Monday, March 19, 2007

A Look Ahead to Television Pilot Season

While my first love is sports, there's no doubt that a lot of my "free" time is spent watching television and reading about the television industry. I watch a lot of shows regularly (too many some would say) but despite that, I'm always looking for new shows to watch. Which is why I love this time of year, when word starts leaking out about next fall's potential new shows. It's pilot season, where plotlines and casting decisions of these potential shows are announced and buzz begins to build.

It's so hard to predict which shows are going to make it on the air (much less be successful when they get there) just based on a cast and basically the general theme or idea for the show. If predicting success were that easy, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip would be the highest rated new show of the year and Rules of Engagement wouldn't have lasted more than one or two weeks on the air. Instead, despite a brilliant writer and cast, Studio 60 is unlikely to survive the season (a topic for a future post, because Studio 60's failure is one of my most disappointing TV moments of the year) and Rules of Engagement despite the incredibly overrated and unfunny David Spade, is one of the highest rated new comedies of the season.

Even when pilots are released online, its so hard to guess what the general public is going to attach themselves to on a weekly basis. I was able to watch many of this fall's pilots during the summer and despite being a pretty plugged-in TV observer (to use a bad pun) what I thought would be successful wasn't. I thought, for example, that ABC's The Nine was one of the best pilots I've ever seen. It was edgy, had great actors (like Wings' Tim Daly, 24's Kim Raver, and Boston Public's Chi McBride), a great overarching and compelling story, and great characters. It was a colossal failure, despite having Lost as a lead-in. That was disappointing. I also thought ABC's Traveler, about two college students framed for the bombing of a popular art museum by their college roommate, was well done. The mystery about who this roommate (who they thought was named Will Traveler) really was and why he would commit such an act and frame his roommates was really interesting. ABC, though, has seemingly forgotten about the show, and according to TV website Zap2It, won't premier the show until the end of May, which certainly does not bode well for its chances of being a success.

So, with all of that said, let's take a look at some of the more promising pilots based on their plot descriptions and cast. By the way, the best website to examine all of the pilot information is The Futon Critic, one of the best all around television sites out there.

Bedroom and Boardrooms, ABC, Drama: The show follows four CEO's (or about to be CEO's) and has one of the best casts of the fall season. Three of the four CEO characters are actors from some of my favorite past shows (Dylan McDermott from The Practice, Michael Vartan from Alias and Josh Malina from The West Wing and, of course, Sports Night). Malinia one of televisions most underrated actors and the show also stars Nia Long, who is a great actress. She just had a guest stint on Boston Legal and I was hoping she was going to join the cast of that great show, but should this show make it to air, that works too.

Grey's Anatomy Spinoff, ABC, Drama: I'm not ashamed to say that I watch Grey's Anatomy from time to time (it's not my favorite show, and there's a lot I don't like about it, but it's better than a lot of other TV shows out there) but the reason I like this potential spin-off is the cast. Aside from Kate Walsh's Addison Montgomery, Alias alum Merrin Dungy, Prison Break's Paul Adelstein (he plays Agent Kellerman on Prison Break), Daybreak's Taye Diggs (another show which should have made it, but didn't), and Amy Brenneman (I never watched Judging Amy but I remember her from guest staring on Frasier and always thought she was really attractive) will all be in the show. I don't know if I'll like the plot and tone of the show, but the cast is really strong.

Interesting Legal Pilots: There are also a number of legal shows in the pipeline, which is very encouraging. Over at ABC, Victor Garber (of Alias fame and the short-lived but well-produced Justice) takes another turn as a lawyer in Eli Stone and Donald Sutherland the Peter Krause (from Sports Night fame) star in Dirty Sexy Money about an idealistic lawyer who represents a rich New York family. The great Julianna Margulies is in a pilot at FOX where she plays the title character in Cantebury's Law where she plays a tough defense attorney.

It should only get more interesting as the weeks go on and pilots are produced, and word begins to trickle down about which pilots will make it to air. It does seem though that there are some very promising shows in the pipeline, which is good news for TV fans.

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