ABC is having one very busy Pilot season. They have about 27 pilots so far in progress, 13 comedies, 13 dramas, 1 reality show. In continuing with my “I don’t give a damn about reality” mantra, let’s throw out the one reality pilot for analysis. So that leaves 26 shows to ponder.
I have a really hard time judging ABC. It’s a network I don’t watch much. So far I only watch one of their shows, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (yes, I’m still sticking with it). The network is trying to reboot this male oriented franchise, yet the rest of their slate is very female oriented and quite soapy. What kind of a network does ABC want to be? If they knew that, ABC wouldn’t be in fourth place right now.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., despite ratings that have dropped substantially, is still one of ABC’s highest rated shows, especially when DVR is factored in. Sure, it’s likely not meeting expectations, but for a concept that was rather loose to begin with, it seems to be in the second half of the season finally finding its footing. Than can only bode well for season two, which seems like a certainty. How long can ABC cling onto Grey’s Anatomy? It’ll be back next season, but perhaps that’s why there are so many pilots. It’s year to year. Modern Family and Scandal are big hits, so no doubt they’ll be back, along with The Middle, Once Upon A Time, and Castle.
Thisbring us to the math portion of the analysis. Count the above hours. Six. That’s six solid programming hours. ABC programs Twenty-Two hours a week. Now granted, wipe out three of those hours on Saturday. ABC has college football and whatever else on that night and it works better than anyone else’s weak planned filler. So 19 minus six means 13 hours up for grabs. And ABC programs year round. So yes, the amount of pilots makes sense.
Of course I’m leaving out reality, which ABC heavily relies on. Shark Tank is perfect for Fridays and Dancing With The Stars will continue to fill up two hours for a chunk of the schedule. The Bachelor/Bachlorette fills in the gaps left by Dancing With The Stars. Let’s also not forget the most reliable, timeless, will never, ever get cancelled America’s Funniest Home Videos. Just like CBS’ 60 Minutes, ABC’s Sunday at 7pm is a staple and never a worry.
I know ABC is all about the limited run series, but so far Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, Killer Women, and The Assets have been MASSIVE busts. Is the quality of these shows bad, or is ABC being a fourth place network having trouble generating interest in these shows? I’m sure it’s a combination on both, but the primary reason likely rests on the former. At this rate, ABC might have to give up on this experiment.
Okay, so let’s assume reality fills up four hours reliably every week (20/20 really counts as filler). That leaves 9 hours per week up for grabs. So these pilots will also be competing with existing bubble shows Revenge, Nashville, The Goldbergs, Last Man Standing, The Neighbors, Suburgatory, Super Fun Night, and Trophy Wife. Chances are at least half of those will be back, but you never know based on how good the pilots look. Also waiting for debut, Mind Games, Mixology, and Resurrection but I usually give midseason replacements a one percent chance of success. There are also the summer shows Rookie Blue, Wipeout, and Mistresses that don’t figured into any of this.
Whew, so, you got all that? What does it all mean? ABC could likely accommodate half of their pilots on the slate, if they’re willing to pay for them. So which ones? Let’s see what they’ve got going.
List of Pilots from The Futon Critic
An American Education (single-camera): A British transplant named Alfie takes her unorthodox teaching style to the San Diego public school system.
Prognosis: No idea.
Bambi Cottages (single-camera): An overworked Dad uproots his family from the city to New Hampshire to run a group of tourist colleges, so he can live the dream of being on vacation all year.
Prognosis: I almost made a Newhart quip, but that was Vermont, not New Hampshire. The idea is great. Look at Newhart. However, premise alone never makes a comedy. The ensemble is going to matter. However Molly Shannon is tied to the project, so that’s a step in the right direction.
Black-ish (single-camera): This had a rather long summary, so I’ll paraphrase. An upper middle class black man trying raise kids with a liberal wife and old school dad.
Prognosis: Laurence Fishburne is not funny. Fail.
Damaged Goods (single-camera): A comedy focusing on sexual politics in this post feminist era.
Prognosis: Really? Isn’t this currently called Super Fun Night? Maybe not, but I need way more than that. Given the unknown names attached to this project, I say a long shot.
Fresh Off The Boat (single-camera): A Chinese family moves to Orlando, FL.
Prognosis: Weak. The multi-cultural, fish-out-of-water premise is nothing new. Heck, TBS has a small show, Sullivan and Son, playing on that premise a little (oriental mother) but that’s in a much stranger setting, Pittsburgh. The show just has to be funny, and single-camera might be too quirky for this premise. It’s from 20th Century Studios (not in-house) with no big names attached, so I say that alone is two strikes against it.
Galavant (single-camera): A storyabout Prince Galavant and his quest for revenge on the King who stole his once true love.
Prognosis: I’m interested. I’m not slamming on the “way out there” concept anymore thanks to Sleepy Hollow. I also love The Princess Bride, so I’m hoping this is being done in that spirit. Tim Omundson is the king??? Okay, I’m officially on board.
Irreversible (single-camera): An eccentric, self-absorbed couple suffers from trials and tribulations, mostly self inflicted.
Prognosis: Don’t know. To be honest, if that was the premise for a show airing in my TV Guide, I’d skip it. Since I have to keep an open mind for pilots though, the only footnote worthy of this one is David Schwimmer is in it. However, I think he’s stuck with a Ross stereotype as the affable loser. I’m not sure I want to see him self absorbed. It could work though.
Keep it Together (multi-camera): A post divorce story. A couple is trying to forge a friendship after divorce for the sake of the kids.
My Thoughts Exactly (single-camera): A romantic comedy about a couple from the unspoken thoughts POV of the man and the woman?
Saint Francis (multi-camera): A blue-collar, no nonsense Long Island cop who butts heads so to speak with the modern liberal world when his 29 year old sister gets pregnant out of wedlock.
Prognosis: Promising. I have always wanted to see Michael Imperoli in a comedy. I think he’s capable of being very damned funny. He’s perfect for the role as described. I’ll tell you what I hate though. Multi-camera comedy. This should at least be a single camera and be labeled as a dramedy. I don’t see this flying as a sitcom. Then it becomes too clichéd, like the modern day Archie Bunker. If that’s the goal, the project loses its luster.
Selfie (single-camera): A self-obsessed 20 something woman enlists the help of a marketing expert at her company to help repair her tarnished image after a video of her goes viral.
Prognosis: Maybe. A modern My Fair Lady maybe? The fact that the main character’s name is Eliza and the guy helping her is Henry Higgenbottom, I’d say that’s too similar for coincidence.
Strange Calls (single-camera): Based on an Australian series! A good hearted bumbling cop is exiled to night duty on Nantucket, where he meets up with an eccentric lighthouse keeper/paranormal expert. Together they investigate the strange, unexplainable occurrences there.
Prognosis: Put this on Friday and it wins. Sci-Fi/Fantasy is becoming popular on Fridays, and ABC would find a good niche with a comedy twist on the genre. The only downside is there’s no cast yet. That’s going to be a make it or break it for this pilot. It’s listed as cast contingent, so they are really under pressure to find the right people for this.
Winklers (multi-camera): About an emotionally reserved construction worker who learns about love, life, and hugs while living with his in-laws.
Prognosis: I see it coming on after Modern Family. I love Henry Winkler as one of the in-laws because he’s funny as hell. This idea can either be very funny or very lame. Let’s hope for the former. Considering it’s coming from Phil Rosenthal, it has a good shot.
Coming up on Page 2, Dramas