PilotWatch 2010: What’s Going to Fly Next Fall?

10 trends to watch — and the 10 shows we’re most intrigued to see hit the small screen

Last Updated: February 24, 2010 @ 5:56 PM

Having spent the last few months reading hundreds of scripts — and hearing even more pitches — executives at the five broadcast networks have largely settled on their new drama and comedy contenders for the fall.  

Trying to spot trends at this point in the development process can be tricky, of course. While there might be five different buddy cop comedies greenlit in the works at the start of pilot season, viewers might never see any of them if, come May, executives opt to go in a different direction.

With that caveat in mind, TheWrap has combed through the dozens of loglines for this year’s wannabes and come up with 10 early themes that seem to be forming as pilots take flight.

And just for fun, we’re ID’ing at least one pilot from each group we’re most intrigued to see in its finished form.


Every pilot season has its share of superstar showrunners and stars, but this year also brings some big names trying to recapture past success following either failure or a long time away from the game.

David E. Kelley, for example, has suffered back-to-back disappointments: Fox killed "The Wedding Bells" after less than a half-season, while NBC actually declined to pick up his pilot "Legally Mad" to series. Now Kelley is back at the Peacock with a new show called "Kindreds."

Also back at bat: Greg Garcia, whose NBC comedy "My Name Is Earl" faded too soon after a fast start (though it made syndication). He’s at Fox with "Keep Hope Alive," a family comedy featuring the always awesome Cloris Leachman.

Amy Sherman-Palladino has been quiet since "Gilmore Girls" sputtered away, but she’ll go back to her family roots with a new show at the CW. And Dana Carvey, who seemed to disappear from the face of the earth after a health scare and some bad projects, is now working on a sketch show for Fox.

Also hoping for a comeback: David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, the "Will & Grace" creators who’ve struck out several times since launching that hit in 1998. They’re back at the plate again with "S— My Father Says," the CBS comedy that sounded awful — until William Shatner agreed to play the dad. 

Early Pick: "Keep Hope Alive."


Some us are still carrying a torch for "Swingtown," the super-groovy period soap CBS killed after less than one season. But since a revival is unlikely, those of us stuck in the ’70s can look forward to ABC’s "Funny in Farsi," a half-hour comedy set in the Me Decade and directed by Barry Sonnenfeld ("Pushing Daisies").

The nets are paying homage to the 1970s via remakes of "Hawaii Five-O" and "The Rockford Files." Alas, both take place in the much more boring present day.

Early Pick: "Funny in Farsi."


While "Heroes" may be ready for its last hurrah (assuming it’s back for one more go-round), the networks are certainly still pumped on the idea of greatest American heroes.

ABC’s welcoming back Michael "The Commish" Chiklis as the head of "No Ordinary Family," which sounds like a live-action take on "The Incredibles."  NBC, meanwhile, is developing "The Cape," in which an ex-cop wrongly framed becomes a masked hero in an attempt to clear his name.

Over at the CW, "Nikita" brings some female firepower to the hero theme, updating "La Femme Nikita."

Early Pick: "No Ordinary Family."


Ben Silverman may no longer be running a network, but that hasn’t slowed the growth of shows with international themes or origins.

Both "Nevermind Nirvana" (Fox) and "Outsourced"  (NBC) feature Indians in central roles, with the latter actually set in India. Over at CBS, meanwhile, an untitled Ant Hines comedy features the British comic playing a U.K. native who moves to L.A.

Then there’s ABC’s "Awkward Situations for Me," in which British personality Danny Wallace plays a famous British personality who crossed the Pond and finds his behavior at odds with American mores.

Want more global flair? How about a new take on "Prime Suspect," the awesome British crime miniseries that aired on PBS? NBC’s got it; let’s hope they don’t mess it up.

Early Pick: "Outsourced"


… ends up on TV this fall. Or so hope the producers of three series set in Sin City.

NBC has a comic take from the ever-funny writers Tom Lennon and Ben Garant, who’ve created "The Strip," a show about an ex-child star who owns a bar on the outskirts of Vegas.

Meanwhile, CBS  — which loves, loves, loves Las Vegas — has two contenders making Mayor Oscar Goodman giddy. There’s "Defenders," featuring Jim Belushi as one of two razzle-dazzle defense attorneys working the 702. And Joel Silver is behind "The Odds," a buddy cop show promising police officers just as crazy as the crimes they solve. (That ought to go over well with Metro Police.)

Early Pick: "The Strip."


Obama-mania may have cooled a bit, but the networks are still hoping to cash in on political themes.

Arianna Huffington is one of the producers behind "Freshmen," ABC’s multicamera comedy about three first-year congressmen who live together in a D.C. row house. Hopefully one of them gets embroiled in a sex scandal.

Meanwhile, "Arrested Development" vet Mitch Hurwitz is an exec producer on the unfortunately named "Wright vs. Wrong," a single-camera half-hour — also at ABC — about a conservative pundit trying to keep up her public image.

Early Pick: Um, none.


More former network suits are joining the likes of Warren Littlefield, Gail Berman and Sarah Timberman in becoming producers.

This year, former News Corp. leader Peter Chernin is jumping into the game, teaming up with ex-NBC development chief Katherine Pope. Also in the hunt: Onetime Fox executive Quan Phong and ex-NBC-er Shelley McCrory.

Early Pick: We love all our sources, er, suits equally!

And then there’s Sony-based powerhouse Jamie Tarses, whom we’re giving a category all her own. She has lined up three projects this development season, including the highly anticipated Matthew Perry half-hour "Mr. Sunshine" at ABC.

She’s also behind  an untitled David Caspe comedy directed by the Russo brothers and starring Damon Wayans’ son, as well as "True Love," the CBS comedy she’s working on with her brother, Matt.

Early Pick: "True Love."


Love could be all over the air next fall if the networks opt to greenlight the slew of heart-centric comedies in the works right now.

The creators of "How I Met Your Mother" — always fans of the shmoopy — have teamed up with two writers on the show and director Pam Fryman for "Livin’ on a Prayer," which sound like it could be "HIMYM" with slightly older couples. We’re sold.

Meanwhile, Fryman is also directing "True Love," the Team Tarses project about four friends in New York at various stages in their love lives.

Josh Schwartz, a romantic writer at heart, tries half-hour comedy for the first time with "Hitched," his CBS project with Matt Miller. Call it "Mad About Modern": It’s part "Mad About You," part "Modern Family." NBC’s "Perfect Couples," meanwhile, focuses on three different romantic relationships.

The Peacock has the potentially innovative "Love Bites," an hourlong romantic comedy anthology from the guys at Working Title, actually. It’s also doing "Friends with Benefits," a modern-day romance from the creative teams behind "(500) Days of Summer and "Wedding Crashers."

And finally, the mighty James Burrows has signed on to direct CBS’ "Open Books," a Gail Lerner half-hour about a female book editor, her friends, and their novel-worthy love lives.

Early Pick(s): It’s a tie between "Hitched" and "Livin’ on a Prayer" — with "Love Bites" a close third.


"Arrested Development" is long gone, but its wacky spirit remains an inspiration to more than a few comedies in the works.

NBC’s Matthew Broderick/Lorne Michaels collaboration, "Beach Lane," has a celebrity author going to work for a crazy millionaire in the Hamptons. Fox has "AD" producer Ron Howard behind "IRS," a loopy office comedy starring David Krumholz as a dreaded tax man.

Fox’s "The Station," from executive producer Ben Stiller, also sounds Bluth-ian: It’s about a covert CIA operative trying to install a dictator in a banana republic.

No project, however, is more "AD"-like than the untitled Mitch Hurwitz/Jim Vallely half-hour that’s set to star Wil Arnett. It feature Arnett as a pompous fool who falls head over heels for a liberal woman who can’t stand his lifestyle.

Early Pick: The untitled Hurwitz/Vallely project, natch.