May 8, 2006Feature
Fly, Be Free!
Ten Pilots That Just Might Soar
It was not too long ago, dear readers, that I embarked on — dare I say it — a mission. It was simple, yet painful. I sought to find those ten shows slated for the 2006-07 TV season that were guaranteed to either a. flop; or b. suck (relive the agony here).
Now it's time for something a little less brutal. Presented below is a list of the top ten shows that just might make it off the ground and even reached the highest Nielsen ratings heights:
|Think the film Sliding Doors with teen angst instead of... Gwyneth Paltrow.|
Synopsis: Young girl gets a chance to reinvent herself when she moves to a new high school. Here's the kicker: Dual plotlines follow her decision to sit with either the popular kids or the arty outsiders on the first day of school, thus determining her future. Think the film Sliding Doors with teen angst instead of... Gwyneth Paltrow.
Why It Could be a Hit: Each week viewers get to wonder what path Main Character goes, all the while playing a little "What if?..." with their own lives. Cult status (and maybe an audience participation drinking game) awaits.
Why It Might Not: Although executive producer Aaron Spelling has a history of guilty pleasures under his belt, series director Simon West (Con Air, When a Stranger Calls) is hit-and-miss at best. And for every person that keeps tuning in for the show's unique premise, there will probably be two or more who stop watching when things get confusing or the novelty wears off.
9. Jump (ABC)
Synopsis: Young professional Danny Carter quits his high-powered job when he bumps into Sam, a girl he once knew from high school, who thinks the once-inspiring Danny has become a sell-out. Something clicks, and Carter decides to begin pursuing the things he's always dreamed of achieving, mapping out a new path in life — one full of challenges and fear, but a million times more rewarding than playing it safe.
Why It Could be a Hit: Danny Carter is in the enviable position of saving his life from the empty oblivion of careerism before it gets too late. That, plus a promising romantic subplot between he and Sam, and dead-eyed suburbanites all over the nation could be drooling like Pavlov's dog for more.
Why It Might Not: Every time I read the premise, I get ABBA's "Take A Chance on Me" stuck in my head on repeat. Sadly, this show could suffer the same fate as many of the Swedish supergroup's hits and teeter precariously between endearing charm and saccharine schlock.
Synopsis: Four underachieving neighbors in their mid-30s work on Capitol Hill in this comedy starring former Dawson's Creek heartthrob James Van der Beek and Jane Krakowski (Ally McBeal).
Why It Could be a Hit: Writer/executive producer Greg Malins hit the TV jackpot with America's favorite queer couple, Will & Grace. Now that that show is on its final season, Malins could weave some of that patented magic with Dubya's Washington DC, while roping in that tiny demographic of twentysomething women who grew up watching Dawson's Creek before moving on to The West Wing.
Why It Might Not: Sounds like the bastard child of Ally McBeal and Friends, with the end result inexplicably looking like a lesser-quality Grey's Anatomy.
7. TIE: RAINES (NBC) and DRIFT (ABC)
Synopses: Raines: An eccentric but brilliant L.A. cop (Jeff Goldblum) solves murders in a very unusual way — he turns the victims into his partners. Raines knows his visions of the victims are figments of his imagination, but he's only free of them when the cases are solved and closed. Although he (and his fellow detectives) question Raines's sanity, he is unable to stop the visions, and a small part of him is glad he can't. That's because there is one recurring hallucination he can't live without.
Drift: New York Police Detective Ray Hakansovich (Jason O'Mara) lost his young daughter in a gruesome act of revenge. His mind handled this trauma by saddling him with narcoleptic drift, a form of post-traumatic stress insomnia. This "drift" gives him an edge in solving homicides as the lack of sleep bestows on him a photographic memory which provides a unique insight into every crime scene, helping him to solve some of New York's most horrible homicides.
Why They Could be Hits: Raines: When it comes to odd characters, Jeff Goldblum is a natural. Combine that with Raines' "vital" hallucination he can't afford to lose, solid support casting (Luis Guzman!) and series director Frank Darabont (The Green Mile), and this one could be next year's oddball sleeper success.
Drift: Supporting players Chazz Palminteri and Marcia Gay Harden are both versatile actors who have proven their salt on the small and big screens. Their contributions to Drift could be the show's salvation.
Why They Might Not:* Raines: An even more bizarre plot twist (aliens, CIA mind control) than the one on which the show is based to explain away Raines' visions.
Drift: Director and executive producer Paul W.S. Anderson is the man responsible for Alien Vs. Predator. Do I really need to say any more?
*These two are more than a little similar, in my opinion. Male cops haunted by visions that in both instances provide them with an unusual crime-solving advantage? It might work — if there were only one show playing with that plot twist. We'll see which one has what it takes to survive at the end of the day.
|Boring cases. Bad — or no — celebrity guests. Awesome pilot followed by one hackneyed episode after another.|
Synopses: Shark: A famous celebrity attorney (James Woods) switches sides to become a prosecutor.
American Crimes: This legal drama, set in the world of big-shot Los Angeles attorneys, examines how "celebrity" lawyers free their either wealthy or wickedly guilty clients.
Why They Could be Hits: Shark: James Woods + producer Brian Grazer (can you say soon-to-be summer blockbuster Da Vinci Code?) + pilot director Spike Lee = TEH AWESOME!
American Crimes: Executive producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Jonathan Littman (CSI) have turned pseudo-gritty gory brain fluff into a television art form.
Why They Might Not:**Shark: Boring cases. Bad — or no — celebrity guests. Awesome pilot followed by one hackneyed episode after another.
American Crimes: Same as above.
** CBS and FOX, not to be outdone by rival networks ABC and NBC, decided that they, too, would air pilots with remarkably similar storylines. And that, kids, is why television execs make the big bucks.
Synopsis: Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, Sports Night) goes behind the scenes of a fictional late-night sketch comedy series that's more than a little reminiscent of Saturday Night Live. Funny has been in short supply at Studio 60 as of late and now the show's only hope at a successful future lies with two sensational writers (Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford) and a headstrong new network president.
Why It Could be a Hit: Not only has NBC has already ordered 13 episodes, but with Matthew Perry in a leading role, the show is sure to lure in those loyal Friends fans. Co-stars Amanda Peet and D.L. Hughley also merit a second glance.
Why It Might Not: Two possibilities: Studio 60 is just as un-funny as Saturday Night Live since 1985 (after all, this is supposed to be a drama about a comedy series), or Lorne Michaels gets angry... and you wouldn't like Lorne Michaels when he's angry!
4. Smith (CBS)
Synopsis: Virginia Madsen (Sideways, Firewall) stars as Beth Stanfield alongside Ray Liotta in this drama told from the angle of career criminals.
Why It Could be a Hit: ER pedigrees Christopher Chulack and John Wells are in charge. Liotta's coming off the success of the feel-good dance Take the Lead as executive producer. Virginia Madsen brings intelligence and vitality to every role she takes on.
Why It Might Not: No chemistry between leads? Unsympathetic audience? Anything is possible... though the network does have to pay a cash penalty if the show isn't ordered to series.
|Why It Might Not: Our fickle nation may have grown tired of rich families with deep dark secrets by the time the show hits the air.|
Synopsis: The teenage son of a wealthy Upper East Side family (Timothy Hutton and Emmy winner Dana Delany) is kidnapped; everyone is a suspect. The series focuses on the intricate game between the kidnappers, law enforcement, and the private negotiating team working for a not-so-picture-perfect family.
Why It Could be a Hit: Desperate Housewives proved once again that America loves deceptively ideal families. Kidnapped could quickly follow in naughty little footsteps and score NBC a much-needed hit. Besides, it was ordered to series, so chances are pretty good the network will stick by it no matter what.
Why It Might Not: Our fickle nation may have grown tired of rich families with deep dark secrets by the time the show hits the air.
2. The Black Donnellys (NBC)
Synopsis: Follow the antics of four young Irish brothers involved in organized crime in New York's notorious Hell's Kitchen! Watch as these handsome young men fight to find love while sinking deeper into the criminal underworld!
Why It Could be a Hit: The Black Donnellys, which has been ordered to series, strives to be all things to all people. There's violence for the lads, romantic torment for the lasses, and hopefully, big ratings for the network. It doesn't hurt that Paul Haggis, director of the Oscar-winning film Crash is writing, producing and directing the series along with Mark Harris and Robert Moresco, two of his Crash buddies.
Why It Might Not: Ummm... The Sopranos?
And now, the moment you've all been waiting for. Drumroll, please...
Synopsis: Network TV's not-so-subtle rip-off of Project Greenlight delivers some mighty big goods. Aspiring director/filmmakers from across the country will vie for the opportunity of a lifetime when Mark Burnett (producer, The Apprentice), Steven Spielberg, DreamWorks Television and FOX join forces for On The Lot, which will air next season. The competition will air over two nights weekly, with an hour-long "Film Premiere" episode, followed the next night by a half-hour "Box Office" results show. One filmmaker will rise above the rest and will be rewarded with a studio development deal at DreamWorks.
Why It Could be a Hit: Are you f*@#king KIDDING me? There is no "could" here. "On The Lot" is a struggling filmmaker's wet dream, and like him or not, Spielberg is contemporary Hollywood's King Midas. If this show isn't the next American Idol, then I'll eat my hat.
Why It Might Not: Los Angeles county officials create a new labor law, forbidding every waiter, valet and bellhop in town from going on television auditions.
You've been warned about the duds, and now you've got the heads-up on the studs. One thing's for sure: good or bad: the 2006-07 season's gonna be unforgettable. Happy watching!
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