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Approaching the halfway point of pilot season pickups, a few early trends have emerged as the Big Four broadcast networks look to court viewers in Trump America and have seemingly turned their backs on spinoffs and reboots (at least for now).
With 36 orders already on the books (including four straight-to-series orders), dramas (20) and comedies (16) are almost evenly split. ABC has the biggest jump among the drama field with nine, compared with CBS (five), Fox and NBC (three each). On the comedy side, NBC leads the way with seven half-hours, as the network is turning to proven executive producers to rebuild its brand around its 10-episode Will and Grace revival.
Here’s a closer look at the early trends (as well as some notable omissions).
Trump TV Is a Real Thing
Following Donald Trump’s presidential victory, many broadcast networks began to re-evaluate their programming decisions. This pilot season is already showing signs of their efforts to appeal to Trump America with NBC’s military hero drama For God and Country; ABC’s Marc Cherry soap about a “Red State” sheriff (Reba McEntire); ABC comedies Raised by Wolves, Libby & Malcolm and its Daveed Diggs half-hour about an outspoken rapper who runs (and wins) a mayoral election. Then there’s CBS’ Edward Snowden-like drama Perfect Citizen about the NSA’s divisive general counsel-turned-Boston attorney, as well as a Navy SEALs show.
Out of This World Trend Alert
This current broadcast season, time travel was the genre that every network decided it needed to be in. Halfway through pilot season, it appears space is the final frontier. With CBS All Access twice delaying its Star Trek: Discovery, three other shows are ready to blast off. CBS has NASA astronaut drama Mission Control; Fox has Seth MacFarlane live-action dramedy Orville, set 300 years in the future and following an exploratory ship in Earth’s interstellar fleet, as well as Adam Scott/Craig Robinson’s X-Files spoof Ghosted, about a paranormal true believer; while NBC has workplace comedy Spaced Out, about a team building a rocket to Mars.
What’s Old Is New (Again)
Stop us if you’ve heard this before: family comedies and procedurals continue to be in high demand. On the procedural side, there’s cops assisted by a magician (ABC’s Deception); a TV cop whose life imitates art (ABC’s Ten Days in the Valley); virtual reality police (NBC’s Reverie); a soapy Red State sheriff (ABC’s untitled Marc Cherry); a cop working with an ex-con (ABC’s The Trustee); and Alan Cumming as a former CIA operative (CBS’ Killer Instinct), among others. After successfully launching a slate of family fare this season (Speechless, American Housewife, Kevin Can Wait, Man With a Plan), the Big Four continue to look for new examples of underrepresented, well … families. There’s ABC’s timely blended family (and political opposites) entry Libby & Malcolm; a tough Midwestern working-class mother of five (ABC’s Raised by Wolves); Zach Braff’s father who reinvents himself as an entrepreneur (ABC’s Start Up); Fox’s Linda From HR (a comedic Mr. Robot of sorts); NBC’s The Sackett Sisters, from Tina Fey; NBC’s comedy based on the life of Fresh Off the Boat EP Kourtney Kang; as well as a family who gets stuck with a real psycho in its female-driven What About Bob? reboot, What About Barb? (among others).
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the first half of the pilot pickups is the lack of big-name reboots and spinoffs currently in the works. There’s been no word from CBS about its Big Bang Theory prequel, Sheldon, which has been exploring casting for weeks; ABC hasn’t yet picked up its 1990s-set The Goldbergs off-shoot (or its Black-ishspinoff). Also absent? Any of those high-profile remakes like Enemy of the State (ABC), Magnum P.I. (ABC), The Lost Boys (CW), Single White Female (NBC), The Honeymooners (CBS), Charmed (CW) or that How I Met Your Mother spinoff, with the inclusive take still seemingly searching for a network. (Then again, The CW hasn’t picked up any pilots yet, with Charmed considered a slam dunk to move forward.)
Vertically Aligned Networks (Again)
On the studio side, the networks continue to put a heavy emphasis on vertically aligned programming with all six of Fox’s orders coming from corporate sibling 20th Century Fox Television. NBC, relying heavily on studio counterpart Universal Television (seven of 10 so far) also has buys from three other studios (20th, ABC Studios and Warner Bros. TV). Over at ABC, half of the Disney-owned net’s 12 pilots come from its studio counterpart, with the other half split evenly between independent studios WBTV and Sony Pictures Television.
Prolific Producers Are Prolific
Aaron Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment has three pilot orders with CBS’ Me, Myself and I and 9J, 9K, and 9L joining Fox’s high-concept entry Linda From HR coming with a cast contingency attached. … Greg Berlanti is already off to a hot start this season with two, a comedy and drama both at ABC (Deception and Raised by Wolves). Sources say the Arrow, Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow and Blindspot EP could wind up with four as his Fox DC Comics drama Black Lightning and The CW’s Searchers both appear likely to get the call. … Marvel Television is also off to a hot start with ABC/Imax’s The Inhumans and Fox’s untitled live-action X-Men drama, with the latter likely to join Black Lightning, from rival publisher DC Comics, at the network. … 3 Arts also has two high-profile comedies in the works (so far) with orders at NBC for Adam Scott/Craig Robinson’s Ghosted and a comedy from The Mindy Project duo.
Single-Camera Continues to Dominate
Of the 16 comedies ordered thus far, 14 of them are single-camera with NBC still said to be looking for a multicamera entry to pair with Will and Grace.
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