March/April 2012
Volume 32 No. 2

March/April 2012
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L.A. Screenings: Comediennes, Brit-Tested Shows, Wacky Families

We here at VideoAge keep a close eye on the TV pilots, way before the U.S. networks’ new series are announced at the May Upfronts.

So far, several trends have emerged amongst the nearly 90 pilots (a few more than last year), which have been commissioned by the networks for the 2012-2013 season.

While the usual cop series, legal dramas and supernatural series are well represented on the nets’ rosters, there are plenty of other options for viewers (and international buyers) too.
Wacky families (à la Modern Family) seem to be taking center stage on the comedy front (e.g. ABC’s How to Live With Your Parents for the Rest of Your Life and Only Fools and Horses, NBC’s Friday Night Dinner, and many more).

And 2012-2013 may very well be the year of the comedienne, with Sarah Silverman, The Office writer Mindy Kaling, and Roseanne Barr all looking to star in their own sitcoms (on Fox and NBC respectively). Ellen DeGeneres’s pilot, The Smart One (which stars wife Portia de Rossi), has been commissioned by ABC.

Chalk it up to the popularity of Modern Family, Smash and Glee — shows in which gay characters take center stage — or a changing attitude toward gay marriage in the U.S., but it seems The New Normal, a comedy commissioned by NBC that revolves around a gay couple and their surrogate, wouldn’t have gotten this far just a few years ago. (CBS’ Partners, while focused on two straight men, revolves around an almost marriage-like relationship between longtime male friends).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, struggling network NBC has commissioned over 20 pilots, looking to find a slew of hits in 2012-2013. Among those more likely to be picked up are Dick Wolf’s Chicago Fire, which brings the Law and Order creator back to NBC in a drama revolving around the Chicago Fire Department, and J.J. Abrams’s Revolution, which centers on a group of characters who live in a world where all forms of energy have ceased to exist. Both come from series creators with major successes under their belts (Abrams was the mastermind behind Lost).

In the comedy arena, NBC is banking on former ABC sitcom stars Roseanne Barr and John Goodman (Roseanne) for Downwardly Mobile, a sitcom set in a trailer park. The network’s 1600 Penn chronicles the lives of a dysfunctional family in the White House. Interestingly, a former speechwriter for U.S. President Barack Obama is one of the producers (based on true life, perhaps?).

The network is also said to be exploring an Office spin-off based on the life of Dwight Schrute, which would take place mostly on the Schrute family beet farm. (The CW is also getting in on the spin-off game with The Carrie Diaries, a prequel to Sex and the City.)

NBC is bringing back a familiar face — albeit a much more sinister one. Hannibal is a thriller based on The Silence of the Lambs’ famous cannibal, and it has already received a series order.

NBC is also trying its hand at a British format called Friday Night Dinner, which revolves around (you guessed it!) a wacky family’s weekly dinners together. Plus, the peacock network has commissioned a pilot entitled Bad Girls, based on a British series that follows a group of female prisoners and jail staffers.

NBC isn’t the only net going for the British-tested shows. ABC has two comedies based on series from across the pond: Only Fools and Horses, which follows two streetwise brothers and their grandfather as they concoct get-rich schemes, and White Van Man about a man who takes over the family handyman business.

Though it’s not based on a British series, some could say that ABC’s Gilded Lillys is hoping to ride the coattails of Downton Abbey mania. The drama revolves around the opening of Gotham’s first luxury hotel in 1895, and goes behind the scenes with those who work and stay there.

If there’s one trend amongst ABC’s 2012-2013 season, it’s the supernatural — with 666 Park Avenue, Beauty and the Beast and Gotham in the drama sphere, as well as an untitled comedy from Dan Fogelman about a gated community populated by aliens.

FOX, on the other hand is on the espionage track. The network has ordered two pilots that revolve around female spies — one, Asset follows a woman who lives a double life (her ordinary life is that of a photojournalist) and the other, as yet untitled, revolves around a teenage spy.

CW has more pilots than ever before — a total of eight dramas — including its own Beauty and the Beast spin-off (not to be confused with ABC’s fantastical take on the classic fairytale). The net has also ordered a futuristic series entitled The Selection, a doc called Joey Dakota based on an Israeli TV format, and Arrow based on the DC Comics superhero Green Arrow, among others.

Whereas some of the other nets are focusing on wacky family comedies, CBS is going the buddy and workplace comedy route, with sitcoms like the Louis C.K. and Spike Feresten as-yet-untitled comedy about a group of young people working to achieve their creative dreams; an untitled Greg Berlanti comedy about a guy who realizes he’s in love with his best friend and business partner; Partners, about two lifelong friends who are more like husbands; Friend Me, about two guys who move to L.A. to work for Groupon; Super Fun Night, about a trio of nerdy girl friends, and an untitled comedy that revolves around a guy who sits a cubicle away from the girl who broke his heart.

On the drama front, at CBS, detective/cop-shows are big, with series like The Widow Detective about a decorated police detective who becomes a surrogate husband, lover and father to the families of three partners; Applebaum, in which a former public defender becomes a private investigator to keep from being bored to death as a stay-at-home mom; an untitled period piece set in the 1960s which centers around a cowboy-turned-sheriff in Las Vegas; Golden Boy, which tracks one cop’s meteoric rise from officer to detective to police commissioner and Trooper, about a mother-turned-state trooper. CBS is also bringing back the world’s most famous detective with Elementary — which sees Sherlock Holmes living in modern-day New York City.

Of course, it’s U.S. advertisers’ call as to what gets picked up, but no matter what, it should be an interesting season. LCB