With two weeks to go before the broadcast networks unveil their programming plans for next season, executives at ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and The CW are busy choosing the next breed of "can’t miss" new series to hawk at their upfront presentations. To date, nine of the estimated 88 pilots have been officially picked, including some straight-to-series orders.
The standout trend for next season is, once again, the revival, with more reboots in development than I have ever seen. I would ask, once again, what’s happened to all the original ideas, but the question itself has become repetitive.
Reboots and revivals
Fox recently announced the series pick-up of "24: Legacy," which is the return of the "24" franchise minus Kiefer Sutherland as super-agent Jack Bauer. (Sutherland will be present as a producer, however, and will headline a new political thriller on ABC called "Designated Survivor.") Fox has also already confirmed a "continuation" of 2005-09 drama "Prison Break." And NBC has also given a straight-to-series order for "Taken," which is a prequel to the Liam Neeson film franchise.
Of the approximately 10 other revivals in the works, a handful sound promising from the early buzz: CBS’ "Drew," with Sarah Shahi ("Person of Interest") as a 30-something year-old Nancy Drew; and the CW’s "Riverdale," featuring the characters from the "Archie" comics. Given the outlet, I would not be all that surprised to see a vampire or superhero pop into Riverdale.
A new version of "MacGyver" on CBS, meanwhile, would be another attempt to bring in younger viewers and snag more social media interest. (Yes, the show is 30 years old. But the reboot stars 25-year-old heartthrob Lucas Till.) If CBS decides to have any shows share time periods, "MacGyver" would be a compatible mate for "Supergirl."
No season is complete without a spin-off or two, and NBC’s "Chicago Justice" — the fourth hour in the Chicago-set scripted franchise from Dick Wolf — looks like a sure thing. Sometimes generic is exactly what the doctor ordered, and NBC is certainly going to capitalize on a formula that is working. Also vying for a series order is "Marvel’s Most Wanted" (spun off from "Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD") and a project from NBC’s "The Blacklist" featuring Famke Janssen as Susan "Scottie" Halsted (who will be introduced in this week’s episode of "The Blacklist").
Despite the continued focus on revisiting old ideas, this coming season does include some promising new ones. Straight-to-series drama "Shots Fired" explores the aftermath of racially charged shootings in a small town in Tennessee, and features Oscar winners Helen Hunt and Richard Dreyfuss. Expect Fox to go to great lengths to hawk that one. And Fox just ordered "Star" from "Empire" creator Lee Daniels, which will feature Queen Latifah and will center on three young women who form a musical act with the hope of making it big. Assuming Fox will move "Empire" into the Wednesday 8 p.m. anchor spot to support a new entry, "Star" would be the logical choice to inherit the 9 p.m. lead-out hour.
Another strong candidate for a pick-up is "Bull" on CBS featuring former "NCIS" star Michael Weatherly and based on the early career of Dr. Phil McGraw (né Dr. Phil) before he was a talk show host, when he was head of a prominent trial consulting service. With "The Good Wife" exiting this Sunday, I can already envision "Bull" on the evening next fall as an alternative to "Sunday Night Football" on NBC.
CBS has to ponder eventual life without costly veteran "The Big Bang Theory," which is heading into the final season of a three-season renewal. Logically, the straight-to-series order for the still untitled Kevin James sitcom, or the also untitled project with Matt LeBlanc (both family-themed), are likely candidates for the "Big Bang" lead-out time period next season. Early critical buzz for "The Kicker" from Tina Fey, also on CBS, makes this another potentially strong pickup.
Two other already confirmed sitcom pick-ups are NBC’s "The Good Place," which centers on a woman (Kristen Bell) wrestling with what it means to be good ( hopefully the execution will be funnier sounding than the premise); and Fox’s" Son of Zorn," a hybrid of live action and animation featuring another dysfunctional family potentially to pair with either "The Simpsons" or "Family Guy."
ABC, meanwhile, is considering the first sitcom, "Toast," from its First Lady of drama, Shonda Rhimes. But "Hail Mary" with Casey Wilson ("Happy Endings," "Saturday Night Live") as a small-town mayor has generated a more positive assessment.
Nothing, of course, is etched in stone, not even after the networks announces their primetime lineups. So take everything you hear with a grain of salt. And fasten your seatbelts.