9:15am PT by Lesley Goldberg
10 TV Pilots Likely to Score Series Pickups
As broadcast network executives screen and pore over focus-group testing results on nearly 80 pilots, scores of showrunners, writers and actors are on standby as the decisions on which comedies and dramas will land slots on the 2018-19 schedule are expected to arrive ahead of the May 14-17 upfront presentations.
The Hollywood Reporter dialed up industry insiders and has compiled 10 of the reboots, family comedies and soapy dramas that stand the best shot of earning series pickups. Of course, these are in addition to several dramas and comedies that have already landed series orders. Those include Nathan Fillion's ABC comeback drama, The Rookie, and the network's 1990s-set Goldbergs spinoff; Dick Wolf's FBI, his first CBS procedural since the network passed on Law & Order; and CBS' Murphy Brown revival.
Development season's slow start and California's new "no quotes" legislation hampered the casting and delayed the production process, with cuts coming in later than ever — while the competition for top talent between networks and streamers was fiercer than ever.
With a pilot season filled again with reboots and interchangeable concepts, several frontrunners emerged early and remained ahead of the pack throughout production. Here's a look at the pilots most likely to land series orders, which — as always — should be taken with a grain of salt, as buzz changes like the wind this time of year. (The fact that we've never gone 10-for-10 on this list during the past five years should exemplify just how fast the tide can turn.)
1. Fox drama | Katie Holmes seems closer than ever to returning to her first broadcast series since Dawson's Creek as the network's FBI drama from former Empire showrunner Ilene Chaiken and Melissa Scrivner Love is considered the safest bet. Holmes stars as a special agent investigating a domestic terrorism threat when her affair with a prominent general (James Tupper) is exposed, shattering her life and threatening her career. Now labeled "the mistress," the wife, mother and patriot must begin to rebuild her personal life and professional reputation. Elsewhere, The Passage — which was redeveloped after narrowly missing the cut last season — appears to have gotten it right the second time around as the Mark-Paul Gosselaar-led genre drama came in great and could bump one of the network's bubble shows off the schedule. Danny Strong and David Elliot's legal drama starring Vincent Kartheiser and Russell Hornsby also is part of the conversation. Mixtape, the musical romantic drama from Smash's Josh Safran with star Jenna Dewan, has been losing steam and appears unlikely to move forward, though there has been talk about a possible midseason slot. Robert Levine's Gone, Baby, Gone reboot also seems unlikely as some top executives were pushing against airing a mob drama. With more than 30 hours earmarked for the NFL, Fox has less room on its schedule than ever and still has the pending Disney deal, which could also shake up the status quo. On the bubble front, the network has only renewed three rookie dramas and Empire, and still has decisions to make on Gotham (looking good); Lucifer (unlikely); Lethal Weapon (a stretch); and Star, which appears likely to return.
2. Fox comedy | After a late-season pickup and trouble casting its star, Dan the Weatherman — with Odd Couple grad Thomas Lennon — has emerged as the frontrunner at the network, with some calling it the "sleeper hit of the season." Rel, the multicam starring Lil Rel Howery from the Carmichael Show team, has been hot since the script came in. Those could join Tim Allen's Last Man Standing revival on the schedule. On the bubble front, New Girl is signing off this season and all eyes have turned to Universal Television's Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which has been leaning toward a renewal. Rookie L.A. to Vegas and sophomore comedy The Mick could also come back. Ghosted — starring Adam Scott and Craig Robinson — is likely done, and Will Forte's Last Man on Earth may also be heading toward extinction.
3. NBC drama | The network may have found a companion to breakout hit This Is Us in the similarly themed The Village. Set in an apartment building in Manhattan, the drama from Mike Daniels (Sons of Anarchy) features an ensemble cast that includes Michaela McManus, Frankie Faison and Lorraine Toussaint. It's considered a lock for a pickup. Also considered a sure thing is Bad Boys spinoff L.A.'s Finest, starring Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba. Medical drama New Amsterdam is said to have come in well, as has high-concept mystery thriller Manifest (which some have compared to Lost, but told in reverse). Thriller No Way Back also has been heating up. On the bubble side, midseason plays Good Girls and Rise could both go either way. James Spader has two years left on his Blacklist deal, with the Sony drama expected to return and possibly be packaged with L.A.'s Finest, which also hails from the independent studio. Blindspot is still in contention as well.
4. NBC comedy | Sources say the network could add three half-hours to its schedule next season. Among NBC's seven comedy pilots, Suzanne Martin's multicamera foster family comedy, Like Family, starring You're the Worst scene stealers Kether Donohue and Brandon Mychal Smith, has emerged at the top of the pack. Amy Poehler-produced comedy I Feel Bad, from writer Aseem Batra, is also hot. Abby's, from Mike Schur and starring Natalie Morales, is also in the conversation. Insiders are also said to like Bright Futures and its "stacked cast," but the Kenya Barris-produced 20-something ensemble half-hour may not be a fit for the network's comedy brand and could end up elsewhere. On the bubble front, A.P. Bio has fans within the network; Champions is considered unlikely; and it's too close to call for the Tina Fey-produced Great News, which became part of the critical conversation in its second season.
5. CBS drama | Showrunner Peter Lenkov could have three series on the network's schedule next season — all of them reboots — as his Jay Hernandez-led take on Magnum P.I. is, sources say, as good as on the schedule, with one top insider noting it "feels like a classic CBS show." That will join Lenkov's Hawaii Five-0 and MacGyver, both of which scored early renewals. Greg Berlanti-produced God Friended Me, starring The Mayor breakout Brandon Micheal Hall and Scandal Emmy winner Joe Morton, also seems likely. The network's Cagney & Lacey reboot, with exiting Grey's Anatomy star Sarah Drew and Michelle Hurd (Blindspot), is said to have come in OK as it remains in the lukewarm category. The L.A. Confidential take starring Brian J. Smith (Sense8) and Walton Goggins (Justified) came in well but is darker than the traditional CBS fare and could be set up elsewhere as CBS TV Studios continues to make a splash in streaming. Michael Chiklis-led drama Murder is cooling, as is Noah Wyle-led racial drama Red Line, from Ava DuVernay and Berlanti. CBS already has renewed 10 dramas and has Dick Wolf's straight-to-series FBI locked in, too, so it doesn't have much room. On the bubble side, Criminal Minds could work another eleventh-hour pickup, and there's been talk of the same for Alan Cumming drama Instinct. The same can't be said for Monday staple Scorpion or pricey Elementary, with the latter having to renegotiate contracts for its stars should the drama earn a surprising pickup.
6. CBS comedy | After landing pilot season's most in-demand actor, Damon Wayans Jr., with a massive deal, expect the untitled Austen Earl and Tim McAuliffe family comedy to get a series pickup. The Happy Endings alum has ownership points on the series as well as a two-year first-look deal as part of his sizable deal to star as a business manager to a superstar musician who moves in with him and his wife. Elsewhere, Big Bang Theory writer Jim Reynolds' multicamera family comedy Welcome to the Neighborhood — starring Cedric the Entertainer, Josh Lawson and Dreama Walker — has been heating up. Nina Dobrev comedy Fam is also in the mix. History of Them, from One Day at a Time showrunner Gloria Calderon Kellett, has been cooling. The network already has its straight-to-series Murphy Brown revival to go with Chuck Lorre's returning half-hours Big Bang Theory, spinoff Young Sheldon and Mom, with bubble comedies Man With a Plan and Kevin Can Wait both expected back thanks in part to their big-name stars in Matt LeBlanc and Kevin James, respectively. Life in Pieces, from 20th TV (and likely soon Disney) and Superior Donuts are too close to call.
7. ABC drama | The Disney-owned network is heading into the fall without a new Shonda Rhimes drama for the first time since 2013 and also said farewell to her Thursday staple Scandal. With Grey's Anatomy already renewed, that leaves spinoff Station 19 and For the People both on the bubble as ABC has a TGIT-sized hole on its schedule. Look for ABC to add five or six dramas to help replace Scandal and Once Upon a Time. Among the frontrunners are two hourlongs with former Scandal stars: Scott Foley's Whiskey Cavalier, co-starring The Walking Dead favorite Lauren Cohan, and Bellamy Young vehicle False Profits. Elsewhere, Grand Hotel — starring Demian Bichir and Roselyn Sanchez — is said to be a personal favorite of entertainment president Channing Dungey. James Roday and David Giuntoli dramedy A Million Little Things is also hot. On the bubble side, Marvel's Agents of SHIELD could rely on corporate synergy to score a sixth season; Designated Survivor will continue to survive; Shondaland's How to Get Away With Murder and Grey's spinoff Station 19 are also likely to return given Rhimes' move to Netflix; and it's too soon to tell on Quantico, though strong international appeal and a lucrative Netflix pact could make it an easy case for another short order. Kevin (Probably) Saves the World, Deception and For the People seem less likely.
8. ABC comedy | After landing one of the most in-demand actresses of the season in New Girl's Hannah Simone, the Greatest American Hero reboot may be among the biggest pilot passes of the season as the comedy, some say, feels "off brand" for the Disney-owned network. Instead, the slam dunk appears to be the 1970s-set family comedy from Last Man Standing's Tim Doyle, starring Michael Cudlitz (The Walking Dead) and Mary McCormack. The single-camera comedy revolves around an Irish-Catholic family with a working-class dad, traditional mom and eight boisterous sons who navigate changes big and small during one of America's most turbulent decades. The comedy heated up following Roseanne's breakout success as entertainment president Dungey continues to make blue-collar programming a priority. Look for ABC to add three half-hours in addition to its previously ordered 1990s-set Goldbergs spinoff. Others in contention are Kerry Washington-produced hybrid Man of the House, starring Alyson Hannigan; Single Parents, with Taran Killam, Leighton Meester and Brad Garrett; and the untitled Justin Noble comedy starring Kat Dennings and based on the book and blog How May We Hate You. On the bubble side, Speechless — which could become owned in-house — is expected to return, as is American Housewife and maybe midseason play Splitting Up Together. Fresh Off the Boat may continue, especially if showrunner Nahnatchka Khan's Greatest American Hero is passed over. Alex Inc. seems unlikely to continue, sources say.
9. CW via CBS Television Studios | Co-owned by CBS and Warner Bros., the younger-skewing network splits its orders among projects from both studios. On the CBS TV Studios front, the Charmed reboot starring Melonie Diaz (Fruitvale Station) remains the frontrunner. The CW, which is expanding to Sundays come October, could add five or six series to its roster, with all of its pilots remaining in contention, though In the Dark, from executive producer Ben Stiller, had some behind-the-scenes troubles.
10. CW via Warner Bros. Television | Berlanti could add another series to the network's roster with the untitled April Blair drama. The show, about a high school football star (Daniel Ezra) from South Los Angeles who is recruited to play for Beverly Hills High, has been generating a lot of buzz and has been dubbed a mix of Friday Night Lights, The O.C. and Straight Outta Compton. Other favorites from the studio include the Julie Plec-produced Roswell reboot from Carina Adly MacKenzie. On the spinoff front, Plec's The Originals offshoot, starring Danielle Rose Russell and Matt Davis, may have the edge over Supernatural sibling Wayward Sisters. On the bubble side, The 100 and iZombie are too close to call, while Life Sentence and Valor are not expected back.