JULES: Well, the way they pick the shows on TV is they make one show, and that show’s called a pilot. And they show that one show to the people who pick the shows, and on the strength of that one show, they decide if they want to make more shows. Some get accepted and become TV programs, and some don’t. Become nothing…
A MarriagePitch: Anatomy of wedlock.Director: Marshall HerskovitzChannel/Studio: CBSGenre: Drama.
Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick follow up My So-Called Life, Quarterlife and thirtysomething with another navel-gazer about a couple’s marriage. Herskowitz also wrote and produced The Last Samurai, and has production credits on I Am Sam, Traffic and Blood Diamond. His TV output is low-concept but high-insight, specialising in emotional quandaries and life-decisions.
BackPitch: A 9/11 victim shows up after eight years presumed dead.Director: Mark PellingtonChannel/Studio: CBS/ParamountGenre: Mystery/thriller
Mothman Prophecies and Arlington Road director Pellington helms this intriguing pilot idea, wherein a person presumed dead in the attack on the twin towers suddenly reappears, even though to his own mind he has come straight home. Pellington’s most recent pilot was CBS’ Cold Case, and he went on to direct various episodes of the show. Co-producer Dean Widenmann did a long stint as story editor on CSI Miami, as well as writing an episode of Bones. Other producers for Back include Craig Zadan and Neil Meron.
Brothers & DetectivesPitch: A detective finds that his 11 year-old brother is a super-sleuth.Director: Greg HoblitChannel/Studio: ABC/ABC studiosGenre: Drama
When his father dies, a detective with an unremarkable career finds that he has a brilliant younger brother. The Argentinean format has already been bought and re-filmed in Spain, where original prodigy, actor Rodrigo Noya, reprised his role. ABC won a turbulent bidding war to land this format, under the guidance of Charmed impresario Daniel Cerone. Untraceable and Frequency director Greg Hoblit has a fine pedigree of producing off-beat police drama, with the likes of Fallen (1998) and Primal Fear (1996). He also has long credits on Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue and LA Law, as well as a producer involvement with the original 1978 Doctor Strange TV movie. Arguably his bizarrest recent output is the failed pilot NYPD 2069 (2004), a Demolition Man-style scenario where a contemporary cop wakes up in the future. It’s pretty hard to find, though.
Confessions of a ContractorPitch: Love and DIY. Anyone remember Witness?Director: UnknownChannel/Studio: CBS/20th Century FoxGenre: Drama/Romance.
Based on the novel by Richard Murphy, this TV adaptation follows a housing renovator as he undergoes two projects to overhaul the houses of two women who used to be friends, and falls in love with both of them. Producer Shawn Ryan has The Shield (which he created), The Unit and Angel to his credit. Movieweb carried some quotes from original novelist Murphy, who renovated homes for 12 years prior to taking up screenwriting, and reveals that the set-up is partly autobiographical: “I saw a lot of crazy stuff when I was working on other people’s houses. Every house has a story and every homeowner has a secret.”
Day OnePitch: It’s the end of the world again.Director: Alex GravesChannel/Studio: NBC/UniversalGenre: Science-fiction [post-apocalypse].
This appears to be Survivors without a nod to Terry Nation. But fair enough, you can’t copyright the end of the world. In this imagining, some mysterious event destroys global infrastructure and a small group of survivors are left to recreate society. Expect tinpot Hitlers and toll-roads, at the very least. Producer Jesse Alexander has Lost and Alias under his belt, although his tenure on Heroes was cut short late last year. Producer/director Alex Graves has a massive credit list for West Wing, The Nine, Journeyman and Fringe.
EastmansPitch: Drama about a family of doctors.Director: UnknownChannel/Studio: CBS/Warner BrothersGenre: Medical/family drama
CBS seem determined that one of their autumn slots be a first-tier medical drama, and here’s another medical pitch with a one-in-three chance of bagging that slot. Producer Nagle created and wrote Side Order of Life in 2007 and also appeared in theatricals Forget Paris and Milk Money in the mid-nineties.
EastwickPitch: 3 women conjure up supernatural powers – and the devil himself. Director: David NutterChannel/Studio: Warner Bros/ABCGenre: Drama/fantasy
Based on John Updike’s The Witches Of Eastwick, this tale of three bored rural women who conjure up the devil was a hit film with Jack Nicholson, Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer and Cher in 1987. Director David Nutter has 14 picked-up pilots to his credit, including Smallville, Roswell, Dark Angel, Millennium and Without a Trace. “[Producer Maggie Nutter] has come up with an amazing starting-off point. I can really see where the series is going to go,” Nutter commented. “She’s got a great bedrock of characters and a great mystery.” So, three women with supernatural powers; If ABC doesn’t turn this into the Desperate Housewives of fantasy TV by featuring older actresses, it’s going to look very similar thematically to Charmed.
Empire StatePitch: It’s Romeo and Juliet in modern Manhattan.Director: Jeremy PodeswaChannel/Studio: ABC/ABC studios Genre: Drama
The Mark Gordon Company is outputting this drama about two families on different sides of the socio-economic divide who are linked in a Romeo and Juliet-style when their respective children hook up. The rich family are real-estate tycoons, the lower-rent family blue-collar iron workers. Unit Publicist turned director Podeswa is a veteran TV director, having shot episodes of Dexter, Queer as Folk, Nip/Tuck and Six Feet Under, amongst many others. Producing powerhouse Mark Gordon has had this pilot green-lit along with political drama House Rules (also in this list).
Eva AdamsPitch: Sexist man wakes up as a woman.Director: Mark WatersChannel/Studio: Fox/SonyGenre: The old gender switcheroo.
Kevin Falls, veteran producer/writer involved in West Wing, Journeyman and Shark, brings us this tale of a sexist sports agent, who gets cursed by a witch, wakes up female and sees life from the sharp end of the fair sex. Dawson’s Creek actor James Van Der Beek will co-star with David Denman, though how the lead will be handled is not clear yet – Quantum Leap‘s ‘privileged vision’, anyone? The gender swap scenario has been tried a few times in Hollywood, notably in the Blake Edwards light thriller Switch (1991), where Ellen Barkin was the female version of her sexist male self. Like Brothers & Detectives (also in this list), the project originated in Argentina; the original TV movie was called Lalola. Director Mark Waters is no stranger to the ‘switch’ scenario, having re-made Disney’s Freaky Friday in 2003. In Freaky Friday, a mother and daughter swap personalities and learn a little more about life on the other side of the fence.
Flash ForwardPitch: It’s a bit like Lost.Director: David Goyer (also co-writer with Brannon Braga).Channel/Studio: ABC/ABC studiosGenre: Science-fiction.
Robert J. Sawyer’s source novel deals with a freak occurrence involving the Large Hadron Collider accelerator, in which the entire human race ‘flashes forward’ to experience segments of their lives 21 years into the future. Anyone who was in an airplane or driving at the time of the event is probably toast, but the rest get a unique TV experience from their own lives-to-come. Flash Forward is being touted as an obvious companion to Lost, and the involvement of Dark Knight screenwriter David Goyer – who enjoyed a little less success with Jumper – is generating great interest in the property. 24 co-exec and Star Trek impresario (and co-writer) Brannon Braga took the show to a bidding war between ABC and Fox.
Happy TownPitch: It’s a bit like Twin Peaks.Director: Gary Fleder.Channel/Studio: ABC/ABC studiosGenre: Science-fiction.
US Life On Mars and October Road producers Josh Appelbaum, Scott Rosenberg and Andre Nemec are behind this forthcoming pilot about the sheriff of a sleepy town who has to cope with the chaos ensuing when the town’s first-ever murder occurs. So far so Twin Peaks. Geoff Stults is set to play the central character. Gary Fleder’s theatrical resume includes Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead and Don’t Say a Word, whilst he is also an old friend to the producers from directing segments of Life On Mars and October Road.
House RulesPitch: The new guys and gals in Congress learn the ropes.Director: Daniel MinahanChannel/Studio: CBS/ABC StudiosGenre: Political drama.
The Mark Gordon Company brings us more political fare, with a format that has more potential than most shows to credibly chop and change its cast. Director Minahan has done time on True Blood, Grey’s Anatomy and Life On Mars, amongst others. Producers are Michael Seitzman (writer of North Country), Mark Gordon (Grey’s Anatomy and just about everything else), and Deb Spera (Criminal Minds, Reaper). House Rules is part of a two-pilot whammy for Gordon, along with the greenlit EmpireState (also in this list).
Human TargetPitch: A bodyguard who can inhabit the bodies of his wards.Director: Simon WestChannel/Studio: Fox/Warner BrothersGenre: Science-fiction.
Limelight producer and Terminator Salvation director McG is behind this new adaptation of the DC comic first brought to TV in 1990 with Rick Springfield starring. Fringe and Boston Legal star Mark Valley is heading up the cast this time. With the likes of Avatar , Surrogates and Dollhouse, body transference seems to be quite the Hollywood vogue; A fine time, therefore, to tell the tale of a bodyguard who can literally guard his client’s bodies by inhabiting them. Con Air director Simon West helms the pilot show.
I WitnessPitch: Detective professor uses her psycho-physiological skills to solve crimes.Director: UnknownChannel/Studio: CBS/ParamountGenre: Police procedural.
Another amateur ‘tec show, though it might be a bit more serious than Murder 101. Pam Veasey and Trey Callaway produce. Veasey has considerable tenure as exec-producer on CSI: NY, and also on The District. She also wrote for Martial Law and on Gimme A Break in the 1980s. The ‘physiological’ part of the much-touted plot description is the most intriguing – is this going to be some kind of Elektra deal?
Inside The BoxPitch: Reporting The West WingDirector: Mark TinkerChannel/Studio: ABC/ABC studiosGenre: Drama
Inside The Box deals with TV journalists in Washington, and is being produced by Richard Robbins, Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers. Director Mark Tinker has well-established bonds with Rhimes via Private Practice and Grey’s Anatomy, and also shot four episodes of Deadwood, a series that he exec-produced.
Legally MadPitch: It’s Ally McBeal²Director: Kenny OrtegaChannel/Studio: NBC/Warner BrothersGenre: Legal drama [dramedy?].
Kristin Chenoweth heads the cast for this legal drama in the face of Pushing Daisies‘ cancellation. Producer and writer David E. Kelley has already given the world lots of legal drama in Boston Public, Boston Legal, The Practice and L.A. Law, so this is about as trusted a pair of hands for the subject matter as you could hope for. It also features the daftest name for a lead character I have ever seen, as Chenoweth will be playing “Skippy Pylon, a cheerful and brilliant attorney who nonetheless exhibits flashes of psychosis — and enjoys being mistaken for a teenager”, according to comingsoon. Billed as drama, it sounds more like the legal dramedy of Ally McBeal so far. High School Musical helmer (and the director of the forthcoming Footloose remake) Kenny Ortega surrenders his love of dance for this outing. Probably.
Light YearsPitch: Meet the parents – finally.Director: Gary FlederChannel/Studio: CW/CBS ParamountGenre: Social drama.
More unrealistically young mums, as Shiri Appleby (30) plays the mother of Brittany Robertson (19) in this Liz Tigelaar-written pilot about a young girl seeking out her biological father to find that he is a slacker bar-owner. Director Fleder squeezes this into a busy schedule that also includes Happy Town (included in this list). Tigelaar’s credits includes producing/writing stints on What About Brian and Brothers & Sisters.
LimelightPitch: It’s Fame. Again.Director: David SemelChannel/Studio: ABC/Warner BrothersGenre: Drama.
A series set in the New York School for Performing Arts that isn’t called Fame. Guess that’s Alan Parker shy of a few royalties, then. McG is behind the project along with KJ Steinberg, Leonard Goldberg, Peter Johnson and David Semel. K.J. Steinberg (The Nine, Gossip Girl, State Of Mind) is the writer, and it’s reported that the show is to be loosely based on the experiences of hip-hop producer Pharrell Williams. Limelight was originally scheduled for Autumn 2007 in a version written by David S. Rosenthal. The tone has been described as ‘soap’, which will put it pretty much in parity with the increasingly awful 1980s TV show Fame, which spun off of the Alan Parker musical hit and ran for six seasons. Of course, it’s the likes of High School Musical and reality TV lobotomy-fests that have green-lit this pilot.
Lost & FoundPitch: Starbuck demoted to ‘unsolved murders’ in the LAPD.Director: Michael EnglerChannel/Studio: NBC/UniversalGenre: Police drama.
LAPD cop, Galactica‘s Katee Sackhoff, comes down to Earth with a bump when a tussle with the brass gets her bumped down to the unsolved crimes division. Josh Cooke co-stars as Sackhoff’s psychiatrist, who’s still holding a high-school torch for the down-at-heel cop. Wolf Films and UMS head up the project, with Dick Wolf producing. Wolf has brought us a raft of Law & Order franchise branch-offs, including the imminent Law & Order: London. Engler’s pilot credits include ABC’s Single With Parents comedy and Privileged, a CW pick-up. He’s also put in credible time on 30 Rock and Sex And The City. Sackhoff’s double-time in Galactica and The Bionic Woman last year didn’t earn her the next five years’ employment, so Lost & Found has work to do. Other producers include Chris Levinson, Nena Rodrigue and Peter Jankowski.
MasterworkPitch: It’s The Da Vinci code – weekly.Director: Unknown.Channel/Studio: FoxGenre: Science-fiction/thriller
One description on a development site paints the premise of this show as “A thriller about a race against time to recover the world’s most sought-after artefacts”. Another indicates that the show will veer between efforts in the States and London, and a cooperation between US and British intelligence. Paul Scheuring, Matthew Fiorello and Zack Estrin are producing for the Scheuring/Fiorello outfit Mercator Pictures.
MercyPitch: The ups and downs of three nurses.Director: Adam BernsteinChannel/Studio: NBC/UniversalGenre: Medical.
Sex And The Shitty? UMS are producing this soap/hospital drama with Liz Helden (Friday Night Lights and lotsa writing time on shows including The Bionic Woman), Lloyd Braun, Gail Berman, Aaron Harberts and Gretchen Berg. Scrubs director Adam Bernstein has put in a lot of helm-time at 30 Rock and Worst Week.
Miami TraumaPitch: It’s ER. In Miami.Director: Kenneth FinkChannel/Studio: CBS/ Warner BrosGenre: Medical drama.
If in doubt about how to double, triple and quadruple-dip a format, just set it in a different city. Thus does powerhouse producer Jerry Bruckheimer join up with Jonathan Littman and Jeffrey Lieber to bring us this pilot about a “dedicated team of trauma surgeons” down Miami way. Lost creator Jeffrey Lieber is the big name behind this rather templated idea, so the pilot will really have to stink in order to sit on the shelf. CSI producer/director Fink also served on Homicide: Life on the Street and NashBridges.
ParenthoodPitch: Steve Martin’s Parenthood (1989) goes weekly.Director: Thomas SchlammeChannel/Studio: NBC/UniversalGenre: Dramedy.
UMS and Imagine are behind this project, with Jason Katims, Brian Grazer and David Nevins producing a belated TV crossover from the late-eighties Steve Martin hit. Director Thomas Schlamme did So I Married an Axe Murderer for theatrical in 1993, and has a long production association with The West Wing. He also helmed the ABC pilot Captain Cook’s Extra-ordinary Atlas.
See Cate RunPitch: Hilary Clinton-alike (but way younger) gets ready to be the Prez.Director: Dean ParisotChannel/Studio: ABC/ABC studiosGenre: Political drama.
The excellent Amy Smart finally gets some well-deserved limelight as a lawyer who will one day run for presidency. If The West Wing made politics rateable, Hilary Clinton’s long campaign for the presidency sparked enough interest for a fictional take on a woman president-to-be. Director Parisot is best known to geeks for the Star Trek cast spoof Galaxy Quest (1999). While awaiting the fruition of slated projects such as The Lavender Hill Mob (2011) and Slapshot (2012), Parisot has kept busy with outings like the superb and under-rated Levity (2003), and also Fun With Dick And Jane (2005). Smart is most-associated with the continuing Crank Franchise, but also turned in a great performance in the absurdly unknown Interstate 60: Episodes of the Road (2001), as well as appearing in Scrubs and Starsky & Hutch (2004).
The Body PoliticPitch: Ally McBeal at the centre of government…?Director: UnknownChannel/Studio: CW/ParamountGenre: Political drama.
Very much a companion piece to CBS stable-mate House Rules (also listed here), it looks like Washington is the new New York. Focused on a particular young staffer at D.C., this show is intended to showcase a group of DC neophytes getting to grips with the seat of power. Body Politic is written by Jason Rothenberg (who is also getting superhero adaptation Proximity Effect off the ground) and Bill Robinson. Peter Horton is the executive producer.
The Good Wife
The story of a politician’s wife who focuses on a career as a defence attorney, this pilot is masterminded by Robert King, Michelle King, Ridley & Tony Scott and David Zucker. Robert and Michelle King penned the piece. Quite why the occupation of a defence attorney’s husband is germane to the concept is not yet clear – is this some Educating Rita deal or will the work bring the protagonist into frequent and abrasive conflict with hubby? Director McDougal has an extremely varied TV directing career behind him, including Desperate Housewives, The Tudors, Big Shots, The Office and Sex And The City.
The UnknownPitch: Amateur crime fighters bring justice to unknown victimsDirector: Danny CannonChannel/Studio: ABC/Warner BrothersGenre: Detective/thriller.
Jerry Bruckheimer’s ‘amateur sleuth’ pilot outline is a generic enough pitch in certain reports, following in the footsteps of everything from The Hardy Boys to Diagnosis Murder, Father Dowling Investigates, Murder She Wrote etc etc. Others paint it more like The Equaliser via Vengeance Unlimited. Not much more is known about it at the time of writing except that Judge Dredd (1995) director Danny Cannon, who went on to greater success with the CSI franchise, is set to direct.
Three RiversPitch: “Organ transplants, told from the POV of the doctor, recipient and donor”Director: UnknownChannel/Studio: CBS/ParamountGenre: Medical/social drama.
Channelling the spirit of Seven Pounds, and also films like John Badham’s The Gun (1974), Three Rivers divides its emotional and narrative heart into sections, Law & Order-style. Jericho’s Carol Barbee also wrote the pilot. Curtis Hanson and Carol Fenelon are co-producing.
NBC have picked up this Dario Scardapane-penned pilot, which deals with the trials and tribulations of ambulance-drivers and emergency medical response personnel at the sharp end of a 911 call. Once again Universal Media Studios are behind the project, which is also produced by Hancock helmer Peter Berg via his Film 44 company. NBC picked the project up in tandem with Mercy (also listed here), reportedly desperate to fill the missing medical gap in its drama output. Jeffrey Reiner, also directing Caprica, has a big track record with Friday Night Lights.
U.S. AttorneyPitch: New York federal prosecutors do their stuff.Director: Mimi LederChannel/Studio: CBS/ParamountGenre: Legal drama
With The Unit and Jericho behind him, actor-turned-producer Frank Military offers us this pilot about federal prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan. Deep Impact and Pay It Forward director Leder has done her longest TV stints on ER and ChinaBeach, whilst also directing episodes of The West Wing, Vanished and LA Law.
Untitled Dave Hemingson ‘legal’ projectPitch: It’s Wall Street with lawyers/LA Law with Hollywood clientsDirector: Michael FrescoChannel/Studio: ABC/20th Century FoxGenre: Dramedy
Not that much information – or even a title – for this tale of a blue-collar kid who graduates law school and goes to work for a powerful Los Angeles legal firm; but it’s pretty obvious that whoever gets the ‘Gekko’-analogous role is going to be the star of the show in the end. Matt Long, who played the young Johnny Blaze in Ghost Rider (2007), is the lead, having also served in TV’s Jack And Bobby and Secrets Of A Small Town. Writer and producer Hemingson has a respectable TV track record, including Just Shoot Me, Kitchen Confidential (which he created), How I Met Your Mother and Lie To Me. The series is based on his own experiences as a young lawyer in an LA entertainment law firm. Of that period, Hemingson commented: ” We were a ragtag family of 25-year-olds in the dream capital of the world, finding and reinventing ourselves and dealing with the huge personalities of our clients and our bosses.” Helmer Michael Fresco has a mile-long string of TV work behind him, including Providence, My Name Is Earl, Northern Exposure and The OC.
Untitled Ian Biederman Project
The creator of Shark brings us a medical drama with a difference, wherein a female heart surgeon must fight off the increasing signs that she is a schizophrenic. Ian Biederman is joined by Stephen Hopkins, Brian Grazer and David Nevins in the producer’s room. Director Hopkins has Predator 2, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, Lost In Space and A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Child in his theatrical resume, as well as long helming stints on 24 and Californication.
Untitled Reincarnation ProjectPitch: Reincarnation proves the key to various mysteries for paranormal investigatorsDirector: Deran SarafianChannel/Studio: Fox/Warner BrothersGenre: Supernatural
One description of this project suggest that former lives substitute repressed memories as the clients of our heroes seek the solutions to their own psychological problems. Friday Night Lights‘ David Hudgins is working with Lou Pitt and M.J. Rose on producing duties. Director Deran Sarafian is a veteran of House and the CSI franchise, and his theatrical credits include Terminal Velocity (1994). Ironically, given the subject matter, this is one of the few proposals in this list with some originality to it.
V: The SeriesPitch: Fascist alien lizards come to Earth in disguise to eat us and steal our water.Director: UnknownChannel/Studio: ABC/Warner BrothersGenre: Science-fiction/horror.
The revival of Kenneth Johnson’s 80s hit has been on the cards a long time, with Johnson himself at various times near to re-booting it (check out our interview with him for details on the history of that). Scott Peters and Jason Hall are masterminding this particular attempt for Hall and Marti Resteghini’s HD films. No director is officially attached, but writer/director Peters is a fairly good bet, with recent helming credit for his co-created series The 4400, as well as time on The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Jericho, Burn Notice and The Outer Limits. Franchise originator Johnson remains unhappy. A current post at this website states “ABC and Warners TV continue to develop a reimagined version of V for a possible episodic TV series, with which Kenny is not involved. This does not affect Kenny’s ongoing efforts to remake his original classic as a major motion picture.” A recent interview suggests that Johnson considers the new ABC initiative a branch off of the ‘real’ ‘V’ story: “Jason Hall is a very talented, honourable and genuinely nice guy. From our very first meeting he has been very forthcoming about his ideas and his respect for my work. I don’t know Scott Peters as well, but I wish them good luck. Barry Meyer, the CEO of Time Warner and an old friend from our work together on my original V, has told me that both TV and motion picture versions of V can easily exist side by side just as the Terminator projects are currently doing and Star Trek has done for years.”
A young girl is torn between her love for a good vampire and an evil one. Alloy Entertainment (Gossip Girl, Privileged) got a nice fillip off Twilight‘s unexpected blockbuster success, and the result is that Lisa Jane Smith’s uncannily similar series of novels are coming to TV. Smith has even started a new sequel trilogy, so there’s plenty of original material to mine before going extra-curricular, if Diaries hits. Kevin Williamson, Julie Plec, Bob Levy and Leslie Morgenstein are producing, with no director attached yet. Williamson has Scream, Dawson’s Creek and I Know What You Did Last Summer to his credit, and the fast-tracking of Twilight sequel New Moon (due this summer, though still listed as an autumn release) can only help sustain interest in the schoolgirl-loves-vampires zeitgeist.
Washington FieldPitch: 25.Director: Jon CassarChannel/Studio: CBS/ParamountGenre: Action/political thriller.
This show, from Criminal Minds executive producer Ed Bernero, takes its name from the Washington Field Office at the National Capital Response Squad. The WFO gathers together globe-trotting experts in different fields, and constitutes a rapid-response unit for world crises. F.A.B.! 24 producer/director Cassar also has Stephen King’s Dead Zone, Mutant X, La Femme Nikita and (oh dear) Baywatch Nights to his credit. Washington Field is co-written by brothers Jim & Tim Clemente. Jim is an FBI profiler with an episode of Criminal Minds behind him, and his brother a ‘former terrorism expert on NCRS’. Both are serving as co-producers. The FBI approve this project, so don’t be expecting too many barbed digs at the MIC. 24 fans ought to be on tenterhooks.
- 5 desperate new characters for ailing TV shows
- 17 TV shows that were cancelled too soon
- 23 TV shows heading to the big screen
- Top 10 TV title sequences of all time
Sunday, 22 February, 2009