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Pilot Pick-Up Review (NBC) – 2011-2012 Season

Development season is right now, and with the scripts picked to pilot about to be shot, the next best thing besides watching the finished product is reading them. As well as reviewing them. I’ll also venture a guess as to whether I think they’ll go to series or not (all of which is announced as usual at the Upfronts). So here goes.

On we go with NBC, and a slate all over the place.
After another exec reshuffle, Greenblatt began heading last November the original programming development, and already some big changes are getting around the network. Bigger and better seems to be the drama motto while the comedies are staying in touch with classic themes (albeit a tad edgier than usual). Once again, the Peacock wants to redefine itself.

Dramas (One-hour)
17th Precinct (Ronald D. Moore)
Logline: A dramatic series set against a magical world where the ordinary laws of science don’t apply. The action takes place in a city called Excelsior, which is run by sophisticated yet elemental magic. The police solve crimes and bring the accused before judges that offer highly subjective verdicts. But there’s a threat brewing to this way of life – a group of terrorists called The Stoics, who want to eradicate magic and replace it with the tyranny of science.
With: Jamie Bamber, James Callis, Stockard Channing, Tricia Helfer, Kristin Kreuk, Matthew Long, Esai Morales, Eamonn Walker
My thoughts:
It’s no Battlestar Galactica, that’s for sure. The best way to describe it succinctly would be to say it’s CSI, with magic instead of tech.
17th Precinct wasn’t overtly bad, it was just…okay. I don’t really know why but the world felt much less dense than his previous shows. The casting is obviously amazing but that’s never the be-all end-all.
With all of that said, I honestly doubt there’s an audience for this on broadcast television, let alone NBC. It might have worked on, say, Syfy, but it’s doubtful it’ll play well on NBC.
People don’t watch procedurals for the escapism science-fiction or fantasy provides, they watch procedurals for the nitty-gritty aspect of it and realism it provides. At the end of the episode, the bad guy is caught, and that’s reassuring because he seems more real than some wizard somewhere. We know how Century City fared on CBS (in that people don’t even remember the show).
Going to series? Yes. Despite the fact that it clearly won’t work on broadcast, NBC wants a new original procedural hit badly.

A Mann’s World (Michael Patrick King)
Logline: A dramatic series with comedic elements centering on a heterosexual male hairdresser, Allan Mann, now in his fifties, who is now looking to stay au courant in Beverly Hills, where age and experience can’t hold a candle to looks and beauty. While others might take the comfortable and predictable path, he takes the ego-driven and more difficult one.
With: Ellen Barkin, JR Bourne, Mario Cantone, Chris Crocker, Caitlin Crosby, Kelly Hu, Don Johnson, Jesse Jones, Taylor Kinney, D.J. Pierce, Sandra Vergara, Amanda Mason Warren, Christian Dante White
My thoughts:
Oh God. I can’t describe how bad this pilot is.
Literally the worst script of this season.
Obviously Greenblatt picked it up because of the financial penalty attached to it. Right? Please?
Going to series? Kill me now.

Metro (Stephen Gaghan)
Logline: A dramatic series that explores Los Angeles from multiple points of view, from lawyers to law enforcement, politics to the haves and have nots. The main character is a detective working in the Mayor’s Special Investigations Unit, who has returned to Los Angeles to re-connect with his teenage daughter and try maintain a civil relationship with his ex-wife, who is a high powered attorney.
With: Daniella Alonso, Madchen Amick, Luis Chavez, Emma Dumont, Noah Emmerich, Matthew Levy, Danny Pino, Jimmy Smits
My thoughts:
It seems that every season, NBC wants another gritty LA-based show.
Will this one do?
Well, Metro is reminiscent of Traffic. And in this case it’s a good thing.
Add Smits and Emmerich and I’m in.
Going to series? Probably. It’s both a cop and legal show, NBC’s go-to genre.

Playboy (Chad Hodge)
Logline: A soapy dramatic series that looks at the social and political tumult of the 1960’s from the perspective of Playboy bunnies working at the Playboy Club in Chicago.
With: Laura Benanti, Eddie Cibrian, Jenna Dewan, Amber Heard, David Krumholtz, Naturi Naughton, Wes Ramsey, Leah Renee Cudmore, Sean Maher
My thoughts:
It’s been somewhat widely reported that people haven’t responded all that well to the pilot. Neither did I to be honest.
How can you do about sex and drugs without sex and drugs?
The challenge was accepted by Playboy and was almost immediately failed.
The (unnecessary) period aspect of the show sealed its fate.
Going to series? Very likely. Any publicity is good publicity at this point.

Prime Suspect (Alexandra Cunningham)
Logline: A dramatic series based on the UK ITV procedural series of television movies starring Helen Mirren. The U.S. version centers on a newly promoted homicide detective, Jane Timoney, who has to deal with skeptical male colleagues who erroneously believe that that she has slept her way to her present position. Constantly ostracized and undermined, she finally gets her shot at spearheading a homicide investigation. Once she has a chance to show her abilities her astute powers of observation and scrupulousness win over almost all of her prior enemies.
With: Kirk Acevedo, Maria Bello, Tim Griffin, Damon Gupton, Joe Nieves, Brian F. O’Byrne, Aidan Quinn, Toby Stephens
My thoughts:
To be blunt, it was a snoozefest.
I know everyone loves to remake “known” property but this is one foreign classic that should have been left untouched.
For one, there is no original take on the cop genre. Prime Suspect might have actually defined the genre 20 years ago, but now it’s not so groundbreaking, gritty, or even interesting.
More importantly though, the sexism is way too blatant. One of the keys to the original show’s success was how it dealt with this (at the time) rampant problem in a way that was both subtle and realistic. The American version of Prime Suspect makes Mad Men a utopia for women.
And let me say that Maria Bello is no Helen Mirren.
Going to series? Maybe. It’s been in development since forever and this season is as close as it’s going to get to getting a green-light.

Construction (Josh Brand)
Logline: A period drama centering on Jason Edding, a Union Civil War veteran who returns from the Civil War a changed and haunted man. He seeks refuge in the border state of Missouri in a town that, despite the end of the war, is being terrorized by a mysterious Southern colonel called the Grey Ghost. He extorts money from the townspeople, and his brutal henchman maim and murder anyone who doesn’t comply. When Jason rolls into town and defeats these thugs, the people in the town embrace him as their savior and beg him to be their sheriff. But Jason’s must chase away his own ghosts before he can accept that challenge.
With: Emma Bell, Billy Brown, Coburn Goss, Martin Henderson, Robert Knepper, Rachelle Lefevre, Bill Sage, Claire Wellin
My thoughts:
I can honestly say this was a surprise hit for me. I’m no western fan (heck, it’s my least favorite genre), but this one worked for me. Of course, it’s no Carnivale, but it’s getting close to that territory.
Only problem? This is clearly not an NBC show.
First, it’s a period piece set in the civil war era, and it’s a western. Second, subject-matter is more cable than anything else (would it surprise you to learn that it was originally developed at FX?). Finally, it’s gory and violent.
Going to series? Sadly doubtful.

REM (Kyle Killen)
Logline: A dramatic series described as a procedural hybrid that centers on the simultaneous and parallel lives of a detective who cannot let go of any aspect of his fractured family after a horrible car accident.
With: Laura Allen, Steve Harris, Jason Isaacs, Cherry Jones, Michaela McManus, Dylan Minnette, Wilmer Valderrama, B.D. Wong
My thoughts:
I’ve been talking about this one for over three months for one simple reason: it’s my favorite script of the season, by far.
Amazing story, amazing writing, amazing show.
The world and the characters are very compelling but I’m afraid people are not going to tune in to watch the show, regardless of how well-crafted it is.
I have to voice my worry however about Howard Gordon show-running this thing. Why isn’t Killen staying behind? I can only guess this move shows NBC being afraid of a Lone Star redux.
Going to series? Probably. There’s no doubt that this is the most talked-about and praised original show of the season.

Smash (Theresa Rebeck)
Logline: A dramatic series based on an idea by Steven Spielberg. This one-hour musical series follows a cross section of characters who come together for the exhilarating ride of putting on a Broadway musical.
With: Christian Borle, Jaime Cepero, Jack Davenport, Megan Hilty, Anjelica Huston, Raza Jaffrey, Brian d’Arcy James, Katharine McPhee, Debra Messing
My thoughts:
Another cable-like show for NBC (this one originally developed at Showtime).
People are saying the network is riding on Glee‘s coattails with this one.
If anything, it’s closer to HBO’s Miraculous Year than FOX’s tween show.
Smash wasn’t a mega hit for me, but it was definitely entertaining.
One thing I’m struggling with however is the longevity; it definitely seemed more like a mini-series than anything else. Once the musical is all set and done (probably in the first season finale), then what?
Going to series? Yes. Big cast, big producers, big show.

Wonder Woman (David E. Kelley)
Logline: A dramatic series based on the DC comic book series Wonder Woman, about Diana Prince, an Amazon who possesses superhuman strength, speed and stamina, flight, and super-agility. In this reinvention, Wonder Woman is a corporate executive and vigilante crime fighter in Los Angeles who works to balance all of the extraordinary parts of her life.
With: Justin Bruening, Cary Elwes, Adrianne Palicki, Pedro Pascal, Tracie Thoms, Brett Tucker, Elizabeth Hurley
My thoughts:
What more is there to add to this train-wreck? You can’t quite look away from the mess going on in front of you, although viewers won’t tune in beyond episode two.
I feel bad for Palicki who deserves better. Much better.
Going to series? Oh, my, yes.

Single-camera Comedies (Half-hour)
I Hate that I Love You (Jhoni Marchinko)
Logline: A single camera comedy series on a straight guy who lives with his best friend, who is a lesbian and a straight woman who lives with her best friend, who is a lesbian. When all four meet and the straight and gay couples get together, the ordinary issues of new relationships get a new twist. The straight guy and his gay best friend slept together in a fit of drunken despair a month before everyone met, which neither have discussed since it happened. But they all need to talk about it, because she now realizes she’s pregnant.
With: Danneel Ackles, Anna Camp, Jaime Lee Kirchner, Nick Thune
My thoughts:
Nothing new under the sun. Yet another standard dual couple comedy show, albeit with two lesbians.
Going to series? Possibly. This is another attempt at NBC trying to recapture a good “friends with benefits” comedy.

Untitled Lennon Parham & Jessica St. Clair Project
Logline: A single camera comedy series about an extremely awkward triangle – a woman and her new live-in boyfriend find themselves taking in her distraught (and pushy) best girlfriend who ends up on their doorstep after a divorce.
With: Lennon Parham, Stephen Schneider, Jessica St. Clair
My thoughts:
Not really my sensibility. I honestly don’t see the series appealing beyond the LA demographic (story isn’t really compelling). And the dialogue was too on-the-nose for me.
Going to series? I don’t see it.

Stay tuned as we conclude next time our pilot pick-up review with a cable medley.


  1. V Fan

    We saw the untitled version of the show with the triangle of the girl who lives with the boyfriend and has her best friend move in after a divorce. At the time, they had it named Best Friends Forever. It was HORRIBLE and I would hope no stations would ever pick that show up. The writers were trying way too hard, the jokes fell flat and the blond best friend who moves in was so EXTREMELY unlikable.

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