The Six Most and Least Promising Network TV Pilots for 2015-16
Smell that? A sickly sweet stench similar to fruit rotting in the summer sun? That means network pilot season has arrived. Like hatchling turtles trying to navigate a safe path to the sea, dozens of potential series have begun a frantic sprint toward broadcast promised land. Not every candidate will endure. Some will fall victim to four-quadrant demands, inexperienced showrunners, or terrible casting. Focus groups comprised of anyone from teenage girls with hashtag names (#ondra) to your uncle who thinks TV peaked with Duck Dynasty will sand down the show’s edges and reduce every original idea to beige clichés. Shows that survive this stupidity gauntlet marginally intact may appear on your television screens for two or three episodes next fall before being replaced with The Voice reruns. “This system personifies perfection,” said the BCS.
That said, this year’s crop doesn’t seems totally awful. Some concepts even feel original and sustainable. Others…well, what fun would pilot season be without a few flaming bags of feces?
Logline: A one-hour dramedy that explores the realities of modern-day families—multi-cultural, multi-generational, built through divorces, affairs and adoptions—set against the backdrop of a revered family restaurant at a crossroads.
Why it Sounds Promising: Network programming is littered with predominantly white, predominately wealthy, predominantly nuclear TV families. For every Blackish and The Middle, there are five shows centered on 20-something magazine interns with seemingly bottomless bank accounts living in immaculately appointed apartments. Mix could easily tumble off the Crash cliff - especially after focus group feedback - but with Rashida Jones and Will McCormack onboard as EPs, we’re optimistic this show paints 21st-century relations in a perceptive, nuanced light.
Logline: Based on the Turkish series Son, the drama follows Lauren Marks, who believes she is leading a perfect life until it’s ripped apart by one simple twist of fate. To uncover the truth, she must follow a trail of lies that take her into the world of cartels and the illegal gun trade between the U.S. and Mexico.
Why it Sounds Promising: While one might normally associate following a trail of lies with covering a presidential campaign, this particular path paved with falsehoods leads Marks to into the middle of a Fast and Furious (the scandal, not the cinematic adrenaline rush) style conflict between Murica and the failed state of Mexico. Wonder what the twist of fate is? I’ll bet she poops herself in public. Nothing shatters the illusion of perfection like warm feces running down your leg.
48 Hours ‘Til Monday
Logline: One husband’s desperate struggle to not let every weekend go completely to hell.
Why it Sounds Promising: Who can’t relate to this? Whether you’re single or married, a parent or someone who cares about the Earth, we’ve all experienced a weekend where our best-laid plans collapse beneath avalanche of broken water heaters, screaming children or questionable decisions made at 3 am on Friday. Last weekend I planned on hanging some pictures in my kid’s nursery, going for a swim, and catching up on some reading. Instead, I wore the same sweatpants for two days and spent hours trying to get my infant to sleep without a swaddle. Then I passed out. So yeah, plenty of fertile ground for EP Charlie Grandy (The Mindy Project) to explore.
Logline: A beautiful woman with no memories of her past is found naked in Times Square with her body fully covered in intricate tattoos. Her discovery sets off a vast and complex mystery that immediately ignites the attention of the FBI, who begin to follow the road map on her body to reveal a larger conspiracy of crime while bringing her closer to discovering the truth about her identity.
Why it Sounds Promising: The hordes clamoring for a tattoo-driven mystery series ever since Prison Break went off the air can finally return to their homes. There’s almost no chance this series doesn’t collapse in on itself before the first season finale, but Blindspot could be mindlessly entertaining for 13 episodes.
Chev & Bev
Logline: A comedy starring Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo as two baby boomers who are fun, relevant and living a selfish retirement when their world is turned upside down and they are suddenly left to raise their grandchildren.
Why it Sounds Promising: Because this is basically National Lampoon: The Series. Yes, Chase is a post-garbage person and Hong Kong still belonged to Britain when the last watchable National Lampoon film premiered. Still, it’s impossible to deny the potential inherent in reteaming Clark and Ellen Griswold.
Take It From Us
Logline: A couple tells their son the lessons they learned growing up in the 90’s in hopes that he avoids making the same mistakes.
Why it Sounds Promising: Hey network execs: many viewers aged 18-49 were either born or enjoyed adolescence in the 90s. And nostalgia is a better drug that whatever you’re currently snorting off a migrant worker’s inner thigh. Terrible marketing, a poor timeslot and network impatience doomed your last 90-era comedy (Surviving Jack). Maybe treat this offering from Greg Malins and Barry Schwartz a little better, yeah?
The Broad Squad
Logline: Inspired by true stories, the project follows the first four women to graduate from Boston’s Police Academy in 1978.
Why It Sounds Horrible: Start with the title. The Broad Squad? Is Anthony Mackie an EP on this show? Second, another cop show? ABC couldn’t create a series around the first female oil company executives or NASA pilots or tech innovators or franchise film directors (oh wait that last one doesn’t exist)? Guarantee the pilot includes a scene where officer Sully O’Shananananananasssghy slams some clown’s head into a bowl of chowder after he ignorantly asks her to grab him food during an interrogation.
Logline: Inspired by Arthur L. Caplan, the foremost authority on bioethics, the drama centers on a brilliant bioethicist who is called in during various crises to solve the most complicated, dynamic and confounding medical issues imaginable.
Why It Sounds Horrible: A brilliant bioethicist, eh? That descriptor manages to be both nonsensical and clichéd. Congrats! CBS already has 800 similar shows in their stable. They’re not even trying anymore. Austen’s Razor is just House for senior citizens. Might as well air this show at 4 pm.
Logline: A stoic, by-the-book Hong Kong police officer is assigned to a case in Los Angeles where he’s forced to work with a cocky African-American LAPD officer who has no interest in a partner.
Why It Sounds Horrible: If you can’t figure out why CBS basing a series on a Brett Ratner movie is a terrible idea, unzip your pants, bend over…
Every FOX Drama Pilot
Logline: Attractive, brilliant, plays-by-their-own-rules doctor lawyer cops do things because reasons.
Why They Sound Horrible: We covered the horrific FOX dramas last week and I refuse to reheat this shit stew again here. The one omission was Minority Report, a TV sequel to the Steven Spielberg/Tom Cruise flick. Minority Report. On FOX? Can’t imagine the script notes for this one:
- “Add a line in there about how the report proves minorities are still lazy in the future and that all the crime is the result of Obama’s liberal economic policies.”
- “The communist prick working to dismantle the Pre-Crime division should be named Phil DeFasio.”
- “Needs more scenes where pre-crime officers pursue and savagely beat dangerous criminals like cigarette dealers and blunt thieves.”
- “The DeShawn character is a pre-crime officer while the big bad is named Bryce Chesterton III? No, no, no. Reverse that. Viewers demand realism, goddammit.”
Logline: In the high stakes world of Las Vegas, a former sniper turned security expert is drawn into a mysterious conspiracy that forces him to complete a series of heroic challenges in order to save innocent lives.
Why It Sounds Horrible: A marksman who gambles his life away in Las Vegas? Now that’s a true American sniper. Clearly greenlit to capitalize on the mind-boggling success of Clint Eastwood’s film, this televised video game seems destined for a Friday night timeslot and a Hulu burn-off.
Logline: Inspired by the life of Dr. Kathy Magliato, the medical soap follows the outspoken Alex Panttiere, one of the rare female heart transplant surgeons. Alex brings an innovative eye to treating patients week to week, while also balancing the complications of her professional and romantic life.
Why It Sounds Horrible: As much as it pains me to eviscerate a series focused on a brilliant female doctor, this medical procedural sounds more painful than undergoing open heart-surgery performed by a Parkinson’s riddled drunk who uses 18th-century instruments. No chance this survives when viewership slows to a…