It’s the beginning of the year and CBS, NBC, ABC and FOX are busy ordering, reshooting and test-audiencing their pilots for the 2016-2017 season. What are we going to watch after we get bored by (the already cancelled, just doesn’t know it yet, dead show walking) Second Chance, (style over substance) Quantico, (paint by numbers) Blindspot and (sprawling) Limitless? They’re holding the cards. Let’s take a peek at their hands.
A year ago, FOX was in the preliminary stages of creating an Expendables-like action series. Legendary television action heroes would team up and kick, strangle, shoot and blow up bad guys. I suppose, given the stubborn nature of these characters (Magnum, Jack Bauer, Michael Knight, Sydney Bristow), they couldn’t make a deal with them to share the limelight, so there hasn’t been news about this idea for a while. They did come up with a reboot of sorts – yes, another one – to continue the 24 franchise. No matter the ratings, no matter the critical acclaim, 24: Live Another Day was very disappointing. A clean slate was promised, and we got more of the same. Luckily, it only lasted half a day. FOX seems to have come to its senses, because they’re serious about starting from scratch, with 24: Legacy. No Jack. No Chloe. No Bill. No Audrey. They’re all out of the picture – i.e. let Jack rot in a Russian prison. New players, new CTU, new leading man: Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton, The Walking Dead). Also starring is Miranda Otto, who’s switching from one Howard Gordon show (Homeland) to the next. That’s all good news, on paper. However, it is once again about a ‘potential largest-scale terrorist attack on American soil’. When are they going to realize it’s not the scale of the threat that once made this series so great?
While FOX is reworking its past successes, CBS thought it’d be a good idea to bring back MacGyver. The guy who could melt steel with a matchstick, blow up tanks with a popsicle, make a trampoline out of toothpaste. Even in the eighties, this show was already too goofy. The only way it would work is, if they come up with not just realistic, but real physics tricks. My guess is the 2016 audience doesn’t like to be fooled as much as the one of 30 years ago, so they’d better bring in the Mythbusters.
These aren’t the only re-imaginations. NBC thinks it can strike gold in B-movie territory. Apparently, there’s a good enough reason to continue the story started in Cruel Intentions (1999). For Taken – Liam Neeson’s I’m going to hunt you down trilogy – they’ve created a prequel series. It’s about how ‘a young Brian Mills develops his particular skill set’. So, basically another MacGyver show. If you change the name of Mills into ‘Dr. Phil’, then you get the logline of CBS’ Bull. A procedural to inflate Phil McGraw’s ego a little more, turning his younger self into the incredibly smart man that he (thinks he) is, who’s helping people prepare for trial. That sounds a lot like the 2006 series Justice. With The Following obliterated, FOX gets its creep on once again, with The Exorcist. Set 15 years after the 2001 movie ended, CBS’ Training Day will pick up the story that got Denzel Washinton his Oscar. Ethan Hawke’s character will not only be older, but also morally more ambiguous.
Supernatural Beings and Lawyers
What’s a pilot season without vampires, werewolves and angels? Written by Monica Owusu-Breen (Alias, Fringe, Revolution, Brothers & Sisters, Charmed and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Midnight Texas brings all of your supernatural suspects to life. Also on NBC: Suits First Class AKA Miranda’s Rights and Timecop Sliders AKA Time, written by Shawn Ryan (Mad Dogs, The Shield). The green apples in ABC’s basket: Cold Case 2.0 AKA Conviction, created by Liz Friedman (Elementary, House MD). ‘Macbeth with a Cuban twist’, The Death of Eva Sofia Valdez, created by Charise Castro Smith (Devious Maids). The People vs Somebody Else AKA The Jury, written by VJ Boyd (Justified), directed by Neil Burger (Billions) and produced by Carol Mendelsohn (the one who founded the CSI factory).
There’s no telling when the superhero hype’s going to slow down, but we’re getting closer. ABC puts another series out there, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spinoff Marvel’s Most Wanted, to completely clog the trend. Nobody cares about models, but that’s no reason to pass on Model Woman, a sort of Models Inc In The Seventies, written by Helen Childress, who’s got one other writing credit to her name (Reality Bites). If we didn’t have enough legal business already: Notorious focuses on a criminal defense attorney and a cable news producer. Stephanie Sigman (Narcos, Spectre) stars in Presence as a private investigator, created by John Ridley (12 Years a Slave, American Crime). Also on ABC: Bizarro Revolution AKA Spark, created by Michael Cooney (Identity). Romeo & Juliet The Sequel AKA Still Star-Crossed, created by Heather Mitchell (Scandal, The Chicago Code). And another Time Machine Series AKA Time After Time, created by Kevin Williamson (The Vampire Diaries, Stalker, The Following).
The Ghost of Dave Eggers
Over on CBS: Dave Eggers’ The Circle Meets Dr. House AKA Bunker Hill, written by Jason Katims (Parenthood, About a Boy). Katherine Heigl’s 68th Chance To Show Her Acting Skills AKA Doubt, and Sherlock Is A Woman AKA Drew, written by Joan Rater (Grey’s Anatomy). Although CBS’ Zoo was a (and this is the appropriate term) turd of a show, FOX just made Zoo 2: More Sick Animals under the name of Zoobiquity, written by Stephen Nathan (Bones, Joan of Arcadia). Also on FOX: Dave Eggers’ The Circle Meets Hill Street Blues AKA A.P.B., directed by Len Wiseman, who’s done the pilots for Hawaii Five-O, Sleepy Hollow and most recently Lucifer. Quantico Homeland Mashup AKA Recon, written by Caroline Dries (The Vampire Diaries). The Way Of The Ball Or What Was That Clint Eastwood Movie Called Or Was It That Kevin Costner One? AKA Pitch, starring Kylie Bunbury (Under the Dome) and written by Dan Fogelman (Galavant, Danny Collins).
A Title So Bad
Two more FOX shows are Shots Fired, about ‘racially charged shootings in a small town’ and (working title) Star, starring Queen Latifah and Benjamin Bratt, a kind of Nashville, this time in Atlanta. The last show on our list, makes us come full circle: ABC’s Designated Survivor. A title so bad, the leading man takes you by surprise: Kiefer Sutherland. It’d be wrong to assume he’s going to play another Bauer-ish character, especially given the logline: ‘A lower-level U.S. Cabinet member suddenly is appointed President after a catastrophic attack during the State of the Union kills everyone above him in the line of succession.’ That sounds interesting. The show, which has been ordered straight to series, is written by David Guggenheim (Safe House) and produced by Simon Kinberg (X-Men Apocalypse, The Martian). Now, is Sutherland going to play this Cabinet member and what’s he going to do as acting President? Who knows. This is by far the most promising pilot of all, but please, ABC, change the name. Mr. Sutherland Goes To Washington would even be a better title than Designated Survivor.