ABC’s 25 most exciting projects for 2017/2018 pilot season

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

 

ABC’S NEEDS FOR NEXT SEASON

  • One big family soap, preferably produced in-house.
  • One police procedural show, preferably produced in-house and preferably in ABC’s wheelhouse: heavy serialized.
  • At least one ambitious and buzzworthy thriller and/or fantasy series.
  • New comedies that differ slightly from their successful family brand to diversify the offer.
  • More synergy with Disney-owned properties (Marvel, Lucas Films…)

ABC is in a very dark place this year while new president Channing Dungey, the first African American woman to head a broadcast network ever, is working hard on her first pilot season. She explained recently why the Alphabet was failing the past few years in her opinion “With our dramas, we have a lot of shows that feature very well-to-do, well-educated people, who are driving very nice cars and living in extremely nice places. There is definitely still room for that, and we absolutely want to continue to tell those stories because wish-fulfillment is a critical part of what we do as entertainers. But in recent history we haven’t paid enough attention to some of the true realities of what life is like for everyday Americans in our dramas.” We’ll see in a few weeks if her pilot pick-ups reflect that vision but in my opinion, they should not forget people tend to watch what doesn’t remind them their (sad) daily life too much…

Despite a smart fall schedule, ratings have plunged. Both new procedural drama entries Conviction & Notorious have failed big time. They were not very good shows and they didn’t add anything new and distinctive to the network. The second season of Secrets & Lies -which was supposed to start last year- came way too late and wasn’t able to bring the attention of viewers. In the meantime, ABC left Quantico in the 10pm sunday slot. It had to fight alone, a decision that resulted in new lows. But it’s still an important asset for them so they will finally try to save it by putting it behind The Bachelor come midseason. Too little too late? Once Upon A Time is dying but could live one more year since ABC won’t be able to launch too many new shows at the same time next fall. Agents of SHIELD is dying too and does for quite some time now. New Marvel show ordered straight-to-series The Inhumans will replace it in the fall but it could still be renewed.

Grey’s Anatomy is still ABC’s number one show. A 14th season is on its way. A 15th probably too. It’s an incredible success. How To Get Away With Murder manages to stay a decent level, which was not easy with Scandal being on a hiatus and Notorious doing horrible numbers right before. Designated Survivor starring Kiefer Sutherland is a hit. Not the biggest hit ABC could have hoped for, but a hit nonetheless. And they have in store a third season for critically-acclaimed American Crime; a miniseries about the evolution of the LGBT movement in the US called When We Rise; an unexpected second year of Shondaland’s The Catch; the new Shondaland drama Still Star-Crossed; and Kevin Williamson’s Time After Time. All are still unscheduled at this time. And none look like a potential big winner…

But ABC has one great reason to be happy: their comedy brand is stronger than ever! New entries American Housewife and Speechless, smartly scheduled behind The Middle & The Goldbergs respectively, found their audience right away. Modern Family is not a monster anymore but does more than okay; Blackish gets decent numbers and receives awards recognition; Fresh Off The Boat maintains itself out of dark waters. The only black sheep is The Real O’Neals, a really good show that struggles for unknown reasons and that will probably get the axe in may to make room for something new. On friday, Last Man Standing and Dr Ken are living their lives peacefully. New comedies Downward Dog and Imaginary Mary are waiting in the wings… As a result, they won’t need many new comedies next year.

DRAMAS

 

CRIMINAL (Warner Bros. Television)

What? after falling prey to a CIA sting, a fast-talking, hedonistic con man and his ragtag team of criminals must complete an ongoing series of missions to clear their names and steal an unknown number of long-forgotten relics that could change the fate of the world…

Why? By the team that brought you Blindspot. Martin Gero is co-creating, Greg Berlanti is co-producing. It’s easy to understand why ABC can be interested in this kind of high-concept serialized procedural show. It’s not really in their DNA, it skews more male than they’re used to, but if it works for NBC -mostly- why wouldn’t it work for them? Maybe they’d need The Voice to achieve the same goal though…

 

DOOMSDAY (Sony Pictures Televison) picked-up

What? starts in the aftermath of 9/11, when the U.S. government institutes a secret think tank featuring the most creative minds in science and entertainment that is tasked with dreaming up man-made disaster scenarios and their possible solutions; because the hypothetical ideas are deemed extremely dangerous, the list is sealed and the program shut down; but when a catastrophe occurs that’s ripped from the pages of the missing doomsday book, the team is brought back years later to prevent the disasters of their own making…

Why? Is this the next Designated Survivor for ABC? It sounds like it, even though it seems a little more complex and ambitious, and doesn’t have a big star attached to it yet. It could be buzzworthy and exciting. It’s from the people who wrote The Jury last year. ABC passed on it but it was worth a try honestly (and they’re redeveloping it). Maybe they’ll get their chance this time around. It’s definitely something the network needs badly.

 

DOWN IN THE VALLEY (TriStar Television)

What? a talented female police officer returns home to Napa Valley to support her struggling family after her troubled sister disappears and leaves her infant daughter in need of care. When she joins the Napa County Sheriff’s Department to make ends meet, she quickly realizes that this posh, bucolic, “small town” paradise now has more than its fair share of big-city problems.

Why? Described as a darkly comedic hourlong crime drama and family soap, this project seems to reunite most of what ABC is looking for: fun, family, middle-America and procedural elements through a woman’s point of view.

 

DRAMA KINGS (Sony Pictures Television)

What? follows four handsome bachelor brothers, all of whom have major issues with women. However, nothing compares to the tumultuous relationship they have with their powerful, manipulative and controlling mother. In addition to meddling with their lives, she’s the owner of a Los Angeles hotspot, a scion in the community, and possibly responsible for the deaths of her last two husbands…

Why? Sounds like a big giant soap like ABC is known for, that could fit perfectly with The Bachelor by the way. It needs to be fun and provocative. They need to the find the right cast too, especially for the mother. The whole success of the show might depend on her. About the men, they don’t need to be famous, as long as they’re all beautiful and very different, from every ethnicity. And one should be gay / in the closet IMHO. Is it too much like Empire, without the music? Maybe. Jordan Budde (Mistresses, GCB) is writing. Peter Tolan (Rescue Me) is producing.

 

GRACE (ABC Studios)

What? about a family of adult siblings whose lives are upended when their stalwart minister father reveals to his family that he is gay…

Why? ABC was the best network in the emotional family drama arena in the 90s & 00s with such shows as Thirtysomething, Once and again, My so-called life, Brothers & Sisters… While This Is Us is a ratings success NBC can be really proud of, the Alphabet needs to take that crown back and Grace looks like the perfect show to do so, with the right cast. Please make it fun too.

 

HYPERION (ABC Studios)

What? top secret drama based on the Disney theme park mythology

Why? With no more details available at this time, it’s hard to tell if they should bet on it. But since synergy is really important for Disney and Once Upon A Time will conclude rather sooner than later, Hyperion looks like a potential substitute. It’s written by Agent Carter creators. It’s kinda reassuring. The show was not a ratings success but deeply appreciated by those who sticked with it.

 

JIGSAW (ABC Studios)

What? Set in suburban Las Vegas, this drama follows the relationships of three sisters, all with different fathers, within’ a blue-collar ‘Jigsaw’ family, that is a family that is pieced together by more than just births, marriages and adoptions.

Why? This Is Us vibe, anyone? The title and the term ‘jigsaw family’ suggests there might be something different in play here, something mysterious whether it’s in the story itself or in the storytelling. Plus, a family drama that takes place in Las Vegas is new. We’re not that often sent to Sin City. It sounds very ABC-like. Sarah Hooper is writing.

 

PATROL (ABC Studios)

What? about four female LAPD officers who attended the police academy together five years ago and are forced to reconnect after a high-stakes, traumatic secret returns to haunt them…

Why? Kerry Washington is producing this one. I’m sad Shonda Rhimes is not involved though. I’m pretty sure she can shake the detective genre and make it her own. Anyway, I’m all in favor of a female-fueled detective show, as long as it’s not a straight procedural and it doesn’t look like it. It’s more in the serialized realm with procedural elements. Maybe too close to Quantico though, if the story is told through two timelines?

 

THE CROSSING (ABC Studios) picked-up

What? revolves around refugees from a war torn country who start showing up seeking asylum in a U.S. city… but the country these people are from is America, and the war they are fleeing is 500 years in the future…

Why? I’m not sure how this very good idea can turn into more than a movie but it’s still a very good one, topical. I mean, in an America where Trump has been elected president and promised to build a wall… MTV’s Scream‘s creators are writing the script, which makes me even more doubtful about the end result. We’ll see.

 

THE MARQUIS (Warner Bros. Television)

What? a sexy and twisted character soap set in the most iconic and exclusive building in Manhattan…

Why? The Melrose Place fan in me can’t overlook this project. And I know Greg Berlanti & Julie Plec, who produce it, were big fans too. I hope they can do something as good and exciting, and twisty and crazy. And absolutely avoid making another 666 Park Avenue with a useless supernatural twist (a genre they love too obviously).

 

THE MOTHER COURT (ABC Studios) picked-up

What? Set in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) Federal Court, aka “The Mother Court,” it follows brand new lawyers working for both the defense and the prosecution as they handle the most high profile and high stakes cases in the country – all as their personal lives intersect.

Why? It screams “Legal Grey’s Anatomy” all over the pitch. And it’s okay. Remember the Shonda Rhimes medical drama is right in the middle of its 13th season. It’s unbelievable! And you know what? This one is produced by Shonda Rhimes too, penned by a Scandal writer. One can only hope it’s as good. As long as it’s different from HTGAWM and it has characters we haven’t already seen a million times before in Shondaland or somewhere else, we’re good to go! The post-Grey’s Anatomy spot is waiting for you.

 

UNIT ZERO (ABC Studios) picked-up

What? a brilliant, but unassuming CIA engineer and single mom, Jackie Fink, is the leader of a team of CIA underlings who are thrust into the field as first time spies. Each week, this team of zeroes races against the clock to gather intelligence and solve cases of national security. And they succeed partly because no one in their right mind would ever suspect they were spies.

Why? The brilliant Toni Collette is set to star as the heroine of the show and it’s reason enough to give it a chance quite frankly. Plus, even though it’s a procedural, it’s billed as a “dramedy” and it relies heavily on the characters. This one could be really fun and ABC needs to be fun again in the drama department after so many heavy serialized shows. It’s from the guy who created Blackish. He knows funny.

 

UNTITLED MARC CHERRY PROJECT (ABC Studios) picked-up

What? after a horrible, suspected act of terrorism happens at a 4th of July parade in the small town of Oxblood, Kentucky, the FBI sends a cocky agent of Middle Eastern descent to investigate. He teams up with the mercurial local Sheriff (McEntire) to uncover secrets far darker than either could have ever imagined…

Why? Created by Marc Cherry, the man who brought us Desperate Housewives & Devious Maids, and starring popular country singer Reba McEntire, this soap described as “southern gothic” might be dark but as long as it’s twisty and funny and has something to say about the state of America right now, it’s an automatic order for me. And since ABC won a bidding war to have it, I’m not afraid: they will order it! They need it.

 

WITNESS 33 (ABC Studios)

What? When thirteen families in witness protection are killed in one day, the head of the program is forced to go on the run. He maintains his innocence as he evades with an obsessive FBI agent in pursuit accross the country. Week to week, he will visit the families he put into witness protection, knowing one of them can unlock the mystery of who framed him…

Why? It screams like a midseason show with no more than 13 episodes per year that doesn’t fit with what ABC is usually doing but which is worth a chance thanks to a pretty solid hook. There’s a procedural element to it that would help along the way to grab new or occasional viewers while keeping the fans satisfied. That’s of course if it’s as entertaining and exciting as it sounds. Adrian Hodges is writing (The Muskeeters, Primeval New World) & Julie Gardner is producing (Doctor Who, Torchwood, Banana, Cucumber).

 

ABC also develops a number of basic procedural shows like a Magnum reboot; Hobbs from Michael Strahan about an NFL player turned cop; John Corey; The Exchange where an American cop teams up with an British one; Homicide Special or NYPD Red. There’s one medical show in development The Good Doctor by Dr House’s creator David Shore. They also have an Enemy of the State adaptation from Jerry Bruckeimer; and more family soaps like House of Moore (redeveloped from last yeat but without Felicity Huffman starring this time); Icon; American Heritage or Women in black (that’d be perfect for summer or… Lifetime), plus an untitled one about a multi-generational Indian American family. Dark thrillers are in the works like Salamander or Head Games produced by Viola Davis.

 

COMEDIES

940 SATURDAYS (Universal Television)

What? There are 940 Saturdays between the day your child is born and the day they turn eighteen. In this single-camera series, three families band together to enjoy… and survive them all.

Why? Eva Longoria is producing. She doesn’t have such a good track record so far through her UnbeliEVAble production shingle based at Universal but at least there’s an original concept here. It really depends on how it plays out. If it’s just a pretext or if they use those 940 Saturdays as an important tool in the storytelling. I’m intruigued though not totally sold yet.

 

CO-LIVING (Sony Pictures Television)

What? a recently-widowed 60-something guy teams up with an entrepreneurial 20-something girl to “monetize” his biggest asset — the single-family brownstone he used to share with his wife — renting out the bedrooms to an eclectic group of housemates. The “sharing economy” just hit home.

Why? As a non-family comedy project, this one seems to be modern and topical. With the right set of characters and actors, I can see it becoming something cool.

 

THE ESCAPE (20th Century FOX Television)

What? about a stressed-out urban professional who uproots himself and his troubled 19-year-old son to move to rural Idaho to live with his father, a retired surgeon with the ruggedness of Indiana Jones

Why? There’s an Everwood vibe that I like a lot, but most of all, it looks sincere and emotional. From the guys (Chris Miller & Phil Lord) who wrote the LEGO movie, 22 Jump StreetThe Last Man On Earth, Son of Zorn, upcoming Making History… Doesn’t look like your classical ABC comedy, might be a problem to fit it in the schedule.

 

HOLY SH*T (ABC Studios)

What? follows the staff of a struggling church and their edgy new pastor (Nick Thune) as they fight to survive in the modern world…

Why? Some sort of office comedy happening in a church? The racy title needs to change but other than that, I think it’s promising.

 

LET’S STAY TOGETHER (ABC Studios)

What? Whether it be for the sake of their family, finances, or friendship, the series will explore three very different but connected couples’ hilarious journeys as they choose to make a go of their marriages for all the right and wrong reasons — because in the end, divorce is so old fashion.

Why? ABC needs to find their new Modern Family and this “connected couples” thingy helps thinking Let’s Stay Together coud be the one. Too soon to tell, of course. Plus, it may be a very tired family comedy in disguise. Once they decide not to divorce, I’m not sure how it can differentiate from the others. But I’m interested. It looks positive, full of hope. And we need that, don’t we?

 

LIBBY & MALCOLM (ABC Studios) picked-up

What?  a very real look at how today’s “politics of division” play out between two opposing pundits who also happen to be married; one’s black, one’s white; one’s left, one’s right. Bitter rivals at work on their pundit show Black & Wright, they have to turn conflict into compromise at home when it comes to raising their kids…

Why? This is my favorite comedy pitch of the year! It’s from Kenya Barris, who also created Blackish and it sounds like something that could be both funny and intelligent, very topical. It even screams Emmy Awards! ABC really wants Felicity Huffman (not that she’s gone, she’s in American Crime but…) and Courtney B. Vance as her partner, looks magical. It could fit with the other ABC comedies while adding something different, something more. This one looks a sure bet. See you next year!

 

MELTING POTTS (ABC Studios)

What? centers on a blended family made up of equal parts Indian, Muslim, Jewish, and New Jersey. It is about a newly married couple struggling against culture, tradition and generations to build their idea of a “normal” American family.

Why? Kerry Washington produces this project and it doesn’t change the fact that this pitch is exciting. Such a comedy is too important to be overlooked in those troubled times, with an America divided, Trump as the president and immigrants being seen as trouble-makers. Shows about one indian family, or one jewish family are great. But mixing them all together looks even greater. We needs this. America needs this. To be great again.

 

RAPPER MAYOR (ABC Studios) picked-up

What? Courtney Rose, a talented but struggling hip-hop artist, runs for mayor to promote his mixtape – and wins. The guy is a quitenssential optimistic, a dreamer through and through. He’s the coolest, most fun dude in town, and if you don’t believe it, just ask him and he’ll tell you.

Why? Is this some kind of Designated Survivor comedic version? Sort of. It deviates from what ABC is doing, sounds more like a NBC or FOX comedy, but it doesn’t make it less attractive. Well done, it could be really fun.

 

TWINSTERS (Sony Pictures Television)

What? the story of identical twins separated at birth, adopted on two different continents and raised completely unaware of each other until they are reunited at age 29…

Why? This pitch could totally be used for a drama instead, and honestly I think it would make a great one. But they chose to make a comedy out of it and I understand why: it’s another version of the “Odd couple” concept that seems more profound than usual. Plus, it’s based on a documentary about a true story. And it’s from David Caspe, who created Happy Endings. It could get very emotional. I’m all for it.

 

THE ZIPCODERS (ABC Studios)

What? a divorced mother of three moves her family to the East Side of Austin, Texas, soon after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., in an effort to be closer to her estranged sister. Once there, her teenage son forms a rock ‘n’ roll band, to the utter bewilderment of friends, family and the community at large.

Why? ABC visits the 80s with The Goldbergs, the 90s with Fresh Off The Boat. Why not going back to the 70s with The Zipcoders? If it’s as good! And the pitch suggests it could be, with a rich historical context and some music. It’s produced by Viola Davis, which could help.

 

UNTITLED CAROL BURNETT COMEDY (Universal Television) picked-up

What? about a family who gets a chance to buy the house of their dreams — a house they’d never be able to afford under normal circumstances, but is able to under extremely abnormal circumstances. They must live with the current owner, an older actress (Burnett) — until she dies.

Why? Carol Burnett + this pitch + the multi-camera format doesn’t suggest it’s gonna feel very modern. But shows like Last Man Standing or Kevin Can Wait prove there’s still an audience for it on network television. Plus, it’s produced by Amy Poehler. If ABC needs something new for their friday slate, I would count on this one first.

 

ABC also has a Goldbergs spin-off about the character of the gym teacher. Well, why not? A Zach Braff comedy Start Up about a guy starting his own business; and a Mindy Kaling-produced project about a liberal lesbian couple.

 

What projects are you the most interested in among these? Take your picks!

 

SEE ALSO :

 

7 comments

  1. Jonas says:

    Has anyone figured out yet, how they’ll get all those interesting Comedy pilots in their schedule?
    Looking at the casts and directors I really like Start Up, Losing It, Libby & Malcolm as well as the “Rapper Mayor” project.

    These shows don’t look like the next family comedy “with a spin” – that’s a good thing as they have used that A LOT.
    Libby & Malcolm have the “polit show”-plot with guest stars like Jon Hamm, Start Up has more than enough interesting stories to tell ( I loved the podcast) and Losing It is about three adult siblings. These projects could balance their comedy slate.
    Yes, “Rapper Mayor” sounds like a NBC show. If it has a “Parks & Rec” vibe, I’d love to see it behind “Fresh off the Boat”.

    Another great idea is to combine Larry Wilmore’s college pilot with Yara Shahidi’s “Black-ish” spin-off. Give me 13 dense episodes of Libby & Malcolm and a Mideason premiere for “Adult-ish” in the same slot.

  2. Ashley says:

    It will be interesting to see what abc does next year. I don’t see Inhumans going to the Tuesday death slot. It is too valuable as a ratings magnet. I think it will probably be on Sunday at 8, with Once Upon a Time getting the slot back after Inhumans finishes. As far as the death slot, maybe AOS will keep but I think it will end this year. Which leaves a question of how to fix Tuesday. I just don’t see how abc will fix the slot. Maybe start by fixing Tuesday Comedy. I could see the Goldbergs spinoff paired with Fresh off the Boat. It would certainly have more in common with Fresh off the Boat the Real O’Neals.

  3. Naruto88 says:

    I m very excited about the Disneyland show, i hope it will replace Once Upon a Time. And i m also interested in that Mindy Kaling comedy.

  4. Zach says:

    I also heard about untiled problems from Al Higgins/Al Madrigal and Dylan Morgan/Josh Siegal, both at ABC. Any details on those?

    Also, projects from Brian Burns, Jon Beckerman, Zak Schwartz and Taylor Elmore. Any info would be much appreciated.

    PS: You said the “guy” who wrote The Sweetest Thing… that was written by Nancy Pimental! Is there someone else you’re referring to?

    • Lulla says:

      Haven’t heard of those. But I have a soap by Helen Chidless called “Austen” at TriStar; “Heiress” by Ilene Staple (ABC Studios); and a cop show called “Savior” by Sonay Hoffman (ABC Studios).
      Jon Beckerman has one at FOX, untitled. About a woman living a normal life who uses magic to get through the day.

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