“Time is a flat circle. Everything we’ve ever done or will do, we’re gonna do over and over and over again.” —Rustin Cohle
While his musings have more to do with Nietzsche than Nielsen, True Detective’s nihilist ex-cop just as easily could have been inveighing against the infernal hamster wheel that is broadcast TV’s development process. Two-thirds of the way through another unremarkable season, the pilots designed to replace the failures of 2013-14 are a familiar stew of cop shows, bland comedies and spinoffs. And yet, hope springs eternal …
Poised to win its first seasonal ratings crown in 10 years, NBC is still struggling with its Thursday night comedy lineup. All three newcomers have been shuttered, but with 19 sitcom pilots in the hopper, the Peacock has plenty of options. The twin comedy suns that light NBC’s corner of the universe are represented in Tina Fey’s Tooken and Amy Poehler’s Old Soul; along with a Craig Robinson vehicle and Rob Lowe’s turn as a tennis hustler, these are the only projects that deviate from the cookie-cutter relationship comedy template. On the drama front, the resurrected CBS pilot Babylon Fields could bring NBC’s Wednesday 8 p.m. slot back from the dead.
Speaking of CBS, the Eye Network once again has few weak spots to shore up, as it is expected to renew the vast majority of its lineup. (As CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves said last week, “The problem with our new development is, where do you put it all?”) Having secured the rights to the new Thursday Night Football package, CBS has a powerful new vehicle with which to promote its ailing Monday 10 p.m. slot. Look for Vince Gilligan’s Battle Creek and an untitled Wall Street drama from Taylor Elmore (Justified) and John Cusack to help level the playing field.
Fox entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly has made good on his promise to scrap the insanely inefficient custom that is pilot season, jumping straight into seven series orders. Among these are the Batman prequel Gotham, which could make for a nice fit on Monday nights with the returning Sleepy Hollow, and the Rainn Wilson detective strip, Backstrom. Seth MacFarlane, John Mulaney and Fey have comedies in the works for next season when Fox will have as many as six-and-a-half hours to fill each week.
Other than Scandal, which has established itself as an unimpeachable hit, very little has gone right for ABC. Its Tuesday 10 p.m. slot is more haunted than an abandoned amusement park from Scooby-Doo, and Thursdays at 8 p.m. aren’t faring much better. Entertainment chief Paul Lee has ordered 27 pilots, of which Secrets & Lies is generating the most buzz.