Pilot Buzz! FOX
Pilot season marches on! All this week we're going to be running Pilot Buzz!, a look at each network and their upcoming offerings. We have already taken an in-depth look at the upcoming pilots from both ABC as well as CBS; today we take a look at FOX, the network that has pushed NBC to fourth in the ratings.
Here's how it works: I’ll be categorizing each network’s upcoming pilots under three headings: “Eagerly Anticipating,” “Cautiously Optimistic” and “Not Expecting Much.” After that, each of you weigh in and let us know in the comments if you agree with my assessment of the buzz for each project, or if you think I'm way off base. We're at the speculation-stage with these pilots, but certain casts and writers give us reason to be very excited for what is to come!
Just like with ABC and CBS we're going to begin with those pilots that seem the most intriguing, the most promising--the ones we can't wait to see and hope get picked up to series. There is one that stands above all others when it comes to FOX's line-up and that is 'Rake' starring Greg Kinnear.
'Rake' comes with a lengthy Logline attached: "The series follows the chaotic and comedic life of criminal defense lawyer Keegan Joye. Brilliant, frustratingly charming, and with zero filter, Keegan is one of life’s great addicts. His staggering lack of discretion and inability to self-censor land him the cases that nobody else wants, but behind that lies a resolute optimism and belief in justice that fuel his dogged determination to defend those who seem beyond redemption. In addition to Keegan’s cases within the justice system, the show follows his personal trials and tribulations, including his ongoing battle against the IRS, his mounting debt to his bookie, overlapping affairs and liaisons with women, a hormonal son, an exhausted ex-wife and the evolving relationship between his two married best friends."
The Oscar-nominated Kinnear appeared in the critically-acclaimed miniseries 'The Kennedys' as Jack Kennedy, a role that earned him an Emmy nomination. We was also recently nominated for his guest appearance on 'Modern Family;' maybe a starring turn on television is exactly what Kinnear needs to finally pick up a golden trophy?
'Rake' is based on an Australian series, giving the show a tonal touchstone to follow--this helps its chances, should it be picked up. Much of the concept rests upon the audience loving Joye, Kinnear's character, so it is very promising that Fedora Entertainment/Essential Media & Entertainment Pty Ltd managed to lure Kinnear on board. And for a little icing on the excitement-cake? The pilot of 'Rake' is being directed by Sam Raimi (director of the 'Spider-Man' trilogy starring Tobey Maguire). Fresh off of another blockbuster directorial effort with 'Oz the Great and Powerful,' Raimi is directing a television pilot for the first time in his career. 'Rake' is an absolute must-see pilot as well as the most promising project coming out of FOX this season.
Joining 'Rake' on the "Eagerly Anticipated" list is a comedy that brings together some veteran muscle and some young, fresh faces entitled 'To My Future Assistant.'
Based on the upcoming Lydia Whitlock book "To My Assistant," 'To My Future Assistant' is a no-holds-barred office comedy about the terrible treatment of assistants at a high-priced law firm. The Logline reads: "Revolves around the assistants at a big New York law firm who band together as a family to help each other cope with the obnoxious, overbearing bosses who test their sanity on a daily basis." This means we get to see talented actors as horrible bosses--a surefire way to earn laughs as we've seen in 'The Devil Wears Prada' and, well, 'Horrible Bosses.' One of these bosses will be played by Canadian treasure Catherine O'Hara. Audiences recognize O'Hara as the forgetful mother from the first two 'Home Alone' feature films, however this 'SCTV' alum has been turning in hilarious and unforgettable performances on film and television since the early 1970s. Starring in cult favorites like 'Beetlejuice' and 'The Nightmare Before Christmas,' all the way to hard-hitting drama like 'The Paper,' O'Hara will be returning to television with 'To My Future Assistant' for the first time since her role on 'Glen Martin DDS.'
One of the doomed assistants has been cast as Joe Egender, the odd, quirky actor who played Billy on 'American Horror Story.' 'To My Future Assistant' is a boon for Egender not only because he'll be working with veteran talent like O'Hara, but the role itself would be his most prominent to date.
Perhaps the best part about 'To My Future Assistant' is the setting, allowing the pilot to go in several different directions should it be picked up to series. The flaw with many pilots (as we'll see once we get to the "Not Expecting Much" section) is that the concept could work for a couple of episodes but would then swiftly run dry; 'To My Future Assistant' has the potential for several seasons of stories built into its concept.
The next FOX pilot in our "Eagerly Anticipating" category is the supernatural drama 'Sleepy Hollow' from Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. Described as a modern–day supernatural thriller based on "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (a classic of American literature), 'Sleepy Hollow' follows Ichabod Crane as he partners with Sleepy Hollow’s local female sheriff to solve the mysteries of a town ravaged by the battle between good and evil. Kurtzman, one of the writers on 'Sleepy Hollow,' wrote for 'Fringe' as well as sixty-seven episodes of 'Hawaii Five-0.' Kurtzman's feature writing work includes 2009's 'Star Trek' and 'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.' Needless to say, he is considered a writing heavy-hitter, making the buzz around 'Sleepy Hollow' increase with each passing day.
'Sleepy Hollow' will star Tom Mison as Ichabod Crane in a potentially starmaking role. The British actor has talent but has yet to receive his big break; success on 'Sleepy Hollow' could catapult him to the A-List. Besides, anything supernatural is bound to find an audience--particularly for a serialized television narrative where each episode can take you in a bold new direction.
Much of the success of 'Sleepy Hollow' will come down to the appearance and tone of the supernatural setting. Knowing FOX, this shouldn't be a problem; I'm expecting a visual feast to accompany Kurtzman's screenplay.
Joining Mison on the 'Sleepy Hollow' pilot is Nicole Beharie, Orlando Jones, Katia Winter and John Chu. Beharie can be seen in '42,' in cinemas currently.
That rounds out our "Eagerly Anticipated" portion of today's FOX proceedings; onward to the "Cautiously Optimistic" chapter!
We start with a military drama called 'Wild Blue,' formerly known as 'The Bridge.' This drama from Sony Pictures TV is described as "An upstairs/downstairs look at pressure-cooker lives of the U.S. Navy, the young ensemble is about the working men and women on board an aircraft carrier equipped with a 500-foot landing strip, a nuclear reactor and 6000 souls on board." Six-thousand people living together out at sea? A massive undertaking in reality let alone to recreate for a television show.
The pilot for 'Wild Blue' stars Josh Salatin, Will Rothhaar, Alano Miller, Mykelti Williamson and Gina Rodriguez; no big names among them, however the nature of the concept is that there is no big name required. It is a fresh concept that will draw in viewers out of sheer curiosity; it will be up to the quality of writing and performance to keep those viewers around. I could see 'Wild Blue' finding a niche similarly to a series like 'Chicago Fire' over on NBC--introduce several characters working together, each with their own quirks and weaknessess. If this is the case, I expect it to find an audience--there simply isn't enough star-power behind 'Wild Blue' to have slotted it in the "Eagerly Anticipating" category.
The next pilot we're "Cautiously Optimistic" about is 'Dads' from Seth MacFarlane.
MacFarlane has been spinning his ideas into gold for years, as the man behind 'Family Guy,' 'American Dad!,' and the feature hit 'Ted.' This most-recent Oscar host is now moving into a live action sitcom starring his good friend and 'Family Guy' co-star Seth Green.
Green has spent most of his time in the voice-acting studio over the past decade, playing Chris on 'Family Guy' and providing endless voices for his comedy sketch series 'Robot Chicken.' He made a recent live-action guest appearance on 'How I Met Your Mother' and it seems he's ready to step back into a sitcom full-time. 'Dads' is described as follows: "Two successful guys in their 30s have their lives turned upside down when their nightmare dads unexpectedly move in with them." Green is one of the sons on the show, along with Tommy Dewey. Martin Mull & Peter Riegert have been cast as the eponymous dads.
One would think that MacFarlane's involvement alone is reason enough to expect 'Dads' to be a smash hit, however the transition from animation to live-action does not always run smoothly. Just look at Trey Parker & Matt Stone's ill-fated 'That's My Bush!' after the success of 'South Park.' We remain optimistic for 'Dads' but time will tell whether or not MacFarlane takes over yet another chunk of FOX's programming list.
Now for the dramas on the "Cautiously Optimistic" list, beginning with 'Gang Related.'
20th Century Fox and Imagine TV have teamed up for a drama with a familiar and proven concept: "A gang member is sent in to infiltrate the San Francisco Police Department and rises through its ranks but must balance his obligations to his crime family with an increasing sense of loyalty to his new “family” — the SFPD’s Gang Task Force." Sounds a lot like a certain feature film from Scorcese, however tried-and-tested is not a bad thing when it comes to primetime television.
'Gang Related' is being produced and run by Scott Rosenbaum, the man behind 'The Shield;' this is the largest shot-in-the-arm for this pilot, which has given us hope for it to be picked up to series. However, Rosenbaum is the only recognizable name attached to the project. It could very well end up a starmaking turn for Ramon Rodriguez ('Battle: Los Angeles'), but we aren't certain whether or not the script is going to be sufficient to bring eyes to the project. 'Gang Related' feels like a coin-flip: it could bomb or it could become a mammoth hit.
The next drama on our list remains untitled, from J. H. Wyman and J. J. Abrahms. The project is described as "An action-packed buddy cop show, set in the near future, when all LAPD officers are partnered with highly evolved human-like androids." Abrahms is the man with the golden ticket these days, having recently been handed the reins to the next stage of the 'Star Wars' franchise, on top of helming the 'Star Trek' feature franchise. It's safe to say that the man understands science fiction action mash-ups. But the most exciting aspect of this untitled project is the pilot's leading man: Karl Urban.
Urban starred in the underrated action film 'Dredd' and can be seen next in Abrahms' 'Star Trek Into Darkness' being released to cinemas next month. Joining the feature film star in this pilot are Michael Ealy, Lili Taylor, Minka Kelly, Mackenzie Crook, Michael Irby and Mekia Cox.
Urban and Abrahms are reason enough to be optimistic about this pilot, however so little is known about the project that no real buzz has been able to develop as it goes through production. Fingers remain crossed that we're all pleasantly surprised; we need good science fiction back on television.
And the last drama on our "Cautiously Optimistic" list is 'Boomerang' starring Anthony LaPaglia.
The Golden Globe winning LaPaglia starred on the hit series 'Without a Trace' for several seasons, as well as appearing in many feature films. He is a recognizable face to American audiences and he is being joined on 'Boomerang' by Felicity Huffman ('Desperate Housewives') as LaPaglia's character's wife.
'Boomerang' is "a show focusing on the usual, everyday drama surrounding a family business — except this family is in the business of executing hits as assassins for the U.S. government." It is an interesting concept to say the least. There are many ways such a series could progress: will it focus on the dynamic between the family members and leave the action in the background? Or will the show center on the danger of the profession with the levity of it being a family committing these actions?
Michael Stahl-David, Patrick Heusinger, Rosa Salazar, S. Epatha Merkerson and Jeff Ross round out the cast for the pilot of 'Boomerang.' One good sign is that the pilot is being produced by Davey Holmes, the man behind 'Pushing Daisies' and 'Shameless.'
That brings us to the rest of FOX's slate... the "Not Expecting Much" category, listed in alphabetical order. First, the comedies:
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox TV
TEAM: Kevin Biegel (w, ep), Mike Royce (w, ep)
LOGLINE: Based on Kevin’s relationship with his siblings, this comedy follows three very different brothers working together in the Army at a small base in Florida.
CAST: Geoff Stults, Keith David, Angelique Cabral, Parker Young, Chris Lowell
Yet another attempted comedy based on the writer's real-life relationships? Pass.
FRIENDS AND FAMILY (single-camera)
STUDIO: Sony TV/BBC Worldwide Prods
TEAM: David Rosen (w, ep), Jane Tranter (ep), Julie Gardner (ep), James Corden (ep), Ruth Jones (ep), Henry Normal (ep)
LOGLINE: The original UK series, created by Corden and Jones, chronicled the long-distance relationship between a man from England and a woman from Wales who start off talking on the phone. They eventually decide to meet, and hit it off — but must navigate their eccentric families and friends. The U.S version will focus on the key life moments of the title characters, who try to maintain their relationship while combining their polarizing families’ lives. Based on UK series Gavin & Stacey.
CAST: Jason Ritter, Alexis Bledel, Jane Kaczmarek, Dustin Ybarra, Kerri Kenney-Silver, Kurt Fuller, Ashlie Atkinson
Seems entirely too one-dimensional at this point, however romance tends to find an audience.
THE GABRIELS (single-camera)
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox TV/Principato Young
TEAM: Andrew Gurland (w, ep), Justin Hurwitz (w, ep), Jason Winer (d, ep), David Dobkin (ep), Peter Principato (ep), Paul Young (ep)
LOGLINE: A neurotic family with contempt for all things normal tries their best to fit into their small Midwest town where everyone knows each other and politeness reigns.
CAST: Rob Riggle, Angela Kinsey, River Alexander, Brooke Sorenson, Tim Meadows, Sara Savigny
May as well be entitled 'Rob Riggle Acts like an Ass.' We've seen it.
UNTITLED HALPERN/SCHUMACKER (aka I SUCK AT GIRLS) (single-camera)
STUDIO: Warner Bros TV/Doozer
TEAM: Bill Lawrence (ep), Justin Halpern (w, ep), Patrick Schumacker (w, ep), Jeff Ingold (ep)
LOGLINE: The story of a boy becoming a man, and a man becoming a father, in a time before coming of age was something you could Google. Based on Justin Halpern’s book, the follow-up to S*** My Dad Says.
CAST: Christopher Meloni, Alex Kapp Horner, Connor Buckley, Claudia Lee, Kevin Hernandez, Tyler Foden
Did we learn nothing from 'S*** My Dad Says?'
TWO WRONGS (single-camera)
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox TV/Chernin Entertainment
TEAM: Michelle Morgan (w, ep), Peter Chernin (ep), Katherine Pope (ep), Aaron Kaplan (ep), Sean Perrone (ep)
LOGLINE: Two star-crossed lovers, Nick & Jenny, must contend with Nick’s family’s strong dislike of Jenny, which is not helped by the fact that Jenny left Nick at the altar 7 years ago.
CAST: Kelli Garner, Jake Hoffman, Mimi Kennedy, Ezekiel Stremiz, Nicolas Wright
That does it for the comedies... on to the dramas we aren't expecting much from:
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox TV/Chernin Entertainment
TEAM: Karyn Usher (w, ep), Peter Chernin (ep), Katherine Pope (ep), Paula Mazur (ep)
LOGLINE: The series is set in a world where love is deemed illegal and is able to be eradicated with a special procedure. With 95 days to go until her scheduled treatment, Lena Holoway does the unthinkable: she falls in love. Based on Lauren Oliver’s book trilogy.
CAST: Emma Roberts, Billy Campbell, Gregg Sulkin, Corey Reynolds, Daren Kagasoff, Jeanine Mason, Michael Michele, Brenda Koo, Erin Cahill, Melinda McGraw
The description for the series as well as Oliver's trilogy leave out the reason why love would ever be deemed illegal. Specifically love? No other emotions, like rage or hate? What would any government have to gain from this? I'll be tuning in to find out... but I'm not expecting much.
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox TV
TEAM: Paul Zbyszewski (w, ep), Ruben Fleischer (ep)
LOGLINE: The series centers on Deputy U.S. Marshal Dan Shaker who, when members of the Federal Witness Security Program start getting killed, leads the hunt for the person who stole “the list” – a file with the identities of every member of the program.
CAST: Michael Pena, Jessica Szohr, Gary Cole, Richard T. Jones, Tamsin Egerton, Hilarie Burton
Why would such a list even exist, all compiled in one place?I'm shocked that 'Delirium' and 'The List' made it past the idea-stage.
That does it for our look at FOX's pilot slate! Agree? Disagree? Sound off below!
And tune in tomorrow for our Pilot Buzz for NBC!