The CW. I do have a soft spot for this tiny network that tries so hard. You do have to give them credit. Ever since the very first set of pilots in the Mark Pedowitz era last season this network knows what it wants to be when it grows up. This new crop reflects that very much. Youth oriented, male or female, and all drama. I really think The CW could use a few dramedies, but nothing seems to have caught their attention this go around.
This pilot list is again a mixture of sci-fi geared toward all ages 18-34, and young teen dramas that would likely skew 18-34 female. The CW has ordered eight pilots, the same as last year, and just about all of them have potential to be picked up. Out of the ten hours The CW programs now, only three shows have been renewed – Arrow, The Vampire Diaries, and Supernatural. That leaves potentially seven slots to fill, even though a few of those bubble shows will likely be back. The net has a lot of holes to fill though, especially when it wants to program year round. Often shows fail and there are still too many gaps during winter breaks and summer. They even put off premiering all their shows until October to fill in some of those gaps.
Instead of listing most promising and least promising, I’ll just go through the eight pilots in general and give comments on each. From this list each idea has merit, although I’m sure a few will turn up hare brained as the pilot process moves forward.
Once again, the pilot descriptions are all courtesy of the most wonderful Futon Critic.
Blink –Out of all the CW pilots, this is one of the biggest question marks. It’s from CBS Television Studios, which instantly makes it drama based. The names associated with the project are interesting. Carl Beverly has a history with this studio with Justified, Elementary, and Unforgettable, but the creator, Vera Herbert, doesn’t seem to have much experience at all. Madeline Carroll, cast as the lead actress, doesn’t have a deep pedigree either in memorable roles. This will be filed under the “wait and see” category. “Drama billed as a dark family story about a girl whose father is in a coma.”
Company Town– I’ve got a soft spot for this one. It comes from someone I’ve gotten to know through Supernatural, Sera Gamble. Her showrunning stint for Supernatural may not have gone well, but it’s never easy to inherit an established show. Sera can bring a lot to a show of her own, and this seems like a premise that will be a good switch for her. She’s always written with so much heart and has a penchant for character development. The young casting choices of Maya Kazan and Gage Golighty look promising, as does the setting in the naval base in Norfolk. I’ve got my fingers crossed for Sera! “Drama about the aftermath of a sexual assault scandal at a Naval base in Norfolk, Virginia.”
The Hundred – Here’s one that has my interest. This is an Alloy Entertainment/Warner Brothers joint, which has so far produced mixed results. They are the same duo that brought The Vampire Diaries, but The Secret Circle didn’t do as well. I’ll tell you why I’m rooting for this one. Henry Ian Cusick. That’s a major casting coup! I’m still not sure what his role is, or how developed this premise is, but I’m hoping something about the script grabbed him. This is Jason Rothenburg’s second attempt at getting a pilot picked up from The CW, and this just might work. “Post-apocalyptic drama about 100 juvenile delinquents that are released to the surface of a wildly changed Earth, with the survival of the human race entirely in their hands.”
The Originals – I’ve been screaming ever since season two of The Vampire Diaries that the original vampires should be spun off into their own series. Now that they’re at the tail end of season four, is the timing right or is it too late? Hard to say, but considering they’ve snared Daniel Gilles to come back as Elijah as well as casting the very strong Joseph Morgan and Claire Holt, it’s got massive potential. There is a however a HUGE risk to this project. It’s a backdoor pilot, which means it’ll air as a Vampire Diaries episode (#20 I believe). Back door pilots are usually not the most successful way to spin off a series. If the episode sucks, there goes the pickup! I’m curious to see what the long term map is for this one and if there’s truly series worthy potential, especially how inconsistently Klaus and Rebekah have been written over the last few seasons. “Planted spin-off of The Vampire Diaries which tracks Klaus as he returns to the supernatural melting pot that is the French Quarter of New Orleans, a town he helped build centuries ago.”
Oxygen– Here’s something different, CBS Studios trying sci-fi. It’s another teen high school drama with a twist. I’m encouraged that they’ve cast Malese Jow(The Vampire Diaries) and Aimee Teegarden (Friday Night Lights), and there’s an impressive producer list, but there still isn’t too much known about this one. “Sci-fi drama about a high school pilot program in which humans and a select group of aliens are desegregated.”
Reign – I’m calling this one the long shot. There must have been something intriguing enough about this pilot though to get the network’s attention. To be honest, if this does pass the grade, I see it being midseason or even summer programming. I’m all for giving unknown actors a chance, but Adelaine Kane used to be a Power Ranger! That never does much for the resume. “Period drama about the teenage years of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1557 France.”
The Selection– This is the 2013 version, since the 2012 version failed to pass the standards of a fifth place network. It must have been that bad. Still, the network was desperate for the idea, despite the fact that The Hunger Games is passé right now, so it gets another chance. I love that Alex Graves is tied to this project, since The West Wing is my all time favorite show. Journeyman should have also never been cancelled. Still, the most troubling thing about this reworked pilot is that there’s still not a full cast. I would have thought a few from last year’s pilot would have made it through but it doesn’t seem so. Unless this pilot ends up stinking worse than last year, I’m counting it a major contender. “Drama set 300 years in the future about a poor woman who is chosen by lottery to compete to become the next queen of a war-torn nation.”
The Tomorrow People –This series is can be marked down as the front-running sure thing. It’s from Warner Brothers, who know their teen based sci-fi, and they’ve tapped network superstars Greg Berlanti (Arrow) and Julie Plec (The Vampire Diaries) to steer the ship. Phil Klemmer (Chuck) is the creator, who’s no slouch either. Danny Cannon is the director, which pretty much assures a pickup. So, knowing all that, will the series fly? It’s based on a UK series, so the premise has been tested. The cast is still being assembled, but they got my approval as soon as Mark Pellegrino was listed. Might I send a not so gentle suggestion that since Steven R. McQueen seems to be available these days, perhaps he’d be an ideal cast addition? I’m just saying. Count on this one being the anchor of the newly rebuilt Tuesday night. “Drama based on the U.K. series about young people from around the world who possesses special powers as a result of the next stage in human evolution.”
It’s a little early too, but I’m going to throw in my initial predictions for the possible renewal of the remaining CW bubble shows. Since Hart of Dixie is a popular online show, I say it ends up joining Nikita on Fridays. Nikita will be renewed so Warner Brothers can get enough episodes for that lucrative international syndication market. It also works on a Friday for this network because nothing else will. The Carrie Diaries will likely get another chance, but the night depends on what gets picked up pilot wise. If Beauty and the Beast continues to sink, it’ll be gone and say farewell to 90210. It’s time is done.
That’s all for my initial look at pilots for the five broadcast networks. I’ll be doing pilot watches from now until the upfronts in May for all the networks, so stay tuned here for all the latest updates.