Hottest TV projects of 2012: 'Bewitched,' 'Munsters,' 'Hannibal,' more
Charlie’s Angels and Prime Suspect crashed this fall, but that’s not stopping networks from developing more familiar titles than ever before. From a modern-day Munsters to a bold new Flintstones, here’s 14 of the most headline-grabbing shows in contention for next fall and beyond. We’re going to start with the tamest oh-yeah-I-can-see-that ideas, then work our way up to the most surprising reboots and the tallest of the high concepts. At the end, there’s a poll where you can let networks know which of these you’d most like to see on the air. Let’s start with…
Untitled Sarah Silverman sitcom (NBC)
What: The funny, media-savvy comedian stars in a series loosely based on her life.
Status: Pilot order.
Pro: NBC executives must have figured out that Silverman and Whitney Cummings are not the same person.
Con: Comedy Central’s attempt at a Silverman sitcom wasn’t a breakout, and her humor is pretty Blue State for a network that needs to go broader.
The Rifleman (CBS)
What: Reboot of the 1950s Western about homesteader Lucas McCain, who took out bad guys with a rapid-fire Winchester.
Status: In development, with Chris Columbus (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone), Laeta Kalogridis (Avatar), and Patrick Lussier (Drive Angry).
Pro: Once, the Western was the most popular genre on TV. In 1959, there were about 20 Westerns airing during prime time (get a load of ABC’s Sunday night back then: Colt .45, Rebel, Lawman, Maverick, and The Alaskans — yee ha!).
Con: Once, doctors endorsed cigarettes and polio ravaged the land. Doesn’t mean any of it is coming back (though we wouldn’t mind seeing Josh Holloway starring in this).
NEXT: A winning combination?
Anger Management (FX)
What: Charlie Sheen stars a TV version of the 2003 film about a troubled anger-management therapist.
Status: Series order for 2012, with Bruce Helford (The Drew Carey Show).
Pro: Charlie Sheen’s last sitcom, Two and a Half Men, was TV’s most-watched comedy.
Con: Charlie Sheen’s last sitcom is still TV’s most-watched comedy. Maybe it’s the show more than the actor?
Source Code (CBS)
What: Based on the 2011 Duncan Jones film, federal agents are transported into the bodies of people caught up in past events and try to get information that prevents future crimes.
Status: In development, with Mark Gordon (Criminal Minds) and Steve Maeda (Lie to Me).
Pro: Time travel, it never gets old.
Con: But watching the same eight-minute sequence a million times does. The most impressive thing about the film was it maintained our interest in a character’s repeated efforts to explore the same series of events. Let’s hope the TV version doesn’t try to pull off that trick each week.
The New Neighbors a.k.a. The Muppets-style sitcom (NBC)
What: Palm Springs family horrified when puppets move in next door.
Status: In development, with Jim Henson Studios.
Pro: The Muppets reconquered the box office, so why not get puppets on the small screen too?
Con: We can’t speak ill of the Jim Henson team. Just … can’t.
NEXT: Dome sweet dome…
Under the Dome (Showtime)
What: Stephen King’s 2009 novel about a Maine town trapped under a mysterious invisible shield.
Status: In development, with Brian K. Vaughan (Lost) writing.
Pro: Showtime + King + Vaughan has us really excited.
Con: Hopefully the writers will use the concept as a launch point to tell their own version of the tale rather than trying to stretch out the novel’s mysteries. After all, if you could have Googled the ending of Lost, would you still have watched all six seasons?
What: Thomas Harris’ cannibal psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter gets small-screen treatment, after films such as Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs.
Status: In development, with Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies).
Pro: Dr. Lecter — he’s like The Mentalist, except he’ll eat you. Unclear yet if Lecter is a serial killer at large, or helping the FBI solve cases from prison. Either way, viewers love crime dramas featuring brilliant deductive characters. And if they’re dark and dangerous, all the better. This idea has a shot.
Con: Inevitably tamer than what we’ve seen in the film versions. Title character must be perfectly cast.
NEXT: It’s alive!
What: Modern-day retelling of the Gothic horror classic.
Status: In development, with Russel Friend and Garrett Lerner (House).
Pro: Everybody knows the story.
Con: Attempts to modernize Mary Shelley’s tale have struggled in the past. The popularity math will always be: Vampires > zombies > Frankenstein.
What: Another 1960s revival. Beleaguered executive has hot suburban witch wife and awful mother-in-law.
Status: In development, with Marc Lawrence (Miss Congeniality).
Pros: Imagine if Hermione moved to the States and married a muggle named Darrin. It’s Harry Potter meets Desperate Housewives!
Cons: Can a magical nose-wiggle charm CBS’ Two and a Half Men fans and … Actually, you want a non-pithy and sincere answer? There are two other sitcom reboots on this list (The Munsters and The Muppets) that face the same challenge as Bewitched. Once upon a time, hit broadcast comedies had wacky fantasy elements, from the The Addams Family to Gilligan’s Island to Alf. That’s because kids and adults all watched the same three channels (the Golden Age of TV, some say; like being stuck on a Disney cruise every night for decades, I say). Now kids have their own cable channels with fantasy comedies like The Wizards of Waverly Place starring young actors, rather than watching a bumbling 30-year-old Gilligan. Adults decide what’s popular on broadcast, tuning in for comedies grounded in the real world, with grown-up characters who go to work, fight with their lovers, and have sex (then complain about their jobs, lovers and sex lives). So child and adult TV viewing is far more segregated now, which is good for viewers because it provides a vast range of engaging choices, but bad for efforts to recapture the magic of all-ages classics like Bewitched on a network like CBS (Hawaii Five-O worked because it was a grown-up show in the 1970s and still is now). All that said: Bewitched would get buzz.
Romancing the Stone (NBC)
What: A series version of the 1984 hit: mousy author teams with adventurer on quests while searching for her missing brother.
Status: In development, with Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum) and Mark Friedman (The Forgotten).
Pros: A globe-trotting action-adventure romance in prime time? I’m there.
Cons: The secret of the film wasn’t its concept (and certainly not its Wha? title), but the playful tough-to-capture chemistry between Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. Also, this genre has proven challenging lately: Fox’s Human Target struggled for a similar 1980s adventure vibe, as did NBC’s own The Philanthropist.
Valley of the Dolls (NBC)
What: Jacqueline Susann’s 1966 novel about three pill-popping successful women.
Status: In development, with Lee Daniels (Precious).
Pro: A stylish and sexy camp classic.
Con: Go ahead, NBC, launch another decadent 1960s drama after The Playboy Club. We totally dare you!
Da Vinci’s Demons (Starz)
What: Steampunk version of history with Leonardo da Vinci as a Renaissance-era Tony Stark.
Status: Series order for 2013, with David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight).
Pro: Feels like a graphic novel, which could work on Starz whose biggest hit is the highly stylized Spartacus. Partner Leonardo with a drunken crime-solving Michelangelo and we’re in.
Con: The concept is far out, yes, but I don’t have a knock against it.
What: A reboot of the 1960s camp comedy about a horror-hodgepodge family living in modern times.
Who: Pilot order, with Bryan Fuller (yes, he’s got two on this list).
Pro: Most have heard of the original show. Nothing else like it on the air.
Con: See Bewitched. Also, this is being developed as an hour-long show, which means viewers need to really feel invested in the characters. Can you take a Franken-family somewhat seriously?
NEXT: And finally…
What: That the third longest-running prime-time animated series (after The Simpsons and King of the Hill) is coming back to TV isn’t the big surprise. It’s the pairing of the kid-friendly Flintstones brand and decadent Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane (who has lovingly mocked The Flintstones in the past) that makes this project certain to have a fascinating outcome.
Status: Series order targeting 2013.
Pro: MacFarlane has an amazing track record at Fox (those who think it’s easy for him to keep launching similar shows into that Sunday animated block ought to check out failed pretender Allen Gregory‘s ratings). Plus, his team has proven they can find humor in literally any subject.
Con: Prehistoric setting could make contemporary humor tricky. Here’s MacFarlane doing what I’m assuming he thinks is the bad-funny version of an updated Flintstones (and don’t forget to vote for your favorite project in our poll below).