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With options expiring June 30, ABC has trimmed down its remaining pilot crop.
Of ABC’s five remaining drama pilots, the network has extended options on Disney fairy tale entry Epic and Latinx family drama Promised Land. That means that pilots Triage, National Parks Investigation and Dark Horse are no longer moving forward. Dark Horse, based on an Australian format, will be shopped by producers Universal Television. Elsewhere in pilot decisions, NBC has passed on its Jim Jefferies comedy.
Epic, which marks the return to ABC for Once Upon a Time creators Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, was picked up to pilot in January and has been casting. The fairy tale anthology stars Brittany O’Grady and Modern Family‘s Sarah Hyland and is produced in-house at ABC Signature, where Kitsis and Horowitz are under an overall deal.
Promised Land was another pilot ordered in early 2021. From writer Matt Lopez (who is scripting the Father of the Bride update for Warner Bros.), the drama is a generation-spanning entry about two Latinx families vying for wealth and power in California’s Sonoma Valley. John Ortiz (Luck) and Christina Ochoa (Animal Kingdom) star in the ABC Signature drama.
Both Epic and Promised Land were ordered to pilot under ABC’s new executive regime, which in December saw Hulu’s Craig Erwich add oversight of the broadcast network to his purview after his predecessor, Karey Burke, was promoted to oversee Disney-owned studio 20th Television. Burke and Erwich developed both shows.
As for the pilot passes, Dark Horse was also picked up to pilot in March under Erwich’s oversight. William Jehu Garroutte, a citizen of the Cherokee nation, penned the script for a drama about an Indigenous woman who gets into politics. The pilot was never cast. Th project was a co-production between Universal TV, ABC Signature and Keshet, which oversaw the Aussie original.
National Parks Investigation was also a co-production between A+E Studios (which has Big Sky returning for a second season on ABC) and 20th TV. Kevin Costner penned the script for the drama about a group of national park security agents solving crimes while protecting the national treasures. Billy Campbell starred in the drama. National Parks Investigation was picked up to pilot twice — once in early 2020 and again at the start of this year — as the novel coronavirus pandemic upended last year’s pilot season.
Rounding out the passes is Triage, another holdover from last year that had to be filmed post-pandemic. The medical drama with a story that spans over three decades starred Michael Ealy and hailed from Criminal Minds showrunner Erica Messer. The project was produced by 20th Television. Messer, meanwhile, now has a revival of Criminal Minds to work on for Paramount+, which likely ranks as her top priority.
The pandemic wiped out pilot season 2020, forcing comedies and dramas that were picked up more than a year ago to compete with other newly ordered projects. Some pilots from last year’s crop were picked up straight to series and produced entirely during the pandemic, with most of this year’s freshman crop failing to make it to a second season. ABC’s rookie class is returning Big Sky and comedy Home Economics, while Call Your Mother and Rebel were both canceled.
ABC has already added four new series for the 2021-22 broadcast season — comedies Abbott Elementary, Maggie and The Wonder Years update as well as hip-hop drama Queens — with Epic and now Promised Land also in contention for series pickups for a possible midseason or beyond premiere.
As for the other four broadcast networks, only NBC has other pilots that are still awaiting word on their futures after the network passed on 2020 holdover Jefferies. The comedian was set to star in and write the multicamera comedy from Universal TV, Suzanne Martin and Sean Hayes (Hot in Cleveland). The project was picked up to pilot in January 2020 by NBC’s former regime. The network is now part of a content portfolio overseen by Susan Rovner and Frances Berwick.
NBC’s remaining pilot roster consists of a mix of 2020 holdovers and 2021 additions with comedies Crazy For You, Hungry, Night Court and Someone Out There; as well as dramas At That Age, Dangerous Moms, Echo, Getaway and the untitled Nick Wootton. Of those, sources say the yet-to-cast Echo — from The Blacklist producers John Davis and John Fox and writer JJ Bailey — could move to a streamer.
Elsewhere, The CW is redeveloping Greg Berlanti and Diablo Cody’s Powerpuff, though it’s unclear if that has a shot at the 2021-22 schedule.
As a result of the pandemic, broadcast networks have shifted more to a year-round development schedule, with pilots in contention beyond the traditional start of the year. Pilot season has always been an insane time of year as all five broadcast networks compete for top talent, directors and filming locations in the same three-month window. The shift to year-round follows a cable and streaming model while also allowing broadcast networks to take extra time with scripts.
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