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A (Very) Early Look at Fall TV's Hottest Trends

Katherine Heigl, David Schwimmer, Jennifer Carpenter, and Scott Bakula may all be returning to TV this fall

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Zombies(but not vampires!), cops (but not lawyers!), and spin-offs (but not fairy tales!) are in the pipeline for TV fans. With broadcast’s annual pilot season in full swing and some early direct-to-series orders already revealed, intriguing trends have emerged. Here’s our early preview of what’s in and out this year.

IN Spin-Offs
They’re still in fashion: CBS is expanding its NCIS franchise with a New Orleans edition starring Quantum Leap‘s Scott Bakula that will preview later this season, while The CW has ordered a pilot for the Arrow spin-off Flash, and Supernatural will roll out its Chicago-set Tribes pilot in the coming months. Plus, there’s the How I Met Your Mother spin-off pilot How I Met Your Dad, a near lock for a fall series.

OUT Fairy Tales
The spell that enchanted TV execs once upon a time has faded now that the Disney and Grimm canons have been exhausted. That said, if you count Oz as a fairy tale, NBC has greenlit Emerald City, a “dark reimagining of the classic tale.”

IN Zombies
Apparently networks believe in the walking dead, only their versions are friendly chatterboxes instead of groaning killers. NBC has revived a 2007 pilot called Babylon Fields, about the dead wanting their old lives back, and The CW has Rob Thomas’ iZombie pilot, about a coroner who eats brains while solving crimes.

OUT Vampires
Could the post-Twilight trend finally be over? There’s a downturn in vamp dramas in the broadcast pipeline: Beyond FX’s July series The Strain from Guillermo del Toro, there’s not one current pilot with neck biters.

IN Small-Town Cop Shows
More intimate portraits, less flashy urban chaos. In addition to Fox’s Broadchurch remake Gracepoint, ABC has a pilot, Sea of Fire, starring Jennifer Carpenter as an FBI agent, and CBS’ rural Michigan cop drama Battle Creek is one of the buzziest pilots around thanks to creator Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad).

OUT Law Dramas
Oh, there are still a couple of gavel-and-docket dramas in the works (like Shonda Rhimes’ law school pilot), but the verdict on them mostly seems to be not-happening by reason of done-to-death.

IN Returning Stars
Besides Bakula, other TV vets revisiting the small screen include David Schwimmer (ABC’s couple comedy Irreversible) and ex-Grey’s Anatomy star Katherine Heigl (as a maverick CIA officer in NBC’s pilot State of Affairs).

OUT Tokenism
There are multiple projects with characters of color in lead roles and where race is part of the story line. ABC has a trio of comedy pilots: Black-ish starring Anthony Anderson, a Taiwanese-American family comedy called Fresh Off the Boat, and a comedy based on the life of stand-up comic Kevin Hart. On the drama side, Fox has the hip-hop-themed Empire from The Butler director Lee Daniels, while ABC has American Crime from 12 Years a Slave writer John Ridley, about a racially charged trial. More diversity in prime time? That may be the smartest trend yet.