Friday, 9 May 2014

TV Pilots I Want to See: 2014-15

Friday, 9 May 2014

It's that time of year again. The time when I cast my eye over the US pilots that are vying for full series orders in the 2014/15 season, although some are going direct-to-series. As usual, it's not an exhaustive list, but if I've missed something you think needs to be added just leave a comment. There's a chance some of these may slip into the 15/16 season, too, so apologies if that happens. These choices aren't the pilots I believe will definitely be good, just ones I want to see for some reason (usually involving the basic concept, the creative team, and/or the casting). It will also be updated with new photos, trailers, and each show's "status" as information trickles through about season pick-ups...

Creator: Natalie Chaidez (V, Heroes)
Director: Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights)
Cast: Aaron Stanford (Nikita), Noah Bean (Damages), Kirk Acevedo (Fringe), Amanda Schull (Suits) & Zeljko Ivanek (Damages)
Pitch: Adaptation of Terry Gilliam's 1995 sci-fi movie, about a time-traveller from a post-apocalyptic future who travels to the present day to locate the source of the plague that decimated mankind.
Gut Feeling: This will immediately sit in the shadow of Gilliam's beautiful movie, so will need to work hard to become its own thing. It helps that the concept is suited to a serialised television show, but I'm not sure how the eventual conclusion could ever top the movie's mind-bending climax. Still, something about this must have appealed to big-name director Peter Berg...

Ordered to Series!
Creators: Tara Butters & Michele Fazekas (Reaper)
Cast: Hayley Atwell (Captain America)
Pitch: WWII comic-book adventure set in 1946, following the exploits of secret agent Peggy Carter a year after Steve Rogers (aka Captain America) was frozen in ice.
Gut Feeling: ABC's Marvel-produced Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D has been renewed for a second season, but it's fair to say widespread reaction to that show was lukewarm at best (although it's improved dramatically in the last batch of episodes). How will a show like Agent Carter fare? It has a fun period setting, but will that work in its favour? A criticism of AoS was the lack of superheroes, but AC will surely have even less. On the plus side, Haywell Atwell's due a breakout role and the "one-shot" DVD extra (embedded above) wasn't too shabby. It's also rumoured this show will basically fill a mid-season hiatus gap left by AoS, which sounds like a good plan.

Creator: Jack Whitehall (Fresh Meat)
Cast: Jack Whitehall (Bad Education), Rosie Perez (Pineapple Express), Brittany Snow (Pitch Perfect), David Mares, Devin Ratray & Phil Morris
Pitch: US remake of the BBC3 hit Bad Education, again starring creator Jack Whitehall—whose character Alfie Wickers thus becomes a British transplant teacher working in an American school.
Gut Feeling: I don't like the British sitcom this is based on, and Jack Whitehall sets my teeth on edge (outside of his admittedly brilliant performance on Fresh Meat, where they use his posh twat vibe as an asset), but it'll be interesting to see how this project fares. US remakes of UK shows rarely keep the lead actor intact, so one assumes American execs see something in Whitehall that will appeal to their fellow countrymen. He's the new posh-and-befuddled Hugh Grant, maybe? God help us.

Ordered to Series!

Creator: Philip Levens (Smallville)
Cast: Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica)
Pitch: Sci-fi drama about a spaceship sent on a century-long voyage to populate a new world, having started their journey back in 1963.
Gut Feeling: It's not the freshest of premises, and it sounds like a stretch to believe the US covertly launched this mission six years before we landed on the moon, but in some ways that intrigues me too. Is this all taking place in a parallel universe? Sounds like it. I've heard the pilot described as Downton Abbey-meets-Battlestar Galactica, too, which sounds interesting. I'm also relieved Syfy have only commissioned six episode miniseries, so we're guaranteed an ending and some pace. Or they'll be so happy if it's a hit, this will instead become a "back-door" for a full series. You know the drill.

Creators: Gerald Cuesta & Michael Atkinson
Director: Michael Cuesta (Dexter)
Cast: Meagan Good (Anchorman 2), Skeet Ulrich (Jericho), Kyle Schmid & Virginia Madsen (Candyman)
Pitch: Supernatural drama about the small-town of Babylon, New York, where the dead come back to life and appear to be stronger and faster than the regular townsfolk.
Gut Feeling: This was originally set-up as a pilot years ago for CBS, years before The Walking Dead made horror the next big thing on TV. Sadly, a lot has happened since Babylon Fields was first aborted, so the premise sadly won't feel as fresh and innovative as it once did. In fact, there are now so many variations or remakes on the idea of the dead coming back to reclaim their lives that it's getting ridiculous (the BBC's In the Flesh, French TV's The Returned, ABC's Resurrection, the upcoming US remake of The Returned...) For that reason, I'm guessing this will now struggle because the genre's become very crowded, unless it has unique features that are incredibly compelling.

Ordered to Series!

Creators: Hart Hanson (Bones) & Stephen Gaghan (Traffic)
Cast: Rainn Wilson (The Office), Kristoffer Polaha (Ringer), Dennis Haysbert (24), Page Kennedy & Beatrice Rosen
Pitch: Adaptation of the popular Swedish books by Leif G.W Persson, about an irascible detective with a very bad attitude.
Gut Feeling: Another pilot that was turned down initially, but has been revived by another network. Rainn Wilson's not my favourite performer, but I can see him in this role and I'm interested to sample what they come up with. Just don't let it be Dwight Schrute, P.I.

Ordered to Series!
Creators: Vince Gilligan & Mark Johnson (Breaking Bad) & David Shore (House)
Director: Bryan Singer (X-Men, Usual Suspects)
Cast: Dean Winters (Oz), Josh Duhamel (Transformers), Kal Penn (Harold & Kumar), Janet McTeer (Tideland) & Damon Herriman
Pitch: Crime drama about two detectives with very different outlooks on life, who must work together to tackle crime in Battle Creek, Michigan.
Gut Feeling: It's perhaps misleading that Vince Gilligan's name is attached to this cop procedural, because I doubt he's involved to any great extent. The Breaking Bad connection may give the pilot a boost with some clever promotion, but the idea sounds quite generic and dull to me.

Creator: Dean Georgaris (Paycheck)
Cast: Sarah Snook, David Strathairn (Alphas), Edwin Hodge, Kevin Alejandro (True Blood) & Mykelti Williamson (Justified)
Pitch: A 28-year-old criminal with supernatural powers is pursued by zealots, who believe she could use her amazing abilities for evil.
Gut Feeling: Another of those fantasy shows that anyone could dream up on a whim (it sounds startlingly similar to Believe), so it all depends on how well executed it is, what the details are, and how compelling the characters feel. The fact Aussie "newcomer" Sarah Snook was cast after a global search for the best person is intriguing, as I'm interested to see what ABC saw in her audition.

Creators: Carlton Cuse (Lost, Bates Motel) & Ryan Condal (The Sixth Gun)
Cast: TBA
Pitch: Sci-fi drama set after alien arrived and conquered the world, with a family caught in the middle of this new post-invasion culture.
Gut Feeling: Didn't V sort of do this? Or spend its time threatening to reach this point? Maybe a show like this will naturally be more interesting after the aliens have won.

Ordered to Series!
Creators: Daniel Cerone (Dexter) & David Goyer (Blade, Batman Begins)
Director: Neil Marshall (The Descent)
Cast: Matt Ryan, Lucy Griffiths (Robin Hood, True Blood) & Harold Perrineau (Lost)
Pitch: Adaptation of the Hellblazer horror comic-books by Alan Moore, about a British occult investigator.
Gut Feeling: This is one of the pilots I'm most interested to see, as a fan of the comics and someone who's pleased they've decided to cast a Brit in the lead (although Matt Ryan looks annoyingly smarmy in the above image). It probably won't be as dark and brutal as the 1980s source material, simply because of its existence on a mainstream network. And given the failure of Hannibal in terms of ratings, maybe NBC will be insisting on something more accessible than the "HBO version of Constantine" that nestles in my imagination.

Creators: Based on the BBC TV series by Sharon Horgan & Holly Walsh
Cast: Jane Krakowski (30 Rock), Amy Sedaris & Rachel Dratch
Pitch: US remake of another BBC3 hit, about a woman wrongfully imprisoned for killing her boss who must clear her name from behind bars.
Gut Feeling: I quite enjoyed the UK show, although it was overrated by some critics. A second series hasn't materialised since it ended two years ago, strangely, but I doubt the makers care now they're getting pay cheques for a glitzy US remake. Ker-ching!

Creator: Jason Fuchs (Ice Age)
Producer: Greg Berlanti (Arrow)
Pitch: A young Brooklyn man's life is saved by a beautiful stranger, who tells him he's the last descendant of King Arthur and a key figure in a shadow war between the Knights of the Round Table and evil magic.
Gut Feeling: Oh God, this sounds abysmal. The Sorceror's Apprentice movie with the Arthurian legend. And if you're going to do a show using that idea, it just doesn't work setting it in America. However, maybe this will do for Arthurian legend what Once Upon a Time's done for fairy tales on TV? Um, maybe?

Creators: Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby (Children of Men, Iron Man), based on the Leviathan Wakes novels by James S.A Corey
Cast: TBA
Pitch: Sci-fi thriller set 200-years in the future, about a rogue captain and a detective racing across the solar system to find a missing woman, and in the process unravelling a big human conspiracy...
Gut Feeling: The pitch elicits an "oooh", and I hear this project is taking some cues from Firefly and Game of Thrones. Unfortunately, Corey's books are a mystery to me, but I trust familiarity with the source material would make you very excited?


Creator: Nikki Toscano (Revenge)
Director: James Foley (House of Cards)
Cast: Anthony LaPaglia (Without a Trace), Samantha Mathis (Under the Dome), Kim Dickens (Friday Night Lights), Graham Rodgers (Revolution), Kevin Rahm (Mad Men), Aimee Garcia & Shanley Caswell
Pitch: A former CIA agent is brought back into action to infiltrate a terrorist breeding ground after an attack on the US capital.
Gut Feeling: Sounds like Homeland meets 24, which isn't an unpalatable cocktail.

Ordered to Series!

Creators: Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns (based on the DC Comic)
Director: David Nutter (Arrow)
Cast: Grant Gustin (Glee), Candice Patton (The Game), Danielle Panabaker (No Ordinary Family), Tom Cavanagh (Ed) & John Wesley Shipp
Pitch: Superhero drama based on the Marvel hero (already introduced in Arrow), about a young scientist called Barry Allen who gains the power of super-speed after a strange accident.
Gut Feeling: The CW's Arrow has surprised everyone in becoming a genuinely great superhero drama, so hopes are high for this "spin-off", which already has a season commitment. It concerns a more recognisable superhero and the same creative team, so how can it possibly go wrong? We've already had a taste of Grant Gustin and some of his co-stars on Arrow, and he's as charismatic and fun as you'd hope for. Very excited to see what they come up with here. Plus it wouldn't be US TV pilot season without David Nutter helming something...

Ordered to Series!
Creator: Matt Miller (Chuck)
Director: Brad Anderson (The Killing, Fringe)
Cast: Ioan Gruffudd (The Ringer), Alana de la Garza (Law & Order) & Judd Hirsch (Taxi)
Pitch: Medical drama about a New York surgeon who's secretly immortal and helps solve crimes.
Gut Feeling: So it's failed Fox drama New Amsterdam (about an immortal cop), but with medicine? I'm not enamoured by the idea, but who knows.

Ordered to Series!

Creator: Dan Fogelman (The Neighbors)
Cast: Joshua Sasse (The Neighbors), Vinnie Jones (Lock, Stock), Karen David, Mallory Jansen & Luke Youngblood.
Pitch: A fairy tale musical about a charming prince who plots against the kind who stole his one true love.
Gut Feeling: Sounds decidedly meh, although the musical angle has me raising an intrigued eyebrow. They even have Alan Menken writing some of the songs, so maybe genuine quality will bleed through in terms of the music. That could give it some unexpected flare, or have us sticking knitting needles in our ears when Vinnie Jones bellows a ballad. Mind you, this does come from the man behind atrocious sci-fi "comedy" The Neighbours, so I still expect a big disaster.

Creators: Jason Cahill (The Sopranos, Fringe)
Cast: TBA
Pitch: A technology-induced disaster leads to a new global society that eschews any form of technology.
Gut Feeling: It's the same premise as NBC's Revolution, which may be cancelled this year. Audiences didn't respond favourably to NBC's take on the idea, so will Showtime's drama fare better? Well a writer for The Sopranos created it, and it's produced by Ridley Scott, so.... probably.

Ordered to Series!
Creator: Bruno Heller (Rome, The Mentalist), based on the DC Comics
Director: Danny Cannon (Nikita)
Cast: Ben McKenzie (as Jim Gordon), Sean Pertwee (as Alfred), Donal Logue & Jada Pinkett Smith
Pitch: Prequel to the Batman universe, focusing on a young James Gordon before he became Commissioner, fighting crime in the titular city and rubbing shoulders with various misfits who will grow to become well-known supervillains.
Gut Feeling: It could go either way. I've read the script and it wasn't a stinking pile of shit, but it was very wink-wink almost every page. The show's lack of Batman may be its obvious undoing. Are people interested in a Batman TV show focusing on a pre-moustache Jim Gordon, with occasional appearances by TV-quality actors and teens playing supervillains-to-be? I have my doubts, but the creative team's decent and Fox have already pushed this to a series commitment.

Ordered to Series!

Creator: Travis Beacham (Pacific Rim)
Director: Miguel Sapochnik (Fringe)
Cast: Max Brown (Beauty & the Beast), John Rhys-Davies (Lord of the Rings), Reece Ritchie, Condola Rashad & Kelsey Chow
Pitch: Fantasy drama set in Ancient Egypt about an imprisoned thief who finds himself serving the Pharoah.
Gut Feeling: This sounds like a Syfy Original Movie that ended up in the wrong studio's development tray.

Ordered to Series!
Creators: Rob Thomas & Diane Ruggiero (Veronica Mars)
Director: Rob Thomas
Cast: Rose McIver (Masters of Sex), David Anders (Heroes), Rahul Kohlie (EastEnders), Malcolm Goodwin (Breakout Kings), Nora Dunn (Entourage) & Alexander Krosney (Last Man Standing)
Pitch: Supernatural drama about a medical student who becomes a zombie, then realises she can acquire the memories of the corpse brains she devours—which duly enables her to solve murders.
Gut Feeling: I just love this concept! I haven't read the comics, but assume the writers have ditched a lot of their ancillary weirdness (like one of the characters being a Were-Terrier). It may end up being a pretty inconsequential show (the new Dead Like Me), but I'm hopeful it's going to be more entertaining than that. Given the Veronica Mars connections, I feel confident the mysteries will be more substantial and interesting than a lot of other shows, too.

Creator: Rolin Jones (Weeds)
Cast: Tim Roth (Lie to Me)
Pitch: Medical drama about an 18th-century London surgeon called John Tattersal, who pushes the boundaries of modern medicine, even if that means grave-robbing for his physician brother Julian...
Gut Feeling: I've seen many dramas set in this time period, plus a handful of grave-robbing films. Combining them could be good, but I can't say I'm excited about this one. A Victorian Nip/Tuck?

Ordered to Series!

Creators: Will Forte (McGruber), Chris Miller & Phil Lord (The Lego Movie) & Seth Cohen
Cast: Will Forte (Saturday Night Live)
Pitch: Will Forte plays the last man on planet Earth, and that's all we really know.
Gut Feeling: There's potential in a comedy take on post-apocalyptic fare like I Am Legend and the like, but Will Forte hasn't really tickled my funnybone on any occasion. The main reason I'm optimistic is the presence of Chris Miller and Phil Lord, who have a knack for turning unpromising ideas into gold (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street, The Lego Movie). In fact, this has already gone to series, so Fox must think they have a winner.

Creator: Charles Soule
Director: Jonathan Mostow (Terminator 3)
Cast: TBA
Pitch: Sci-fi drama about a freshly-inaugurated President of the United States, who discovers through a letter from his predecessor that the world's about to be invaded by aliens.
Gut Feeling: The concept sounds fun, and because it's based on an ongoing comic-book you can dive straight into spoilers. Some of this reminds me of NBC's failed sci-fi show The Event, though, which also saw a Commander-in-Chief embroiled in a crazy situation involving aliens.

Ordered to Series!
Creator: Eoghan O'Donnell (Teen Wolf)
Cast: Shanetl VanSaten (One Tree Hill), Diogo Morgado (Son of God), Sofia Black-D'Elia (Skins), Joel Courtney (Super 8) & John Fletcher (The Good Wife)
Pitch: A mysterious object crashes to earth and a group of strangers "die" in the blast, only to reawaken and learn they're responsible for stopping a coming apocalypse.
Gut Feeling: Not the most encouraging of concepts, but it might be fun. The whole angle of throwing strangers together around a bizarre event is beginning to bore me, though. Chris Carter's The After is also doing something very similar for Amazon Prime.

Ordered to Series!
Creators: David Hornsby, Adam McKay & Will Ferrell (Anchorman)
Cast: Malcolm Barrett, Jonathan Slavin & Krysten Ritter
Pitch: Comedy about a macho astronaut in 1962 who's threatened by the presence of a female colleague.
Gut Feeling: It's the pitch for Anchorman, but with a different era and backdrop, which is a little weird. I'm also struggling to see how this could possibly work as a weekly TV series. And how often are we going to actually go into space? I'm guessing not a lot.

Creator: Matthew Federman & Stephen Scaia (Warehouse 13), based on the comics by Jonathan Hickman
Cast: TBA
Pitch: Sci-fi adventure about a group of WWII soldiers who are mysteriously transported back in time to Ancient Rome, where they try to fix the future by changing the past.
Gut Feeling: Another Syfy project that's too early in the development phase to make any worthwhile statements about, but the idea is undeniably juicy. It may have been inspired by that famous Reddit story Rome Sweet Rome, where someone theorised on the outcome of modern soldiers finding themselves in Ancient Rome, no? Warner Bros. picked up the rights to the story, but it feels like comic-book writer Jonathan Hickman got the jump on them with this similar idea.

Ordered to Series!

Creators: Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer) & Rob Bragin (Greek)
Cast: Jennifer Beals (Chicago Code), Matthew Modine (Full Metal Jacket), Joe Morton (Scandal)
Pitch: Supernatural drama about a gifted surgeon who helps a millionaire with cancer investigate the paranormal, such as out-of-body experiences and hauntings.
Gut Feeling: Yet another X-Files-y riff, this time in a medical context. Nothing about the concept excites me, as it sounds quite generic. I like the cast, though.

Creator: Frank Miller (Sin City, 300)
Cast: TBA
Pitch: Sci-fi action based on the acclaimed 1980s comic-book series, about a 13th-century samurai transported to modern-day New York to fight the reincarnation of the demon that killed his master.
Gut Feeling: I've been hearing rumours about a film of Ronin for years (coming closest to fruition when Noah's Darren Aronofsky was attached), so it's exciting to see the idea finally move forward in the form of a TV miniseries.

Adapter: Jill Blotevogel (Harper's Island)
Director: Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream)
Pitch: The television adaptation of the successful post-modern film saga about the residents of a small town stalked by a masked serial killer.
Gut Feeling: After four movies of declining quality, the Scream machine transfers to television. It might work if the mystery unfurls cleverly over multiple episodes, and you get to know the characters better than a movie runtime allows for. As a fan of short-lived CBS horror thriller Harper's Island (which shares a writer), I'm perhaps more optimistic than most about this one. They even have Wes Craven back to direct the pilot!

Ordered to Series!

Creator: Nick Santora & Nicholas Wootton (Prison Break)
Director: Justin Lin (Fast & Furious)
Cast: Elyes Gabel (Game of Thrones), Katharine McPhee (Smash), Robert Patrick (T2), Eddie Kaye (American Pie)
Pitch: An eccentric genius and his international network protect the world from complex modern threats.
Gut Feeling: Um, okay. Who knows what to think based on that concept. Sounds sketchy. And while Prison Break was a guilty pleasure of mine, pilots written by alumni from that show don't inspire much confidence.

Ordered to Series!

Creator: Emily Kapnek (Suburgatory)
Cast: Karen Gillan (Doctor Who), Tim Peper, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, David Harewood (Homeland) & John Cho (Star Trek)
Pitch: Comedy based on My Fair Lady about a self-obsessed young woman who suffers a humiliating breakup, only to find herself becoming an online sensation when a viral video she appears in becomes a huge hit.
Gut Feeling: Who'd have thought Karen Gillan would have a career like this post-Doctor Who? Villain in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy, and now potential comedy heroine in a big US TV show! I'm not usually charmed by US sitcoms in general, but I'm interested to see what Gillan's like in this context.

Creators: David S Rosenthal (90210) & Jennie Snyder Urman (Emily Owens M.D)
Cast: Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead), Justin Long (Galaxy Quest), Pete Davidson & Ally Maki
Pitch: Comedy about a self-destructive lawyer who is given a court-appointed "sober companion" to take control of his life.
Gut Feeling: Another show that sounds like a movie, but obviously someone hopes the concept has a chance to last 100 episodes. It could be fun seeing Nick Frost in an ongoing TV show for the first time in ages, but this does sound like something Charlie Sheen would do.

Ordered to Series!

Creator: Kevin Williamson (The Following, Vampire Diaries)
Director: Liz Friedlander (The Following)
Cast: Maggie Q (Nikita) & Dylan McDermott (American Horror Story)
Pitch: Psychological thriller about two detectives handling incidents on behalf of the Threat Management Unit of the LAPD.
Gut Feeling: It sounds like something very different and more grounded for Williamson. I'm interested to see if he can produce something good, that doesn't rely on genre hooks and relentless shocks and violence.

Adapter: Donick Cary (New Girl)
Director: Reuben Fleischer (Zombieland)
Pitch: Ineffectual Boston cop Toby Banks is exiled to night duty on Nantucket island, only to realise the place is a hotbed of paranormal activity that he ends up investigating with the help of a lighthouse keeper who receives "strange calls". Based on an Australian TV comedy series.
Gut Feeling: I like the nutty premise, and the fact this is a comedy is unexpected and has appeal. It may deliver something we're not seeing a lot of on TV, where the horror and supernatural genres are always treated with more seriousness. This could be just the tonic, if it's scary and funny.

Creator: Ehren Kruger (Scream 3)
Cast: Patrick Heusinger (Black Swan), Shaun Toub (Homeland), Ryan Yu, Kristen Connolly & Vondie Curtis-Hall
Pitch: Psychological sci-fi thriller about an android who goes on the run for first-degree murder, and the young female public defender who fights for his cause.
Gut Feeling: It's I, Robot meets The Fugitive. That sounds like a movie I'd be tempted to see, but a TV show?

Adapter: Jonathan Nolan (Persons of Interest), based on the novel by Michael Crichton
Cast: TBA
Pitch: Remake of the novel (once adapted into a successful 1973 movie) about people trapped inside a futuristic theme park based on the Old West and populated by androids that break free of their programming.
Gut Feeling: How can Crichton's story get stretched into a TV series? This is executive produced by J.J Abrams (Lost, Fringe) and Bryan Burk (Star Trek), which has me hopeful.

Ordered to Series!
Creator: Soo Hugh (Under the Dome, The River), based on the Ray Bradbury short story Zero Hour.
Director: Mark Romanek (Never Let Me Go)
Cast: Barry Sloane (Hollyoaks), Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes), Lily Rabe (American Horror Story) & Brianna Brown (Devious Maids)
Pitch: US sci-fi thriller about an alien race out to destroy the world, using humanity's children.
Gut Feeling: The revival of V failed, but ABC are giving alien invasions another go with The Visitors. I haven't read the short story this is based on (where kids play a game of Invasion that becomes real), and I'm not sure how closely the TV series will stick to it. Good cast and choice of pilot director, though, so did they read a quality script?

Which of the above pilots grab your attention? Have I missed anything you're excited about? Let me know in the comments below...