The Hollywood Reporter recently released a list of shows that have ordered pilots this year and there’s a lot to be excited about. Spin offs and comic book shows seem to be on the rise this season, with aliens and apocalyptic narratives also making a strong appearance on the list. Before launching into the titles that are catching my eye I just want to clarify that just because a pilot has been ordered, we aren’t guaranteed a full series. Some shows have been committed for a full season or part of a season, but most shows on that list have pilot orders only. We can still get excited, though, because a pilot order is a huge step in bringing a show to life. So with that uncertainty in the back of our minds, let’s jump right in.
The CW is far ahead of the pack as far as interesting sounding pilots go. They have four new shows coming up this year that I’m very much looking forward to. Let’s start with the obvious one: the Supernatural spin off.
Tribes: Explores the clashing hunter and monster cultures of Chicago.
We’ve talked about this show here before. The backdoor pilot for this show is going to air this season during it’s origin show, Supernatural. Right now it’s slated for episode 20, which should air April 29th. It’s going to be directed by Robert Singer and written by Andrew Dabb, who also wrote “Devil May Care” and “Road Trip” earlier this season. It’ll focus around hunter Ennis Roth and shapeshifter David Hayden, who we don’t know too terribly much about yet, but should be acquainted with by the end of April. I’ve seen the criticism that if there’s no Sam and Dean it won’t be worth watching, but I feel like this universe that they’ve created is too rich to confine itself to only a small number of characters, even if those characters are spectacular. I’m interested in exploring what else is going on in the world. This is definitely something I’m going to be tuning in for.
Flash: An origin story of the DC Comics character of scientist Barry Allen, who through a freak accident, is given the power of super speed that transforms him into the Fastest Man Alive.
I’m not a huge DC comics fan (despite my cat being named after Batman) and I’m more than a season behind on Arrow, but that doesn’t mean this show doesn’t deserve a spot on my list of pilots to look forward to. While I personally lost interest in Arrow early on, I’ve been told it got a lot better shortly after I gave it up and that I should try it again. I plan on doing just that as soon as I have the time. I’m always happy to see more superheroes on TV, so I’m overjoyed another classic is getting a chance to shine. I hope it does well and that this helps pave the way for even more quality superhero adaptations in the future.
iZombie: The supernatural crime procedural, based on the DC Comics title of the same name, centers on a medical student-turned-zombie who takes a job in the Coroner’s Office in order to gain access to the brains she must reluctantly eat so that she can maintain her humanity. However, with every brain she eats, she inherits the corpse’s memories. With the help of her medical examiner boss and a police detective, she solves homicide cases in order to quiet the disturbing voices in her head.
This list is the first I’m hearing about this show or the comic. I’m happy to see more comics being made into TV shows, though. Thanks, CW. Us geeks are appreciative. The premise is certainly unique and puts an entirely different spin on the zombie genre. In this show it seems that zombies are intelligent enough to carry on with day-to-day life as long as they consume the brains of others. This is certainly a far cry from the lumbering mindless corpses from practically every other piece of zombie media in existence. Of all the non-spin off shows on this list, this is the one that has intrigued me most. I’m so intrigued, in fact, that I might even pick up the comic and read it ahead of time so I can be one of those fans who can feel a little superior that they’ve read the source material. I promise I won’t be obnoxious about it.
The Messengers: When a mysterious object crashes down to Earth, a group of seemingly unconnected strangers die from the energy pulse, but then awaken to learn that they have been deemed responsible for preventing the impending apocalypse.
Once again the CW has clearly realized that their audience is primarily of the nerd variety and have made it a point to cater to our interests. This seems like it’ll be an interesting apocalyptic drama with potentially science fiction and/or fantasy elements. I have a soft spot for apocalyptic narratives. Both of my favorite books (The Stand and Good Omens) revolve around that concept. I’m also a huge sucker for science fiction shows that weave religion throughout the narrative, like Battlestar Galactica. We don’t really know much about this yet. It might not touch upon religion at all, but the word ‘apocalypse’ tends to evoke those themes. This has the potential to be a show that I count down for every week. Because I obviously need another one of those.
NBC has a giant list of new shows that they’ve ordered pilots for this season. The majority of them are comedies, which aren’t really my cup of tea. When I laugh, I like to be laughing through my tears of sadness. Very few straight-up comedies sustain my interest for long, so I’m going to be focusing on their list of dramas.
Babylon Fields: The dead are rising in Babylon, N.Y., with lives regained, old wounds reopened and families are restored — for better or worse. The newly regenerated bodies are healing faster and growing stronger, prompting discussion that this might be the next step in human evolution.
This is another rather vague description that leaves a lot open for interpretation, but it has a lot of interesting elements. Not only is there a heavy science fiction/fantasy feeling to this pilot, but the potential for a lot of philosophical debate as well. How would humanity handle the dead rising from the grave? What implications would that have, especially for those who died suddenly or violently? How would these people handle the psychological trauma from a resurrection and how would their families cope? There’s also a lot of practical questions as well. The way the log line is phrased makes it sound like the dead are only rising in Babylon. Why there? Why now? And in what state are they rising? Are they, uh, corpsy? Or do they regenerate into “fresh” bodies? Is everyone rising or just those who passed recently? Or is there some other criteria for rising from the dead? The fact that I have so many questions is probably a good sign. It means I’m hooked already and the show doesn’t even have a pilot yet.
Constantine: Based on DC Comics’ Hellblazer graphic novels, the drama centers on master of the occult John Constantine (Matt Ryan), based on the “Hellblazer” graphic novels. Constantine is struggling with his faith as he is haunted by the sins of his past but is suddenly thrust into the role of defending humanity from the gathering forces of darkness.
This is another show we’ve talked about already. It’s another comic book property so I’m already pleased with the idea. The added weight that the comic character is bisexual adds another layer of interest to this one for me. Whether or not this show will go there, I’m not sure, but I’m a big advocate of having more queer representation in the form of protagonists on TV. Even beyond the potential representation, there’s a lot to get excited about. It’s a gritty supernatural drama with a large fanbase and, like Flash and iZombie, is continuing the trend of bringing comics to TV. I’m looking forward to this quite a bit.
Emerald City: A reimagining of the classic Frank L. Baum books that have inspired everything from the Wizard of Oz to Wicked, the series is a dramatic and modern reimaging of the tales that include lethal warriors, competing kingdoms and the infamous wizard as he’s never been seen before. A head-strong Dorothy Gale, 20, is unwittingly sent on an eye-opening journey that thrusts her into the center of an epic and bloody battle for the control of Oz.
This has the potential to be very very good or very very bad. It seems like everyone wants a piece of the Wizard of Oz. Not all adaptions or re-imaginings turn out as great as the Wicked musical or the original Judy Garland film. Some try too hard to be unique and end up as massive CGI-reliant disasters. But it’s unfair to judge this adaption based on past failures by other people, which is why I’m putting it on the list of shows I’m looking forward to. I love the original film and the source material, so I’m going to tune in and give it a shot. I hope it exceeds my expectations.
FOX has a couple of standouts worth mentioning. Like NBC, there are a lot of comedies to wade through that I don’t care much about, but the dramas are an interesting mix.
Gotham: Based on characters from the DC Comics universe including a young Bruce Wayne, Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor), Riddler, Joker and Catwoman, the drama explores the origin stories of Commissioner James Gordon (Southland’s Ben McKenzie) and the villains that made Gotham famous.
YES. As I mentioned earlier, my cat is named after Batman so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I’m really excited about this one. Unlike many of the other shows on the list, this one has a series commitment and looks like it’ll get a full 22 episode order. There is an enormous amount of buzz for this show so I’ll be truly surprised if the pilot doesn’t bring in high numbers. I am concerned about it being on FOX, though. It doesn’t have a habit of treating its shows very well. There was, well, that one show over a decade ago that shall not be named (I don’t want to evoke painful memories here, but you know the one). Then there’s Almost Human this season, which has had its episodes jumbled around causing the character development to fell disjointed. They can’t mess up the Batman franchise. There will be hell to pay if they mess this one up. Play it smart, FOX. Do the right thing.
Hieroglyph: The high-concept fantastical action-adventure show is set in ancient Egypt and centers on a notorious thief who is plucked from prison to serve the Pharaoh (Reece Ritchie), navigating palace intrigue, seductive concubines, criminal underbellies and even a few divine sorcerers.
I’ve got to admit here that I’m not 100% sold on this one. This has been picked up for a 13 episode season, though, so there must be something here. I’m interested in fantasy themes anyway, so I’ll most likely be tuning in to give it a try. This could either become something great or go down the road of extreme kitsch and become a disaster. I think production values are going to be what makes or breaks this show. The scripts are important too, obviously, but setting a show in ancient Egypt is going to require it to look really good.
The Last Man on Earth: Will Forte stars as the last man on Earth.
Right, that’s pretty straight forward. This has also been picked up as a full series and should premiere mid-season. I’m going to assume that the reason this description is so brief is because it’s a mid-season show so not much has been done with it yet. I have more questions than I have answers at this point, but those nine simple words have my attention.
ABC has exactly two shows that sound interesting to me.
Forever: The drama revolves around New York City’s best medical examiner Dr. Henry Morgan (Ringer’s Ioan Gruffudd), who studies the dead for a reason — he is immortal. With the help of Detective Jo Martinez, the layers will be peeled back on Henry’s colorful and long life through the cases.
Immortality is almost always an interesting topic to tackle. There are so many ways to take it and a ton of practical questions that can make it stand out against other narratives. Why is he immortal? Does he age? Does his body decay? Are people aware of it or is it a big secret? Does he feel pain? Heal quicker? What if he explodes or loses a limb? Then there are the philosophical questions that come along with living forever, which could fill up hours and hours of television. I’m also interested to know if there will be other supernatural elements at play, or if his immortality is the lone fantastical bit of the story. There could be an opportunity for rich world building here, or he can be the lone unique element in a world of utter normalcy.
Wasn’t that the plot of Torchwood: Children of Earth? Well, I loved that season of the show, except for the whole Ianto thing, so I think there’s a lot of potential to make it an engaging plot. Though the fact that it’s a “race against time” seems to put a definite cap on how long it’ll run. I could see it getting to the end and then not knowing where to go from there should the show get renewed for another season. A similar thing happened with Heroes and I don’t feel like it ever truly recaptured the quality of the first season. Fun fact: Milo Ventimiglia was on Heroes and he’s going to be on this one, too. Let’s hope great first season premises and terrible follow ups don’t become a Milo Ventimiglia curse.
There is literally nothing on CBS that sounds remotely interesting to me. Sorry CBS. Better luck next year!
Those are all the pilots that I think have potential, but I’ve barely scratched the surface. I highly recommend checking out the full list to see what I’ve missed. What are you looking forward to most? What do you think will get picked up and what do you think won’t make it out of the pilot stage? Share your thoughts!
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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