2016 Q1 Pilot Season

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.

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24: Legacy
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?

MacGyver
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.

Re-Imaginations
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).

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ABC
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).

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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.

Colony, Episode Zero Offers Zero

USA’s new science fiction show Colony keeps its cards close to the vest. One way to describe it is Sawyer, a wall and a riddle inside an enigma. Occupy L.A., another. The half hour long making of ‘Behind the Wall’ is an exciting appetiser, it does, however, poses a lot of questions. I suppose that’s exactly the point, in order to attract the former LOST fanbase, in need of mythology.

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Sociology
From what we do know, Colony is another (militarised) occupation show, where the primary location or region is fenced in. A mashup of Under the Dome, Falling Skies, Wayward Pines, The Man in the High Castle, Into the Badlands, the movies Divergent, The Maze Runner, The Giver and Elysium. A potpourri of popular culture, albeit looking original – which is an achievement already. It probably means something, the sudden rise in dystopian stories. Is it a reaction to an increasingly dangerous world? A reflection of the threats the western world is facing? The wars abroad coming to our door, the limits of privacy? Or is it the exact opposite? It’s known that people in times of war, worry and insecurity generally prefer simple, positive TV shows; Colony doesn’t look like it wants to be simple. Or positive. Is there a sociologist in the audience?

Behind the Wall(s)
Not many other series get a zero episode AKA first look AKA warmup such as ‘Behind the Wall’. USA has got a lot riding on this. However, the way they choose to market the show, and specifically the cast and crew involved, is a bit awkward. The two leading actors don’t need an introduction. Josh Holloway is of eternal LOST fame, Sarah Wayne Callies will be forever tied to Prison Break – although USA apparently prefers her role in The Walking Dead. Speaking of Prison Break, that series once aired a similar special, called ‘Behind the Walls’. Or is that too much of a geek fact?

Awkward Marketing: The Crew
Anyway, the other key players in this production include: Carlton Cuse (LOST, Bates Motel, The Strain, I would’ve left out the fact he wrote the movie San Andreas). Ryan Condal (I would’ve just said he was a writer, without getting specific, like informing the audience he wrote Dwayne Johnson’s Hercules movie). The marketing department has an odd target audience, because they don’t just focus on empty blockbusters starring The Rock, but on other big movie letdowns as well, such as 2014’s Godzilla and Pacific Rim (like Colony, both were produced by Legendary Studios). Sure, the premise of the new series sounds like science fiction, but that doesn’t mean lovers of shallow action movies with either big creatures or giant robot suits are the only ones who might be interested.

Awkward Marketing: The Cast
When it comes to the cast, they’ve got Kathy Baker, of Picket Fences. Really, USA? A twenty year old show that wasn’t even that big a hit? You might want to be a little more 21st century. She starred in Boston Public, Medium and Against the Wall, for example. You could even mention Saving Mr. Banks, Saving Grace or The Glass House.
They’ve got Peter Jacobson, of House. That’s been a while, too. Besides, every actor on that show paled next to Hugh Laurie. Why not say Jacobson was in Ray Donovan?
They’ve also got Amanda Righetti (The Mentalist), Tory Kittles (True Detective, but let’s not forget Sons of Anarchy), Paul Guilfoyle (CSI) and Carl Weathers, ‘of Rocky fame’. Of course, his portrayal of Apollo Creed has been iconic, and there’s a new movie out (Creed), but he’s done more than box. He’s been in Arrested Development, The Shield, Brothers and Tour of Duty. ‘Of Rocky fame’ makes him sound twice as old.
But at least they’re being mentioned, which isn’t the case with Ally Walker (Sons of Anarchy, Longmire, Boston Legal, Profiler), who’s nowhere to be found in ‘Behind the Wall’. Maybe she plays an alien and they don’t want to spoil it, who knows.

The Director
Despite a questionably put together ‘first look’, Colony looks very promising. The pilot is directed by Juan José Campanella (House MD, Halt and Catch Fire), who’s gone all out with handheld cameras. It gives the show – for as far as we can tell – a nice, gritty, documentary feel.
On January 14, 2016, the characters are going to ask themselves this cheesy line: Collaborate or Resist? After watching episode zero, I’ll definitely join, and take it from there.

7 Tom Cruise Movies Viable for TV Adaptations

On September 21, Minority Report, the small screen version of the Spielberg/Cruise science fiction movie, will be baptised on FOX. Starring Stark Sands and Meagan Good, it’s been redeveloped into a procedural, so that doesn’t promise a whole lot, but we’ll see how it goes. Which other Tom Cruise movies would be viable for television adaptations?

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The Firm
Minority Report won’t be the first time a Cruise vehicle gets retooled to fit an hourlong series. Back in 2012, NBC resurrected the 1993 mob-thriller The Firm, this time around starring Josh Lucas (Hulk), Callum Keith Rennie (Californication), Molly Parker (House of Cards) and Juliette Lewis (Wayward Pines). It didn’t get past its first season.

7. Jack Reacher
It was also in 2012 that Cruise played Jack Reacher, in – who’d have guessed? – Jack Reacher. Not quite a resounding success, but somewhat of a success nevertheless: a sequel is in the works. I’d scrap another Reacher movie – the first one was nothing but an overly serious, uninventive Jason Bourne clone. It was based on the novel ‘One Shot’ by Lee Child, and will you look at that: there are 19 more novels (and a dozen short stories) about the hermit soldier Reacher. Plenty of story to fill a couple of seasons.

6. Cocktail
In 1988, a young Tom Cruise was the hottest ticket in town. Even a shallow movie like Cocktail turned to gold with the letters C R U I S E on the poster. So why turn it into a TV show? Precisely because of its shallowness. All you need is an appealing leading man, some bartender tricks, Jamaican beach scenes, call it Cocktail, and you have a hit. You can build the story from the ground up; you have no choice. In the right hands, this could be a very romantically bittersweet series about being young, ambitious and in love. It’s got The CW written all over it.

5. Jerry Maguire
You had me at show me the money. In the movie, Cruise plays a sports agent who gets thrown out of the agency he’s working for. All he’s got left is Cuba Gooding Jr. It sounds a lot like Ballers, the HBO comedy starring Dwayne Johnson, although there are a lot more examples; the concept isn’t that original. An agent with a single client, both trying to catch their big breaks. I’m not saying it would be a good TV show, but it’d be rather easy to develop one.

4. War of the Worlds
This movie was about aliens coming to Earth and Cruise running for his life. The aliens in question were huge tripods, and the special effects were very well done. Steven Spielberg always delivers the goods, especially in that department. A series could easily be mirrored to The Walking Dead, but with (what must be the most unrealistic looking) aliens instead of zombies. I’d say, ideally either AMC or TNT could pick this up.

3. A Few Good Men
Slowly, all courtroom dramas have been eliminated from our television screens. Even Harvey Specter en Mike Ross are seldom facing a judge. What used to be one of the most popular professions to build a show around, has quietly been degraded to ‘objection – sustained’. How much I’d love to see Denny Crane and Alan Shore again, just one more time. Anyway, A Few Good Men revolved around a single case, but if it were to be transformed into a true old-fashioned lawyer series, there’d be a new case every week. Also: Guantanamo Bay is still more of an issue than ever, so that could be a recurring theme running through it.

2. Collateral
This is more of a mini-series, or one 13-episode long (I refuse to call it ‘event’) season. It’s either going to follow the storyline of the 2004 movie – cab driver drops off a professional (grey-haired) hitman in twilighted L.A. to assassinate people – or the hitman’s got a much longer list. More people to eliminate, on more locations, all over the world, assisted by several cabbies. The big mystery will be what the victims have in common. I’ll let the writers figure that one out.

1. Mission: Impossible
A no-brainer. Started as a series in 1966, rebooted in 1988, until Tom Cruise brought the franchise to the movie theatre in 1996. Every sequel seems to shatter the records established by the former. Just like lawyer shows have vanished, so have the adventures of spies. I believe Sydney Bristow was the last one. An updated version of Mission: Impossible, with all the 21st century gizmos Hollywood can buy, would make for an exciting show.

Fear the Walking Dead: Pilot

Sequel? Prequel? Vehicle? It doesn’t really matter, because despite the title, Fear the Walking Dead completely stands on its own. There’s no overlap with big brother The Walking Dead, because it all takes place before the zompocalypse.

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Junkies
Well, before might not be accurate. It’s set right at the beginning of the zombian epidemic. The first one to spot it, is junkieboy Nick Clark (Frank Dillane, whose body-which-is-more-like-a-skeleton of work includes Sense8), who can’t believe his eyes. He encounters his female junkie friend in an abandoned church, eating the lips off of presumably one of the other junkies. She’s gone full zombie, judging by her sparkling eyes.
He runs, gets picked up by the police, thrown onto a hospital bed and cuffed to it. What did he see? Everybody else is fine, the whole world is fine. When (assumably) his stepfather Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis, Gang Related, Trauma) stops by the church, zombiegirl is gone with the wind.

Viral
After that brief moment of zombism, it takes a long time before we get to see something like it again. They weren’t kidding; the title of the show is more about the Fear than it is about Dead people Walking. Things do start to unravel quickly, though, when towards the end of the Pilot, a police arrest gets leaked online. Cops shoot a man, multiple times, but he gets up. They shoot him again, he gets up again. A new highschool viral video is born. No one’s using the word ‘zombie’, so I guess for some reason the show takes place in a world where George A. Romero doesn’t exist.

Front Row Seat
Nick escapes the hospital the exact same way every television character in a similar situation has ever done, and hides. Travis and Madison (Kim Dickens, Deadwood, LOST, Sons of Anarchy, House of Cards) go look for him. They’re both teachers and very correct, thoughtful people, burdened with a junkie for a son, but it’s not because of the drugs that Nick’s seeing things. They’re no hallucinations; he’s never had them before. He’s actually witnessed something, and when Travis and Madison find him – well, eventually they are asked by Nick to come -, they get a front row seat to the weird phenomena that is the Undead.

Teacher Talk
A lot of highschool, a lot of teacher talk and a lot of ‘what’s going on’; that about sums up the Pilot. It’s not bad, though, just a bit one dimensional – but what show or movie about zombies isn’t? This is just the start of it; we can expect more in the coming weeks. There are zombies popping up occasionally now, but they’ll no doubt grow in number and then all teacher talk, highschool- and junkie drama will be thrown out the window.

The Future
It’ll be interesting to see how the zombie disease will spread, how people will try to stop it, and how the whole world ultimately gets taken over. It’ll be like Outbreak, only with an actual outbreak. We know the direction everything’s headed; The Walking Dead has shown us the future, but knowing how it ends/ties into its predecessor, doesn’t take away the suspense. They do have to up the ante, though. It’s funny to hear Travis explain to his students that ‘nature always wins’, but at some point we want to see some action.
What we need to be is afraid there’s an ugly, flesh craving lunatic behind the corner – any corner. So let the epidemic spread slowly, but please do try to build some tension and scare us with frightening zombies when we least expect it. I’m sure that’s the plan, so stay tuned.