Who's ready for more Pilot Buzz?
We have to handle today a little differently; we'll be breaking down the pilot offerings from Bravo and FX, two main categories. So instead of breaking the pilots down into three categories (as we've already done for The CW, ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC), "Eagerly Anticipating," "Cautiously Optimistic" and "Not Expecting Much," we're going to break them down by the Network. In the description for each project, I'll make it clear which category we've placed them in. 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!
Let's begin with a look at the upcoming pilots from FX, shall we?
Beginning with the most exciting of the new slate, we have a pilot from writer/director/executive producer Guillermo del Toro called 'The Strain.' This one definitely falls into the "Eagerly Awaiting" category.
It's always a good sign when a television pilot is drawing upon an existing novel or non-fiction book for its inspiration or adaptation; we've seen time and again that TV executives are more than happy to cut corners when it comes to rigorous rewriting of material, so when a show is based on a book we can all breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the rigor was performed before the execs became involved. 'The Strain' is even more exciting, however, because the initial series of novels was co-written by the same man who has adapted them for television: Guillermo del Toro.
So what's 'The Strain' about? The Logline offered by FX reads: "Eph Goodweather, who investigates biological threats for the CDC, teams with ex-professor and Holocaust survivor Abraham Setrakian and they assemble a ragtag group that represents mankind’s only hope when a swarm of vampires quickly turn civilization into a buffet spread."
del Toro, the man who wrote, produced and directed the critically-acclaimed feature 'Pan's Labrynth,' is the man behind every step of 'The Strain.' He co-wrote the novels; he co-wrote the comic book series and advised the artists; now he's writing, directing and producing the pilot for FX. It seems a brilliant move on FX's part to give del Toro the reins and step out of his way--'The Strain' has already proved successful as a book and a graphic novel, the man knows what he's doing with this source material.
The co-writer on the novel, Chuck Hogan, remains heavily involved in the FX pilot--do not expect another creator feud like we saw when 'The Walking Dead' debuted on AMC. And the best part? Hogan and del Toro have teamed up with showrunner Carlton Cuse, the man behind the smash hit series 'LOST.' Every single aspect of this project seems like money in the bank and I can't wait to check it out.
There's the new drama called 'Tyrant,' which still has no cast attached, however it is coming from the man behind Showtime's hit 'Homeland,' Gideon Raff and is being directed by a very unlikely talent.
'Tyrant' comes with the following description: "An unassuming American family is drawn into the workings of a turbulent Middle Eastern nation." As there is no cast attached to the project yet, there remains little reason to see 'Tyrant' as anything other than Homeland-but-for-FX, but Raff has proven successful enough that we can be optimistic about this pilot. Then comes the reason that 'Tyrant' was bumped into the "Eagerly Anticipating" category: Raff is writing the pilot (as he wrote 'Homeland') and he has teamed with showrunner Craig Wright ('Dirty Sexy Money')... and perhaps the biggest name attached to the project is the director of the pilot, none other than Ang Lee.
Lee, the feature film director from Taiwan, is fresh off of his Academy Award for Best Achievement in Directing for 2012's 'Life of Pi.' Oh, and that isn't the first time he's won the Academy Award in that category--he also brought home the Oscar for 'Brokeback Mountain' in 2005. This is Lee's first time directing a pilot for American television, and FX landed him.
So FX has roped in feature film director del Toro ('Blade II,' 'Hellboy 2: The Golden Army') as well as a multi-time Academy Award winning director in Lee. Suddenly FX feels like the network to watch in the coming season. If you're a fan of 'Homeland' you have every reason to want to check out Raff's next offering, as well.
Well as great as 'The Strain' and 'Tyrant' sound, that may be all of the excitement we can muster for the slate coming from FX this season; their remaining pilots seem somewhat troubled. In fact, both of the pilots joining 'Tyrant' and 'The Strain' on FX's slate have found their way into the "Not Expecting Much" category here on Pilot Buzz.
First off is the comedy 'Chosen,' a strange project coming from funnymen Grant Dekernion and Danny McBride. Following the success of the FX animated series 'Archer,' the network has gone ahead and greenlit 'Chosen,' an animated comedy pilot with the following Logline: "A rapper comes out of the joint with a new message and new skills — which he will use in his quest for redemption and domination."
McBride, famous for his roles in 'Eastbound & Down' as well as 'Your Highness,' is an executive producer on the animated comedy, paving the way for his friend Dekernion to write and star in his own pilot. Dekernion worked as a script consultant on 'Eastbound & Down' and he and McBride have forged a friendship and working partnership from there. The strange part? Dekernion is completely untested both as a writer and an actor... and he is writing and starring as a rapper who has been to prison, despite Dekernion not having any specific experience with either the hip-hop community or jail.
As of this writing, Dekernion is the only cast member listed under 'Chosen,' so there is little other reason to get excited. If you are a fan of McBride's style of comedy you may want to check this one out--personally, I'll stick with the hilarious 'Archer.'
The final pilot on FX's slate remains untitled, coming from writer, director and executive producer Andrew Gurland. Gurland seems to have full control over this pilot which still doesn't have a cast. The Logline attached reads: "A married man is given permission by his wife to get a mistress in order to save their marriage." That isn't very much to go on, so let's turn to Gurland's body of work to seek reasons to be excited!
... Uh oh. Gurland's feature film writing credits are 'The Last Exorcism,' 'The Virginity Hit' and 'The Last Exorcism Part II;' it would seem that first "last exorcism" was called a little prematurely. Not only does this leave us with no reason to expect anything good from this pilot, it causes us to wonder how Gurland talked himself into a pilot deal in the first place. If anything decent comes of this project, I'll be shocked and you may all point out just how incorrect I was.
Now we can move on to the pilots being offered by Bravo this season!
Kicking things off we have 'The Jonses,' a pilot that I am "Eagerly Anticipating." This project is based on the feature film of same name which starred David Duchovny and Demi Moore. The film was wildly underrated and quite a well-received picture, so it makes sense that someone would see the material as having left a lot of money on the table that remains to be picked up.
The Logline for 'The Jonses' reads: "The All-American Joneses have just moved into an upscale suburb to start a new life. But they have a secret they must keep from their new friends and neighbors — they aren’t a real family at all but guns-for-hire cast to play family members and do stealth product marketing among their neighbors." It's an interesting concept and it will be intriguing to see how the writers add elements in order to extend the concept to a serial. The pilot is written by Liz Tigelaar, writer on 'Once Upon a Time' and 'Revenge;' Tigelaar has proven her chops on those two successful series and should be trusted to run with this one.
The hole in the project 'The Jonses' at the moment remains a lack of starring cast. Max Deacon ('Hatfields & McCoys') has been cast as the son in the fictional family, however as we saw with Duchovny and Moore in the feature film, the pretend-parents carry the bulk of the load in this storyline. If FX manages to draw in some marquee talent to this project, it should ensure a pick-up post pilot.
The pilot for 'The Jonses' is being directed by S.J. Clarkson ('House,' 'Dexter').
After 'The Jonses' is a project that sadly falls into the "Not Expecting Much" category: an adaptation of a Danish drama titled 'Rita.'
'Rita' stars Anna Gunn, which is reason for many 'Breaking Bad' fans to get excited for the pilot. Prior to her breakout role on 'Breaking Bad,' Gunn was a recurring character on the HBO series 'Deadwood.' She has yet to carry a series on her own, usually acting in a supporting capacity, and it remains to be seen whether or not an entire show can be built around her; personally, I don't believe it's a wise move.
'Rita' is described as "a drama about an acerbic, outspoken private-school teacher struggles to raise her three teenage children while dealing with the inane bureaucracy and overprotective parents at her school." It has been adapted for American audiences by Krista Vernoff ('Grey's Anatomy,' 'Private Practice'), which isn't giving me much more reason to grow excited. There is also the fact that American private schools operate quite differently than their Danish counterparts; it seems unrealistic and unlikely that a teacher would be allowed to be "acerbic and outspoken" on this side of the pond, given how we treat our teachers like servants there to carry out our whim. 'Rita' seems a sticky project; many things will have to be pulled together for this pilot to work.
Josh Hamilton, Colin Salmon, Robbie Kay, Rafi Gavron, Anisha Nagarajan and Rhys Wakefield round out the cast.
So that's the Pilot Buzz for FX and Bravo! Agree? Disagree? Sound off below!
And check back tomorrow for a look at AMC & Showtime!