There's interesting information on the Internet, so long as you know where to find it. One of my favorite sites as a writer to visit is thefutoncritic.com, which tracks new shows currently in many different stages of development.
Here is a healthy helping of shows that are in what we call the "put pilot" stage. This means that a network has agreed to pony up the money it would cost for a studio to film a television pilot, but it's a 99% guarantee, not 100%. Put pilots carry significant penalties -- often money -- that make it very unpleasant for the network to back out. The overwhelming number of these get shot, but there is no commitment to air them.
AMY AFTER DARK is a show "about a young female attorney in new york who joins the undead after she is bitten by a vampire." The first of these may have the most amusing premise, but it looks pretty darn good compared to some of the drek I'm going to throw at you. With no studio information available, we know it's being set up with Fox. It's a one hour drama under often-times Director Todd Holland and rookie writer John Scott Shepherd.
I call Shepherd a rookie even though he has served as an Executive Producer and series creator before, because his show, called The Days, only lasted six episodes before dying off, and he hasn't done anything since.
Holland is the most promising of the two with directing credits on shows such as Twin Peaks, Tales from the Crypt, the short lived Wonderfalls, Malcolm in the Middle, and a very short stint with NBC hit Friends.
The premise is goofy, but Fox has committed cash to having the pilot shot. Even so, I don't give it much of a chance unless both Shepherd and Holland turn out to be repressed savants.
Skipping over "comedy about a young hotshot veterinarian who is stuck running his late father's practice despite his hatred of animals" at Fox, and "sitcom about a boozy ex-beauty queen mother moving to los angeles to reconnect with her gay son and help remodel his house" at NBC. I'll be skipping a lot like that.
Next up is CHURCH OF STEVE, "about a blue-collar new jersey man who's told he's a descendant of jesus by a biblical scholar from italy, a secret he'll keep from all but his closest relatives and friends."
I'm having a hard time finding the funny in this comedy from Fox, but it has Will Farrell attached as an Executive Producer, likely a position of power he can now command given the box-office success of Talladega Nights, which he co-wrote. It's set up at Sony and Gary Sanchez Productions (there's a joke in there, I know it...) and could go either way depending on how the pilot goes.
Everything at the put pilot stage has every commitment necessary from the studio and network to go forward, but still lacks almost everything else it needs to actually be shot, like cast commitments. Who you cast as the lead could reshape this premise drastically, but I'd also like to point out that the last television show that tangled with religion got body slammed despite being well liked by the critics.
ABC has a pilot called COMPLICATIONS that "takes a behind-the-scenes look at the staff and patients of a hospital." Been there, done that. NEXT! Wait a minute, not so fast. This has been set up at Warner Brothers and Jerry Bruckheimer Television, and has Bruckheimer on board as an Executive Producer. Jesus Christ...Jerry Bruckheimer+hospital=flying body parts. Excellent.
The Alphabet seems eager to take on CSI with it's pilot CRIME PREVENTION UNIT, because there can never be enough cop shows on the air. The premise is a "drama about a police division that tracks and apprehends criminals before they are able to commit a crime." Unit is an attempt by Executive Producer Declan Croghan to succeed in the United States where he failed in the United Kingdom with Murder Prevention. It's a rehash here of something that failed over there. Never a good sign.
Here are quickies for plots that seem doomed from the start.
Drama about a top orthopedic surgeon and mother who faces the challenges of re-entering the dating scene and co-parenting after a separation. (Fox)
Sitcom about a "romeo and juliet"-type story set against warring employees at two mall stores in the vein of the genius bar at the apple stores and abercrombie & fitch. (CBS)
Drama based on the popular book series, about the world of privileged teenagers attending elite private schools in new york city. (The CW)
Drama about an f.b.i. surveillance unit that lives and works together in a bid to fight crime in washington, d.c. (The CW)
None of these shows sound very promising, but I wouldn't be surprised if the CW shows made it to air, given their usual lack of options. Being a netlet isn't very fun, and you take whatever you can get. Who knows, GHOSTS (FBI/D.C.) may even work out for them.
Something that wouldn't have even made the list has caught my attention on a second look. Called WE THE JURY (Fox), it's a "comedy about a group of jurors on a high-profile trial who are sequestered in a motel." I was going to miss this because that's a stupid premise for a comedy, but it kind of took hold in my mind and forced me to really think about it for a few minutes. What did my twisted mind spit out? This premise could be really cool if done as a drama instead.
You see courtroom dramas all the time, with shows dedicated to just the police, just the lawyers, or a combination of the two. What you don't often see is a show that focuses on the jurors. That's a good premise, if you can sell it. Maybe if this show never has its pilot aired, I'll file this away myself as something to pitch as a backup in the future.
Sadly I can't go over all these put pilots, much less shows in the other stages of development like script, ordered to pilot, ordered to series, or cast contingent (if you can land a big star(s), you go green right then and there.) There are over 230 in these various stages, and if you're really interested, you can look this stuff up for yourself.
Suffice to say, most of these premises sound really stupid, but you absolutely must remember that a premise is not a TV show. A premise doesn't give you the kind of mood a well lit set can, or a particular shooting style of a good director. You don't even have a story to read (unless you're a studio exec of course.)
The Prison Break premise sounded terrible, and the show turned into one of the biggest break out hits of last year. Any one of these shows can do that, which is why you get pilots in the first place.
Should you be interested anyway, surf here, scroll down to the DEVWATCH section, and have at it.
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