ABC Passes on 'Thirtysomething' Update as Pilot Fates Revealed

ABC, like NBC, is narrowing its pilot slate.

The Disney-owned network on Monday passed on three pilots, while revealing plans to film five in the near future. Additionally, three more will roll to the network's "second cycle" while another trio will remain in contention for a later time.

Passed over at ABC are two of the network's most buzzy dramas — the Thirtysomething sequel and Greg Berlanti-produced brides of Dracula drama The Brides — as well as Jason Lee comedy Valley Trash. All three were co-productions with outside studios serving as the lead producers.

Moving forward at the network are Krista Vernoff's Erin Brockovich-inspired drama Rebel, starring Katey Sagal; restaurant drama Harlem's Kitchen; multicamera comedy Bossy (formerly Kids Matter Now); Topher Grace single-cam Home Economics; and single-cam Work Wife, inspired by the partnerships of producers Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest. Options on the actors have been picked up with the plan to film once production can safely resume. The cast options have been extended through Sept. 30. If production is unable to resume before then, ABC also has the option to pick them up a third time — until Dec. 30 — if necessary.

Meanwhile, comedy Adopted, Kevin Costner-produced drama National Parks Service (formerly ISB) and medical drama Triage have been rolled to ABC's second cycle. The second cycle, pre-pandemic, was planned to kick off in January as ABC looked to develop and produce pilots year-round. It's unclear if that is still the plan given the question marks surrounding when filming can truly begin.

That leaves Western comedy Prospect, Lost-like drama Wreckage and the untitled Emily Kapnek/Dean Holland comedy still in limbo with decisions on the status of each expected to be made at a later date.

Pilot season 2020 has been anything but traditional. The novel coronavirus shut down production across the globe in March, effectively canceling the entire broadcast pilot season as only one — a CBS Chuck Lorre comedy — was able to fully complete production. ABC effectively picked up two shows straight to series — David E. Kelley drama The Big Sky and Kyra Sedgwick comedy Call Your Mother — with the former earmarked for "fall." The network, like CBS and NBC, hopes to resume production soon in order to launch its 2020-21 season sometime during the fourth quarter. With cases on the rise across California and other parts of the U.S. and the guilds and studios still hammering out safety protocols to resume production, it's unclear when cameras can roll again.

Both The Big Sky and Call Your Mother are part of ABC's "fall" schedule. The hope is to film other pilots — the five newly minted frontrunners ­— and pick up a few to series to launch midseason, though it's anyone's guess when that could be. ABC's "fall" schedule is also heavier than usual on unscripted fare as the network hopes shows like The Bachelorette can be ready sooner than scripted series. The dating show has already resumed production with the cast and production filming the season in quarantine.  

As for ABC's passes, both Thirtysomething(else) and The Brides were considered frontrunners to go to series as entertainment president Karey Burke — pre-pandemic — stressed the network's desire to have strong female-fronted dramas on the network. The Brides, which starred Gina Torres, was the first formal pilot order Burke handed out. Thirtysomething(else), meanwhile, was a new take on the beloved family drama that focused on the kids of the original characters. A handful of the show's original stars reprised their roles alongside new castmembers including Patrick Fugit and Chris Wood. The original series creators, Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick, were set as showrunners. Burke said in January that a writers room was already being opened for Thirtysomething(else) as it was "gearing up for series" ahead of a pilot shoot.