How the coronavirus is affecting the fall TV pilot season
Now is usually the time that broadcast networks would be consumed by pilot season — the annual practice of ordering scores of scripts to develop into the next This is Us or Mom, while simultaneously fighting each other to snag the most appealing group of actors to headline their new fall shows. But this year, none of that is happening. Ever since the TV industry made the collective decision to shut down production in an effort to prevent further spread of the coronavirus, the pilot season has ceased to exist. Nothing new is in the can. Nothing new is even in the works. Given all that, the networks have canceled their annual May upfront presentations to advertisers in New York.
"It's unprecedented," reflects media buyer Andy Donchin. "We had the writers' strike, the horrible events of 9/11, the '09 recession. But those events happened and it didn't change the market all that much, two or three weeks maybe. But this is much more unprecedented. Long term, it's going to initiate bigger changes than anybody would have ever envisioned."
Since no one can say when it will be safe to resume production on pilots, the networks can only set a tentative fall lineup based on what they currently have on air. That means bubble shows that would normally get the boot in May could get a second lease on life. Though one Big Four network executive admits it's "a very unsexy fall launch, not having anything new," the networks could at least present Madison Avenue with a solid schedule in order to sell ads. And there's still a chance a few new shows could make it to broadcast by September, since several projects like The Lincoln Lawyer at CBS and thirtysomething(else) at ABC have already been ordered straight to series.
But what about all those scripts that were ordered to pilot in the last few months? The executive says the networks are hoping for a summer start date: "We're planning for July, praying for June." Those pilots could then be considered for a midseason launch, meaning that a second upfront for advertisers — one that addresses the back half of the TV season — may be in order.
Until then, the work stoppage has wreaked havoc on the current schedule, as many shows — including Grey's Anatomy and The Walking Dead — have had to wrap their seasons earlier than planned. But viewers are still getting plenty of new shows to sample, offers one Big Four honcho, like Council of Dads on NBC and Broke on CBS. "It's fairly remarkable what we're doing. Most people wouldn't know the difference watching any of the networks on a given night," the exec says. "We're putting new episodes on. Some of these shows have done miracles. The crazy thing for some of the last episodes of these shows is that post-production houses have shut down. So even though the episodes were shot, getting them into post and finishing them has been crazy. They've gotten really creative. They are editing in garages and doing sound mixes in people's basements. It's kind of nutty."
Here are all the scripts that were ordered to pilot before the work stoppage was put into place:
CLARICE (drama ordered straight to series from Alex Kurtzman, Jenny Lumet, Heather Kadin, Aaron Baiers). Logline: Taking place in 1993 — a year after the events of The Silence of the Lambs — the drama follows the personal story of Clarice Starling as she returns to the field to pursue serial murderers and sexual predators while navigating the high-stakes political world of Washington. Rebecca Breeds stars.
THE LINCOLN LAWYER (drama ordered straight to series from Kiele Sanchez, Angus Sampson, Jazz Raycole, David E. Kelley, Ted Humphrey, Adam Bernstein, Michael Connelly, Ross Fineman ). Logline: Based on author Michael Connelly's series of novels and the subsequent 2011 feature film starring Matthew McConaughey, the drama revolves around Mickey Haller, an iconoclastic idealist who runs his law practice out of the back of his Lincoln town car as he takes on cases big and small across Los Angeles.
WAYS & MEANS (drama from Mike Murphy, Ed Redlich, Nina Tassler, Denise Di Novi, Tom Lassally). Logline: A powerful congressional leader who has lost faith in politics finds himself working secretly with an idealistic young congresswoman from the opposing party to subvert the hopelessly gridlocked system he helped create. Together, they'll attempt to save American politics, if they don't get caught. Patrick Dempsey, Troian Bellisario star.
THE EQUALIZER (drama from Andrew Marlow, Terri Miller, John Davis, John Fox, Debra Martin Chase, Richard Lindheim). Logline: A reimagining of the classic series in which Queen Latifah portrays an enigmatic figure who uses her extensive skills to help those with nowhere else to turn.
GOOD SAM (drama from Katie Wech Jennie Snyder Urman, Joanna Klein). Logline: A talented yet stifled surgeon embraces her leadership role after her renowned and pompous boss falls into a coma. When he awakens and wants to resume surgery, however, it falls to her to supervise this overbearing blowhard who never acknowledged her talents — and also happens to be her father. Sophia Bush, Jason Isaacs star.
THE THREE OF US (comedy from Frank Pines, Ben Winston, Ben Winston, Jeff Grosvenor). Logline: Adult siblings who are children of divorce must circle the wagons when their sister's husband unexpectedly announces he wants to call it quits on their marriage. Oliver Hudson, Malin Akerman stars.
GHOSTS (comedy from Joe Port, Joe Wiseman, Mathew Baynton, Jim Howick, Simon Farnaby, Laurence Rickard, Ben Willbond, Martha Howe-Douglas; Alison Carpenter, Debra Hayward, Alison Owen, Angie Stephenson). Logline: A struggling young couple's dreams come true when they inherit a beautiful country house, only to find it's both falling apart and inhabited by many of the deceased previous residents. Rose McIver stars.
UNTITLED KINGSBURY/DALEY/GOLDSTEIN PROJECT (comedy from Corinne Kingsbury, John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein, Aaron Kaplan, Dana Honor, Wendi Trilling). Logline: When Penelope's career takes off at exactly the same time as her husband's, they call on Penelope's young single mom, Georgia, to help raise their son, but what they find is Georgia needs more raising than their kid. Elizabeth Hurley stars.
RAISED BY WOLFES (comedy from Max Mutchnick and David Kohan). Logline: Frankie Wolfe is an unfiltered, irreverent, powerful businesswoman with no personal life. When Frankie's impossibly fragile and neurotic sister, Tommie, abandons Quincy — an incredibly bright inner-city child who Tommie attempted to foster — Frankie is faced with the choice of taking him in or casting him back out. Can these two lonely, damaged people find the love and companionship that has eluded them their whole lives? Julie Bowen stars.
B POSITIVE (multicamera comedy from Marco Pennette and Chuck Lorre). Logline: Faced with finding a kidney donor, newly divorced dad Drew is at the end of his rope when he runs into Gina, a rough-around-the-edges woman from his past who volunteers her own. Together they form an unlikely bond and begin a journey that will change both of their lives. Annaleigh Ashford, Thomas Middleditch, Sara Rue star.
JURY DUTY (comedy from Dana Klein, Stephanie Darrow, James Acaster; Kenton Allen, Matthew Justice) Logline: A group of jurors are sequestered together until they all agree on a verdict… and they can't even agree on lunch.
UNITED STATES OF AL (comedy from David Goetsch, Maria Ferrari, Chuck Lorre, Reza Aslan, Mahyad Tousi). Logline: Budding friendship between Riley (Parker Young), a Marine who is adjusting to civilian life in Ohio, and Awalmir, the Afghan interpreter (Adhir Kalyan) who served with his unit and came to the U.S. to start a new life.
FUN (comedy from Michael Patrick King, Tracy Poust, Jon Kinnally; Becki Newton, Michael Urie). Logline: A life-long love story between a brother and sister, who always encourage each other to have fun — no matter what hardship life is currently serving up. The brother returns to his Pennsylvania hometown to help his sister run the struggling family funeral home after his emotional and devastating break-up with show business. Becki Newton, Michael Urie star.
THIRTYSOMETHING(ELSE) (drama ordered straight to series from Marshall Herskovitz, Edward Zwick.) A reboot of Thirtysomething, with the emphasis being on the original cast's children, the new generation of thirtysomethings. Mel Harris, Ken Olin, Timothy Busfield, and Patricia Wettig will reprise their roles.
TRIAGE (drama from David Cornue, Erica Messer, Jon M. Chu, Steven Marrs, Courtney Hazlett, Caitlin Foito). Logline: A character-driven medical drama that follows a pioneering surgeon, Finley Briar, over three distinct decades at the same hospital.
HARLEM'S KITCHEN (drama from Zahir McGhee, David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman, Laurie Zaks, Marcus Samuelsson). Logline: An ensemble family drama set in a fine dining restaurant in Harlem. Ellis Rice, executive chef and patriarch, runs a successful restaurant with his wife and three daughters. But an unexpected death thrusts the family into turmoil and puts the restaurant's future in jeopardy as long-buried secrets are revealed. Delroy Lindo, Sheryl Lee Ralph star.
THE BRIDES (drama from Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa). Logline: A sexy contemporary reimagining of Dracula as a family drama with a trio of powerful female leads. With strong horror elements, The Brides is a vampire soap about empowered, immortal women and the things they do to maintain wealth, prestige, legacy — and their non-traditional family. Gina Torres, Goran Visnjic star.
WRECKAGE (drama from Jacquie Walters, Marc Webb, Sarah Timberman, Carl Beverly, Mark Martin, Keith Samples). Logline: On the surface, Lillian Linden looks like a brave survivor of a plane crash. But she's been lying to her family, her friends, and the whole world since rescue helicopters scooped her and her fellow survivor, Dave Hall, off a deserted island in the South Pacific. Missing for almost four years, the castaways are thrust into the spotlight after their rescue, becoming media darlings overnight. But they can't tell the real story — so they lie.
REBEL (drama from Krista Vernoff, John Davis, John Fox, Alexandre Schmitt, Erin Brockovich). Logline: Rebel is inspired by the life of Erin Brockovich today. Annie "Rebel" Bello is a blue-collar legal advocate without a law degree. A funny, messy, brilliant and fearless woman who cares desperately about the causes she fights for and the people she loves. When Rebel applies herself to a fight she believes in, she will win at almost any cost. Katey Sagal, John Corbett star.
THE BIG SKY (drama ordered straight to series from David E. Kelley. Ross Fineman, C.J. Box). Logline: In this procedural thriller, private detective Cassie Dewell partners with ex-cop Jenny Hoyt on a search for two sisters who have been kidnapped by a truck driver on a remote highway in Montana. But when they discover that these are not the only girls who have disappeared in the area, they must race against the clock to stop the killer before another woman is taken. Ryan Philippe, Kylie Bunbury star.
PROSPECT (comedy from Sherry Bilsing-Graham, Ellen Kreamer, Randall Einhorn). Logline: A comedic Western with a feminist twist: An idealistic young woman moves to the frontier to be a schoolteacher, but her ideals are quickly tested when she learns that her students are rowdy ranch hands, not children.
HOME ECONOMICS (comedy from Michael Colton, John Aboud, Eric and Kim Tannenbaum, Jason Wang). Logline: A series about three adult siblings: one in the 1 percent, one middle-class, and one barely holding on. Starring Topher Grace.
UNTITLED KAPNEK/HOLLAND PROJECT (single-camera comedy from Emily Kapnek and Dean Holland. Logline: Untitled Kapnek/Holland is a single-cam half hour described as a "love story with a twist" centering on New York City teenager Lennon Cochrane, whose life is turned upside down when she stumbles on a family secret.
WORK WIFE (comedy from David Windsor, Casey Johnson, Todd Holland, Kelly Ripa, Mark Consuelos, Albert Bianchini, Ryan Seacrest, Nina Wass, Andrea Shay). Logline: Inspired by the real-life partnerships of producers Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest and writers Casey Johnson and David Windsor, Work Wife tells the story of a platonic male-female team whose professional success, personal friendship, and ability to share deodorant make their lives work. Set in the world of real estate, Dani and Scott have taken the leap to start their own team. Now feeling the stress of being the boss, they have to rely on the yin-yang of their dynamic more than ever to keep their professional and personal lives afloat.
ADOPTED (comedy from Shawn Vance, Daril Fannin and Jimmy Kimmel). Logline: When a Green Beret returns home to Texas from military service, he and his family struggle with the challenges of adopting his new brother, a 12-year-old Russian boy. Inspired by a true story.
MY VILLAGE (comedy from Kari Lizer). Logline: An empty-nester mom (Kyra Sedgwick) wonders how she ended up alone while her children live their best lives thousands of miles away. She decides her place is with her family, and as she reinserts herself into their lives, her kids realize they might actually need her more than they thought.
KIDS MATTER NOW (comedy Shana Goldberg-Meehan, Christine Gernon). Logline: A pain-in-the-butt boss who looks down on working parents adopts a baby and has a change of heart.
VALLEY TRASH (comedy from Niki Schwartz-Wright, Nahnatchka Khan, Jennifer Carreras, Jason Lee). Logline: A blue-collar family living in the Valley has a daughter who gets accepted into a prestigious L.A. private high school. Jason Lee stars.
LANGDON (drama from Dan Dworkin, Jay Beattie, Dan Brown, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Anna Culp, Samie Falvey). Logline: An adaptation of Dan Brown's international best-selling thriller The Lost Symbol.
ORDINARY JOE (drama from Russel Friend, Garrett Lerner, Matt Reeves, Adam Kassan, Rafi Crohn, Howard Klein). Logline: Explores the three parallel lives of the show's main character after he makes a pivotal choice at a crossroads in his life. The series asks the question of how different life might look if you made your decision based on love, loyalty or passion. James Wolk stars.
DEBRIS (drama from J.H. Wyman, Jason Hoffs). Logline: Two agents from two different continents and two different mindsets must work together to investigate when wreckage from a destroyed alien spacecraft has mysterious effects on humankind.
ECHO (drama from JJ Bailey, John Davis, John Fox). Logline: A high-concept genre procedural revolving around a team of investigators who solve the highest-profile crimes by sending our heroes into the past — in the body of the victim. Reid Scott stars.
AT THAT AGE (drama from Carla Banks-Waddles; EP Malcolm D. Lee, Debra Martin Chase). Logline: After the Cooper family's golden child suffers a catastrophic event, seven family members face a foundational shift, make life-altering decisions, and deal with deep secrets coming to light.
LA BREA (drama from David Appelbaum, Avi Nir, Alon Shtruzman, Peter Traugott, Rachel Kaplan, Ken Woodruff). Logline: When a massive sinkhole mysteriously opens in Los Angeles, it tears a family in half, separating mother and son from father and daughter. Natalie Zea, Jon Seda, Catherine Dent star.
NIGHT SCHOOL (comedy from Chris Moynihan, Kevin Hart, Will Packer, Sheila Ducksworth, Malcolm D. Lee, Bryan Smiley, Tiffany Brown). Logline: An adaptation of the 2018 feature film about adults at a night school GED prep class.
AMERICAN AUTO (comedy from Justin Spitzer, Aaron Kaplan). Logline: A workplace comedy set at the headquarters of a major American automotive company in Detroit, where a floundering group of executives tries to rediscover the company identity amidst a rapidly changing industry. Ana Gasteyer stars.
CRAZY FOR YOU (comedy from Rachele Lynn, Lorne Michaels, Seth Meyers, Mike Shoemaker). Logline: Daisy re-enters the dating scene only to discover that while she was out of the game, the game changed.
SOMEONE OUT THERE (comedy from Matt Hubbard, Josh Siegal, Dylan Morgan; Emiliano Calemzuk, Gonzalo Sagardia, Javier Veiga) Logline: A romantic comedy about two set-in-their-ways adults who are challenged by very unexpected strangers to become the best versions of themselves in order to find love and possibly each other.
UNTITLED TINA FEY-ROBERT CARLOCK (comedy ordered straight to series from Tina Fey, Robert Carlock Jeff Richmond, David Miner, Eric Gurian). Logline: A wealthy businessman (Ted Danson) runs for mayor of Los Angeles for all the wrong reasons. Also stars Holly Hunter and Bobby Moynihan.
JEFFERIES (comedy from Jim Jefferies, Suzanne Martin, Sean Hayes, Todd Milliner, Tim Sarkes, Alex Murray). Logline: Jim Jefferies stars as a fictionalized version of himself — a comedian with a unique and often controversial take on modern life.
UNTITLED JACKSON & GOOR (comedy from Universal TV). Logline: An ensemble comedy about a group of black friends, their dating lives, and wine.
YOUNG ROCK (comedy ordered straight to series from Nahnatchka Khan, Jeff Chiang, Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia, Hiram Garcia, Brian Gewirtz, Jennifer Carreras). Logline: Based on Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's formative years (he will appear in every episode), bookending flashbacks to early points in his life growing up in Hawaii and becoming a wrestler-turned-actor.
THE CLEANING LADY (drama from Miranda Kwok,Shay Mitchell, Melissa Carter). Logline: Based on an Argentinean series, the darkly aspirational character drama follows a whip-smart doctor who comes to the U.S. for a medical treatment to save her ailing son. But when the system fails and pushes her into hiding, she refuses to be beaten down and marginalized.
THE BIG LEAP (drama from Liz Heldens, Jason Winer, Sue Naegle). Logline: Inspired by a U.K. format, a contemporary tale about second chances, chasing your dreams, and taking back what's yours. Teri Polo, Matt Lucas star.
BLOOD RELATIVE (drama from Chris Levinson, James Renner, Philip Noyce, Liza Chasin). Logline: Genetic genealogy is the best new tool in crime scene forensics, and nobody knows it like Louise Kelly. Too bad she's impossible to deal with. Melissa Leo, Tate Donovan star.
UNTITLED FILM RE-ENACTMENT PROJECT (drama from Sarah Watson, Gail Berman, Lauren Shuler Donner, Richard Donner, Justin Falvey, Darryl Frank). Logline: After failing to make it in New York and carrying a heavy secret with her, Stella Cooper returns to her distressed automotive hometown to substitute-teach.
CALL ME KAT (comedy from Darlene Hunt, Mayim Bialik, Jim Parsons, Todd Spiewak, Angie Stephenson, Miranda Hart). Logline: Based on creator Miranda Hart's BBC original series of the same name, the comedy revolves around the titular character (Bialik), a 39-year-old woman who struggles every day against her mother to prove that you cannot have everything you want — and still be happy. Swoosie Kurtz also stars.
THIS COUNTRY (comedy from Jenny Bicks, Paul Feig, Angie Stephenson, Charlie Cooper, Daisy May Cooper, Dan Magnante Cathy Mason, Rachel Mason). Logline: In this half-hour mockumentary inspired by the BBC format, a documentary crew goes to a small town to study young adults and their current concerns. Their focus is the daily lives of cousins Kelly and Shrub Mallet and their idiosyncratic surroundings. We follow the cousins as they pursue their dreams, confront challenges, and fight each other for frozen pizza. These two don't have much, but they do have each other. Seann William Scott stars.
HOUSEBROKEN (animated comedy ordered to series from Sharon Horgan, Clea DuVall, Jennifer Crittenden, Gabrielle Allan). Logline: The animated comedy explores human dysfunction and neurosis through a group of neighborhood animals who live in the suburbs. Voice cast includes Lisa Kudrow, Clea DuVall, Sharon Horgan, Nat Faxon, Will Forte, Tony Hale, Jason Mantzoukas, Sam Richardson, Bresha Webb, and Greta Lee.
PIVOTING (comedy from Liz Astrof, Aaron Kaplan, Dana Honor). Logline: Pivoting follows three women after the death of their childhood best friend. Faced with the reality that life is short, in desperate attempts to find happiness, they make a series of impulsive, ill-advised, and self-indulgent decisions, strengthening their bond proving it's never too late to screw up your life.
THE LOST BOYS (drama from Heather Mitchell, Rob Thomas). Logline: When a mother and her Gen Z sons move to the seaside town where she grew up, they discover there's a sinister reason the local cool kids sleep all day, party all night, never grow up, and never get old. Family bonds are tested as the brothers find themselves on opposite sides of a mythological struggle. Based on the 1987 cult classic that revolutionized how we think about vampires.
MAVERICK (drama from Merigan Mulhern, Josh Schwartz, Stephanie Savage, Warren Hsu Leonar). Logline: In a present-day America that finds itself under authoritarian rule, the President's daughter — raised to believe her father is moral and benevolent — has her worldview rocked on her first day at Georgetown. Challenged by her fellow students, and under the watchful eye of Secret Service agents, she'll have to decide if her loyalties lie with her family or with a growing resistance as she navigates her freshman year.
KUNG FU (drama from Christina M. Kim, Martin Gero, Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter). Logline: A quarter-life crisis causes a young Chinese-American woman to drop out of college and go on a life-changing journey to an isolated monastery in China. But when she returns to find her hometown overrun with crime and corruption, she uses her martial arts skills and Shaolin values to protect her community and bring criminals to justice… all while searching for the assassin who killed her Shaolin mentor and is now targeting her.
THE REPUBLIC OF SARAH (drama from Jeffrey Paul King, Marc Webb, Mark Martin; Jeff Grosvenor, Leo Pearlman). Logline: Faced with the destruction of her town at the hands of a greedy mining company, rebellious high school teacher Sarah Cooper utilizes an obscure cartographical loophole to declare independence. Now Sarah must lead a young group of misfits as they attempt to start their own country from scratch.
SUPERMAN & LOIS (drama ordered straight to series from Todd Helbing, Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter, Geoff Johns). Logline: Follows the world's most famous superhero (Tyler Hoechlin) and comics' most famous journalist (Elizabeth Tulloch) as they deal with all the stress, pressures, and complexities that come with being working parents in today's society.
WALKER (drama ordered straight to series from Anna Fricke, Dan Lin, Lindsay Liberatore, Jared Padalecki). Logline: A reimagining of Chuck Norris' Walker, Texas Ranger, the drama follows Cordell Walker (Jared Padalecki), a widower and father of two with his own moral code, who returns to Austin after being undercover for two years, only to discover there's harder work to be done at home.
THE ARROW SPIN-OFF (drama from Beth Schwartz, Mark Guggenheim, Jill Blankenship, Oscar Balderrama, Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter). Logline: Spin-off following the women of Arrow.
UNTITLED THE 100 PREQUEL (Jason Rothenberg, Leslie Morgenstein, Gina Girolamo). Logline: Set 97 years before the events of The 100, the drama starts with the end of the world and a nuclear apocalypse that wipes out most of the human population on Earth.
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