Pilot Buzz! NBC
Annnnnd we're back for yet another round of Pilot Buzz! This one is a doozy, folks; NBC have been very, very busy. I guess when you've fallen from grace and you're chasing all of the big boys, you have to work that much harder, no?
Yesterday we looked at the upcoming pilots from FOX; before that we broke down the releases from ABC as well as CBS. We're right in the thick of it today with NBC--CW and other stations will follow. 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!
So since we have so much to get through, let's jump on in to our "Eagerly Anticipating" category, beginning with NBC's best-looking drama pilots.
'The Blacklist' kicks us off today as we look at an intriguing concept backed up by a talented group of people bringing that concept to life. The Logline for 'The Blacklist' is as follows: "The world’s most wanted criminal mysteriously turns himself in and offers to give up everyone he has ever worked with. His only condition is he will only work with a newly minted FBI agent with whom he seemingly has no connection." Sounds like an episode of 'The X-Files,' which is a very good thing; 'The X-Files' enraptured audiences for an amazing nine long seasons, after all. So we know that the concept for 'The Blacklist' carries intrigue and suspense inherent--who's putting this all together?
Well the world's most wanted criminal, named Red, will be played by three-time Emmy Award winner James Spader. Spader, who brought Alan Shore to life on 'The Practice' and its spinoff series 'Boston Legal,' has more recently been a recurring character on 'The Office.' 'The Blacklist' offers Spader a chance to go back to his roots and delve into the psyche of a truly disturbed sociopath. The talent of Spader is undeniable--I can't wait to see him play a little bit of tag with the "newly minted FBI agent" akin to Hannibal playing with Clarice.
Speaking of the FBI agent, she'll be played by Annet Mahendru ('The Americans'), a beautiful young actor primed for a breakout role. The stars seem to be aligning for this project, with showrunner John Eisendrath ('Alias') at the helm. Can't wait.
The next project that seems to have combined several successful elements is the poorly-titled 'I Am Victor,' based on the novel by Jo Nesbo. Adapted for television by Mark Goffman ('The West Wing,' 'White Collar') 'I Am Victor' centers on a high powered divorce attorney with a unique view of relationships and is described as “House as a divorce attorney”. Given the way audiences took to 'House' and America's seemingly undying love of despicable characters (see: 'Californication'), 'I Am Victor' seems primed to find a very lively niche in the primetime market.
So just who will be playing this high powered divorce attorney named Victor? None other than John Stamos. Recently, Stamos has recurred on 'Glee' and 'The New Normal,' however he proved his dramatic chops throughout sixty-five episodes of 'ER' where he played Dr. Tony Gates. Stamos can bring a charm to the Victor character that will draw in viewers immediately; from there, it will be Mark Goffman's script who keeps those viewers engaged.
Rounding out the 'I Am Victor' cast is Lorenza Izzo, Terry Kinney, Matthew Lillard, Megan Dodds, McKaley Miller, Angela Sarafyan and Josh Zuckerman.
The final drama on our "Eagerly Anticipated" list is a strange one, by all respects. Based on the Oni Press graphic novel (the press that brought you the source material for 'Scott Pilgrim vs The World' in 2010), 'The Sixth Gun' is a supernatural mash-up with a western twist. All the Logline offers is: "Supernatural Western follows the story of six mythical guns, each with its own other-worldly powers." Sounds very odd... so why are we so excited? Well because NBC is actually thinking outside-the-box on this pilot. Instead of adding yet another character-driven slice-of-life drama to their slate, here we're looking at an action-driven plot-fest with mythological elements. And who better to manage those mythological elements than showrunner Carlton Cuse?
Cuse produced 'LOST' and the current hit 'Bates Motel' and the man knows a thing or two about offering audiences just enough hints to keep them salivating for more. 'The Sixth Gun' promises a set mythological narrative where viewers can keep track of what's going on while still wondering how the characters are going to survive the encounters to come--a perfect recipe for serial narrative.
Now: throw in hot, young cast members--like Laura Ramsey, pictured to the right--and that recipe just got even spicier. Joining Ramsey is Michiel Huisman, W. Earl Brown, Graham McTavish, Aldis Hodge, Elena Satine; no big names amongst them, but that can serve to help audiences suspend their disbelief with a heavy genre piece like this. Take for instance, Andrew Lincoln in 'The Walking Dead:' because we wasn't known in many American households prior to this role, viewers can see him as Rick, unfettered by other roles or trappings. Here's hoping the cast of 'The Sixth Gun' can achieve that same notoriety.
Now: we've got some comedies that we're "Eagerly Anticipating" as well! The first is a sitcom featuring an unexpectedly-stellar cast that goes by the title 'Family Guide.'
Executive Produced by Jason Bateman ('Arrested Development,' 'Horrible Bosses'), 'Family Guide' is an ensemble comedy about a mixed-up family after a divorce. The Logline states: "A son who idolizes his blind father and is bemused by his mother’s newfound adolescence watches his family come closer together post-divorce." So far, the show sounds a bit more like a drama, but if it retains a heart-warming tone (as reports regarding the pilot script assure) then it should capture a rare meaningful comedy element--far too many TV comedies are mindless distraction, after all.
But it isn't merely Bateman's involvement in 'Family Guide' that has us excited: the cast includes Parker Posey ('The Good Wife,' 'Louie'), Harold Perrineau ('Oz,' 'Wedding Band') and J. K. Simmons ('Oz,' 'The Closer'). All three of these actors are incredibly talented with character work. I have mentioned their television roles of late, but Posey, Perrineau and Simmons have all starred in excellent feature films, as well--bringing all three of them together in a family comedy has certainly whet my appetite.
Eli Baker and Ava Deluca-Verley round out the cast for 'Family Guide,' a series that seems poised to take a common, expected TV setting and use a cast so talented that they can do it just a bit better than others.
Along with 'Family Guide' is another heartwarming comedy that seems poised for big things: 'About a Boy,' the television adaptation of the Nick Hornby novel of same name, which also produced a feature film starring Hugh Grant and Toni Collette in 2002. The Logline seems generic enough: "Follows the relationship between a bachelor man-child and the young boy who moves in next door with his kooky single mother." But fans of either the novel or the film know that Hornby produced a lovable-if-childish character in the lead, who plays off of the other characters in an interesting way; so long as the television writer Jason Katims ('Friday Night Lights,' 'Parenthood') manages to keep that dynamic, 'About a Boy' should be a hit.
There is some Hollywood muscle behind this pilot as well; it is being directed by Jon Favreau, director of the first two 'Iron Man' films. Then, there's the exciting casting of Minnie Driver ('Return to Me,' 'Barney's Version') as the mother of the precocious child next door. Driver is as talented as she is beautiful and hasn't starred in a television series since 'The Riches' in 2008. Toss in David Walton in the coveted main role and you have a handsome man who can be made even more entertaining via playing off of the affable Driver.
A lot of talent mixed with a proven plot from a great novel? Sounds like success to me.
Our final addition to the NBC "Eagerly Anticipating" pilot slate is a drama... but it's so other-worldly it deserves to stand alone. 'Wonderland,' a sequel to the 1800s Lewis Carroll classic "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," promises to make quite a splash when the pilot is released.
'Wonderland' was supposed to have been produced already, however Anthony Zuiker ('CSI: Crime Scene Investigation), one of the executive producers on the pilot, determined that in order to bring the lavish world of 'Wonderland' to the screen, it was going to take a lot of time and a lot of money. While this pushed back the schedule for the pilot, it also increased the buzz around this project; it seems as though NBC is committed to doing 'Wonderland' properly.
"Set in the world of Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland, Wonderland is set in modern times and centers on Alice and a new character, Clara. Seven years ago, Clara’s life took an unexplained turn for the worse, and a mysterious stranger tells her there may be an explanation after all… an explanation that lies in the fantastical world of Wonderland. To revive her dreams and get her life back on track, Clara must wage war against Wonderland’s reigning Queen, the woman we once knew as Alice."
Our beloved Alice is now the evil Queen of 'Wonderland?' I'm already invested. There is an added bit of off-screen drama surrounding this pilot, as well: ABC is currently producing a 'Once Upon a Time' spinoff series set in Carroll's Wonderland, as well. Which Wonderland will reign supreme?
This brings us to our "Cautiously Optimistic" list from NBC's pilot slate. Beginning with the comedies, we have 'Assistance,' a show about a business woman who is caught between her overbearing boss and her needy fiance.
The Logline reads "An idealistic “working girl” assistant is pulled between her colleague (“work husband”) and her real-life fiance while trying to manage a demanding (translation: crazy) boss." Sounds fairly run-of-the-mill, however the boss is played by feature film star Alfred Molina ('Frida,' 'Spider-Man 2'). The star is Krysten Ritter, fresh off of starring in 'Don't Trust the B---- in Apt 23,' and she is joined by Zach Cregger, former member of 'The Whitest Kids U Know' comedy troup and star of the ill-received 'Guys with Kids.' Ritter is a hot commodity these days, so expect a nice media push behind 'Assistance.'
Also: Will Ferrell is the executive producer for the series. That seems to give it a pretty fair chance of escaping the run-of-the-mill expectation.
Along with 'Assistance' is 'The Gates,' a comedy about something every parent experiences: the clambor of taking your children to school.
"An adult ensemble set at the front gates of an elementary school drop-off and revolving around the parents, school staff and 15-minute social minefield they navigate at the beginning and end of each school day," reads the Logline for 'The Gates.' The series is based on a hit British comedy, giving some added hope to what could otherwise seem an anemic concept. Kathleen Rose Perkins, Ken Marino, Greg Germann, Christina Kirk, Diana Maria Riva, Josh Grisetti, Echo Kellum and Stephen Guarino are all attached to the pilot--it would seem there are an awful lot of characters in this ensemble.
One name to watch out for is Echo Kellum, the comic actor who stole the show during his recurring role on the short-lived sitcom 'Ben & Kate' over on FOX.
The setting is as good as any; it will come down to the interplay between performers to determine whether 'The Gates' is picked up or remains parked.
Next up is 'Holding Patterns,' yet another sitcom attempting to recapture the magic of 'Friends.' Sooner or later, another ensemble sitcom is going to take the world by storm in the same way that 'Friends' once did; 'Holding Patterns' adds an intriguing twist to the back-story that could prove enough to push it over the top.
'Holding Patterns' is an "ensemble about a group of friends whose lives completely change after they survive a plane crash." That tiny added element--the connection via the plane crash--could prove sufficient to make 'Holding Patterns' stand out from the crowd. Starring a group of young, hot twenty/thirtysomethings (Humphrey Ker, Chyler Leigh, Kate Lang Johnson, Luka Jones, Nelson Franklin, Oscar Nuñez) 'Holding Patterns' could conceivably break NBC comedy out of their own holding pattern and actually produce something people want to watch.
Now we're onto the dramas that fall into the "Cautiously Optimistic" category, beginning with a remake of a hit series from the 1960s: 'Ironside.'
This show is based on a proven commodity with an excellent built-in titular character--it's all going to come down to execution, this time around. Starring Blair Underwood ('Dirty Sexy Money,' 'The New Adventures of Old Christine'), the Logline for 'Ironside' reads: "A reboot of the 1967 detective drama Ironside. Centers on a tough, sexy and acerbic police detective relegated to a wheelchair after a shooting as he pushes and prods his hand-picked team to solve the most difficult cases in the city." There remains a glaring dearth of disabled heroes on television and film so I'm excited about this pilot on principle alone, but as everyone is well aware, police dramas saturate our channels and therefore creating a successful police drama is incredibly difficult to achieve.
Spencer Grammer, Brent Sexton, Pablo Schreiber, Neal Bledsoe and Kenneth Choi round out the cast. I'm pulling for this one.
'Hatfields & McCoys' is another series that could go either way. Set as a sort-of sequel to the famous blood feud between these two American families (which produced a critically-acclaimed miniseries of same name last season starring Kevin Costner), this television pilot is set in the modern day. "Set in present day Pittsburgh, a startling death re-ignites the feud between these two legendary families. Unleashing decades of resentment, the blue collar McCoys will put the Hatfields’ wealth and power at risk as they go to war for control of the city." Pittsburgh is a wonderful, lively working-class city that doesn't get nearly enough exposure on television; the city has more character than many cities that are much larger (*cough*Toronto*cough*). If they treat the backdrop of Pittsburgh as a character in the pilot, this show could successfully differentiate itself from the mini-series that remains fresh in people's minds.
Rebecca De Mornay, Nick Westrate, Sophia Bush, Virginia Madsen, Jesse Lee Soffer, Patrick Flueger and James Remar star in the pilot, which is, oddly enough, being produced by film star Charlize Theron.
And now we're left with all the rest... the pilots that we're "Not Expecting Much" from, listed in alphabetical order, beginning with comedies:
TEAM: Andrew Leeds (w, ep), David Lampson (w, ep), Peter Tolan (ep), Michael Wimer (ep), Matt Tarses (ep), David Wain (d)
LOGLINE: Stories from Brenda Miller’s (Ellie Kemper) past and present are interwoven to give a unique portrait of how a chubby, awkward, but incredibly confident 13-year-old grew up to be a 31-year-old woman who still marches to the beat of her own drum.
CAST: Ellie Kemper, Stephnie Weir, Da’vine Joy Randolph
Nothing of note, here.
DONOR PARTY (single-camera)
TEAM: Alex Schemmer (w, ep), Geyer Kosinski (ep), Todd Holland (d, ep), Karey Burke (ep)
LOGLINE: Ensemble is focused on an irresponsible man forced to grow up when he discovers he has children resulting from his days as a sperm donor. A new family unit develops when a single mom contacts him and he begins to have a relationship with her and the son he never knew he had.
A silly, borderline-offensive beginning concept.
GIRLFRIEND IN A COMA (single-camera)
TEAM: Dick Wolf (ep), Liz Brixius (w, ep), Danielle Gelber (ep), Peter Jankoswki (ep)
LOGLINE: After almost two decades, a 34-year-old woman wakes up from a coma to find out she has a 17-year-old daughter from a pregnancy she was unaware of when her life was put on hold. Based on Douglas Coupland’s book.
CAST: Miranda Cosgrove, Daniel Stern, Ann Cusack
Sounds incredibly depressing for a comedy; based on an overrated novel.
JOE, JOE & JANE (multi-camera)
TEAM: Joe Port (w, ep), Joe Wiseman (w, ep)
LOGLINE: Loosely based on the relationship between Port, Wiseman and Wiseman’s wife, the series centers on a conflict-avoidant children’s book author caught in an ongoing tug of war between two needy, flawed people: his wife and his co-author/best friend. It’s not about a couple — it’s about a trouple.
CAST: Sally Pressman, Dave Annable, Larry Wilmore, Will Greenberg, Lauren Lapkus, Asif Ali
Say it with me now: UGH.
TEAM: Adam Sztykiel (w, ep), Bill Lawrence (ep), Jeff Ingold (ep)
LOGLINE: Young ensemble centering on a group of friends dubbed the “Undateables” whose lives are altered when a more confident character enters their world.
CAST: Chris D’Elia, Brent Morin, Rick Glassman, Ron Funches, Bianca Kajlich, Matthew Wilkas, Briga Heelan
There will be pretty people in this pilot, but will it also feature laughs?
UNTITLED SEAN HAYES (multi-camera)
TEAM: Victor Fresco (w, ep), Hayes (ep), Todd Milliner (ep), James Burrows (d)
LOGLINE: Centers on Sean (Hayes), who must figure out how to parent his 14-year-old daughter, who just moved in, while navigating a temperamental new boss at work.
CAST: Sean Hayes, Thomas Lennon, Linda Lavin, Echo Kellum, Samantha Isler, Lindsay Sloane, Vik Sahay
I never want to watch Sean Hayes again.
WELCOME TO THE FAMILY (single-camera)
TEAM: Mike Sikowitz (w, ep)
LOGLINE: Cultures collide when a white family and a Latino family are bonded together by their children who fall in love followed quickly by an unplanned pregnancy.
CAST: Mike O’Malley, Justina Machado, Mary McCormack, Ella Rae Peck, Aramis Knight
UNTITLED JESSICA SIMPSON PROJECT (single-camera, presentation)
STUDIO: Universal TV/Electus
TEAM: Nick Bakay (w, ep), Jessica Simpson (ep), Ben Silverman (ep), Joe Simpson (ep), Jimmy Fox (co-ep)
LOGLINE: Inspired by the life of singer-actress Jessica Simpson.
CAST: Jessica Simpson.
Now, the dramas of our "Not Expecting Much" category...
TEAM: Gabe Sachs (w, ep), Jeff Judah (w, ep), Pierre Morel (d)
LOGLINE: An ensemble medical show about a group of Army doctors who return to work the night shift together at a hospital in San Antonio.
CAST: Eoin Macken, Jill Flint, Freddy Rodriguez, Ken Leung, Jeananne Goossen, Robert Bailey Jr, Brigid Brannagh
TEAM: Alfonso Cuaron (w, d, ep), Mark Friedman (w, ep), J. J. Abrams (ep), Bryan Burk (ep)
LOGLINE: An unlikely relationship develops between a young girl with a gift and a man sprung from prison who has been tasked with protecting her from the evil elements that hunt her power.
CAST: Jake McLaughlin, Johnny Sequoyah, Delroy Lindo, Sienna Guillory, Jamie Chung, Arian Moayed
TEAM: David Graziano (w, ep), Peter Berg (d, ep), Sarah Aubrey (ep)
LOGLINE: Set against the backdrop of modern suburbia, it follows the story of an orphaned young girl, Bird Benson, who, due to an accident of birth, is caught in the epic struggle between two warring families of mercenaries and killers. Mentored by a mysterious Chinese man, Bird must accept the quest to find and defeat her mother in mortal combat if she is ever to lead a normal life.
CAST: Skyler Samuels, Tzi Ma, Jonathan Banks, KaDee Strickland
Although I'm not expecting much, this one could surprise me; hopefully it embraces its genre.
THE SECRET LIVES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES
TEAM: Sascha Penn (w, ep), Jerry Bruckheimer (ep), Jonathan Littman (ep), KristieAnne Reed (co-ep)
LOGLINE: A thriller-dramatic soap that centers on a murder and the secrets and lies within a tightly woven group of three suburban couples and their families exposed in its aftermath. Inspired by Josie Brown’s 2010 novel.
CAST: Martin Henderson, Jesse L Martin, Laura Allen, Perrey Reeves, Nicole Ari Parker
Feels like same-old, same-old.
And that's our NBC Pilot Buzz! Tomorrow we look at the CW!