Pilot season is upon us when the broadcast networks place orders for shows they will be considering for the upcoming season. They order a pilot episode which introduces the premise and characters for a show, and the network execs watch these and sometimes do audience test runs. They then decide which ones will be picked up as new entries for the upcoming season. Pilot orders have slowed in recent years as the networks (especially the cable channels) have shifted to more direct-to-series orders. But this time of year still brings a fair number of pilots for shows that the networks are considering. Below is a rundown of the sci fi and fantasy pilots that have been announced by the broadcast networks so far along with my comments on each. The descriptions come from The Hollywood Reporter and you can see the full list of pilots at this link. And be sure to check back from time to time over the next month as I will update this if new pilots of interest are announced.
The alphabet network only has one genre entry among its pilots this year, and it has nothing to do with the Marvel Universe. It is a superhero series, though, as the networks are still cranking out plenty of shows in that genre. Also of note, ABC has given a direct-to-series order to the new cop series Rookie that will star Firefly alum Nathan Fillion.
The Greatest American Hero
Description: Inspired by the 1980s TV show the comedy centers around Meera, a 30-year-old woman who loves tequila and karaoke and has spent her life searching and failing to find meaning, much to the chagrin of her traditional Indian-American family. An inexplicable event occurs that will change the course of Meera’s life forever: She is entrusted with a super suit to protect the planet. Meera may have finally found purpose, but the world has never been in more unreliable hands.
Comments: This one could be a ton of fun like the original series was when at its best. I know that we are tired of reboots and revivals, but the smart play would be to make this a sequel series where the new heroine picks up the baton from Ralph Hinkley, the lead from the original series (or Holly Hathaway if they want to keep the failed Greatest American Heroine offshoot in the continuity). I will be looking forward to seeing what they do with this one.
This network continues to shy away from sci fi during the regular season and only has one pilot that comes even close to counting as a genre entry.
God Friended Me
Description: Questions of faith, existence and science are explored in what is described as a humorous, uplifting drama about an outspoken atheist whose life is turned upside down when he is “friended” by God on Facebook. Unwittingly, he becomes an agent of change in the lives and destinies of others around him.
Comments: Another twist on the basic Touched by an Angel / Highway to Heaven theme. ABC hasn’t had much luck with that this season with Kevin (Probably) Saves the World, but what do you expect from a rather worn-out premise. God Friended Me may register with the older-skewing CBS audience, though.
FOX also has only one genre offering among its pilots so far, and this one is a hold-over from last year. But then as long as they keep The Orville on the air, I am happy with the network.
Description: Based on the best-selling trilogy by Justin Cronin, the drama begins as a character-driven government conspiracy thriller and morphs into a post-apocalyptic saga with vampires. The potential series spans over a century and focuses on a young girl named Amy who must save the human race.
Cast: Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Vincent Piazza, Saniyya Sidney, Genesis Rodriguez, Brianne Howey, BJ Britt, Jennifer Ferrin
Comments: The network has been working on this one since last season, and that is not always a good sign. They originally claimed they wanted to give it extra time in order to do it right, but apparently FOX execs were not happy with the first pilot produced last year and they are in the process of revamping this one (pun unintended but accepted). Sounds like an interesting premise if they can get it on track, but also sounds like something that would work better on one of the premium cable channels or the streaming services where there is less oversite from network censors.
The peacock network has two pilots of interest for sci fi fans, though one of them only vaguely so. And they are definitely staying in mostly safe territory with these two entries.
In Between Lives
Description: A mysterious young woman reluctantly uses her gift of clairvoyance to help a veteran LAPD detective and a damaged ex-FBI outsider solve the most unnerving and challenging cases the city encounters. This eerie ability also opens the door for her to see and talk to the dead, who are seeking help for unresolved problems, whether she likes it or not.
Comments: Another procedural with a twist. Another show about a person who talks to / communicates with the dead and uses that knowledge to solve crimes. Another show I will be skipping if it makes it to the network’s schedule.
Description: In this character-driven, high-concept mystery thriller, a plane disappears from radar and returns years later after being untraceable and presumed lost at sea. No time has passed for those on the plane, but for their loved ones at home, many years have gone by. The series follows their personal lives as well as the larger mystery and purpose that is their destiny.
Comments: Lost copies have been scarce of late seeing that few of those have had much success. This one has some pedigree, though, with Robert Zemeckis attached. It should be worth a look if it makes it to the schedule.
As usual, the fifth place network has the most genre entries among its pilots, but interestingly none of those involve superheroes. That network also has a ton of shows it is considering if you add in the non-genre entries (you can see the full rundown at this link), which may indicate plans to sift away from the Arrow-verse in the next year or so. It will be interesting to see how that plays out and which pilots The CW picks up for next season.
Description: Described as a fierce, funny and feminist reboot of the original series, the drama centers on three sisters in a college town who discover they are witches. Between vanquishing supernatural demons, tearing down the patriarchy, and maintaining familial bonds, a witch’s work is never done.
Comments: I believe that this is the third year in a row that The CW has had a Charmed reboot in their development queue. So like it or not, I believe they are determined to get this on the schedule. I was not a big fan of the original and have little interest in a reboot. But the network apparently believes that somebody will be tuning in to this show.
Description: After surviving an explosion that killed her hotshot detective big brother, an underachieving beat cop starts seeing his ghost, flipping their sibling dynamic on its head and allowing her to truly live her life for the first time, as they work together to help crime victims both living and dead, and figure out the unfinished business keeping his spirit on Earth.
Comments: See comments above for NBC’s In Between Lives.
The End of the World as We Know It
Description: When a prison spaceship carrying the universe’s most deadly aliens crashes in Southern California, two young women with bigger dreams than working at a kids’ pizza place in the Valley are recruited by a space cop to hunt down the escaped criminals, who have camouflaged themselves as eccentric Angelenos. Based on the book The End of the World as We Know It by Iva-Marie Palmer.
Comments: I’m not familiar with the book, but this sounds like one of those younger-skewing CW shows that doesn’t quite register with old fogies like myself. Could be worth a look, though.
Untitled Roswell project
Description: After reluctantly returning to her tourist-trap hometown of Roswell, New Mexico, the daughter of undocumented immigrants discovers a shocking truth about her teenage crush who is now a police officer: he’s an alien who has kept his unearthly abilities hidden his entire life. She protects his secret as the two reconnect and begin to investigate his origins, but when a violent attack and long-standing government cover-up point to a greater alien presence on Earth, the politics of fear and hatred threaten to expose him and destroy their deepening romance. Based on the Roswell High book series by Melinda Metz.
Comments: Another reboot and another show targeting the younger audience. I was not a huge Roswell fan, but I am wondering if that rather devoted crowd will embrace this or consider it sacrilege.
Description: Wayward Sisters tells the story of Supernatural fan-favorite recurring player Sheriff Jody Mills and a group of troubled young women, all of them orphaned by supernatural monster attacks and tragedies. Under Mills’ protection, they emerge as a supreme monster-fighting force.
Cast: Kim Rhodes, Briana Buckmaster, Kathryn Newton, Katherine Ramdeen, Clark Backo, Yadira Guevara-Prip
Comments: The CW has been toying with a Supernatural spin-off for a while and they may have hit on something with this one (the pilot aired as an episode of the series this season on January 18th). It will definitely be worth a look, but how much more mileage can they get out of a franchise that is on its thirteenth year? For the record, I thought “Bloodlines”, which aired during the show’s ninth season, would have made a good spin-off as well. Apparently I am in the minority on that.