It's time for more Pilot Buzz and today we've found ourselves focusing on the little engine that could, the network that has been growing by leaps and bounds over the past few years: The CW.
The CW is a network that is not afraid to play to a niche; judging from their current hit series like 'The Vampire Diaries,' 'Supernatural' and 'Arrow,' they are not attempting to reinvent the wheel nor challenge the other networks we've already looked at in Pilot Buzz (which, by the way, are ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC who's pilots you can read all about by clicking). No, The CW seems like they've found a formula that works--sexy young stars combined with fantastical elements and immersive settings--and they're playing that formula our for increased ratings success. This season's pilot slate from CW shows no intention to deviate from that winning form, as you'll see below.
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 without further ado, let's take a look at the first pilot we're "Eagerly Awaiting" from the CW!
Remember when I said CW enjoys sexy young romantic leads mixed with fantastical elements? Well how about a star-crossed love affair between a human teenaged girl and a male teenaged extra-terrestrial? That's precisely what we're in for with 'Oxygen,' the pilot from writer Meredith Averill ('The Good Wife'). Averill's concept is about a world similar to the one featured in the hit cinema smash 'District 9,' wherein aliens land on Earth in small numbers and humans are forced to decide what to do with them. The Logline reads: "Passion and politics threaten the peace and an epic romance ignites between a human girl and an alien boy when he and eight others of his kind (The Orion 9) are integrated into a suburban high school ten years after they and hundreds of others landed on Earth and were immediately consigned to an internment camp where they’ve been imprisoned ever since."
Already I am intrigued by the premise; if we found these alien children and continued to raise them into their teens, what are we to do with them? Integration into a high school, the most powerful of all ideological state apparatuses, seems the best option for keeping society at a status quo. But what are the Orion 9's feelings about being held captive their entire lives? What will society think of the love between the human girl and alien boy? There are plenty of storylines springing from that one Logline alone.
Aimee Teegarden & Matt Lanter play the star-crossed lovers (who, funnily enough, are actually star-crossed for once). Averill acts as one of the many executive producers on 'Oxygen,' along with Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec, Scott Rosenberg, Richard Shepard, Bryan Furst, Sean Furst and Daniel Gutman; there are an awful lot of cooks in this kitchen.
Malese Jow, Titus Makin Jr, Grey Damon, Natalie Hall, Chelsea Gilligan, Greg Finley and Maggie Elizabeth Jones round out the cast. Romeo & Juliet meets space opera? 'Oxygen' seems primed to deliver.
The next pilot we're "Eagerly Anticipating" is a rare one for The CW: there are no supernatural elements involved. However, there is an immersive setting that would seem foreign to viewers--'Reign' takes place in Sixteenth Century France. "The previously unknown and untold story of Mary Queen of Scots’ rise to power when she arrives in France as a 15-year-old, betrothed to Prince Francis, and with her three best friends as ladies-in-waiting. The secret history of survival at French Court amidst fierce foes, dark forces, and a world of sexual intrigue;" the Logline suggests a potential series mired in actual history, with some embellishments and dramatic elements added.
Although it was common for fifteen-year-olds to be sexually active in the Sixteenth Century, given The CW's intent to include "sexual intrigue" in the pilot's description, I'm pleased they've cast a twenty-two year old in the lead role. Australian actor Adelaide Kane ('Power Rangers R.P.M.,' 'Teen Wolf') will play the Queen Regnant of Scotland herself.
There is no shortage of real drama in the history books surrounding Mary Stuart, including the Treaty of Greenwich and her betrothing at the age of five. She was accompanied, when moved to the French court, by four girls her own age (who presumably will round out the supporting cast for 'Reign'). There were many who believed Mary to be the rightful heir to the English throne, as well; rebellions were waged in that honor. There are endless directions that 'Reign' could take, should it be picked up to series. The history buff in me would love to see 'Reign' succeed--even if it means there will be heavy helpings of melodrama helping the historical intrigue along.
Anna Popplewell, Toby Regbo (pictured), Celina Sinden, Megan Follows, Janessa Grant, Caitlin Stasey, Torrance Coombs and Rossif Sutherland join Kane on 'Reign.' The pilot was written by Stephanie Sengupta ('Ghost Whisperer,' 'Hawaii Five-0') and Laurie McCarthy ('Ghost Whisperer,' 'GCB').
This brings us to 'The 100,' a high-concept pilot set in a future post-apocalyptic wasteland. The apocalypse is all the rage these days and it's refreshing to see a story about one that had nothing to do with the living dead; 'The 100' is set in a world devestated by nuclear war--an all too realistic setting. The Logline states: "The series is set 97 years after a nuclear war has destroyed civilization. A spaceship housing the lone human survivors sends 100 juvenile delinquents back to Earth to investigate the possibility of re-colonizing the planet."
'The 100' has a futuristic setting, an apocalypse, and one hundred rugged young people trying to survive whatever they find on a war-ravaged planet. There's a lot to look forward to with this project. Add to the pile that the pilot is based on a series of books by Kass Morgan and the future looks even brighter; at the very least, that means the characters and plot of 'The 100' have already survived some tough tests and publishing house scrutiny. The pilot has been adapted for television by Jason Rothenberg, a little-known writer with one project to his credit.
There are also some recognizable faces attached to 'The 100' as well, although we do not yet know anything about their roles. Henry Ian Cusick ('LOST') is featured, as is Kelly Hu ('Arrow'). Paige Turco, beloved by fanboys all over for her role as April O'Neil in 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze,' (although better known of late from 'Person of Interest') rounds out the cast, as well as several fresh faced performers to make up the juveniles in the description. 'The 100' could go in several directions, including keeping viewers in the dark about the nature of Earth after 100 years without human involvement.
Now we move into the "Cautiously Optimistic" category for CW's pilot slate:
'Tomorrow People' is being listed as a show in the vein of 'Heroes' or the 'X-Men' quadrilogy of feature films. Perhaps the least-baked of all the CW pilots, there isn't as much information--or as much buzz--around 'Tomorrow People' as there is for the other projects. The Logline explains "it’s the story of several young people from around the world who represent the next stage in human evolution, possessing special powers, including the ability to teleport and communicate with each other telepathically. Together they work to defeat the forces of evil." Shows like this, even when directly knocked-off from 'X-Men' (remember the series 'Mutant X?'), seem to find an audience. We love superpowers, we love the fantasy, and introducing us to a new cast of metahuman characters is bound to turn some heads. But will the writing and acting be good enough to keep an audience engaged?
Phil Klemmer ('Chuck') has written the 'Tomorrow People' pilot, adapting it from the UK series of same name. Just like 'Being Human,' which began as a British series before being ported to the USA, 'Tomorrow People' has a handy guide to follow to try to recreate the magic that made the UK series a success. Robbie Amell, Madeleine Mantock, Peyton List, Luke Mitchell, Mark Pellegrino and Aaron Yoo star in the upcoming pilot.
After 'Tomorrow People' is 'Company Town,' a CW pilot that is relatively tame in comparison to the above. Written by Sara Gamble, writer of several episodes of 'Supernatural' on The CW, 'Company Town' is described as follows: "A scandal at a Naval base in Virginia touches the lives of both civilians and military personnel in the area, launching into a multigenerational, multi-class, family and relationship series centered around two early twentysomething women who grew up together, were once best friends, but now are on opposite sides of the townie/military divide."
'Supernatural' is celebrated for blending action and humor with raw emotion, so I'm hopeful that Gamble brings a similar sensibility to 'Company Town.' This is a story with plenty of scope and history, familial bonds and betrayals, and should give the main characters plenty to mull over, should the pilot be picked up.
Gage Golightly (left, 'Teen Wolf') and Stella Maeve (right, 'Golden Boy') will be thrust into the spotlight, hopefully with the chops to carry an entire series. Maya Kazan, Graham Hamilton, Merle Dandridge, Arjun Gupta and Evie Thompson join them in the pilot.
And sadly, we now reach the "Not Expecting Much" category of the Pilot Buzz proceedings. To the credit of The CW, neither of these pilots sound anywhere near as terrible as those we aren't expecting much from that are coming out of NBC or FOX.
TEAM: David Marshall Grant (w, ep), Vera Herbert (w, sp), Karl Beverly (ep), Sarah Timberman (ep)
LOGLINE: A warm, quirky, humorous drama about a family whose lives are forever changed, for better and worse, when the patriarch has a car accident resulting in a coma-like syndrome where he cannot speak or move, but can see and hear all. His narration and fantasy sequences emanating from his mind provide context and a wry counterpoint to the stories and conflicts of the family and his own situation.
CAST: John Benjamin Hickey, Elizabeth Marvel, Madeline Carroll, Michael Weston, Johnny Simmons
Locked-in syndrome is a difficult source of laughter. It's going to take some impressive writing to salvage this concept.
TEAM: Elizabeth Craft (w, ep), Sarah Fain (w, ep), Alex Graves (d, ep)
LOGLINE: Set 300 years in the future, an epic romance centering on a working class young woman chosen by lottery to participate in a competition with 25 other women for the Royal Prince’s hand to become the nation’s next queen. Balancing her loyalty to family, true love, and kingdom, she must attempt to remain true to herself as she navigates the cutthroat competition and palace intrigue, all while a budding rebellion threatens to topple the crown. Based on the book by Keira Cass.
CAST: Yael Grobglas, Michael Malarkey, Sean Patrick Thomas, Louise Lombard, Peta Sergeant, Celia Massingham, Lucien Laviscount, Sarah Winter, Ben Aldridge, Melanie Liburd
Sounds an awful lot like 'The Hunger Games,' no? Also, 'The Selection' has been set-up and filmed once before without being picked up. Never a good sign.
That's our Pilot Buzz for The CW! Tomorrow we'll look at some of the cable network offerings for the coming season. Agree or disagree with my assessment? Sound off below!