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Sometimes big name IP, stars and even corporate synergy just aren’t enough to get a pilot picked up to series.
This season, ABC, CBS and Fox each passed on high-profile projects that were all considered early frontrunners. ABC said no to both Marvel and Shonda Rhimes; CBS opted for Katherine Heigl over Nancy Drew; and Fox could have brought a Friends star back to primetime.
Here’s a look at the five most high-profile pilots that were not ordered to series — and the likely reasoning behind them.
The Jury (ABC)
Starring The Good Wife‘s Archie Panjabi, The Jury had a timely premise and concept. Like the network’s American Crime, the drama was an anthology described as 12 Angry Men meets podcast Serial and followed a single murder trial as seen through the eyes of the individual jurors, exploring the biases and experiences that influence the jurors’ judgment, and how their preconceptions change along the way. With everyone jumping on the true crime bandwagon following the success of Making a Murderer and The Jinx, ABC opted to redevelop the drama from exec producer CSI‘s Carol Mendelsohn.
Charity Case (Fox)
The stars of Friends have always scored multiple offers during pilot casting season as the cast remains recognizable (and easily marketable) stars. With CBS likely renewing Matthew Perry starrer The Odd Couple for a third season and picking up Matt LeBlanc comedy Man With a Plan, the network has two of the stars from Friends on its schedule. Fox could have added a third with Charity Case, starring Courteney Cox. After landing at Fox following a multiple network bidding war, the comedy about a woman who inherits her late billionaire husband’s charity and finds changing the world far less glamorous than she had imagined is said to have not come in well with sources noting the single-camera ABC Studios/20th Century Fox TV comedy wasn’t even screened internally. Meanwhile, look for Schwimmer’s onscreen son Cole Sprouse (who played young Ben) on The CW’s Archie Comics take Riverdale.
CBS opted for other intellectual property this season, ordering dramas based on Training Day and MacGyver and saying no to what was to be a diverse Nancy Drew in Sarah Shahi. Drew was said to be an internal favorite for new network president Glenn Geller and was rumored to be bidding for a spot on the schedule against Katherine Heigl’s redeveloped legal soap Doubt — with both hailing from the same producers. Sources say the call ultimately may have come down to who was the bigger and more marketable star, proving sometimes recognizable IP just isn’t enough.
Marvel’s Most Wanted (ABC)
First put in development last season, the Agents of SHIELD spinoff followed favorites Adrianne Palicki and Nick Blood’s Bobbi Morse (aka Mockingbird) and Lance Hunter. With many industry watchers expecting Agent Carter to get the ax, Most Wanted was seen as a likely replacement. However, buzz started cooling after the pilot came in and with ABC considered unlikely to use the “gap show” strategy that made short-order series like Agent Carter a fit for SHIELD‘s hiatus, Most Wanted suddenly didn’t have a likely slot. The pass — and Carter‘s cancellation — marks a key move for ABC Entertainment Group president Channing Dungey who showed a willingness to pass (and cancel) despite corporate synergy. As for if Palicki and Blood will return to SHIELD, Marvel is remaining mum.
Proving that ABC can’t say yes all the time to Shonda Rhimes, the network’s most prolific producer settled for a surprise renewal for freshman drama The Catch and pickup for Romeo and Juliet follow-up Still Star-Crossed. Toast, starring Grey’s Anatomy favorite Jerrika Hinton and co-written by Scandal‘s Scott Foley, marked Shondaland’s first comedy to go to pilot as the ABC Studios-based mega-producer’s attempts to enter the half-hour space will have to wait until next season. The How I Met Your Mother-type pilot, which early on impressed insiders with a rewrite from showrunner Gregg Mettler, got the pass call as ABC focused on even more high-concept fare.
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