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A version of this story appeared in the Feb. 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Following a 2014-15 season that saw diversity — Empire, How to Get Away With Murder and Black-ish — become a proven commodity, the five broadcast networks are looking to take it a step further. This pilot season, the broadcast networks are hoping that a more accurate reflection of society will help familiar concepts — five movie remakes, romantic comedies, medical, legal and cop shows — stand out amid an increasingly crowed scripted landscape.
Overall orders are down across the board: Total pickups are off 10 and nearly evenly split between comedy and drama with potentially one, maybe two more orders to come this season. NBC featured the biggest drop-off year-over-year as the comedy-starved network (half-hour pilots are down four) follows its midseason strategy with a focus on drama (even). Also notable: The number of projects ordered straight to series (or with a series commitment penalty) stands at six, down from a whopping 15 last season after direct pickups The Club, Hieroglyph and Emerald City all were canceled before their respective debuts. On the studio side, ABC again led the pack while 20th Century Fox — entering its first pilot season with co-presidents Gary Newman and Dana Walden also overseeing the network — was up one but good enough for second place (up from fourth) with sales to outside networks CBS, NBC and ABC.
Here’s a closer look at Pilot Season 2015 by the numbers.
Read more TV Pilots 2015: The Complete Guide
Total orders: 85 (95 in 2014, down 10)
Dramas: 41 (45 in 2014, down 4)
Comedies: 44 (50 in 2014, down 6)
Single-camera: 24 (32 in 2014, down 8)
Multicamera: 17 (17 in 2014, even)
Hybrid: 1 (1 in 2014, even)
Series orders 2014: 54
ABC: 25 (27 in 2014, down 2)
With numbers largely in line with last year, Paul Lee‘s Disney-owned network has put a focus on funny and semi-autobiographical family fare. Looking to replicate the success of Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat, the network has half-hour family vehicles starring Jermaine Fowler (and co-starring Whoopi Goldberg), Ken Jeong and Fortune Feimster to take its diversity push a step further. Additionally, the network is putting its diversity stamp on John Hughes‘ Uncle Buck with an all-black cast and is teaming with the NBA for a buddy comedy starring Pitch Perfect‘s Skylar Astin. On the drama side, ABC has the tried and true: cops, doctors and plenty of mystery thrillers to go with big swings including oil drama Boom, biblical saga Of Kings and Prophets and Fox import Runner, based on the Turkish cartel drama.
Dramas: 12 (13 in 2014, down 1)
Comedies: 13 (14 in 2014, down 1)
Single-cam: 8 (10 in 2014, down 2)
Multicam: 5 (3 in 2014, up 2)
Series orders 2014: 14 (8 dramas, 6 comedies)
NBC: 23* (27 in 2014, down 4)
Following its midseason strategy, NBC put its focus on drama development this pilot season as the network could conceivably opt to pass on its 2014-15 drama slate including State of Affairs. Bob Greenblatt‘s network will look to Ugly Betty creator Silvio Horta to help add diversity to its roster of procedurals that also includes a guardian angel drama from Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. Of its 13 comedies, NBC is also targeting families and diversity in both its concepts and castings, including Eva Longoria‘s straight-to-series Telenovela.
Dramas: 9 (9 in 2014, even)*
Comedies: 14 (18 in 2014, down 4)
Single-cam: 7 (14 in 2014, down 7)
Multicam: 7 (4 in 2014, up 3)
Includes three straight-to-series orders: Telenovela, Coach and Shades of Blue, down one year-over-year.
Series orders 2014**: 18 (10 dramas, 8 comedies)
*Not including Chicago Medical, planted spinoff in Chicago Fire.
**Includes acquisition Working the Engels and event series Heroes: Reborn, A.D., The Slap and Emerald City.
CBS: 18 (19 in 2014, down 1)
Nearly matching last year’s haul, CBS — like the rest of the Big Four — continues to go broad with new takes on family comedies, including divorce comedy The Half of It and late-in-life pregnancy entry The Mistake, the latter of which is being redeveloped from last season. A third of Nina Tassler‘s nine comedy pilots are redeveloped — including Greg Garcia‘s Super Clyde, which the network passed on two years ago in favor of the now-canceled The Millers. On the drama side, CBS has made a medical drama a priority with documentary take Code Black and LFE both in contention alongside its Criminal Minds spinoff and Tony Phelan and Joan Rater‘s legal drama Doubt, which is already being hailed as one of the best scripts of the season.
Dramas: 9 (9 in 2014, even)
Comedies: 9 (10 in 2014, down 1)
Single-cam: 3 (3 in 2014, even)
Multicam: 4 (6 in 2014, down 2)
Series orders 2014: 8 (6 dramas, 2 comedies)
Read more TV Pilot Season’s Big Get: Diversity
Fox: 15 (16 in 2014, down 1)
The first season under TV chiefs Newman and Walden finds the duo returning to a traditional pilot process a year after former topper Kevin Reilly declared it dead. The duo kept Fox’s numbers largely the same but focused more on broad over niche fare like bubble comedy The Mindy Project. Comedy seems to be the primary focus for the network this pilot season as half-hours are even with last year but up three from its drama pickups. Walden and Newman made good on their goal to buy from outside studios, with pilot orders from Universal Television, ABC Studios and Warner Bros. Television. Among Fox’s hopefuls are prepackaged comedies including sports-themed Fantasy Life, based on the best-seller by ESPN analyst Matthew Berry that came with Entourage‘s Kevin Connolly attached; Rob Lowe legal comedy The Grinder; and its John Stamos entry. On the drama side, Fox has big swings with familiar formats including Frankenstein, Luther — which is contingent on finding a lead — and female-fronted Minority Report. Elsewhere, Krista Vernoff‘s semi-autobiographical dramedy Studio City, starring Will & Grace‘s Eric McCormack in his regular return to broadcast, is already drawing strong buzz. Not to be outdone, Fox will continue to have a Ryan Murphy show on its schedule with direct-to-series horror comedy anthology Scream Queens and has revived The X-Files for a six-episode run.
Dramas: 7 (8 in 2014, down 1)
Comedies: 8 (8 in 2014, even)
Single-cam: 6 (5 in 2014, up 1)
Multicam: 1 (3 in 2014, down 2)
Hybrid/multicam: 1 (Fantasy Life)
Includes two straight-to-series orders: comedy anthology Scream Queens and The X-Files revival (down 5 year-over-year).
Series orders 2014*: 10 (6 dramas, 4 comedies)
*Includes Gracepoint, Bordertown
CW: 4 (6 in 2014, down 2)
With nine scripted shows already renewed for 2015-16, The CW has fewer holes on its schedule than ever, with the fate of midseason entries iZombie and The Messengers yet to be determined. That said, the youth-skewing network is again focused on genre fare with episodic anthology Tales From the Darkside, Dead People and outbreak remake Cordon, from prolific producer Julie Plec (The Vampire Diaries, The Originals). Network president Mark Pedowitz is also eyeing procedural Cheerleader Death Squad from dream team duo Marc Cherry (Desperate Housewives) and Neal Baer (Under the Dome) as pilot orders are down a third year-over-year.
Dramas: 4 (6 in 2014, down 2)
Series orders 2014: 4
ABC Studios: 20 (-2) (3 off-net, down 2 year-over-year)
20th Century Fox Television: 17 (up 1) (sales to ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC)
Universal Television: 16** (-3) (3 off-net, even)
Warner Bros. Television: 15 (-2)
CBS Television Studios: 13 (-4)
Sony Pictures Television: 6 (-2)
Lionsgate: 1 (+1)
* Includes 4 co-productions (down 4 from 2013): ABC’s Dr. Ken (ABCS/SPT); ABC’s Uncle Buck (ABCS/UniTV); CBS’ Code Black (ABCS/CBSTVS); Criminal Minds spinoff (ABCS/CBSTVS).
**Not including Chicago Medical, planted spinoff in Chicago Fire.
Following a development season that featured scores of remakes and a priority on medical fare, both trends were represented in the broadcast networks’ pilot pickups. Also a priority are family shows and semi-autobiographical fare, with multiple projects coming prepackaged with comedians doubling as stars and writers. Notably, one of the biggest about-faces came with the dearth of straight-to-series orders as networks have seemingly learned their lesson.
33 — Family shows (up 1)
15 — Cop dramas
10 — Semi-autobiographical fare
7 — Book adaptations, including Frankenstein and DC Comics’ Supergirl and Lucifer
6 — Rolled/redeveloped shows
6 — Legal dramas
6 — Remakes based on foreign formats (including properties from Israel, Turkey, Australia, Canada, Britain)
5 — Medical shows
5 — Movie remakes
6 — Straight-to-series or series commitment penalties (CBS’ Supergirl, which has a series penalty; Fox’s The X-Files, Scream Queens as well as NBC’s Coach, Telenovela and off-cycle order Shades of Blue). Off from a whopping 15 last year, including the canceled-before-premiere The Club, Hieroglyph and Emerald City.
2 — Anthologies (Scream Queens, Tales From the Darkside)
2 — Network jumpers (Runner went from Fox to ABC and Strange Calls went from ABC to NBC)
2 — Cast-contingent pilots (Luther, Irreversible)
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