Why 7 buzzy TV pilots were rejected for fall
No Cheerleader Death Squad? No Tales From the Darkside? No Chevy Chase sitcom? Some of the pilots that received 2015’s most online buzz failed to earn a series order last week. While there’s an outside chance a network could resuscitate one of these, currently all are out of the-= running for next season. Here’s 7 pilot season rejects—and why each didn’t make it:
Cheerleader Death Squad (The CW)
Pitch: Centers on a disgraced CIA agent-turned-teacher (Alan Van Sprang) at a Washington, D.C., prep school who selects a few of his students to be his eyes and ears into the world of international espionage and help him earn his way back into the agency.
Why it could have worked: That title!
Why it didn’t: We hear the show felt like The CW circa 2008, reminiscent of efforts such as Hellcats or 90210, and didn’t fit in with where the network is today.
Pitch: “A damaged heroine (Natalie Martinez) works undercover with physical and spiritual guidance from a mysterious martial arts master (Holt McCallany) to bring down an international crime lord.”
Why it could have worked: We’re ready for a mystical martial arts drama.
Why it didn’t: This pilot got a lot of praise for a show that didn’t get ordered. The feeling was it might have been too cable-like, too niche. We’re told it’s being shopped around.
Pitch: Vacation stars Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo reunite as baby boomers who are “fun, relevant and living a selfish retirement when their world is turned upside down and they are suddenly left to raise their grandchildren.”
Why it could have worked: Actually, this sounds awful, so we never thought it would work. But with the new Vacation big-screen reboot coming up (which features Chase and D’Angelo), we could see ABC being tempted to go with this.
Why it didn’t: We’re told the pilot was simply terrible. Chase and D’Angelo had good chemistry, but Chase gave a slow and slurry delivery (a la his SNL 40th anniversary appearance) and his comic timing was off.
Tales from Darkside (The CW)
Pitch: Reinvention of the horror/fantasy/thriller anthology series based on the 1980s show.
Why it could have worked: Season-long anthologies—like True Detective and American Horror Story—are very hot. Horror is still a little hot. So why not a weekly horror anthology?
Why it didn’t: There was concern about the concept: Weekly anthologies are very tough, and the network had almost no idea what episode 2 will look like from watching the pilot. So, the first episode needed to really blow away the executives, and didn’t. Word is Tales is being shopped around.
Super Clyde (CBS)
Pitch: A meek, unassuming fast-food worker decides to become a superhero.
Why it could have worked: Fun, simple idea. CBS made a pilot for this in 2013, starring Rupert Grint of Harry Potter fame—so they must like something about it. This time, they went with a more experienced TV actor (Charlie McDermott from The Middle). Yet once again, CBS passed.
Why it didn’t: Sometimes pilots fail for boring reasons. That seems to be the case here. Nobody seems to have a bad word to say about this pilot. The issue seems to be, as is often the case at CBS, shelf space. CBS orders very few new shows. This year, they ordered one about another superhero—Supergirl—making the odds pretty slim of also picking up a superhero sitcom. Plus, CBS put Supergirl on at Mondays at 8 p.m., filling two of its usual comedy slots—so the network only ordered two new comedies.
Untitled NBA project (ABC)
Pitch: A buddy comedy set in the world of the NBA about a rookie who doesn’t speak English and a translator who doesn’t speak basketball.
Why it could have worked: This is a very original setting for a TV comedy. Baskeball is popular. The NBA was cooperating with the production, which helped.
Why it didn’t: “The one that got away,” insiders say. Everybody apparently liked it, and it appeared to have a lot of potential. This one could have come down to focus-group testing. Another factor may have been that ABC skews female, while sports skews male. ABC has previously had a tough time when embracing concepts targeting male viewers. (Remember submarine thriller Last Resort?)
Problem Child (NBC)
Pitch: “Inspired by the 1990 John Ritter film, a family show about the cat-and-mouse game between a set of parents and their brilliant but mischievous child (Jack Gore).”
Why it could have worked: Dunno; this premise sounds to us like a kid screaming in a grocery store. Um, title awareness?
Why it didn’t: As one insider tactly put it: “It wasn’t non-stop laughs.”
YOUR GUESS IS AS GOOD AS OURS BONUS ENTRY:
The Kingmakers (ABC)
Pitch: A Revenge-y style drama from the executive producer of Revenge in which a young man adopts a new identity to infiltrate a school and its century-old secret society in order to investigate his sister’s mysterious death.
Why it could have worked: It was considered the non-official Revenge spin-off, and who doesn’t love a spin-off?
Why it didn’t: This one mysteriously imploded before it ever had a chance to make a wide impression at the network. We’re told The Kingmakers never had a screening at the studio, so opinions are tough to come by. Usually that only happens when a project clearly isn’t coming together.