m not sayin, I’m just sayin.
While I had not seen the NBC shows as I wrote about them I did eventually end up seeing about five minutes of Million Second whatever and even Ryan Seacrest looked like he had no idea what was going on. I also saw one episode each of The Michael J. Fox Show and Sean Saves the World…I’ll never be able to get that one hour back.
I’ll update this as both NBC and Fox announce their new shows.