The Most Surprising TV Pilot Passes This Season

The bulk of ABC's comedy pilots was perhaps the biggest surprise this upfronts.
Michael Desmond/The CW; Courtesy of CBS TV Studios
"Jane the Virgin" and "Jane the Novela" writer Valentina Garza

Every pilot season has one common thread in that a handful of the biggest frontrunners inevitably wind up being tossed aside. This year was no different as comedies with some of the season's most in-demand stars and new takes on beloved series all wound up filed under "passed over."

While there have been decisions on most pilots, a handful of high-profile projects — ABC's NYPD Blue update, John Mayer's Heart of Life, high-concept Triangle; CBS' Surveillance and Emperor of Malibu; The CW's Glamorous and The Lost Boys — remain in contention or are being redeveloped. (Keep track here.)

Here's a look at the season's biggest surprises.

Nearly all of ABC's comedy pilots
ABC's lone comedy orders at press time were for family comedy United We Fall (from Sony)and Black-ish spinoff Mixed-ish, the latter developed as a backdoor pilot but held for next season after flying under the radar as a longshot until it became ABC's first order of the season. Multicamera family comedy United We Fall — which has elements of since-canceled The Kids Are Alright — also has a place on ABC's schedule. Neither were in the conversation about pilots likely to make it to the fall. Instead, half-hours starring Leslie Odom Jr. (Hamilton) and Hannah Simone (New Girl) were in the narrative for weeks leading up to the upfront presentations. Simone, specifically, was a big get for ABC after being the most heavily pursued actress for pilots two years in a row. Instead, Simone winds up on this list for the second year runningafter ABC passed on her Greatest American Hero reboot last season. Sources say ABC opted to bring back nearly all of of bubble comedies — sorry, Constance Wu — and focus on its own development next season instead of taking a swing on a new series originally developed by a previous executive team.

Jane the Novela
The anthology spinoff from The CW's beloved Jane the Virgin — featuring star Gina Rodriguez as its narrator and exec producer — was in fighting for the fourth slot at the network, which as of press time, remains earmarked for Glamorous. The latter, about a gender non-conforming high school grad, has been garnering buzz around industry circles for its original idea and for lead Ben J. Pierce. Sources say the Jane spinoff did not come in strong despite a wish to continue the critical darling from network president Mark Pedowitz. Jane the Novela is the lone pilot pass at The CW this season as the network will redevelop iZombie creator Rob Thomas' Lost Boys reboot for a third time. The CW typically picks up an even split from corporate parents Warner Bros. TV (Batwoman, Katy Keene) and CBS TV Studios (Nancy Drew).

Prism
NBC's provocative exploration of a murder trial in which every episode is told through the perspective of a different person involved started out as one of the network's hottest drama pilots. It boasted a new spin on the true crime drama and hailed from one of TV's most proven producers in CSI grad Carol Mendelsohn. What's more, the drama attracted a top-tier cast, recruiting Malin Akerman — who reduced her role on Showtime's Billions — and the always in-demand Ramon Rodriguez. Sources say the drama may have been too ambitious for the broadcast network that's home to tried-and-true procedurals including five Dick Wolf dramas (including next season's Law & Order spinoff). Others note that it simply did not enjoy the strong backing from NBC's new exec regime. Sources say the Universal Television-produced drama will be shopped to other outlets.

New York Undercover
"Thanks but no thanks" is not something super-producer Dick Wolf is told but that's just what ABC did with his revival of the former Fox procedural. Picking up 20 years after the end of the original, the new take followed returning cast members Malik Yoba and Luna Lauren Velez and, sources say, the script by original series creator Wolf and Ben Watkins (Amazon's Hand of God) did not come in well. (Watkins disagreed and noted the pilot may land at what he calleda "better home.") The drama — a co-production with Wolf-based Universal Television and ABC Studios — was competing for the same slot with ABC'sNYPD Blue follow-up, the latter of which is now fully owned by ABC after Disney acquired original producers 20th Century Fox TV. But don't worry about Wolf, he'll be fine as CBS picked up his FBI spinoff and he has Law & Order: SVU offshoot Hate Crimes a go at NBC. All told, he'll have seven shows on two broadcast networks.

Keep track of all the renewals, cancellations and new show orders with THR's scorecards for ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and The CW and with all the latest pilot pickups and passes with our handy guide. For complete coverage, bookmark THR.com/upfronts.