In this week’s edition of The Runway, we look at CBS’ slate of 2014 drama pilots. With limited schedule openings, which shows can break through? Find out below.
For all the talk of disrupting pilot season this year, not much has changed. There are a few big swings — ABC’s musical Galavant and Fox’s Gotham come to mind — but for the most part, we see the same mix of shows as in previous years.
Nowhere is the lack of change more obvious than at CBS. On the drama side, they have relied on procedurals and spin-offs of procedurals for the better part of the last decade. And it’s worked. The Nielsen viewers have spoken — they like the comfort food that is solving crimes.
CBS’ Les Moonves has already indicated he may pick up as few as two new dramas this year. The competition is fierce. There are a lot of good shows in contention. And maybe, just maybe they’ll be willing to take a few chances to possibly go after younger members of the demo. Let’s see what CBS has to choose from.
“Battle Creek” – This was an old pilot of Breaking Bad’s Vince Gilligan that is getting dusted off for a 13 episode order. As the name suggests, the action takes place in Michigan with two detectives working together through bureaucracy to solve the city’s crimes. Josh Duhamel stars. I thought the pilot read OK. Duhamel isn’t exactly ratings Viagra, but there will be some intrigue to this project. It will definitely have to step up its game if it wants a back 9 order though.
“CSI Spinoff” – Patricia Arquette led show that will focus on cyber crime. Besides competing generally with other CBS pilots, this one specifically must beat out NCIS’s spin-off if it wants to make it to air. I haven’t been able to read this one, but I like that is based on a real person, I like the Arquette casting and I like the subject matter. The elements all seem to be in place, so I guess it’s just execution dependent at this point.
“Madam Secretary” – From the creator of Joan of Arcadia comes a show about the chaotic life of a female Secretary of State, played by Tea Leoni. The logline suggests it may want to play in Scandal’s sandbox. But reading it, you find out it’s pretty straight-forward, without all the soap opera dramatic turns. Dare I say it’s too grounded?
“NCIS: New Orleans” – It was probably only a matter of time. The areas of Louisiana and East Texas have proven a solid backdrop for drama (i.e. True Detective) and it’s hard to argue with the tax incentives. I’m a huge fan of Scott Bakula as well. This is a backdoor pilot, so I haven’t been able to read it. Based on everything, it’s probably a coin flip if this or the CSI spin-off gets the greenlight.
“Scorpion” – Loosely based on a real guy and his network of geniuses. This was kind of fun. But the Walter character is one of those eccentrics that always reads well on paper, but can be kind of hokey on screen (see last season’s cancelled Mind Games). Would take some incredible testing to make it on the schedule, unfortunately.
“Untitled Cusack/McCabe/Elmore/Cavell Wall Street Project” – These untitled projects always make me a little nervous, particularly when they don’t have a big star attached. Cusack is only a guest star, unfortunately. Wall Street is hot again — was it ever not hot? This one felt authentic, well researched. But it didn’t feel like it had too big of a hook, like Suits has for instance. Might need really strong execution to breakthrough.
“Untitled David Marshall Grant” – About quadruplets who grew up on a reality show. Jamie Lee Curtis is the headliner, a doctor and matriarch of the group. Haven’t gotten my hands on this one, but it’s got one strike against it: CBS greenlighted another Israeli re-do with Hostages last season, and that was a Nielsen dud. Are the wounds too fresh for another import?
“Red Zone” – About a domestic act of terrorism that gets a retired CIA agent back on the job. Interesting that the opening and terrorist attack are seen through the eyes of high schoolers as our entry point to the story. The whole thing had a nice breezy flow to it. Anthony Lapaglia is a good lead, but by no means a household name. Will have to see how this films.
“Untitled Kevin Williamson” – About LA detectives handling stalking cases. Feels very current. Williamson is a pretty big name EP. Is right in the procedural wheelhouse. Leave it to the writer of Scream to have a masked character appear in the teaser. I kind of liked this one. Could see it as a series. Is it too soon to forgive Dylan McDermott for Hostages?
So to conclude…
What Will Get Picked Up: Battle Creek (straight-to-series order), either the CSI OR NCIS spinoff, Untitled Kevin Williamson
What Should Get Picked Up: I’m OK those three. Both CSI and NCIS have intriguing premises, but I don’t think they can both go. Red Zone was also pretty interesting, but might fall victim to too little space.
That wraps up our network coverage. Stay tuned for next week’s final Runway as we take a whirlwind look at cable networks and see what looks good on those…