In this week’s edition of The Runway, we look at NBC’s slate of 2014 drama pilots. Can NBC find another breakout hit like “The Blacklist”? Find out below.
NBC drama development the last couple of years has been a mixed bag — some high highs and some low lows. One thing they’re not afraid of is swinging for the fences. They make bold, expensive pilots like “The Blacklist”, “Believe”, “Crisis” and “The Sixth Gun”. When they work, they can get big ratings and sell overseas. When they don’t work, NBC quietly burns them off.
Like every network, NBC goes for the occasional single or double. “Chicago PD” is a good example. And they’re willing to give good shows time to find audiences, as seen with patience towards “Hannibal” and “Parenthood”.
What does all this mean? If I was pitching to NBC today, I’d probably go for a bold high concept approach (i.e. “The Blacklist”) or a cerebral drama loosely based on existing IP (i.e. “Hannibal” or “Parenthood”). Let’s put down the shade and glide through this year’s NBC pilots.
“Babylon Fields” – Another drama where the dead become living again. “Resurrection” and “The Returned” have already touched on this subject. This is a re-development from 2007 pilot season. Unfortunately, with “Resurrection” likely coming back to ABC, I’m not sure NBC would want to tread in the same territory.
“Coercion” – About a young CIA analyst who doesn’t know that parts of his family are actually Russian spies. A little bit of “The Americans” from FX, but modern day, and with a a government worker unaware that those closest to him might be the enemy. There’s some nice tension and dramatic irony to the setup, but I’m afraid the eventual comparisons to “The Americans” might make a greenlight a little harder to come by.
“Constantine” – Like last year’s “The Sixth Gun”, this is NBC’s attempt at adapting a comic book to series. Doesn’t have the name brand appeal of “S.H.I.E.L.D” or “Gotham”. The supernatural elements could be a draw. But I think “Dracula”‘s underperformance may cast a shadow upon this project.
“Emerald City” – This one’s straight-to-series. A lot of Dorothy related pilots were announced post “Oz the Great and Powerful”. This one seems pretty gritty. Could be another “Grimm” for NBC.
“Mysteries of Laura” – A procedural based on a Spanish format about a unconventional homicide detective that must balance solving crimes with her somewhat quirky family. The trailer for the Spanish version of the show — “Los Misterios de Laura” — is hilarious. This one stars Debra Messing and I really enjoyed it. Had some light moments. NBC isn’t known for procedurals, but I think this one has a decent shot.
“Odyssey” – One of the newer pilot trends is stories where multiple storylines converge in unconventional ways. A bit like “Modern Family” did with comedy when you find out at the end of the pilot that all three families are related. This one’s got a lot of action to it and is quite cerebral. Might it be too demanding of audiences?
“Salvation” – Set at a megachurch and starring Ashley Judd as a woman who must deal with the fallout from her husband’s death. She’s the Hillary to his Bill, until there is no Bill. All things country and religious are hot in the media these days. This one has some good melodrama to it. Will Middle America embrace or reject a show that skewers its institutions though? I’m guessing NBC is willing to take a chance to find out (though “GCB” failed at a similar mission).
“State of Affairs” – This is the Katherine Heigl project that got a lot of buzz with her playing a CIA officer who goes on to work with the president. Also stars Alfre Woodard and is co-written by Joe Carnahan, so you know the penalty is big on this one. NBC likes to take big swings and this one has whiffs of “Scandal” to it, so it’s probably a go.
“Tin Man” – Rogue robot in the future story. “Almost Human” hasn’t exactly been lighting up the ratings at Fox. I’m not sure America is ready to embrace androids on tv yet. Genre fans might like this one, but probably doesn’t skew broad enough, which is a mandate at NBC.
So to conclude…
What Will Get Picked Up: Emerald City (already straight-to-series), Mysteries of Laura, Salvation, State of Affairs
What Should Get Picked Up: I could see Odyssey maybe deserving to sneak in on the list, but don’t see it happening. Looks like NBC will justifiably be going with a female heavy slate. Could turn out well for them.
Stay tuned next week as we delve into Fox dramas, and see if anything as surprisingly good as “Sleepy Hollow” is on the docket…