tv reporter

Pilot buzz heating up as time winds down

Not all pilots are created equal. So as the fall 2007 hopefuls are getting final tweaks by studio executives and heading to the networks, some of them are entering the fray with stronger buzz than others.

Of course, that doesn't mean much because the networks' selection process is a marathon of screenings and audience testings, and early leaders sometimes begin lagging as the May finish line nears. That said, let's look at some of the shows the town is talking about.

Projects with strong pedigrees are early standouts at ABC. The drama "Dirty Sexy Money" — with Craig Wright, Greg Berlanti and Bryan Singer as executive producers and a cast led by Peter Krause, William Baldwin and Donald Sutherland — has emerged as a strong contender, while the execution of "Marlowe," starring Jason O'Mara as the famous PI, is said to have exceeded expectations.

Also said to be looking good on the drama side are the Guy Ritchie-directed "Suspect," the Barry Sonnenfeld-helmed "Pushing Daisies," the Singer-directed "Football Wives" and the Charles McDougall-directed untitled Jon Feldman project.

It's too early to talk about comedy favorites because some of them are still in production or haven't been shot, but at ABC, the Christina Applegate starrer "Sam I Am" and "Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office" have emerged as favorites.

Also said to be looking good at CBS are the untitled Cynthia Cidre drama pilot starring Jimmy Smits; Hugh Jackman's musical "Viva Laughlin"; the apocalyptic dramedy "Babylon Fields," starring Amber Tamblyn; the couple-swapping ensemble "Swingtown"; and cop drama "Protect and Serve." Anthony Zuiker's "The Man," starring LL Cool J and directed by Simon West, also is understood to be heating up.

A popular topic of conversation last week was an accident that led to a copy of Barbara Hall's CBS drama pilot "Demons" being floated around. That is said to have created a stir at the network and producing studio CBS Paramount Network TV, both extremely protective of their development. The leak was quickly contained, but the incident underscores the incredibly high levels of secrecy surrounding the pilot season, with networks and studios going to great lengths to keep their projects under wraps.

The comedy "Action News," which pairs Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton, is considered a sure thing at Fox, with the "Terminator"-inspired drama "The Sarah Connor Chronicles" also looking strong.

Other Fox pilots people are buzzing about include cop dramas "The Apostles" and "K-Ville" and the legal drama "Canterbury's Law," starring Julianna Margulies.

Amy Sherman-Palladino's sibling comedy "The Return of Jezebel James," which stars Parker Posey and Lauren Ambrose, and toon "The Life and Times of Tim" also are attracting early attention.

The second time seems to be the charm for the dramedy "Lipstick Jungle," which, after being originally developed last season, is considered a slam-dunk at NBC this year. Also enjoying early support at the network are the cop dramas "Life," starring Damian Lewis, and David Shore's "Winters," starring Famke Janssen, as well as the Josh Schwartz-McG teaming on "Chuck."

Male and female duos are said to be hot on the comedy side at NBC. "Business Class," starring Mark Valley and Horatio Sanz as soda salesmen, and "The Mastersons of Manhattan," starring Molly Shannon and Natasha Richardson as socialite sisters, are being buzzed about, along with the network's geek-themed "The IT Crowd."

Schwartz's teen drama "Gossip Girl" continues to be a front-runner at CW, with the Kevin Smith-directed "Reaper," about the devil's bounty hunter, and the untitled drama set at a South Africa preserve also looking promising.
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