Andrew Woodberry and Ashish Mehta, contributors to The Tracking Board’s annual Runway series, have been dissecting the pilots, trends, networks and needs for the 2016 TV season. This week, in the midst of the network upfronts, they’re teaming up to discuss the latest updates to the fall schedules of NBC, Fox, ABC, CBS, and The CW.
On Monday, Fox followed up NBC’s upfront presentation with TV co-chairs Dana Walden and Gary Newman announcing a handful of new series. The pick-ups from Fox’s drama pilot development season include 24: Legacy, A.P.B., The Exorcist, Shots Fired, Star, and Lethal Weapon. Fox’s comedy pilot development season pick-ups include Making History, The Mick, Pitch, and Son of Zorn.
As for the pilots Fox picked up? Take it away, Andrew and Ashish…
Andrew: I’m somewhat optimistic about Fox. The demo they’re going after — younger viewers — is harder than ever to reach. But Fox seems to have a good relationship with important producers (e.g. Lord & Miller and Lee Daniels) and they’re been churning out good shows in recent years.
Ashish: I’m optimistic about Fox’s picks as well, Andrew. Less so about its scheduling. Comedies first. Making History really stood out for me. Had me laughing all the way through, and I loved the way the writers handled the time machine trope. A bit like Time Traveling Bong, but much cleaner. And the cast has great chemistry. Feels like a show people are going to talk about. D’you think it ought to have been given a fall premiere instead of Son of Zorn?
Aggressive safety seems to be the name of Fox‘s game. Son of Zorn finds a comfortable home between The Simpsons and Family Guy, with their family setups and animated weird dads. But is it funny enough? The Mick seems entertaining, but could get old real quick. My gut says this is gonna go the Bad Judge way.
The fall drama lineup is a bit frustrating. The Exorcist continues to be on the top of my must-watch list. But…that slot. Friday night with a Hell’s Kitchen lead-in? Someone at Fox is taking the graveyard theme too seriously. Riggs feels miscast in Lethal Weapon, and you’re absolutely right. It’s got its work cut out. Trailer viewers are hitting that dislike button hard on YouTube. Though I don’t agree with these choices, it feels consistent with Fox‘s strategy. They want viewers to feel they’re returning to a familiar fall schedule, which they will. But…what if they get bored?
As for the other dramas, maybe I underestimated the size of the hole left behind by American Idol. Showrunner Matt Nix seems to have gone at A.P.B. with an axe, but I’m not sure I like this new version any better. You said it — hokey. The trailer for Shots Fired left me underwhelmed. Hits the race theme so hard that it forgets all about its intriguing relationships. 24: Legacy wins the best slot, which is understandable. But that trailer doesn’t do justice to that script.
What show has the most breakout potential? In the drama bucket, I’ve got two: Star and Pitch. I was pleasantly surprised by Star. The cast has great chemistry, and the music is fantastic. And Pitch looks much better than expected too. There’s been a lot of talk about how great Kylie Bunbury is, and the MLB connection means this one’s gonna be plastered all over Fox Star. Diverse cast, female lead, and a really tight (though potentially inaccurate) pitch — “A true story on the verge of happening.” This one could catch fire. As for the comedies, Making History looks like it’s going be around a while.
Back to you, Andrew. Which of these new shows look most likely to crash and burn? And I’m curious to know more about the comedy picks. Is there a show you feel Fox should’ve picked but didn’t? And I know you’re a fan of The Grinder, which recently said goodbye along with Grandfathered. Does 2016 look better for comedy?
Andrew: I agree with you, Ashish, that Making History has a bright future. My favorite episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is the one where the gang traveled back to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. This takes a bit of that idea, but allows them to explore a lot of different time periods. Should syndicate well like a multi-cam since there’s no real serialization, presumably. Hopefully it will help fill the hole in my heart that The Grinder’s swift demise caused. I don’t think any of the non-pickups would have.
Ashish: I didn’t stick with Prison Break past the first season. The trailer didn’t excite me much, but it might be worth a watch even if you aren’t coming off the original. If it’s anything like the first outing, it’ll be a satisfying genre piece. Strong central relationship, clear series goal, and plenty of silly action. Only six episodes, so it isn’t much of a commitment.
Andrew Woodberry & Ashish Mehta | Contributors
Ashish Mehta is a freelance script reader, currently reading for a coverage company and a film financing platform, among other individual clients in the US and UK. You can find out more about his services at http://scriptexaminer.com, or write to him at [email protected].