New shows prepare for takeoff during pilot season

 

It’s finally getting closer to that glorious time of year — pilot season. A bit like Christmas for avid television watchers, pilot season finds major networks giving the green light to new shows, new characters, and new concepts, all in the hopes that one will stick and be the next show to strike gold with audiences nationwide this fall.

That’s the exciting part about pilot season. The devastating part is that you may become familiar with characters who hit home tug at your too-often exposed heartstrings, and then suddenly can be gone without even a note.

You have to go into it knowing that you might end up loving a show nobody else does, and the men in charge will yank it from the air before you even have time to lick the stamp on your angry letter of protest.

Accepting that many of these shows will not make it past their first season — and some not past their first few episodes — there are tons of pilots that are already stirring up major buzz. Here’s a look at what may or may not be on your television screen this fall, by network.

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ABC

ABC is home to some of the best programming on television with shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Brothers and Sisters, and Modern Family. Even second-tier shows like Private Practice and The Bachelor do their part in garnering ratings during their time slots.

However, the new shows they’ve introduced this season — Better With You, Off The Map, and Mr. Sunshine — haven’t quite caught on with audiences. They don’t have the sappy sensibilities of shows like Grey’s, and they aren’t as clever as the writing on Modern Family has proven to be. It wouldn’t be a surprise if all three of the shows get the boot in the near future.

As pilot season approaches, ABC is considering a wide variety of shows that will hopefully succeed where these have failed. Most promising is Pan Am, an airborne drama set in the 1960s that stars the long-gone-but-not-forgotten Christina Ricci.

The pilot seems to be a response to the success and adoration of AMC’s Mad Men, only this time female narrated. There has been a renewed interest in the Jet Age as of late, and this pilot will absolutely benefit from that. And if you saw Ricci’s Emmy-nominated guest stint on Grey’s a few years ago, you know that she’s come a long way from the years of Casper.

CBS

While CBS is home to successful reality shows like The Amazing Race and Survivor, as well as the lucrative CSI series, the network hasn’t launched a successful sitcom since How I Met Your Mother in 2005.

The solution might be found in Two Broke Girls, a half-hour sitcom starring Kat Dennings of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist fame. With a script penned by comics Michael Patrick King and Whitney Cummings, it has received all kinds of praise in the blogosphere, and it’d be surprising if this show didn’t get the go-ahead for at least a first season.

The show will face tough competition with the heavy-hitting comedies currently running (NBC’s Thursday night lineup, Modern Family), but if the writing is strong and the time slot well chosen, this show might find CBS striking gold once again.

FOX

Fox has Glee and American Idol, and if those were the only two shows they ever ran, they’d still be in the green. Shows like House and the animated trifecta of American Dad, Family Guy, and The Simpsons don’t hurt either. So with all of this success, what exactly is Fox looking for next season?

Well, one look at the long list of shows being considered for the fall lineup proves inconclusive. The most promising of these, however, is The New Girl, starring hipster heartthrob Zooey Deschanel. It’s a girl-moves-in-with-boys sitcom penned by Liz Meriweather (No Strings Attached) that, although not entirely original, should find an audience.

Everything that Deschanel touches turns to gold, and let’s not forget her hysterically absurd stint on Weeds a few years back.

Expect lots of witty cultural references, Neutral Milk Hotel playing in the background, and weird-yet-endearing eye-rolling from Deschanel.

NBC

NBC has my favorite Thursday night lineup with 30 Rock, The Office, Parks and Recreation, and Community. The shows are clever, and their cult-like fandom knows no bounds. But Thursday seems to be NBC’s only successful night, with shows like Chuck and Harry’s Law inching closer and closer to cancellation.

That’s okay, because NBC has quite a few promising pilots up their sleeve. First there’s Are You There Vodka? It’s Me Chelsea, the sitcom adaptation of Chelsea Handler’s bestseller of the same name. It stars Laura Prepon (That 70s Show) and already has a built-in following with the success of Handler’s Chelsea Lately.

Debra Messing will be the lead in Smash, executive producer Steven Spielberg’s behind-the-scenes look at Broadway. More exciting than these two is Alpha Mom, an acerbic comedy starring Will Arnett, Christina Applegate, and Maya Rudolph being helmed by mega-producer Lorne Michaels (SNL, 30 Rock).

Details are few and far in between, but with a cast like that and Michaels’ seal of approval, details aren’t really what matters here. All signs point to this show being picked up.