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As broadcast network executives screen pilots and pour over focus group testing results on more than 80 pilots, scores of showrunners, writers and actors are on standby as the decisions on which comedies and dramas will land slots on the 2017-18 schedule are expected to arrive in the coming weeks.
The Hollywood Reporter dialed up industry insiders and has compiled 10 of the family comedies, military dramas, soaps and comic book fare 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 Marvel’s The Inhumans (ABC), Big Bang Theory prequel Young Sheldon (CBS), Seth MacFarlane live-action dramedy Orville (Fox) and the Will and Grace revival (NBC).
Development season’s slow start has again impacted production, with many pilots wrapping late or being pushed off-cycle. Meanwhile, networks hope writers will avoid a strike and viewers will help deliver another breakout hit like NBC’s This Is Us.
With a pilot season filled again with reboots and interchangeable concepts, several frontrunners emerged early and continued to remain 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.
1. Ghosted (Fox)
With not one, but two marketable stars in Craig Robinson and Adam Scott, the comedy is said to have surprised insiders with an impressive finished product. The single-camera comedy — produced in-house at 20th Century Fox TV — centers on a cynical skeptic (The Office’s Robinson), and a genius “true believer” in the paranormal (Scott, Parks and Recreation), who are recruited by The Bureau Underground to look into the rampant “unexplained” activity in Los Angeles — all while uncovering a larger mystery that could threaten the existence of the human race. Elsewhere, execs are eager to stay in business with Eva Longoria, currently recurring on Empire, with workplace comedy Type-A also considered a network favorite. Buzzy Lauren Graham starrer Linda From HR — picked up with a cast contingency given its Mr. Robot meets family comedy premise — is said to have had problems and is, as multiple sources called it, “not a network comedy.”
2. Untitled Marvel (Fox)
As one top agent said of Fox’s drama pilots, “If they’re English, they’re going.” The network has six dramas in the works and rolled two of them off-cycle (Neal Baer’s The Beast and Matt Reeves’ The Passage), leaving its Behind Enemy Lines reboot, Sheldon Turner’s timely campus rape entry, Emily VanCamp medical pilot The Resident and its untitled Marvel drama. Of those, the clear frontrunner has been Matt Nix’s don’t-call-it-X-Men X-Men drama, with the rumor mill buzzing that it could nab an early series pickup.
3. Rise (NBC)
Jason Katims‘ high school-set musical (formerly Drama High) has been a frontrunner since it was first announced. With a creative team that includes Kleenex TV King Katims (Parenthood, Friday Night Lights) and Hamilton‘s Jeffrey Seller, the Josh Radnor starrer (featuring Moana breakout Auli’i Cravalho) already has been given orders to begin staffing up its writers room. Military drama For God and Country also has been given the same marching orders as it, too, remains on target for a series pickup. Elsewhere, Sarah Shahi vehicle Reverie is considered likely.
4. The Sackett Sisters (NBC)
The family comedy about estranged sisters has pretty much everything going for it: marketable stars (Casey Wilson, Happy Endings; Busy Philipps, Cougar Town; Bradley Whitford, The West Wing) and 30 Rock’s killer producing team (Tina Fey, Robert Carlock, Luke Del Tredici). Plus, it’s produced in-house at Universal Television. Sources note the single-camera comedy could be held for midseason to accommodate Wilson’s pregnancy. NBC also has 12 episodes of Will and Grace, a full season of Superstore and short order The Good Place already locked in for fall, with few new comedy slots available. (Unless the network adds another hour of comedy, that is.) It’s unclear how many comedies the network will order, but other contenders include Mindy Kaling and Charlie Grandy’s Champions, which has a clear shot, as does What About Barb, with the latter’s leads (Jessica Gunning and Leah Remini) said to be great.
5. 9J, 9K and 9L (CBS)
Mark Feuerstein’s semi-autobiographical comedy also has been a frontrunner since the get-go and continues to maintain its position as the leader of the CBS comedy pack after coming in well. The family comedy co-starring David Walton and Elliot Gould also boasts a family connection behind the scenes, with the Royal Pains grad and his wife, Dana Klein (Friends, Fresh Off the Boat), writing the script. With Big Bang Theory prequel Young Sheldon already on the air, look for the network to add one of the remaining five — possibly Carter Bays and Craig Thomas’ Chris Distefano comedy — potentially for midseason.
6. S.W.A.T. (CBS)
With 10 dramas already renewed for next season, CBS doesn’t have a lot of space in its schedule. While Elementary‘s fate remains tied to how pilots come in and Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders is not expected to return, the network could clear room for one of the season’s military dramas. At the top of the pack is its Shawn Ryan take on S.W.A.T., which would bring Criminal Minds favorite Shemar Moore back to the network. A series pickup to the Sony Pictures Television drama would follow a similar trajectory CBS found success with this season in Bull, which brought Michael Weatherly back to the network a year after he exited NCIS. S.W.A.T. is said to have the strong edge over the network’s similarly themed, untitled Navy SEALs drama — which is produced in-house by CBS Television Studios and comes with bankable star David Boreanaz. Jeremy Piven’s Wisdom of the Crowd, timely journalism drama The Get and Noah Wyle legal drama Perfect Citizen are still in the mix as well.
7. Untitled Marc Cherry (ABC)
Lighter hours are the top priority for ABC following Channing Dungey’s comments that the Disney-owned network’s roster may not appeal to Middle America. With that in mind, the untitled Marc Cherry drama starring Reba McEntire is said to be effectively on the air already. The drama stars McEntire as a small-town sheriff in Kentucky whose red state outlook is changed by a young FBI agent of Middle Eastern descent. As one insider said, “This is Marc Cherry’s best yet — better than Desperate Housewives.” Lighter hour Gospel of Kevin, about a man (Jason Ritter) tasked by God with saving the world, is said to have tested through the roof as well. Shondaland’s legal drama (dubbed Black’s Law) is already checking upfront availability for its cast, including leading lady Britne Olford.
8. Start Up (ABC)
Could ABC wind up without a multicamera comedy? All eyes are on Carol Burnett starrer Household Name, produced by Amy Poehler and Universal Television. The taping drew NBC boss Bob Greenblatt to its taping and could jump from ABC to NBC if the former passes on the multicamera comedy. Sources note the network is putting a priority on workplace comedies to counterbalance its roster of family fare like Black-ish, which could mean a pass for comedy legend Burnett. Multicam Last Man Standing, from 20th TV, is rumored to be on the wrong side of the bubble, and sources note Dr. Ken didn’t so much as pitch a season three. Either way, Household Name is on the air somewhere. Meanwhile, single-camera comedy Start Up, starring, exec produced and directed by Zach Braff, is said to be a lock given the Scrubs grad’s status as a marketable star. Also garnering good buzz is The Mayor, from EP Daveed Diggs (Hamilton).
9. Black Lightning (CW)
After getting a pass from Fox, who developed the DC Comics drama, Greg Berlanti is likely to land another superhero show on the younger-skewing network. The Cress Williams starrer from Salim and Mara Brock Akil produced a short pilot presentation and is being eyed for a midseason run, sources say. That would bring Berlanti’s CW haul to six shows on the network’s schedule alone. It’s unclear if The CW, which has yet to make a decision on Warner Bros. Television-produced bubble shows The Originals and iZombie, will pick up two or four pilots. If the network goes for four, the other WBTV slot is between Berlanti’s other CW pilot, Searchers, which is said to be in good shape after a challenging taping, or Lucy Hale’s Life Sentence, with the latter considered more likely get the call.
10. Dynasty (CW)
The CBS Television Studios-produced reboot, which would bring Gossip Girl’s Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage back to the network, already is making staffing offers ahead of a likely pickup. Of the other two CBSTVS pilots, Debby Ryan dramedy Insatiable — about a bullied teen turned beauty pageant contestant — is the stronger candidate.
Keep track of all the broadcast renewals, cancellations and series pickups with THR’s handy scorecard.
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