Lately, the news has been filled with reports of pilot episodes for new series getting ordered by all of the major networks, not to mention basic and premium cable channels. And while it's presumptuous to form opinions about them based on little more than a one-sentence description, once you factor in casting news and who the writer and director are, you start to get a pretty good idea of what to expect. Not counting shows still in the scripting stage, or shows that already have a series commitment, here are some of the best- and worst-sounding pilots being developed -- although since they get added and dropped frequently, this may not be fully accurate for long. (Generic-sounding romantic comedies and family dramas get a bye this round, because it's hard to muster strong feelings about them, but we'll revisit them if and when they make it to series.)
The Best-Sounding Pilots:
House of Lies (Showtime)
A Showtime series that doesn't center around a sarcastic white woman? We're in! Don Cheadle will star as a morally flexible management consultant, and Kristen Bell will play an associate at his firm. War Machine in a series, and Veronica Mars back on TV? This sounds like a dream come true. Plus, the director also did the pilots for The Unusuals and Californication, so it might be pretty good.
Little in Common (Fox)
A sitcom about three families who connect through Little League sports may not sound like the next Modern Family, but we'll check it out because it's from the mind of Veronica Mars and Party Down creator Rob Thomas. (Clearly, we're fans.)
Speaking of Veronica Mars and Party Down, Rob Thomas and his co-writers also came up with this pilot, about people who change jobs every week, shortly after they found out their cult series about cater-waiters had been cancelled.
Awakening (The CW)
With The Walking Dead somewhat of a disappointing mess so far, a dumbed-down CW version, about coming-of-age sisters facing off against each other during a zombie uprising, might be just what the doctor ordered. We're especially curious to see how one of them can be both "coming of age" and a public defender. Is she a teen lawyer?
As happy as we are to have Kristen Bell back on our TV (and hopefully cutting back on big-screen romantic comedies), we're equally happy to have Sarah Michelle Gellar back, playing a woman on the run from the mob who pretends to be her wealthy twin sister. While the premise sounds a little goofy, it's SMG -- possibly two SMGs! Now no more Scooby-Doo.
A crime procedural set in 1840's Boston? With Edgar Allan Poe as lead detective? We are so there, if only to see if it turns out to be a train wreck.
With former Fly Girl (and Dancing With the Stars judge) Carrie Ann Inaba producing, we can at least expect some great dancing in this drama series about a dysfunctional family of professional dancers.
J.J. Abrams is behind yet another series set on a mystical island starring Hugo Reyes, and this time it's one you may have been to. The series is about convicts who vanished from Alcatraz when it was a prison and then turn up in the modern day, and while J.J. may eventually get bored and walk away from it, allowing it to run into the ground, the pilot episode should be fantastic.
Hart of Dixie (The CW)
The plot may sound familiar, but we'll tune into this show about a New York City doctor setting up practice in an oddball Southern town because it's produced by Josh Schwartz. We're picturing a hot Northern Exposure, and we like it.
NBC was smart to get Alan Taylor -- who directed five episodes of Mad Men, including the Emmy-nominated pilot -- to direct their pilot about a Playboy club in 1960s Chicago. It's practically a Mad Men spin-off at this point already, which means we're at least curious to check it out.
As the Story Develops (HBO)
Keith Olbermann was rumored to be involved in this Aaron Sorkin series about a cable news show, but his talk show (and Chris Matthews') apparently only provided the inspiration. While Sorkin's record with TV shows about TV shows is 50-50, the rest of his work (including Social Network) speaks for itself, usually very quickly and while walking.
This reboot of the 1980's soap will bring back original cast members Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray, but it will also follow the next generation of the tumultuous Ewing family. Jordana Brewster will play the cook's daughter, Elena, who's torn between two Ewing cousins. It's like Vampire Diaries without the vampires!
Exit Strategy (Fox)
Ethan Hawke will re-team with director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Brooklyn's Finest) for this pilot about a CIA extraction team who get their fellow agents out of bad situations in real time, a la 24. Each episode will take place in a different country. Watching Ethan Hawke try to be Jack Bauer should be... interesting.
A musical. About the staging of a Broadway show. Developed by Steven Spielberg. Originally for Showtime. While it will surely lose some of its initial edge on a broadcast network, any musical supplement/alternative to Glee is all right by us.
Cooper and Stone (The CW)
Two young, female detectives in Chicago who discuss clothes, fashion, pop culture and solve homicides? It sounds like a (slightly) younger Rizzoli & Isles, which isn't anything we were particularly looking for, but the involvement of one of the producers of Life has us intrigued.
Untitled Shonda Rhimes Fixer Show (ABC)
There are a lot of factors left to be seen in this show about a crisis manager, based on the real-life woman who handled the Monica Lewinsky and Chandra Levy scandals, but it's Shonda Rhimes, who gave us Grey's, and the pilot will be directed by Paul McGuigan, who recently did the pilot episode of Sherlock.
We can't help thinking of last year's
failed awful rookie-cop drama Rookie Blue, but this show about six rookies balancing their work and personal lives is set in NYC, written by a writer from The Wire, and produced by Robert De Niro. "Could be good" is an understatement.
17th Precinct (NBC)
Battlestar Galactica producer Ron Moore is behind this cop drama, which takes place in a world where magic is used in place of science. Set in a town called Excelsior (Stan Lee cameo, anyone?), it's being described as an adult Harry Potter, but we'll settle for Cast a Deadly Spell: The Series.
The Wedding Band (TBS)
Melora Hardin (The Office) plays an events company president who hires two lifelong friends (Brian Austin Green and Peter Cambor) and their band to play all of her events. We don't watch many TBS shows, but we're behind whatever gets the Notorious B.A.G. off of Desperate Housewives and Cambor off of NCIS: Los Angeles.
Locke & Key (Fox)
Based on an acclaimed comic book, the family of a murdered man moves into his ancestral, very creepy home, where an evil entity threatens to possess them all. Hooray, scary TV shows!
The River (Fox)
Speaking of scary, a journey up the Amazon river to find a missing family member, written by the writers of Paranormal Activity? Color us intrigued.
The Worst-Sounding Pilots:
Pan Am (ABC)
Another series perhaps looking to trade on Mad Men's acclaim, this "sexy soap" will follow Pan Am pilots and stewardesses in the 1960's, when the airline was an industry leader. We're sure it's nothing like that other airline show The Loop, but who wants to spend that much time on a plane? And it's ABC, so even the prospect of people joining the Mile High Club can only disappoint.
After Heroes, we're going to have trouble trusting Tim Kring again. Especially not when his new show is about a mute-autistic kid who can predict the future. The sad part? The pilot is probably going to be really, really good. But we won't be fooled again.
Heavenly (The CW)
As much as we love Castiel on Supernatural, we've been burned by one too many remakes of Wings of Desire and two too many versions of Cupid to have any interest in a show about a young female attorney who teams up with a former angel to save her clients' souls.
Charlie's Angels (ABC)
We'll admit that the movies were occasionally fun, but the casting of the three high-kicking girls in this reboot isn't grabbing us, with one exception. One's a soap star, one's that annoying hacker girl from the first Transformers and one's Minka Kelly (yep, the exception). We remember how Bionic Woman worked out, and we're nervous.
Family Album (Fox)
If the entire season follows an extended family on vacation, the pilot episode should get as far as, what, the airport? We'd rather wait for another Modern Family vacation episode. With the writers of Perfect Couples doing the writing and Shawn Levy (Date Night) doing the directing, we may never reach the hotel.
Wonder Woman (NBC)
We still don't understand why David E. Kelley is anywhere near this thing. Looking at Harry's Law, and then reading that Kelley's Wonder Woman is a successful corporate executive as well as a vigilante, we can't see how this could be any good. And McG directing the pilot? We know he did the pilot for Chuck, but this is a different story.
Police detectives who are secretly sisters? So they're fiercely loyal to each other? That sounds pretty ridiculous, and it will only seem more so once the pilot is directed by the man who did the pilot for V.
We're willing to accept a police station in a land of magic, but a cop drama where the cops investigate Grimm's fairy tales? A little too precious for us. After all, there's no way it could be as good as the comic book Fables, even with Angel co-creator David Greenwalt and writer Jim Louf involved.
The Finder (Fox)
We aren't ones to say what Bones fans will or won't like, but this spin-off about a man who can "find anything," based on the Locator books, sounds kind of dull. And the star, Geoff Stults, hasn't had a great track record when it comes to his choice of shows.
Work It (ABC)
Two men cross-dressing as women to get jobs as pharmaceutical reps? What is this, 1982?
Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea (NBC)
Inspired by Chelsea Handler's autobiography, this comedy is being written by the co-creators of Dharma & Greg, and might be a little bit too much for us to handle. Just like the title.
Big Mike (A&E)
We couldn't stand watching Greg Grunberg play a cop on Heroes, so we aren't sure we'll be able to sit through an entire episode, let alone a season, of him as a police detective.
A Marc Cherry joint, the pilot finds the forces of good and evil tearing apart the town of Hallelujah, Tennessee. How could anything be more evil than Teri Hatcher on Desperate Housewives?
Brave New World (NBC)
Peter Tolan has a good track record, most recently on Rescue Me, but we'll wait and see on this comedy, which follows the historically re-enacting employees of theme park Pilgrim Village. We can see a movie about the subject, but an entire series set there?
Once Upon a Time (ABC)
Another story about fairy tales that are real? Set in Maine? Written by the guys who wrote Tron: Legacy? So it'll be a long, boring version of Haven?
A modern-day Count of Monte Cristo, written by the guy who did Swingtown and set in the Hamptons. We're already getting kind of sleepy.
Happily Divorced (TV Land)
In the continuing TV Land tradition of hiring long-forgotten former TV stars to star in new shows, Fran Drescher will play a woman starting life anew after finding out her husband is gay. We would call it preposterous, if it wasn't based on her actual life. And while we like Drescher as a pop cultural touchstone, we aren't sure we like her as an actress on our televisions.
Good Christian Bitches (ABC)
Described as "Desperate Housewives in Dallas," our question is: why, exactly?
What do you think of these pilots? Any sound good? Any sound awful? Agree? Disagree? Do share!
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