Month: December 2014

ABC’s 25 most exciting projects for 2015/2016 pilot season

abc

The following article is based on descriptions mixed wih talents attached ONLY. None of the scripts have been read at this point. 

What are ABC’s needs for next season:

– A new cop show that could take Castle‘s place as it is nearing its end

– More dramas in the vein of Scandal & How To Get Away With Murder, that can attract the young (and female) demo and make some noise on the social networks.

– At least one mini-series to fill the gap come mid-season

– At least one more family-friendly comedy to enter the Wednesday block

– Out of the box ideas

Drama Scripts ordered: around 40 / Comedy Scripts ordered: around 45

Drama pilots ordered last year: 11 /  Comedy pilots ordered last year: 13

10 Drama Pilots should be ordered / 10 Comedy Pilots should be ordered

Observation: ABC is quite in a good state right now, with a pretty solid fall (The Goldbergs getting stronger, How To Get Away With Murder & Blackish becoming breakout hits from the get-go, older shows like Grey’s Anatomy, The Middle, Modern Family, Once Upon A Time staying at very decent levels…) but come september, there will be new holes to fill, especially on Sundays and Tuesdays where Revenge, Resurrection and sadly Forever can’t stay any longer. Creatively speaking, it was a strong year too (almost evey new show garnered good reviews), and next year could be even stronger if the right choices are being made. The good projects are there. Let’s hope they turn great!

DRAMAS

COLD BLOOD (ABC Studios)

What? Drama about Dr. Cara West, an African-American attending who joins the staff of New York Memorial, the world’s most prestigious hospital, after the mysterious disappearance of one of their doctors

Why? Ignoring the fact that it’s quite strange to decide from the get-go that the heroine of your show has to be African-American (as it is not based on a real person), the interesting idea here is to mix your classical medical show with a thriller mystery element. It can’t become the next great medical show every network is pursuing, but it can be the medical version of political Scandal or legal How To Get Away. Sadly, it is not Shonda Rhimes-produced.

COUCH DETECTIVE (Warner Bros. Television)

What? Drama about a thirty-something female couch detective who solves crimes based on her encyclopedic knowledge of every true-crime TV special, police procedural and made-for-TV movie

Why? Think Murder, she wrote. Think Castle. And now learn that this project is written by… Awkward‘s creator and ex-showrunner Lauren Iungerich and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, Mr. Entertainment, Mr. CSI. All of this is the promise of a funny and effective procedural that could last for years.

DIGITAL FORTRESS (20th Century FOX Television)

What? A sexy cat-and-mouse game between a Snowden-esque character who is threatening to release all of the government’s secrets to the highest bidder and a female cryptographer and her elite team who are tasked to stop him.

Why? Think The Blacklist, but sexier (wouldn’t be that hard). Two young beautiful characters, enemies but attracted to each other, in the middle of a conspiracy conceived in bestseller novelist Dan Brown’s mind. Yes, it is quite irresistible. Could also work as a mini-series if the plan is to stick to the book.

FALL OF GIANTS (Sony Pictures Television)

What? A dramatic tale of love and war told through the lives of five families that become entangled by the first World War. An earl falls for a coal miner’s daughter, a British heiress for a German spy and a young American on the fast track to the White House falls for a Russian bootleggers’s daughter…

Why? A very ambitious mini-series, adapted from Ken Follett’s trilogy, that gives everything an ABC (an American ?) average viewer is looking for and then some more: love stories, family feuds, bomb explosions and a historical background. Well made, with a big budget and a terrific cast, it has the potential to be a wide success. It’s never as simple as that of course, but still…

THE L.A. CRIME (ABC Studios)

What? Drama which explores sex, politics and popular culture across various noteworthy eras in L.A. history with the inaugural season following two LA cops track a Bonnie & Clyde-esque serial killer team amidst the rock-and-roll, coke-infused revelry of the 1980s Sunset Strip

Why? ABC has yet to find its own anthology show since it’s one of the big trends of the past few years, especially on cable. Come midseason, American Crime will try to be that one. In case it does’nt work -and let’s be honest: it’s a hard sell for a network even if it is pretty damn good- The L.A. Crime could make an interesting new candidate. A hard sell again since it’s a period drama that screams “cable” everywhere but let’s focus on the LA cops and serial killer parts for the moment…

LITTLE WOMEN (ABC Signature)

What? The lives of four sisters – coming of age against the backdrop of a military scandal as their family loses its fortune and position – who find themselves at odds with the conservative and traditional society in which they live…

Why? The fact that this cult and timeless book from Louisa May Alcott has not been adapted for TV yet (some movies have been made) is beyond me. It is a story full of potential, modern, with strong female characters, and ABC is clearly the perfect place to make it happen finally. But here are the traps to avoid: losing the feminist vibe to make it a Gossip Girl-ish soap opera; and choosing cute actresses like, let’s say, JoAnna Garcia, with limited acting skills. It has to be a prestigious drama, with great actresses. Make it limited if you want to attract some of the best out there, but do it right or just don’t even try.

THE LONG GAME (ABC Studios)

What? Drama about a gutsy female forensic accountant who exposes fraud for a living and has finally found fulfillment both at work and in love until a case comes along that threatens to turn her world upside down. 

Why? Forensic accountant, fraud… Those words don’t sound sexy. BUT this is one of the very few new projects from Shondaland! So it has to be in the mix. Shonda Rhimes is not a writer here, it comes from Jennifer Schuur, a woman who actually never wrote for her so far but worked on Hannibal, Big Love and Hostages recently. It can only mean one thing: Shonda thinks The Long Game fits perfectly with what she brings to television. Let’s just be trusting on this one.

THE MIX (Warner Bros. Television)

What? Drama about the realities of modern-day families – multi-cultural and multi-generational, built through divorces, affairs and adoptions – set against the backdrop of a revered family restaurant at a crossroads…

Why? Brothers & Sisters is long gone now. Parenthood on NBC is coming to an end. Where are the heart-warming family dramas we need so much? Some would say on cable (Shameless US). But on a network they are just nowhere to be found and it has to stop! This project seems an interesting take on the genre, having this restaurant element that could make the whole difference. It is Rashida Jones-produced. This girl is on fire!

NOLA HART (20th Century FOX Television)

What? Drama about a woman who wakes up in an airport with complete amnesia and hires a dysfunctional father-son detective agency to find out who she is…

Why? What if Samantha Who? became a cop show? That’s what Donald Todd, the creator of the comedy starring Christina Applegate from a few years ago, is selling with this project. Depending on the tone he chooses, it can be a nice little show or a full mess. Mixing comedy, procedural and mystery is a tough challenge. But why not?

PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (ABC Studios)

What? Drama set in the sexy and cutthroat world of the modern-day music business…

Why? How many failed musical dramas TV needs to produce before deciding it’s just not what people want to watch? ABC already has Nashville, but probably just for one more season, that did a great job to be compelling but not so much to be widely acclaimed. Phantom Of The Opera is a never-ending success on Broadway, so trying it as a TV show doesn’t seem to be the dumbest idea ever. Marc Cherry, Mr Desperate Housewives and Devious Maids, is attached to produce, which is reassuring and scary at the same time. It deserves a pilot order to see where it can lead…

PROTECT & SURVIVE (ABC Studios)

What? Drama about the last LAPD precinct fighting to hang on in Los Angeles after a massive disaster changed life as we know it…

Why? The other Shonda Rhimes-produced project for ABC doesn’t sound like a Shonda Rhimes show at all. It comes from David Slack, who never worked with her, he did a stint on Person Of Interest recently and wrote for a lot of animated series like Teen Titans in the past. Beyond that, it’s one of the very few projects that aren’t soap operas or cop shows. Apocalyptic dramas tend to work on cable only (when there are zombies involved) but let’s not count this one out yet.

UNTITLED FELICITY HUFFMAN PROJECT (Sony Pictures Television) / UNTITLED JOSH SAFRAN PROJECT (ABC Studios)

What? Drama about a special agent who is the fearless leader of a team of young agents on the New York City Joint Terrorism Task Force / Drama about a group of diverse FBI recruits going through 21 weeks of training to become special agents at the FBI’s academy in Quantico, Virginia; one of which is a sleeper terrorist, who in the near future, has perpetrated the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11

Why? Wouldn’t it be possible to just take Felicity Huffman out of the first project to make her the star of the second one, which sounds a lot more promising and original? Anyway, the Josh Safran project is plainly exciting, probably the best of the batch. It’s like How To Get Away With Murder, but at the FBI. It’s like a soapy Homeland with young recruits. It screams beautiful and strong-armed men falling in love with fearless and badass women. It’s a bomb that’s about to explode. I’m betting on it all the way! The clock is already ticking.

UNTITLED JEFF WADLOW PROJECT (ABC Studios)

What? Drama about a young woman who, after her fiancé is murdered, finds herself recruited by an eclectic group of real-world vigilantes. 

Why? Since Fake Empire, the Josh Schwartz/Stephanie Savage production behing Gossip Girl, Chuck and some other shows, joined ABC Studios three years ago, it failed to sell a single series. There is The Astronaut Wives Club coming sometime in 2015, but that’s all. This project isn’t exactly original but is interesting in the way it’s the only superhero show that can fit in ABC’s line-up ‘cos it’s not about REAL superheros but about real people doing superhero things, with a woman at the center of the story. It’s distinctive from all those DC Comics/Marvel shows. There’s a Kick-Ass vibe there. It’s worth a try.

UNTITLED LIZ HELDENS PROJECT (Sony Pictures Television)

What? Drama about a disgraced journalist who is forced to go back to work for his former intern, who has since invented a BuzzFeed/PopSugar-type news site…

Why? I have nothing but respect for Liz Heldens who succeeds in selling shows every year even if all of the previous ones failed. She must be a hell of a pitcher in the room! After Mercy, Deception and Camp -her Salvation script last year was great but the pilot was unfortunately not picked-up to series- she’s back with this project exploring the world of new journalism in a way I suspect to be very soapy. That is just what ABC needs: a dramedy soap in a not yet explored environment.

VAMP (Warner Bros. Television)

What? Drama about a ballerina who comes to New York with her mother – a woman who gave up her dreams for her family – only to find her mother’s past in Manhattan may affect her future; looking for release from the rigors of ballet and the society world she doesn’t understand, this young ingénue finds her escape dancing at Vamp – New York City’s most decadent and outrageous nightclub…

Why? This project made it to this list ‘cos I love the idea but to be perfectly honest I don’t think ABC is the right fit for it. The CW or ABC Family, even Lifetime, hell yeah! What it needs to be an ABC show is a much larger scale. It won’t sell with just a ballerina turned stripteaser at night at the center. It needs hookers, mafia, drug trafficking… at least! Not something cheesy.

COMEDIES

THE BRAINY BUNCH (20th Century FOX Television)

What? An extraordinarily gifted family who find themselves unprepared for their new lives in Orange County, CA, a place where beauty is valued more than brains…

Why? Even if the story looks a lot like Suburgatory, it’s something that could definitely work with the right amount of craziness and tenderness.

FUNHOUSE (ABC Studios)

What? comedy about Jack Babbit, who kidnaps his estranged father from a nursing home along with his 24-hour male nurse and brings them to his home…

Why? That sounds like fun, right?

GRANDMA DEAREST (Sony Pictures Television)

What? The world’s worst grandmother, who loses her considerable wealth and moves in with her daughter…

Why? And old unapologetic grandma bitch? (I’m not talking about Madonna) Count me in!

JUVIE (Neagle Ink)

What?  A privileged and naive golden boy takes a job at a juvenile hall and discovers he has more to learn than to teach…

Why? Since ABC has to diversify and can’t just order family comedies, this one is an interesting idea ‘cos it sounds different. It’s not about adults and their children, it’s about a not so adult man facing not so childish children.

MEN IN SHORTS (Universal Television)

What? Inspired by the life of professional soccer player Robbie Rogers, about a young pro soccer player who takes one small step out of the closet and one giant leap into the spotlight…

Why? I do miss Men In Trees a lot, but it’s not the reason why it’s on the list. It’s modern, based on a true story, it mixes sports with family and fame. A better version of The McCarthys?

THE MIGHTY CAMILLA (ABC Studios)

What? An unlucky-in-love New York social worker gets recruited by a handsome man from the future as the unlikely savior of humanity…

Why? It seems so weird it should be given the chance of a pilot order. But to be granted a series order, it will need to prove A LOT.

NO ANGELS (ABC Studios)

What? Based on the U.K. series about a raucous group of four female nurses working together and sharing the same house…

Why? What if Getting On was a heart-wraming comedy on a network? Let’s see what ABC can make out of this idea. And we desperately need an all-female centric single-camera comedy, don’t we?

NUCLEAR FAMILY (ABC Studios)

What? The misadventures of self-professed altruists Rick and Barbara Foley, who adopted eight children from all over the world, some with special needs…

Why? Special needs children (or adults) are nowhere to be seen on television, and that’s a shame. This could be a unique perspective on family where skin colors and origins are not the only “diversity” attributes.

UNTITLED CHASE & DANGELO PROJECT (ABC Studios)

What? Spouses in their 60s who are finally enjoying their golden years now now are forced to raise their grandchildren…

Why? Here is an intergenerational idea that could prove a strong vehicle for older comedians like, let’s say the incredible Judith Light, or the great Jean Smart, and would fit perfectly with The Goldbergs, Modern Family and Blackish. Just do it, no questions asked!

UNTITLED JOHNNY KNOXVILLE PROJECT (ABC Studios)

What? Southern family comedy inspired by Johnny Knoxville unconventional childhood…

Why? Who knows what the Jackass star is capable of? This could turn into a surprisingly sweet white-trash comedy like no other…

“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (Netflix) preview: Unmissable comedy here!

"Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt"

Written and produced by Robert Carlock (Friends, Joey, 30 Rock, Saturday Night Live) & Tina Fey (30 Rock, Saturday Night Live, Mean Girls). Co-produced by David Miner (30 Rock, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Parks And Recreation). Directed by Tristram Shapeero (Community, Parks And Recreation). Originally ordered by NBC. 2-seasons pick-up by Netflix. For NBC Universal Television & Little Stranger. 39 pages.

Description: Kidnapped as a teenager, Kimmy spent 15 years in a cult, surrounded by four other girls of her age, thinking she was one of the few survivors of the Apocalypse. The day she is finally released, it’s a whole new world that opens up to her, filled with infinite possibilities and many first times. Before her dazzled and innocent eyes, New York is gigantic and it’s the place where she is determined to rebuild her life, even if she has no idea what she wants to do next…

With Ellie Kemper (The Office, Bridesmaids), Titus Burgess (30 Rock), Sara Chase, Lauren Adams

AVAILABLE ON NETFLIX EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD STARTING MARCH 6th. 

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Let’s just start with a little story. Once upon a time, there was a GREAT script, written by a very funny fairy lady named Tina Fey, ordered to series without even going to pilot stage by a not so great channel named NBC, struggling to find its next hit comedy. Thinking Ellie Kemper might become the next IT girl of TV after testing her for many years on The Office –their last hit comedy actually- they offered to her the role of the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It was actually wrote for her. Enlightened by its brilliance, she just couldn’t refuse. They started to shoot the show. Everybody loved it. But there was an incy wincy itsy bisty tiny little problem: they had no confidence in their own schedule and could not find any right spot to fit it in. So they decided to do the unthinkable: they abandon their child prodigy! They gave it to a big bad wolf named Netflix. The end of this story has yet to be written but here is the moral anyway: sometimes you have to let your child go if you want him to grow. And I can promise you one thing: Kimmy Schmidt will grow beautifully without NBC.

In case you haven’t understood it yet: I LOVE Kimmy Schmidt. I love her freshness, I love her innocence, I love the boldness she does’nt even know she has, and most of all: I love the breath of life she’s kindly offering to anyone who is able to catch it. The pilot script is great, yes. But the potential series it might become is even greater! The show starts in an amazing way. Inspired by a true story, an atrocious one actually, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is kind enough to be funny right away. In one scene with a quick and quite frankly improbable twist of fate, we are witnessing the release of the five young women. They were about to celebrate Christmas by offering small handmade gifts to each other. Then they are singing funny lyrics. Yes, it is the opening credits already, a Broadway musical kind of one (I hope they sticked to this plan). Next thing you know: they are at the 30 Rock in New York. You see what they did there, right? Do I need to explain? 30 Rock. NBC. Tina Fey. Yep. Exactly.

I won’t tell you what happens in the pilot scene by scene, you’ll discover all of this soon enough, but I will say there is Matt Lauer involved, and it’s hilarious; that each girl is funny in her own way; that our leading lady is adorable from the get go, you want to her hug all the time; that justice is apparently very quick in the parallel universe they live in; that New York is still this incredible city you want to live and die in; that big black gay men are always funny; and that when you want to lose your virginity, going to a nightclub is not the best plan. At all.

The script ends with a side note from the authors where they explain what the show profoundly means for them, that “It’s the ultimate ‘starting over story “, major topics to be discussed later, the guests they would like to attract (Jane Krakowski, Bill Hader, Frances McDormand …). They even give a few examples of intrigues to come, some characters who will cross paths with Kimmy. And here is how they describe her, I find it beautiful: “She is not unlike Mary Tyler Moore or Hannah Horvath, she has just more extreme set of circumstances. She is part pure innocent but she’s also part wily survivor, like a young John McCain.”

The pilot of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is the promise of an absolute charming, infinitely touching, refreshing and amusing comedy, where you can enjoy the peculiar tone of Tina Fey, with bits of Liz Lemon, references to pop culture, and all these things that made us fall in love with her. There is a great potential there to go into a new delirium each week. It doesn’t respond to any rules we are used to. And that’s probably why it feels much more like a cable show than a network one. It inspires freedom all the way. That’s unmissable TV. 

“Criminal Minds” team readying a new spin-off

Criminal-Minds-Season-10-1

Seems like the Criminal Minds franchise won’t come to an end any time soon. CBS & ABC Studios are preparing a new spin-off with a pilot implanted in a current season spring episode of the mothership show.

Even if, so far, networks tend to go lighter on spin-off projects from their hit series -there’s just a Castle‘s one about fictional Rick Storm in the mix at ABC- CBS just can’t help itself! The project, written by showrunner and executive producer Erica Messer, is about a Special FBI unit with agents helping American citizens who find themselves in trouble abroad. It sounds very derivative from Criminal Minds (where are the horrible crimes and their serial killers?) but it’s an interesting idea. The filming will start in january for an airing targeted at april.

The action drama will have to prove stonger than Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, the previous spin-off attempt that didn’t last long in 2011. In a tough place this season, CBS is trying to keep its franchises alive after the successful launch of NCIS New Orleans last september and Patricia Arquette’s starrer CSI:Cyber starting next march. Next step: a spin-off for their only hit comedy The Big Bang Theory? Seems inevitable…

“Irreversible”: Justin Long replaces David Schwimmer in the comedy pilot

Tribeca Film Festival 2013 Portrait Studio - Day 4

Justin Long is replacing David Schwimmer in the second version of ABC’s partially-improvised comedy pilot from last year “Irreversible”.

Producer Peter Tolan and co-creator Segahl Avin are now searching for the female lead. Deadline, who first reported the information, explains that a lot of people at ABC were fans of the big commitment project the first time around but the lack of chemistry between the two leads was the reason why it was not picked-up to series. Seems like the couple at the center of the show will be given a second chance… After the failures of NBC’s A to Z and ABC’s Selfie & Manhattan Love Story, what are the odds this romantic comedy can survive? Time will tell…