Image Credit: Albert L. Ortega/PR Photos (2); Warner Bros/DC ComicsNBC is pretty much done ordering pilots for the 2011-12 prime time season and, under the new leadership of Robert Greenblatt, the network seems to be doing exactly what it needs to dig itself out from behind CBS and Fox: It needs to go big and bold. (Right now, NBC ranks third among adults 18-49 with a 2.6 rating/7 share and fourth in viewers, with 7.8 million). Though the network has picked up its share of (safe) comedies, it’s definitely taking some much-needed risks with drama development. The Wonder Woman project from David E. Kelley may come with a high-price tag, but it should generate lots of interest (hey, we’re already heavily invested in the casting process). So will Playboy, the drama from Chad Hodge that’s set in the ’60s and takes a look a the lives of Playboy bunnies.
The musical dramedy Smash from the Hairspray duo of Neil Meron and Craig Zadan that’ll star Debra Messing will certainly invite the inevitable Glee comparisons, but having Steven Spielberg as an exec producer should help turn it into more than just a simple copycat. NBC is also moving ahead with a reboot of Prime Suspect (EW reported that Maria Bello is a contender to play Jane Tennison), along with an intriguing fantasy hour called Grimm, a high-concept cop show from Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt about a world in which characters inspired by Grimm’s Fairy Tales actually exist.
And hey, not all of those comedies in the works are focusing on all-too-familiar premises. That crazy genius Peter Tolan (Rescue Me) is the man behind Brave New World, a single-camera workplace comedy that follows a group of unusual characters at Pilgrim Village, a theme park that specializes in recreations of New England in 1647. And the A.J. Jacobs book My Life as an Experiment has inspired NBC (and Jack Black!) to do a single-camera comedy about a magazine writer who immerses himself and his family in his unusual situations for stories. We know how that goes: Jacobs used to work at EW.
Like all pilots ordered for fall, nothing is assured an automatic pickup. In late April or early May, the networks set their schedules before presenting them to advertisers in New York. NBC will have lots of holes to fill: For the exception of Harry’s Law, the network’s freshman shows have either stumbled badly (Outsourced, The Cape, Perfect Couples) or went right to the trash bin (Undercovers, Chase). Mondays are particularly weak for NBC among adults 18-49, as are Wednesdays and Fridays. Tuesdays and Thursdays are saved by The Biggest Loser and the net’s critically-acclaimed block of comedies, while football on Sundays has more than helped to keep the network in third place.
All told, NBC has ordered 21 pilots. Here’s the complete list:
17th Precinct (Ron Moore). World ruled by magic, not science (drama, pilot).
Playboy (Chad Hodge). Set in the 1960s, the drama takes a look at the lives of Playboy bunnies (drama, pilot).
Smash (Steven Spielberg, Neil Meron, Craig Zadan, Darryl Frank, Justin Falvey, Theresa Rebeck). Follows a cross-section of characters who come together for the exhilarating ride of putting on a Broadway musical (drama, pilot).
Wonder Woman (David E. Kelley). A reboot of the superhero tale that’s a serious, non-campy take on the DC Comics character (drama, pilot).
Special investigations L.A. (Stephen Gaghan, Peter Chernin, Katherine Pope). In the style of Traffic, the drama is set in the world of crime, law enforcement, and politics in modern-day L.A. (drama, pilot).
Grimm (Jim Kouf, David Greenwalt). Dark but fantastical cop drama about a world in which characters inspired by Grimm’s Fairy Tales exist (drama, pilot).
Prime Suspect (Alexandra Cunningham, Sarah Aubrey, Peter Berg). Series adaptation of the British miniseries (drama, pilot).
REM (Kyle Killen). A procedural hybrid which follows the simultaneous and parallel lives of a detective who can not let go of any aspect of his fractured family after a horrible car accident (drama, pilot).
The Crossing (Josh Brand, Peter Horton). In the aftermath of a difficult war, a Civil War soldier crosses the country and settles into a complicated town where he is welcomed as its savior — whether he likes it or not (drama, pilot).
Kari Lizer project (Kari Lizer). A multi-camera workplace comedy about a relationship-challenged woman who, with the help of her co-workers, guides people through unexpected career transitions and downsizing (comedy, pilot).
Free Agents (John Enbom, Karey Burke, Todd Holland). Based on the UK format, this single camera comedy looks at the attraction between two quirky co-workers who are both on the rebound (comedy, pilot).
Dan Goor project (Dan Goor, Gail Berman, Lloyd Braun). A young doctor joins his parents’ medical practice and spends as much time tending to his family as to his patients (comedy, pilot).
Lovelives (Chris Sheridan, Peter Chernin, Katherine Pope). A sophisticated multi-camera comedy about two couples and their challenges of love and infidelity (comedy, pilot).
I Hate that I Love You (Jhoni Marchinko). Focuses on a straight couple that introduces two of its lesbian friends to one another – which results in instant attraction and a pregnancy (comedy, pilot).
Are you there, Vodka? It’s me, Chelsea (Chelsea Handler, Tom Werner, Dottie Dartland Zicklin, Julie Larsen). Inspired by Handler’s best-selling memoir that will focus on the lives of a group of 20-somethings who live and work together with a very outspoken young woman (comedy, pilot).
Brave New World (Peter Tolan, Michael Wimer). This single-camera workplace comedy follows a group of unusual characters at Pilgrim Village, a theme park that specializes in recreations of New England in 1647 (comedy, pilot).
Ghost Angeles (Henry Alonzo Myers, Josh Schwartz) A young woman speaks to dead people who help her (comedy, pilot).
My Life as an Experiment (Cathy Yuspa, Josh Goldsmith, Jack Black). A single-camera comedy about a magazine writer who immerses himself and his family in his unusual situations for his stories, which always reflect back on his marriage. It’s based on the book by (former EW writer!) A.J. Jacobs. (comedy, pilot).
Parham/St. Claire project (Lennon Parham, Jessica St. Clair). A woman and her new live-in boyfriend find themselves taking in her distraught and pushy best girlfriend who ends up on their doorstep after a divorce (comedy, pilot).
Bent (Ted Quill). Single-camera comedy about a recently divorced Type A single mom who tries hard not to fall for the sexy surfer dude contractor she hires to re-do her kitchen (comedy, pilot).
Untitled Emily Spivey project (Emily Spivey). A cast-contingent project about parenthood through the POV of an acerbic working mom (comedy, pilot).
For more on fall development: