As broadcast network executives sit behind closed doors poring over focus group testing results on nearly 100 pilots, scores of showrunners, writers, producers and actors are on stand-by as the decisions on which comedies and dramas will land slots on the 2014-15 schedules are expected to come in the coming weeks.
The Hollywood Reporter dialed up industry insiders and has compiled 10 of the thrillers, soapy procedurals, comic adaptations, and family and workplace comedies 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 Vince Gilligan and David Shore‘s Battle Creek, Fox’s Last Man on Earth and NBC’s Ellie Kemper comedy from the producers of 30 Rock, among others.
This year, many sources have noted that there are not as many clear frontrunners on the comedy side beyond CBS’ How I Met Your Mother spinoff as many of the half-hour pilots tend to have a similar premise, with some competing with each other for the same slots. (See CBS’ The Odd Couple and Cuz-Bros and ABC’s Anthony Anderson and Kevin Hart vehicles.)
Here’s a look at the pilots most likely to land series orders:
1. Keep It Together (aka the untitled Kevin Hart comedy) (ABC)
The multicamera comedy based on Hart’s life and stand-up act starring Romany Malco skyrocketed to the top of ABC’s pilots following a screening with executives and has the edge over the network’s Anthony Anderson entry about a middle-class black man struggling to raise his children that’s based on the life of showrunner Kenya Barris (The Game) as the network looks to schedule an African-American-led comedy following the breakout success of Kerry Washington drama Scandal. The network will hope Hart, one of the most bankable stars around, will translate to TV and bring his more than 10 million-plus Twitter followers along for the ride.
2. How to Get Away With Murder (ABC)
Speaking of Scandal, exec producer Shonda Rhimes may be back to having three series on the network. Murder, a sexy and suspense-driven legal thriller starring Viola Davis as a brilliant and mysterious criminal defense professor who becomes entangled in a murder plot, is among the buzziest dramas this season. A series pickup for Murder would give the Grey’s Anatomy producer three shows on the air for the second time following the end of Private Practice. Rhimes has tremendous clout at the network — she rarely, if ever, receives notes on Scandal — and is incredibly valuable to ABC. Among ABC’s other drama pilots, alien invasion entry The Visitors, John Ridley‘s American Crime and supernatural effort Clementine are also tracking well, with at least one series order expected to go to an hourlong from an outside studio. Meanwhile, Marvel’s Captain America spinoff Agent Carter — which has yet to film a pilot — may also get a straight-to-series pickup for a short order for a potential midseason slot.
3. Gotham (Fox)
From the moment it was announced, the Batman prequel telling the origin story of Commissioner James Gordon instantly became a frontrunner to land on the network’s schedule. (Fox recognized as much, granting a rare and hefty series commitment to the drama from The Mentalist’s Bruno Heller.)The drama has remained strong through casting season, landing Southland alum and critical favorite Ben McKenzie as its lead and rounding out its cast with newcomers and established actors alike; the addition of Jada Pinkett Smith as a key villain also will likely help the superhero procedural connect with viewers beyond the typical genre fanboys.
4. Cabot College (Fox)
The pilot, hailing from 30 Rock producers Matt Hubbard, Tina Fey and Robert Carlock — which has a series commitment penalty attached — is one of the more original comedy concepts this season and is likely to be among Fox’s two or three comedy pickups. Others looking strong include Justin Long‘s Sober Companion and Jane Krakowski starrer Dead Boss, the latter of which is already seeking writers to join the room in New York.
Spinoffs continue to be all the rage at CBS this season, with both CSI‘s tech-focused spinoff and NCIS: New Orleans both generating equal amounts of buzz. Of the two, CSI seemingly has the edge, with Patricia Arquette generating solid reviews for her return to broadcast television and an offer out to CSI: N.Y. showrunner Pam Veasey to serve in the same capacity on what would be the third spinoff from the original franchise. The spinoff also seemed to resonate with viewers, posting a modest gain (a 1.8 among adults under 50 and 9.95 million viewers, up a tenth). Should NCIS: New Orleans not make the cut, it would mark the second year in a row the network has tried and failed to launch a second spinoff from one of TV’s most valuable franchises after passing on NCIS: L.A. spinoff Red. Other dramas likely to land on CBS’ schedule include Kevin Williamson‘s untitled stalker drama, which could earn a short order a la Hostages and Intelligence, and Tea Leoni‘s Madam Secretary. From Homeland EP Barbara Hall, one source described the latter, about the personal and professional life of a maverick female secretary of state, as CBS Entertainment chief Nina Tassler‘s favorite drama of the season.
6. How I Met Your Dad (CBS)
After saying a (somewhat painful) farewell to Monday staple How I Met Your Mother, CBS will likely say hello to this brand-new story with Meg Ryan‘s voice at its center. Starring indie darling Greta Gerwig, who will also serve as a writer on the comedy from Carter Bays, Craig Thomas and Emily Spivey, CBS will hope HIMYM loyalists remain on board with this female-skewing entry. Also looking likely to gain a rare spot on CBS’ schedule is The Odd Couple, starring Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon. The latest adaptation of the story of buddies Oscar and Felix has the edge over CBS’ similarly themed Cuz-Bros, from Happy Endings’ David Caspe and starring Enlisted duo Geoff Stults and Parker Young.
7. The Flash (The CW)
Just like The Vampire Diaries’ spinoff The Originals was last year, this DC Comics spinoff from Arrow should be considered already on the schedule. Also working in its favor: The CW already knows it has a star in Grant Gustin (Glee, 90210), who earned rave reviews as Barry Allen/The Flash in two Arrow episodes this season. Supernatural spinoff Bloodlines, which many industry insiders called “perfectly on brand,” started hot but has been cooling off since. Should both Flash and Bloodlines move forward, the youth-skewing network would have spinoffs from its three biggest series.
8. iZombie (The CW)
The CW’s love affair with Rob Thomas will continue as the supernatural crime procedural based on the comic from DC’s Vertigo imprint is considered the frontrunner among the four non-spinoff pilots in the works at the network. The CW is said to be keen on the concept — a female medical student-turned-zombie (Rose McIver) takes a job at the coroner’s office to gain access to the brains she must eat to maintain her humanity — and its pedigree, including Veronica Mars alums Thomas and Diane Ruggiero. An iZombie drama would put the network back in business with Thomas some seven years after it axed Mars — and three months after it picked up a Web spinoff of the cult series featuring Ryan Hansen.
9. Mysteries of Laura (NBC)
Based on the Spanish format, the Debra Messing starrer is a procedural with sharp humor and stars the Smash and Will & Grace alum as a quirky homicide detective who juggles high-stakes crime and an ex-husband (Josh Lucas) as well as a devilish set of twin boys. The drama, from exec producer Greg Berlanti, is tops on the network’s list, with NBC brass reportedly eager to bring Messing back into the fold. Should it move forward, Berlanti could stand to be one of pilot season’s biggest overachievers with both Laura and Flash joining Arrow and potentially The CW’s bubble show The Tomorrow People. Other dramas looking strong at NBC include Constantine, David Goyer‘s take on DC Comics’ Hellblazer, which could bump Dracula for a slot on NBC’s supernatural Friday lineup.
10. Marry Me (NBC)
Of NBC’s whopping 18 comedies, David Caspe’s Marry Me is the clear frontrunner. The single-camera entry about a couple (Casey Wilson and Ken Marino) who get engaged — only to quickly realize that it’s harder than it looks — has been drawing stellar reviews for its script and the finished product. Also working in its favor is the art-imitates-life aspect of the show’s behind-the-scenes story, with real-life couple Caspe and Wilson’s Happy Endings romance as much of a draw as the story itself. Other comedies impressing network executives include Jason Katims-J.J. Philbin comedy Ellen More or Less, which is drawing raves for lead Stacey McGunnigle; romantic comedy A to Z, starring HIMYM‘s Cristin Milioti; and its Ellen DeGeneres-produced lesbian comedy One Big Happy, which would be the third gay-themed half-hour picked up under NBC entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt (The New Normal and Sean Saves the World).
Which pilots are you rooting for? Hit the comments below with your thoughts and stay tuned to THR’s The Live Feed for the latest series orders and upfront news in the coming weeks.