Analysis: Six shows we think you'll see on the air next season — and one very high-profile project we're not sure about
We think we can guess what you'll be watching on TV next season.
As the broadcast networks root through nearly a hundred pilots, trying to decide which ones deserve to become series, we'd like to offer our extremely early bets on which will get the green light for 2013-14. We're making our predictions based on the talent and creators involved, each network's needs and, well, what looks cool.
Consult out our list of every broadcast network pilot to look for shows you think we missed. Until then, here's our network-by-network list of what we consider the best prospects for next season. (Click on logos for each network's individual pilot grid.)
If any of these shows don't make it to air next season, we'll eat our hat. (Which is made of candy. We can't predict hits with 100 percent accuracy any better than the networks can.)
Here we go with ABC and CBS. Check back tomorrow for The CW, Fox and NBC.
ABC needs hits to stay ahead of NBC, which managed to tie it for third place last year. Reality shows, from "The Bachelor" to "Dancing With the Stars," are losing their once-big audiences. What better time for ABC to draw on its corporate synergy with Disney and Marvel?
Here are ABC's best shots, as we see them:
The case for: If ABC can't make "S.H.I.E.L.D." a hit show, it should give up. This offshoot of last year's big-screen blockbuster, "The Avengers," would air after this summer's "Iron Man 3." The series has a simple hook, legions of fans who grew up with the Marvel Universe, and "Avengers" director Joss Whedon at the helm.
It would be nice if Samuel L. Jackson could stop in for special episodes, but if not, Clark Gregg (right) is a perfectly likeable lead. And comic book shows — from AMC's "Walking Dead" to CW's "Arrow" — are hot. ABC Entertainment boss Paul Lee has fast-tracked this one for good reason.
The case against: TV shows can't afford the CGI craziness of major movie releases. But Marvel has always been about underdogs overcoming comically terrible odds. Gamma rays, pumpkin bombs and cosmic cubes are just a backdrop.
The case for: Its cast and creators. Malin Akerman, Bradley Whitford and Marcia Gay Harden are all welcome presences, and writers Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins have served ABC well on "Private Practice." The sitcom's setup is simple and provides lots of opportunity for stories: Reformed party girl (Akerman) falls for a man (Whitford) with manipulative kids and two judgmental ex-wives.
The case against: "Private Practice" wasn't our thing. But lots of people liked it. We accept that.
The casting of Rob Corddry and Moshe Kasher on "Spy" is promising, and we like the absurd idea of a dad inadvertently joining the Secret Service to impress his son.
We also have high hopes for "Super Fun Night" from Conan O'Brien and the very funny Rebel Wilson. It's not promising that CBS passed on it last season, or maybe it is: CBS isn't known for having the hippest audience.
"Awake" creator Kyle Killen's ideas are always intriguing. His new "Influence" is about two brothers running an agency that helps clients using human motivation and manipulation. But Killen's concepts — and characters who never beg to be loved — leave many viewers cold. And this doesn't sound like one of his cuddlier ideas.
CBS has the deepest bench of any network: Despite aging dramas and no new hits, it has no surefire candidates for cancelation — and plenty of pilots that could join its lineup.
CBS has 24 pilots, up from 15 last season. No other network has gone for so drastic an increase. But CBS also has few places to put them, which makes the competition among its pilots especially intense.
Here are what we consider CBS's best prospects:
The case for: We have no idea why Robin Williams (left) signed on to a sitcom. Yes, we know he's doing less movie work lately. But he remains an Oscar-winning actor and popular standup whose greatest gift is the kind of manic improvisation he might not get to do on a tightly scripted show by David E. Kelley.
But hey, if he wants to do this, we're sure people will watch. Sarah Michelle Gellar has signed on to play his daughter, and the series follows their characters as they work together in advertising. So maybe we'll get to see Williams' take on Don Draper's "It's not called the wheel, it's called the carousel" speech.
The case against: We wish this were a drama with comedic elements, like Kelley's "Boston Legal," "The Practice," and "Ally McBeal." Williams and Gellar's dramatic chops may be wasted on a sitcom.
The case for: This story of a newly sober single mom trying to pull herself together in Napa Valley (instant conflict alert) has a good cast in Anna Faris and Allison Janney. Also, it comes from Chuck Lorre, who might reasonably expect carte blanche from CBS at this point, given his hand in "Two and a Half Men," "The Big Bang Theory," and "Mike and Molly."
The case against: We know. "Two and a Half Men" can be pretty stupid. And the sobriety thing doesn't sound all that funny. But Lorre wrung solid laughs from people finding love at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting on "Mike & Molly," so we're predicting an easy green light here.
UNTITLED JIM GAFFIGAN PROJECT
The case for: Jim Gaffigan is funny. So is his co-creator, "Rescue Me" vet Peter Tolan. And so is Mira Sorvino, who has an Oscar. An Oscar, folks.
The case against: We know: The setup sounds a little "According to Jim." Schlubby regular guy, seemingly out-of-his-league wife, kids. But this time there's a much funnier Jim in the lead. And more kids: Five of 'em. And it takes place in New York City. Five kids in New York City? A little darkness with your humor? Don't hold the old Jim's sins against Gaffigan (right).
The case for: "N.C.I.S.," "N.C.I.S.: L.A."
The case against: You thought we were going to say those two shows again, didn't you? Love or hate the franchise, it gets viewers galore. CBS is already planning to launch the spinoff with an episode of "N.C.I.S.: L.A." this spring. Look, this is happening. It just is.
How deep is the CBS bench? So deep that we're not sure a long-planned "Beverly Hills Cop" series will get on the field. Why? Because imagine "Beverly Hills Cop" without Murphy. Yes, he reprises the role of Axel Foley in "The Shield" creator Shawn Ryan's pilot. But later episodes would focus of his son, Aaron, played by Brandon T. Jackson.
Aaron has some of his dad's flair: In the pilot script, he deliberately gets himself racially profiled, just so he can ask the cops for directions. But overall, the script feels a lot like CBS continuing to prove it can turn anything into a procedural. The charm of the movies wasn't the usual cop-story grittiness: It was Murphy undercutting it. So as much as this might look like a sure thing, we're withholding judgment.
We're keeping a close eye, meanwhile, on "The Ordained," about a Kennedyesque political clan. It has great leads in "Boardwalk Empire" vet Charlie Cox and "Lost" teddy bear Jorge Garcia.