NBC Narrows Pilot Slate, Will Shoot Five in the Fall

Night School Still 2 - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of Universal Pictures

With its hopeful business as usual schedule set for fall, NBC is now turning its attention to the future of its pilot slate.

With 11 of 12 pilots unable to complete production before the novel coronavirus forced production to shut down across the industry, NBC has opted to adopt a staggered schedule for its 2020 slate and has identified five that it will film this season.

To that end, once it's safe to resume production, NBC has identified five frontrunners to begin filming in the fall. They are considered the most promising of all of NBC's drama and comedy scripts, sources say. They are Langdon, the drama based on the Dan Brown novels that features Ashley Zuckerman (Succession) stepping into the role previously played by Tom Hanks in the feature films; Ordinary Joe, the Matt Reeves drama exploring three parallel lives of its star (Watchmen's James Wolk); multicamera comedy Night School, based on the 2018 feature of the same name; workplace comedy American Auto; and the Phil Augusta Jackson/Dan Goor comedy about a group of Black friends, which is now titled Grand Crew.

Dramas At That Age and Echo, along with comedies Crazy for You, Jefferies and Someone Out There, are bringing rolled over into next season's development slate.

Sci-fi drama La Brea, meanwhile, has received an order for additional scripts, while a pilot for alien drama Debris, starring Jonathan Tucker, was previously delivered and is in consideration at NBC.

All 12 pilots at NBC received orders in March for additional scripts. (Other broadcasters are said to have done the same for their pilot roster.)

In terms of ownership, NBC has an ownership stake in nearly all 12 of its pilots. Of the five in contention for fall, three are 100 percent owned in-house by NBC's studio counterpart Universal TV, while Langdon is a co-production with CBS TV Studios and Ordinary Joe is from Disney's 20th Century Fox TV.

NBC, it's worth noting, already handed out straight to series orders for three comedies (The Kenan Show, Young Rock and Mr. Mayor) and a drama (the Law & Order: SVU spinoff, L&O: Organized Crime, starring Chris Meloni). Of those, the L&O spinoff is the only series on the schedule for "fall." NBC, like ABC and CBS, is banking on production on new and returning series to resume sooner rather than later as it plots a business-as-usual fall filled with staples like This Is Us and multiple Dick Wolf dramas. What remains to be seen is just when these programs will be able to premiere given it's unclear when production will begin shooting in locations such as Chicago, New York and L.A. The various guilds are currently hammering out safety protocols that could clear the path forward for a return to production. 

It's unclear if any of the five pilots that will shoot in the fall could be in contention for pickups given the uncertainty around when production can resume and if the industry will be able to get back on track without a second shutdown amid the global pandemic. 

Pilot season 2020 has been anything but typical. The vast majority of the 50 comedy and drama pilots were unable to be completed, prompting networks to order additional scripts and, in some cases, hand out series orders based exclusively on what footage (if any) was completed, the strength of the multiple scripts, the auspices involved and assembled casts. NBC, for its part, has yet to convert one of its 12 pilot orders to series. ABC went straight to series on a David E. Kelley drama (The Big Sky) and comedy Call Your Mother, starring Kyra Sedgwick. CBS picked up three new shows, Clarice, The Equalizer and Chuck Lorre's B Positive. The latter comedy was the lone pilot to complete physical production before the novel coronavirus pandemic turned the world upside down. The CW, meanwhile, picked up dramas Kung Fu and Republic of Sarah to go alongside with straight-to-series orders Superman & Lois and Walker. Fox picked up Mayim Bialik comedy Call Me Cat straight to series.