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April 03 2011

The ten most promising pilots for Fall 2011 (plus one guaranteed bomb). SMP née SMG "rings" in at #3.

Exciting. No not SMG's new show, which doesn't really sound that interesting to me, but Aaron Sorkin's new project.

This was the first I've heard of it, besides him mentioning he would be returning to TV after Social Network. Sounds like he will be trying to do Studio 60, but in a newsroom. The fact it is on HBO might mean it will get a little more of a chance than his incredibly underrated previous show. Also didn't know about a new Moore programme coming. Could be interesting.

As for Ringer, I might give it a go if it gets good buzz from good sources and if it gets to the UK. Twin sisters and mistaken identities just sounds a little cliche though.
Yeah, I'm excited about Sorkin's new show, but I have reservations. He recently came to USC and said, among other things, that he wishes he'd experimented with his writing more in college, because now that there are big names and huge money riding on his work, he can't really go too far outside the lines. And I think the decision to do a show about a cable news show pretty much supports this.

That said, he pretty much always does what he does fantastically. I'm a devout Studio 60 apologist, and the West Wing is just the finest thing American politics has ever produced. So I'm still excited. I just wish it were a little less predictable.
Aaron Sorkin, yay! Also - Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell sharing the screen? Nice.
So as it happens, I'm really excited for Ringer! I like a little tongue in the cheek of my drama and this seems to be the one for that.
The River sounds right up my alley also. Amazon, missing people, sounds good. But please don't compare it to Lost! That's a channel turner for me.
Aaron Sorkin isn't my cup of tea. He's an earl grey, I like chai. I just want some spice and he hasn't brought it for me.
17th precinct being described as "adult Harry Potter" has me switching channel already.
House of Lies? Hmmm, unsure.
WW/CA, no thanks.
Rest is a possibility.
Alcatraz is a bit of a hit and miss for me. I liked Felicity, but nothing else by Abrams. And Sam Neil is my guilty pleasure.
Locke and Key is the same, not too sure about the creators, but it sounds like a good idea.
How to be a gentleman, no.
And, much like he writer of the piece, if Greenwalt has anything to do with anything, I'm in. Grimm it is!
There is no way to know if any of these are good without reading the scripts. Everything else is pure conjecture and speculation off of sketchy (at best) info and loglines. Not really an informative piece. I'll wait to hear from informed writers/critics.
How on earth did they not mention Josh Friedman for Locke & Key? While I like what Kurtzman and Orci have done in the past, Friedman is the real draw for me. Time to find out if Josh is a one-terminator wonder.

Other than L&K, my most anticipated series are Ringer (which would look good even without SMG but she puts it over the top), The River, and possibly Rest (I liked Milo on Heroes but then it seemed he got trapped by the bad plots/writing). Hopefully they all live up to the hype-to-come.
They lost me in the first paragraph when they didn't realize the brilliance of 'Terriers' and/or 'Walking Dead', clearly the writer is still thinking that only network shows count.
I'll check out the Sorkin show and Locke and Key. And Bob's Burgers, which went right past me.
I'm definitely giving Ringers, Alcatraz, and More as the Story Develops a chance. On paper they seem interesting to me, but you just never know. And I would walk on fire coals to see Jeff Daniels in anything.
They lost me in the first paragraph when they didn't realize the brilliance of 'Terriers' and/or 'Walking Dead', clearly the writer is still thinking that only network shows count.

Walking Dead gets a shout out in Milo's piece for staying true to the source material.
How did I not now of “More As the Story Develops”? Great to have a new Sorkin show to look forward to this winter!

Like Jobo I am a devout Studio 60 apologist, admire The West Wing like nothing else on television (except perhaps Buffy) plus, I'm also a really big fan of Sports Night.

Vandelay wrote:
Exciting. No not SMG's new show, which doesn't really sound that interesting to me, but Aaron Sorkin's new project.

This was the first I've heard of it, besides him mentioning he would be returning to TV after Social Network. Sounds like he will be trying to do Studio 60, but in a newsroom. The fact it is on HBO might mean it will get a little more of a chance than his incredibly underrated previous show. Also didn't know about a new Moore programme coming. Could be interesting.

My thoughts exactly! Except that I somehow choose to think of it more as Sports Night in a newsroom (or even more epic: The West Wing and Sports Night combined!)

I find the thought of an adult Harry Potter to be tremendously appealing (plus I like Moore), so I'll be sure to tune in to give “17th Precinct” a try.

And of course I'll be sure to give “House of Lies” and “Ringer” a try for our lovely ladies.
Locke and Key is being made into a television show? I think it's going to be horrible, but I really love those books so I guess I'll give it a shot. :/
Of all these, I'm looking forward to Sorkin, Moore, Bell and Locke & Key, and for those reasons specifically.

Don't let "adult Harry Potter" scare you off as a descriptor--that's probably just Hollywood talk for, "We've got magic and magical creatures, and so does the biggest movie franchise out there! Key to success!"
Adult Harry Potter does put me off slightly, and I like a bit of Potter (at least the films, not gotten to the books as of yet.) As Niels says, I'm sure it is just marketting speak.

The only real reason I say new Sorkin sounds like S60 in a newsroom is because I've never seen Sports Night, due to its bizarre absence on region 2 discs. From what I've heard, that might be abetter comparison. By the way, no one needs to be a S60 apologist. It was brilliant and the excellent easily out weighed the bad.
I'm curious to see a list of all the series that have definitely been picked up for the fall. There are definitely some promising sounding shows here (although this article was fairly light on details, and I had to google most of the shows to find out more). I'll be checking out 17th Precinct, Alcatraz, Locke & Key, Rest, More as the Story Develops, and Terra Nova. 17th Precinct actually sounds really promising to me - Ron Moore, fantasy setting, many BSG castmembers are involved.

Edit: Also, I like Studio 60. I don't really get why so many people hate on it.

[ edited by AnotherFireflyfan on 2011-04-04 17:50 ]
The River (which will probably be dropped) and Locke&Key, and the Ringer are the only ones from this list I'm interested in seeing. There are some other pilots the works that sound more promising that the author didn't include.
Agree about the Handler show though...what is she famous for? She's not funny and it can't be her looks.
AnotherFireflyfan, none of these listed have been picked up for fall. These are all still only pilots. Some haven't been shot or fully cast yet. Fall series pickups will be announced in May. Most of what you read will be idle speculation until then.

F_TB, that is a horrible picture of Ms. Handler. The obviously biased author found the worst photo he could. Ms. Handler won't be in the sitcom. It's based on her best-selling and pretty damn funny book "Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea." Ms. Handler will be producing and continuing to host her talk show. She isn't everyone's cup of tea but, no comedian is.

[ edited by IrrationaliTV on 2011-04-04 17:50 ]
We know that Terra Nova has definitely been picked up though, and some of the others have series commitments (which means they will very likely be on). I understand that a lot of this is speculation, but I really hope that these shows do see the light of day because they sound fairly promising.
I'm intrigued by Precinct 17, but after reading a pilot review I'm unsure at what it's going for. It would be nice to have a simple police procedural, just with magic. CSI and Bones are sci-fi enough without gaining the label and, Moore, if nothing else, is bloody terrific at world-building. If that gets picked up, it will most certainly have a very interesting first season. A mythology is likely and a longer period of time, I think, will be necessary for the show.

That's the thing about a lot of shows this season: they all seem like they're playing the long-game. I know this is what broadcast nets want, but I don't recall pilots seeming so "set-up"-y in a while. It's more exciting than an fully wrapped up pilot I guess? Or that might just be me.

Never heard of "The River", and it's kind of strange that Grimm didn't make it onto the list, but whatever.
Terra Nova was never a "pilot" to be picked up. It was ordered directly from script to series. It would be too expensive to do a show like that on a trial basis.
So if Terra Nova fails, how likely is it that networks will decide it's too risky to invest in big budget scifi projects afterwards?
I'm surprised the show involving Abrams and Jonathan Nolan wasn't mentioned, Persons of Interest. Not delighted that either this or Ringers is on CBS as their shows all seem to have a CSI blandness to their look and feel, but maybe these two will help them break that mold.
Terra Nova is a huge risk, but it also has an incredible upside if it works. I don't think FOX will ever stop swinging for the fences no matter what. You lose money on more shows than you make money on. Same with movies. You just hope the winners make more money than the losers lose. That's one reason networks are so quick to cancel shows that are going negative. Make sense?
Despite the fact that Fox cancels a lot them, I really appreciate that Fox actually made a lot of the shows that I love. Few major networks would give some of those shows the light of day at all.

I'm mainly worried that Braga's involvement and Fury leaving the project will mean Terra Nova isn't very good. But I live to be pleasantly surprised!
SMG gracing our screens again is a dream come true. This can't start soon enough for me. Only thing that would make it sweeter is if she were doing it with Joss. :)
Worth noting these are only pilots, so probably won't make it to screen.
Ah, I did not know that Gossi. That's too bad. Still, as Sorkin just won an Oscar (and considering his high standards of quality), I suppose (hope!) chances of “More As the Story Develops” getting made must be pretty large.
I'm sure at least one of these will make it to screen .I'd like it to be the "Ringer" but not overally surprised if it doesn't .
She's not funny and it can't be her looks.


F_TB - we'll thank you not to make comments like that around here.
AnotherFireflyfan, those are exactly my concerns as well.

the Groosalugg, Sorkin's last show on TV was a ratings and commercial failure. TV people don't really care how his movies do. It isn't the same audience. If it was we would have tons of really good science fiction and comic book TV shows.

A couple of these MIGHT make it to screen. And those MIGHT make it past 4 eps. The odds aren't good. It's a brutal sport. :)
TV people don't really care how his movies do. It isn't the same audience. If it was we would have tons of really good science fiction and comic book TV shows.


The other side of that is that where the audience crosses over, the people who will see a 2 hour sci-fi popcorn movie won't necessarily sit still for 22 hours of sci-fi epic that asks them to think. Its a fair point, though :) and well taken.

I'm always somewhat bewildered by people who say "I don't like X or Y" where X/Y are things like "Sci-Fi" or "Western" (to use two utterly unrelated genres that no one has ever blended ;)). I mean, I understand distaste for certain trappings, but man, give me a good story and I'll learn to enjoy or ignore the setting as needed.
Exactly, zeitgeist. The story and how it is told is what's important. I don't care if it's a 19th C costume drama or 21st C Zombie Apocalypse. I'll watch/read any genre in any format and any length if the story is well crafted.
I've always wondered how the biggest blockbuster movies of all time are largely sci-fi and comic based, but those genres rarely get traction or ratings on television. Is it really that people will watch 2-hours of spectacle versus sitting for 22-episodes of substance?

Personally I love that I get to spend more time with the characters and the universe of a tv series, than the brief window that is a movie.

Why do audiences have a general revulsion of genre? I'd argue that Lost was successful because the scifi elements were very subtle at first, and crept in gradually (until eventually you have full on time travel, but by that point you're already hooked on the characters.) But set a series on a starship, and automatically people are actively disinterested and won't tune in, even if they would actually like the show if they gave it a shot. What is it about genre-trappings that puts people off? Do they hate using their imagination and only want dramas/comedies set in the real world?
@AnotherFireflyfan - I might be wrong, but didn't Lost lose a lot of its viewers once it became much more sci-fi?

I expect the lack of viewership for good TV sci-fi, when sci-fi and comics seem to dominate the big screen comes down to the fact that most big screen genre work is heavily geared towards action and explosions, instead of the more thoughtful. Something seemed to happen around Star Wars that made film makers forget that, at its heart, science fiction should deal with very human ideas.

That does seem to be changing in more recent years though; Christopher Nolan is making it exceptionally big with his Batman films and Inception, whilst, on a smaller scale, Duncan Jones seems to be carving himself a nice little niche with Moon and the recent excellent Source Code. Even the fairly light weight fluff The Adjustment Bureau had some smarts going on.

It seems people are willing to engage their brains for a couple of hours, but whether that can translate to the TV I'm not so sure.
Re: the sci-fi tv versus film thing. It probably has a little bit to do with Wars versus Trek. In my experience, the Star Wars franchise is much less geeky and more ingrained in the public consciousness. It is, to an extent, "cool". It's big-budget, has nice fights and there's not that much heady stuff to it. Conversely, Trek is the opposite - it's low budget, it's all about the dialogue and ideas. That theme has continued through and although TV can keep up with what Star Wars done in the '70s now, it doesn't want to. TV (or TV writers) want to cater to an intelligent audience.

If there was less of a separation between the two, I could see more of a cross-over. The high-concept stuff we got after Lost could have done some good if talented people were there. Battlestar Galactica, somehow, might have been feasible to get a cross-section of viewers but due to it's name (and marketing) it didn't.

(Probably holes in the argument. Sorry. I'm tired.)
There is a demographic reason for the movies vs TV genre thing as well. Successful movies skew more young male and TV skews older female. So there is a disconnect when it comes to message and medium.
Speaking on behalf of the group of people who won't watch a show if it's too "sci-fi", I hated Lost once the polar bear on the tropical island came into question. Never wanted to watch BSG, ST or any other such show. Yet I loved Buffy, Angel, DH, FF. I think the thing for us half lovers of sci fi is that perhaps we enjoy a good story and a distant-yet-familiar setting. This way we can recognise something and let our minds have some sort of break from the ordinary without being too drawn out from our own selves.

Whedon's work always based its mythology in obvious metaphor, as we all know. This was beyond effective. BSG apparently did the same, but I still can't get behind the ST look of the show.

It has nothing to do with intelligence or "genre trappings" it's mostly aesthetic. If someone finds the look of a show to be jarring then it takes them out of it. ST for me was something I never identified with; the characters, the aliens, the whole shebang. Yet a film like Alien was perfect. It was based in the future, on a space ship, had aliens, but never went too far from what we know. I appreciate that some people want that, but it doesn't work for all of us. Please don't bring it all down to intellect and enjoying story telling vs mind numbing entertainment. This sorta thing can't be generalised.
This was a horrible year for new TV (and my favorite, THE WALKING DEAD, got only 6 episodes), but I love a lot of these pilots.

17th Precinct has me more excited than any pilot in years.

And three of my favorite TV actresses - SMG, Kristen Bell, and Adrianne Palicki - are all returning to TV (though I would feel better about Adrianne's show if the show had a different executive producer).

I'm interested in at least a dozen new shows (Katee Sackhoff's new show did not make this list, but I'm as interested in it as the others, while others like POE sound so off beat that they could end up good).

If even three of these shows pan out I'll be excited.
BlueSkies, I really think that if you liked Buffy, you'd love BSG. The have exactly the same virtues along with the same major vice: a silly name. Seriously, there have been only two times when I felt that a show was changing the way I thought about TV and popular culture, and one was BUFFY and the other was BSG.

And there is no ST look to the show. None at all. Take the doors. ST has these whooshing doors that anticipates your walking through them. On BSG they had huge metal doors that they purchased off an old WW II submarine that was being scraped.

ST had "Shields" as in ("Captain, shields down to 20%!"). Whereas on BSG the ship was built to absorb being smacked by small nuclear weapons.

Aesthetically, ST tells you absolutely nothing about BSG. You'd get a better idea from NYPD Blue or, perhaps better, DEADWOOD.

Seriously, BSG is SF for people who hate SF. Ken Tucker at EW often is vocal on how much he hates SF, but he was a huge BSG fan.
Seriously, it isn't. It's for people that appreciate different kinds of SF and are aware that the genre doesn't begin and end with Star Trek/Wars (been a lifelong sci-fi fan and loved BSG). As zeitgeist mentioned above, anyone who vocally "hates SF" in its entirety clearly hasn't seen or read enough of it since it's not some monolithic entity with a strict, limited set of properties - it can tell more or less any story, in more or less any setting, at more or less any time (from "Logan's Run" to 'Never Let Me Go' or 'Space: 1999' to 'Moon'). Aside from what feels like over-vehemence (cos really ? People hate genres ?) or maybe just loose usage, saying "I hate SF" is like saying "I hate fiction" IMO.

As to the new crop of pilots, not a huge amount that really grabs me in precis form but among others "17th Precinct" has a great cast and pedigree and the premise (while being basically 'Powers' but with magic) has legs (though i'm more keen to see the Discworld version, a procedural based on the City Watch which is apparently in development). And 'Ringer' because it sounds like it could be good and because it'll be great to see SMG onscreen again. 'More as the Story Develops' could be interesting too though it does sound like fairly well worn ground for Sorkin (both the behind-the-scenes premise and what i'd imagine will be the style - could be wrong but I see a high pressure environment with lots of witty, verbally dextrous people that really, like, care man). Maybe he'll surprise.

All with the standard caveat that many of them may not see the light of day, course.
The story and how it is told is what's important. I don't care if it's a 19th C costume drama or 21st C Zombie Apocalypse. I'll watch/read any genre in any format and any length if the story is well crafted.


saying "I hate SF" is like saying "I hate fiction" IMO.


Amen.

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