Tuesday, 5 May 2015

TV Pilots I Want to See: 2015-16

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

It's time for the return of my annual feature that lists the 2015/16 U.S pilots I have an interest in. This year, to make it a bit more fun, I've split these potential new shows into loose groups with similar themes. Also, each one has a coloured star that denotes its development status:

= not picked up
= in development, or under consideration
= officially becoming a new series

As always, if you spot any errors, notice that something needs updating, or would like to recommend a glaring omission to my list, please let me know in the comments below. This post will update over the next few weeks, as the networks announces each pilot's fate and start releasing trailers/photos. And now, onward!

"The Celebrity Vehicle Pilots"
(Or: It's that Actor You Like—We Hope!)

CHEVY – ABC
Single-camera comedy about an ageing couple, living a happy retirement, who suddenly have to raise their grandchildren.
Starring: Chevy Chase (Community), Beverly D'Angelo (National Lampoon's Vacation), Ed Oxenbould & Cooper Friedman.
Creator: Brad Copeland (Arrested Development).
Gut instinct: Is the on-screen reunion of Chase and D'Angelo from the National Lampoon movies a big enough deal for people to watch? Not in the UK, certainly. But it's written by a writer for one of the best comedy shows ever, so...


DR. KEN – ABC
Semi-autobiographical comedy about a frustrated doctor balancing his medical work with a hectic family life.
Starring: Ken Jeong (Community) & Albert Tsai (Trophy Wife).
Creator: Jared Stern (The Internship).
Gut instinct: Is Keon Jeong the kind of person we can warm to, really? I hope Dr Ken allows him to play some different aspects of the madman we've seen in the Hangover movies and on Community. Jeong was a physician in real life, and was his brief role on Knocked Up during a birth a precursor to Dr. Ken?


THE GRINDER – FOX
Comedy about an actor (Rob Lowe) who played a lawyer on television for years, who moves home to takeover his family's real-life law firm after his TV series is cancelled.
Creators: Jarrad Paul & Andrew Mogel (Liar Liar).
Co-starring: Fred Savage (The Wonder Years), Mary Elizaberth Ellis, Natalie Morales (The Middleman) & William Devane (24).
Gut instinct: Reminds me of Lookwell, that Conan O'Brien-penned 1991 pilot staring Batman's Adam West as an erstwhile TV detective who believes he can do the real thing. Fun concept and Lowe can be amusing, so relatively optimistic.


"The Foreign Remake Pilots"
(Or: These Worked Overseas, Why Not Here?)

RUNNER – ABC
Drama about a woman (Paul Patton) who believes her husband died in a plane crash, then discovers he's alive and travelling with a woman who's assumed her own identity, which draws her into a web of lies involving Mexican gunrunning. Based on the Turkish TV series Son.
Co-starring: Adam Rodriguez, Brent Sexton (The Killing), Vondie Curtis Hall & Megan Dodds.
Adaptor: Michael Cooney (Identity).
Director: Michael Offer (Homeland).
Gut instinct: No idea if the Turkish series is any good, but the idea sounds quite fun. Prepared to given Michael Cooney a chance, although having two schlocky-horror Jack Frost titles on your filmography doesn't inspire confidence. But he did write the oblique 2003 thriller Identity, which I really enjoyed.


CONTAINMENT – THE CW
Contagion drama about the ramifications of quarantining the entire city of Atlanta, examining those stuck on the inside and having to fight for their lives. Adapted from a Belgian series.
Adapter: Julie Plec (The Vampire Diaries).
Director: David Nutter (The X Files).
Starring: Trevor St John (The Vampire Diaries), Chris Wood, Hanna Mangan Lawrence, David Gyasi, Christina Moses, Kristen Gutoskie & Claudia Black (Farscape).
Gut instinct: I haven't seen the original, but this sounds like an interesting idea to explore. Not sure what the specifics of the virus is—are the infected citizens doomed inside the hot zone, or is there a fighting chance of survival? A lot depends on tone.


"The Film Inspired Pilots"
(Or: It's Proven Folks Love This Shit Already!)


UNCLE BUCK – ABC
TV adaptation of the hit 1989 John Hughes movie, about a juvenile uncle who has to look after his brother's kids.
Cast: Mike Epps, Nia Long, James Lesure & Aalyrah Caldwell.
Adaptor: Steven Cragg & Brian Badley.
Gut instinct: John Candy is dead. John Hughes is dead. Leave it alone, ABC. Just leave it alone.

RUSH HOUR – CBS
TV adaptation of the film comedy trilogy, where a stickler Hong Kong cop is partnered with a wise-talking African-American LAPD officer who prefers to work alone.
Starring: Justin Hires (21 Jump Street), John Foo (Tekken), Justin Hires (Key & Peele) & Aimee Garcia (Dexter).
Adapter: Bill Lawrence.
Gut instinct: Odd couple comedies are popular when done right, but who on earth thinks Rush Hour without Jackie Chan will work? Even the nixed Beverly Hills Cop show knew to get Eddie Murphy involved somehow! Pass.


MINORITY REPORT – FOX
Adaptation of the 2002 Steven Spielberg film (based on a Philip K. Dick story) about a future where crime could be prevented ahead of its perpetration, thanks to psychics. In this sequel, one of the liberated male 'Precogs' struggles to adapt to a normal existence, before helping a female detective haunted by her past.
Starring: Stark Sands (Inside Llewellyn Davis), Meagan Good (Anchorman 2), Daniel London (Minority Report), Laura Regan (Atlas Shrugged) & Li Jun Li.
Adaptor: Max Borenstein (Godzilla).
Director: Mark Mylod (Game of Thrones).
Gut instinct: They've tweaked the idea into a sci-fi procedural, not a high-octane fugitive thriller, so I guess we'll just have to see how that feels long-term. Intriguingly, it's set 10 years after the Tom Cruise-starring movie—making this a direct sequel, rather than a straightforward adaptation.


LIMITLESS – CBS
TV adaptation of the Bradley Cooper-starring 2011 movie, about a man whose mental faculties are enhanced by an experimental drug, which enables him to help solve difficult crimes for the FBI.
Cast: Jake McDorman (Shameless), Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter), Hill Harper & Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio.
Creator: Craig Sweeny (Elementary, Medium).
Gut instinct: I remember thinking the film's concept would work well for TV, but we're getting yet another superhuman helping the cops catch criminals show? Oh damn. It could have been something a lot more original on that score, but Craig Sweeney seems to love that sub-genre. Similarly to Minority Report, this is also a continuation of the original film's story, so it's of extra interest to the (few) people desperate for a Limitless 2. Unless you mainly liked Limitless for Bradley Cooper, who is an executive-producer but won't reprise his role.

PROBLEM CHILD – FOX
Adaptation of the 1990 film about a family under constant harassment by their troublemaking son.
Cast: Matthew Lillard (The Bridge), Erinn Hayes (Children's Hospital), Jack Gore, Kate Wolfson & Anna Deavere Smith.
Adaptor: Scot Armstrong (The Hangover Part II).
Gut instinct: Nobody even liked the film, did they?


"The British Remake Pilots"
(Or: Separated By a Common Language, Guv'nor.)

LUTHER – FOX
U.S remake of the gritty BBC thriller about a tough city cop operating on the fringes of the law, usually tackling nightmarish cases of extreme violence.
Creator: Neil Cross (Luther, Crossbones).
Gut instinct: It's not that I can't imagine Fox doing a solid enough job with Luther's concept, but good luck replacing Idris Elba as the haunted lawman. (This pilot has actually now been delayed because of that very issue.) Or making the idea feel fresh on U.S soil, because the London setting is what gave the original a bit of zip.

CUCKOO – NBC
U.S remake of the BBC comedy, about a suburban family whose daughter brings home an eccentric foreigner she's hastily married while on vacation in Europe.
Cast: Michael Chiklis (The Shield), Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm), German YouTube star Flula Borg & Rachel DiPillo (Jane the Virgin).
Adapter: Tim Long (The Simpsons).
Gut instinct: Amusing how the "cuckoo" character's now a crazy German, as it would have been more fitting if it had been an eccentric Brit, but whatever. Stands a fair chance, because the cast is very promising—and hopefully Simpsons writer Tim Long can improve on the formula and fix the original's flaws. Hey, the mere fact they're not likely to have to recast Cuckoo will help things enormously—because the original's plot contortion to replace Andy Samberg with Taylor Lautner were awkward.


"The Do-Over Pilots"
(Or: If At First You Don’t Succeed...)

SUPER CLYDE – CBS
A meek fast-food worker decides to become a superhero after an unexpected financial windfall.
Starring: Charlie McDermott (The Middle), Mark Addy (Game of Thrones) & Diane Guerro.
Creator: Greg Garcia (The Millers).
Gut reaction: This didn't get made in 2013 when Rupert Grint was cast as the eponymous hero, with Stephen Fry as his sidekick butler, and the star-power's substantially lower now. But CBS must have thought the basic premise had merit, despite it being deemed "off-brand" at the time, and maybe Garcia is simply funnier than Grint?

STRANGE CALLS – FOX
Single-camera comedy about a cop transferred to a coastal town, who receives bizarre phone calls and begins to suspect the area is a hotbed of supernatural activity.
Adapter: Blake McCormick (Cougar Town).
Starring: Danny Pudi (Community), Patrick Brammal, Daniel Stern (Home Alone), Allison Miller & Aliya Royale.
Gut instinct: It was a failed pilot from last year, but considering the show's already a hit in Australia why not give it a second chance? Sounds fun to me. Also great that Community standout Pudi has nabbed the lead role this time.


"The Comic-Book Bandwagon Pilots"
(Or: We Want Some of that Marvel Moolah!)


SUPERGIRL – CBS
Adaptation of the comic-book about the cousin of Superman, Kara Zor-El (Glee's Melissa Benoit), who's been hiding on Earth and decides to embrace her superpowers in her mid-20s.
Co-starring: Calista Flockhart (Ally McBeal), Mehcad Brooks (True Blood), David Harewood (Homeland) as Cyborg Superman, Laura Benanti.
Director: Glen Winter (The Flash).
Gut instinct: A bandwagon-jumping move from CBS, and I doubt any of this will tie into Zach Snyder's new Superman/Batman films. But the casting of Benoit is a strong move, and at least CBS has enlisted the talents of Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg, who both work on Arrow and The Flash, after all. Interesting Supergirl is going to be in her twenties, so presumably can't still be in college to avoid making a distaff Smallville. Guest appearances by former-Man of Steel Dean Cain and original screen Supergirl Helen Slater already confirmed.


LUCIFER – FOX
Loose adaptation of the comic-book, concerning Satan (Miranda's Tom Ellis) resigning his throne in Hell and retiring to L.A to help the police catch criminals.
Creator: Tom Kapinos (Californication).
Director: Len Wiseman (Underworld, Die Hard 4.0).
Co-starring: Lesley-Ann Brandt (Spartacus), D.B Woodside (24), Rachael Harris (The Hangover), Lauren German (Chicago Fire),
Gut instinct: Could have been great if they'd stick to the comic-book's arc, but clearly they don't want to do anything very challenging, so it sounds like just another quirky procedural with a British accent.

AGENTS OF SHIELD spin-off - ABC
New sci-fi action-adventure drama, focusing on divorced SHIELD agents Lance Hunter (Nick Blood) and Bobbi Morse/Mockingbird (Adrianne Palicki).
Gut instinct: It's very clear from her performance in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D that Palicki's a fantastic action actress, and her repartee with Britain's own Nick Blood has been fun to watch. Good enough to justify a spin-off? I'm not so sure. There are rumours this spin-off may replace Agent Carter (which was received well by critics but struggled in the ratings), or just supersede it as a show that airs when Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D is on a winter hiatus. Makes sense, to test the waters.


DC'S LEGENDS OF TOMORROW - THE CW
Superhero team adventure, uniting secondary characters from The CW's Arrow and The Flash series: ATOM/Ray Palmer, Captain Cold, Firestorm, and Black Canary.
Starring: Brandon Routh (Arrow), Wentworth Miller (Prison Break), Victor Garber (Alias), Dominic Purcell (Prison Break), Ciara Renee, Franz Drameh & Arthur Darvill (Doctor Who).
Gut instinct: How can this fail? Each character's an established hit with audiences on Arrow/Flash, so putting them together as a sort of Justice League variant makes perfect sense. The only confusion is why Robbie Amell's name isn't being mentioned, but Victor Garber's is (as they play two sides of the same character), and how on earth Caity Lotz can return because her character died in Arrow. Didn't she?


"The Horror Anthology Pilots"
(Or: Have You Seen American Horror Story's Ratings?)


SCREAM QUEENS – FOX
Horror anthology series, initially concerning the search for a serial killer targeting students at a college campus.
Starring: Emma Roberts (American Horror Story), Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween), Lea Michele (Glee), Oliver Hudson, Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine), Keke Palmer (Masters of Sex), singer Ariana Grande, Nick Jonas (Kingdom) & Lucien Laviscount.
Creator: Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story).
Gut instinct: It's American Horror Story-lite, as I don't see Fox allowing this to be quite as extreme as FX's Emmy-winning hit. Very clich├ęd horror storyline, but it could be fun watching the tropes, and will get the jump on MTV's Scream series. Impressive cast, too—especially for the coup of hiring '80s Scream Queen Curtis.

TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE – THE CW
Horror anthology updating the classic 1980s series, telling different weekly stories with fresh casts.
Adaptors: Joe Hill (Horns) & Robert Orci (Sleepy Hollow).
Gut instinct: Possibly inspired by the success of the UK's Black Mirror? Good talent involved, so it really just depends on the quality and consistency of the tales they tell. Keen to see it work.


"The Gritty History Pilots"
(Or: The Past is Cool When it's Bloody.)

BASTARD EXECUTIONER – FX
Historical drama focusing on a knight of King Edward II's, who retires from battle but finds himself drawn back into his old life.
Creator: Kurt Sutter (Sons of Anarchy).
Starring: Lee Jones, Stephen Moyer (True Blood), Katey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy), Sam Spruell (Snow White and the Huntsman), Danny Sapani (Penny Dreadful), Darren Evans (Galavant) & Matthew Rhys (The Americans).
Director: Paris Barclay (Sons of Anarchy).
Gut instinct: There are lots of stories about assassins, mobsters and robbers going straight, then being drawn back into their old ways, so why not a medieval one? Of course, it seems the lead of Bastard Executioner is on the side of good, but the basic idea feels the same: some pulled back into a life that almost broke them. Excited for this, despite never making it through the first season of Sutter's Sons of Anarchy.

THE DEVIL YOU KNOW – HBO
Drama set in the 17th-century, during the infamous Salem Witch Trials, where "conservative, rigid and devoutly Puritan patriarch" Thomas Puttnam (Eddie Izzard) leads a group of farmers during the unrest.
Creator: Jenji Kohan (Orange is the New Black).
Director: Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting).
Starring: Eddie Izzard (Hannibal), Nadia Alexander (Boardwalk Empire), Ever Carradine (Once and Again), Damien Molony (Being Human), Julian Rhind Tutt (A Touch of Cloth), Ewen Bremner (Trainspotting), Karen Gillan (Doctor Who), Zawe Ashton (Fresh Meat) & Ismenia Mendes.
Gut Instinct: I've never found the Salem Witch Trials very interesting, somehow—and while I like Izzard, I don't think acting is his strongest suit. Gus Van Sant will make a decent pilot, I'm sure, but I have no early desire to make this appointment viewing.


"The Loose Copycats"
(Or: Let's Make Something Like That Thing People Like.)


QUANTICO – ABC
A group of FBI recruits go through training at Virginia's famous base, with the narrative jumping between each one's past and a future where one of them's revealed be a terrorist sleeper agent tasked with committing a devastating attack on U.S soil.
Cast: Priyanka Chopra, Dougray Scott (Hemlock Grove), Tate Ellington (Remember Me), Aunjanue Ellis (NCIS: LA) & Graham Rogers (Revolution).
Creator: Josh Safran (Smash).
Director: Marc Munden (Utopia)
Gut instinct: Homeland with multiple suspects, and I assume the identity of the sleeper agent won't be obvious somehow. Mainly interested because it's great that Munden's astonishing work on the UK's Utopia has led to a big-deal U.S show like this. Concerned because it's from the creator of Smash.


THE PLAYER – NBC
A former sniper turned security expert working in Las Vegas is drawn into a conspiracy and forced to undertake various challenges to save innocent lives. Previously known as Endgame.
Starring: Philip Winchester (Strike Back), Wesley Snipes (Blade), Damon Gupton (Prime Suspect) & Charity Wakefield (Wolf Hall).
Creator: John Rogers (Leverage).
Gut instinct: Inspired by the success of American Sniper at the box-office, will the U.S fall in love with another hunk taking aim across a city on home turf? Must say, I'll primarily be watching see Snipes in a TV role, playing the villain who's manipulating Winchester's hotshot. It does sound more like a movie than a weekly TV series, though!


"The Conspiratorial Thrillers"
(Or: People Love Secrets.)

THE KINGMAKERS – ABC
A young man infiltrates an elite Ivy League university, adopting a false identity, in order to investigate the suspicious death of his sister.
Starring: Colm Feore (The Borgias), Parminder Nagra, Adrian Pasdar (Heroes), Kristin Bauer van Straten (True Blood) & Tracey Fairaway.
Creator: Sallie Patrick (Life, Revenge).
Director: James Strong (Doctor Who).
Gut instinct: I really love this premise, but knowing Revenge outstayed its welcome after one season has me worried Sallie Patrick (a writer on that show) is also behind this. Should really be a miniseries, but hopefully Patrick knows where Revenge went wrong and genuinely has a long-term arc in mind?

BLINDSPOT – FOX
A beautiful woman with no memory is found naked in the middle of Times Square; her body covered in cryptic tattoos that bring her to the attention of the FBI.
Creator: Martin Gero (Bored to Death).
Starring: Jaimie Alexander (Thor), Sullivan Stapleton (Strike Back) & Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Broadchurch).
Gut instinct: It's Memento-meets-Prison Break, sort of. Intriguing premise, but really not sure it's built to last more than a season. Will primarily watch for the eye-candy of a naked Jaimie Alexander, who could be a breakout TV star.


"The Supernatural Pilot"
(Or: We Need Another 'Talking to Dead People' Show.)

DEAD PEOPLE – THE CW
A semi-alcoholic, unscrupulous cab driver has a near-death experience and develops the ability to interact with ghosts, including the ex-wife he never got over.
Creator: Tom Kapinos (Californication).
Cast: Andrew J. West (The Walking Dead), Jaime Lee Kirchner (Mercy), Echo Kellum & Alexnadra Chando.
Gut instinct: There's always a pilot about someone who can talk to the dead, isn't there. It's the law.


"The Stupidly-Titled Pilot"
(Or: Try Avoiding These Words in the TV Listings.)

CHEERLEADER DEATH SQUAD – THE CW
A disgraced CIA agent turned teacher at a prep school manipulates his well-connected students into providing him with intelligence that could earn him a return to the Agency.
Cast: Alan Van Sprang, Abbie Cobb, Gia Mantegna & Aylin Bayramoglu.
Creator: Marc Cherry (Desperate Housewives, Devious Maids) & Neal Baer (Under the Dome).
Director: Mark Waters.
Starring: Aylin Bayramoglu (The Glee Project).
Gut instinct: You can always rely on Cherry for ridiculous titles, but this one takes the biscuit with its trashy feel. The concept reads equally ludicrous, but that's what will make me watch.


"The Awkward Literary Update"
(Or: Name-Recognition Goes Far, Yo.)


THE FRANKENSTEIN CODE – FOX
Drama about a ageing, morally-corrupt sheriff (Philip Baker Hall), who's brought back from the dead and given a chance of redemption in a younger, stronger body (True Blood's Rob Kazinsky).
Co-starring: Adhir Kalyan (Rules of Engagement), Tim DeKay & Dilshad Vadsaria.
Creator: Rand Ravich (Life, Crisis).
Gut instinct: Not excited by this extremely loose reworking of the Gothic horror—although Ravich's work on Life means I'm willing to be proved wrong.


"And the Rest"

SNEAKY PETE – CBS
A man in his thirties (Giovanni Ribisi) leaves prison and assumes the identity of his cellmate, to evade his own mob debtors, while working for his new family's bail bond business—where he uses his charm and criminal prowess to take down bad guys.
Co-starring: Margo Martindale (Justified), Marin Ireland, Libe Barer, Shane Mcrae & Peter Gerety (Prime Suspect).
Creator: David Shore (House) & Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad).
Gut instinct: Sounds convoluted, but I trust the creator of House and taste of Breaking Bad star Cranston.


THE MUPPETS - ABC
Contemporary update for the Muppets, filmed in a documentary style.
Creator: Bill Prady (The Big Bang Theory)
Gut instinct: I've been a particular fan of Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, et al, but the move back into television should prove lots of people. Is it worrying their second movie didn't exactly set box-office alight? Maybe. But the buzz surrounding this pilot is very positive, so hopefully Bill Prady's found a way to avoid another mid-'90s Muppets Tonight situation.