Friday, March 21, 2014

2014 Pilot Season: The Changing Landscape of TV

So it’s that time of year again when the networks are starting to consider what new shows will be on their fall/midseason slates for the upcoming season. While we wait for May Upfronts when we’ll know for sure what’s made the list and when it will be hitting the airwaves, we figured we would give you a preview of some of the pilots we think are the most promising and the most intriguing. We will be bringing you a post-Upfronts post as well so keep an eye out for that. You may notice that one of the major five broadcast networks is missing. While Sarah usually is a fan of CBS shows, none of their pilot offerings are all that interesting.

Centered on New York star medical examiner, Dr. Henry Morgan, “Forever” follows him as he works to learn more about humanity through death because he is immortal. Whether he is a vampire or some other sort of supernatural creature is still a mystery. But we hope it will be addressed in the series if it makes the cut. It is also our hope that the creative team leans on the side of other supernatural creature because vampires are getting rather tired right now on TV. And it would give the show a more unique premise. The main draw for this show is the casting of Ioan Gruffudds (you’ll recognize him as rich guy Andrew Martin from “Ringer”). Based on the pure pretty factor alone, he is going to make an awesome immortal. It will probably be more of a sci-fi procedural (a la Grimm) but those seem to be “in” right now.

The Flash
This seems to be the year for spin-offs. Not only do “How I Met Your Mother”, NCIS and CSI have spin-offs in the works on CBS but CW staple “Supernatural” is getting one, too. “The Flash” is spun off from sophomore hit “Arrow”. As you might expect, this show follow Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) as The Flash, tackling crime in Central City. We are intrigued to see what happens in the wider Arrow-verse. The executive producers have said that they are keeping “The Flash” grounded in reality, like “Arrow”. We are led to believe that the explosion at S.T.A.R. Labs is what gives him his super speed. We hope that this series will be able to stand on its own ratings wise and survive past its freshman year. We here at More TV, Please enjoy the Arrow-verse (even if we don’t blog it anymore). Plus, from what we’ve already seen from leading man Gustin, we are hopeful that he’ll be able to anchor the show and show us what kind of acting chops he really has.

The CW is really becoming known for its strong genre fare. And the premise of “iZombie” is no exception. Another sci-fi procedural type, it follows a young med student-turned-zombie who works in the morgue to get brains to keep her going. But she teams up with the local constabulary to solve the murders to get the voices of the dead out of her head. You may have seen this pilot mentioned in the Writers’ Spotlight we did recently on Rob Thomas. This is his latest brain child and we are excited to see where it goes (pending pick up by the network). It could benefit from some expertly placed and drafted voice overs. Plus, Rose McIver (of recent Once Upon a Time fame playing Tinker Bell) is the lead. We also get David Anders (Dr. Whale) as well. This show has the potential to be a quirky new take on the zombie fad.

Backstrom (Ordered to Series)
Of all the series we are previewing, this is the least exciting. It is from Executive Producer Hart Hanson (“Bones”) and it’s a pretty straightforward procedural following an irascible detective in Portland solving cases with his team. Sarah is interested because of the Bones connection but based on what we know so far of the storyline, it sounds like it could be “House” but with cops instead of doctors. Sarah was never a fan of the show and Jen stopped watching after a few seasons. Rainn Wilson has the look to portray the lead character but we are not quite convinced he is leading man material. But perhaps most importantly, this show is one of several shows that demonstrate the changing landscape of television, especially for FOX. The network has decided to forego pilot season in favor of ordering show to series (13 episodes) and trying to program material year-round. While we think shorter seasons can be beneficial for certain types of shows (mostly high concept sci-fi), we aren’t sure whether that model will help or hurt “Backstrom”. Only time will tell.

Gotham (Ordered to Series)
Another trend this pilot seems to be the origin story. Like the CW, Fox is launching into its own superhero origin saga. This time focusing on Gotham City before Bruce Wayne put on his cape and pointy ears and drove his Bat mobile. This show, also ordered to series by the network, follows future Commissioner Gordon as a young detective dealing with the corruption of his city and the birth of some of the mythology’s better known villains. We weren’t originally interested in “Gotham” but as the cast has been announced, it has started to draw our eye. If it’s anything like the gritty feeling of shows like “Almost Human”, we’ll at least give it a shot.

Hieroglyph (Ordered to Series)
Set in Ancient Egypt, “Hieroglyph” follows a notorious thief plucked from prison to serve the Pharaoh. As expected there will be lots of intrigue and craziness afoot. One of the better parts of this show is the casting of British actor John Rhys-Davies (Gimli from Lord of the Rings). We aren’t sure exactly who will be portraying but we’ll take whatever he gives us. This show is poised to fulfill our love of historically set mysteries and magic, in the vein of Atlantis or Merlin. It is certainly unlike any of the other shows currently on broadcast networks today. With the cult success of shows like “Sleepy Hollow”, we are anxious to see if this show can find a foothold in the ratings and bring about some new twists on a heavily sci-fi development slate.

Based on more comic book characters, “Constantine” centers on John Constantine, a supernatural crime fighter. Yes, this is the same character from the movie with Keanu Reeves. We think it’s about time we got some angels and demons on our TV screens. SyFy has a similar concept in “Dominion” in terms of following the angels vs. man idea. We here at More TV, Please love our genre fare as you may have noticed. And it is high time we explore a different facet of the supernatural universe. Werewolves, witches and vampires are old school. This is the time of the supernatural comic book hero (or anti-hero depending on how you look at it). Bring it on NBC!

Emerald City (Ordered to Series)
If you follow TV like we do, back in the fall you would have seen that most of the networks were scrambling to take a bite of the “Wizard of Oz” apple now that it is celebrating 75 years since the release of the film. Most of the pilots sounded dreadful (CBS had a medical drama). But based on the pilot listings we’ve seen so far (excluding cable networks like SyFy), “Emerald City” is the only one of the “Oz”-centric pilots that has made it to order. And like FOX, NBC has given this a series order right out of the gate. While none of the casting has been announced yet, this reminds us of the SyFy Channel miniseries “Tin man”. We are excited to see how they play up the darkness and the danger in Oz.

So there are eight pilots we are hoping make it to series (or beyond a freshman run in the case of those already granted series orders). We will see you back here in mid-May after Upfronts to assess which shows have made the cut. There is a very strong possibility you will see at least one or two of these covered in the rotation during the 2014-2015 season.

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