Wednesday, March 28, 2012

2012 Most Interesting Pilots - Drama

Another year, another crazy pilot season, another chance for the broadcast studios to get it right. This pilot season sees a host of large ensemble dramas with incredibly diverse casts, with many based on novels or foreign series.

1. 666 Park Avenue (ABC)

Loosely based on the novel of the same name by Gabriella Pierce, 666 Park Avenue is about a couple who take on the management responsibilities of an historic apartment building in Manhattan where strange, supernatural things start happening. It's from much of the same crew as Fox's Fringe and its cast includes the return to a regular series gig for Lost Emmy nominee Terry O'Quinn and Vanessa Williams in a quick turnaround after the end of Desperate Housewives. I'm always on board for a good supernatural drama.

2. The Gilded Lilys (ABC)

A period drama set just before the turn of the twentieth century, The Gilded Lilys revolves around the Lily family, the owners of New York's first luxury hotel, and their staff and clientele. It's being produced and written by ABC's golden child Shonda Rhimes (I know, I'm kind of over her too), but the cast is stellar: Blythe Danner, John Barrowman, Brian F. O'Byrne, Matt Long, Madeline Zima, and others. I'd show up for these folks any day; add in some luscious period costumes and sets, and I'm sold.

3. Last Resort (ABC)

After refusing to detonate a nuclear weapon under strange circumstances, a submarine goes on the run and declares itself the world's smallest sovereign nation. They face the challenges of creating a new society while cautiously maneuvering the world's hostile militaries. It's a fascinating concept, though one that may be too risky for network television, from the dark writer/creator of The Shield and The Chicago Code. The cast is huge and impressive, including Andre Braugher, Dichen Lachman, Autumn Reeser, Max Adler, Sahr Ngaujah, and many others. This is one of the few pilots out there this season which could likely succeed on the strength of its concept alone.

4. Untitled Kevin Williamson Project (Fox)

I'll be honest: I don't even care what this show is about. Anytime Kevin Williamson (Dawson's Creek, The Vampire Diaries, Scream) attaches himself to a pilot, I want it. The fact that the plot and cast are awesome is really just the icing on the cake. The project will follow a serial killer who uses technology and social media to create a cult of killers, and the FBI agent who finds himself in the middle of the investigation of it all. The pilot is full of stars, including Rome's James Purefoy as the killer; Kevin Bacon (!!!) as the FBI agent; Shawn Ashmore (X-Men); Maggie Grace (Lost); Natalie Zea (Justified); and others. Plus it's being directed by Marcos Siega (The Vampire Diaries, True Blood, Dexter), so it will be appropriately gritty. Sign me UP!

5. The Frontier (NBC)

The Frontier is a period drama (and a Western at that!) that follows a group of people on their journey from Missouri to Oregon in the mid-1800s. Ok, seriously... who didn't love playing The Oregon Trail in elementary school? This pilot is basically that game brought to life, starring Ethan Embry (That Thing You Do!) and a diverse ensemble cast. The pilot is being directed by 9-time Emmy winner Thomas Schlamme (The West Wing, ER) and promises to be unlike anything seen on broadcast television in decades.

6. Beautiful People (NBC)

Set "10 minutes in the future," Beautiful People is a large ensemble drama where mechanical human beings exist for the sole purpose of serving the living population. Obviously, some of the mechanical people begin to "awaken." It's not the most original concept (see: AI: Artificial Intelligence and many others), but sometimes a great retread of a good concept can work wonders. The ensemble is led by Frances Conroy, Ernie Hudson and Tovah Feldshuh. If done right, Beautiful People has the potential to be touching, thrilling and affective.

7. The Selection (CW)

With The Hunger Games blowing up the global box office, it's only appropriate that a very similarly themed series be in contention at the youth-oriented CW. Set in a dystopian future where people are divided by class systems they cannot cross, a poor woman is chosen to compete in a lottery to become the next queen of a war-torn nation. There likely won't be any fights to the death in The Selection (also based on a young adult novel coming out this summer), but it will probably be more heavy on the romance and drama. The pilot is from the very talented producing team of Sarah Fain & Elizabeth Craft (The Secret Circle, Dollhouse, Lie to Me, Angel) and is being directed by the extremely versatile Mark Piznarski (Everwood, Gossip Girl, Veronica Mars, NYPD Blue). The cast is also universally appealing, led by Friday Night Lights star Aimee Teegarden in the central female role. Of all the pilots currently in development, I think this one has the most potential and intrigues me most.

8. Joey Dakota (CW)

Based on an Israeli format, Joey Dakota is a musical dramedy about a young filmmaker who travels back in time to the early 90's in order to prevent the death of her favorite musical idol, Joey Dakota. It sounds horribly campy, but that's what I love about it. The script is from the utterly hilarious Bert V. Royal (Easy A) and will feature a talented up-and-coming cast, including Australian actor Craig Horner (Legend of the Seeker) as rocker Dakota and Amber Stevens (Greek) as the filmmaker Maya, plus Party of Five's Scott Wolf is on board as well. I'm a sucker for musicals and cheesy 90's movies, and Joey Dakota seems like an intriguing blend of both.

9. Arrow (CW)

 Arrow is a retelling of the DC Comics character Green Arrow, an archer who invents tricks arrows on his mission to clean up his city. His alter ego is Oliver Queen, a spoiled rich kid whose life is changed when he is rescued from a shipwreck and returns stronger than he was before. Green Arrow is one of the lesser known (and less interesting, to be honest...) comic book superheroes, though the character made a memorable appearance on another CW show, Smallville (this series, however, is not a spin-off). It's being brought to the small screen by Greg Berlanti, who had moderate success with another green superhero last summer in Green Lantern, and Eli Stone's Andrew Kreisberg. Direction is by Emmy winner David Nutter (Band of Brothers, Smallville, Supernatural), and the cast is led by Stephen Amell as Oliver/Green Arrow and CW favorite Katie Cassidy (Gossip Girl, Melrose Place, Supernatural) as his love interest. It's about time we got a new superhero series on television, and I have faith in this group to pull through with something interesting.

10. Elementary (CBS)

ABC tried and failed to bring an updated version of Edgar Allen Poe (as a crime solver, no less) to the airwaves last pilot season, and this year CBS tried to update the more accessible literary figure Sherlock Holmes for broadcast television. Baking on the success of the recent Sherlock movies starring Robert Downey Jr., creator Robert Doherty places the timeless sleuth in contemporary New York as a former Scotland Yard consultant working for the NYPD. It's an interesting enough twist on CBS's standard police procedural, and I love the three leads: Jonny Lee Miller (Eli Stone) as Holmes, Lucy Liu (Southland, Charlie's Angels films) as his assistant Joan Watson, and Aidan Quinn (The Book of Daniel, Prime Suspect) as their boss.

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