Hit or Miss: Pilot Season Edition
Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have left a crater-sized impact on the past decade. From constant accessibility to the popularization of the phrase “binge watching”, these platforms have fundamentally changed the way that we consume television. Broadcast networks have managed to combat this somewhat with ratings hits like Arrow, How to Get Away With Murder and The Walking Dead, but if they are to remain a legitimate force in the streaming age, they will have to continue to provide audiences with new and exciting content.
So, with pilot season approaching, this week’s Buzz column will focus on the new shows that we think will make a splash in 2018. From reboots and familiar sitcoms to film adaptations, these shows have the necessary talent and/or hype to suggest that they could become the next big thing in network television. As always, if you think we left any notable picks out, please comment below.
Title: Magnum P.I.
Genre: Mystery, Comedy
Cast: Jay Hernandez, Perdita Weeks
Summary: Thomas Magnum is a decorated ex-Navy SEAL who returns home from Afghanistan and sets up shop as a private investigator in Hawaii.
Hit or Miss: Given the track record of showrunner Peter M. Lenkov, we’re going to have to label this one a hit. Lenkov has already managed to reboot classic shows like MacGyver and Hawaii Five-O, so it seems likely that Magnum P.I. will fall in line as his latest triumph. It even shares the sunny Hawaii setting and diverse cast that’s allowed Five-O to last a whopping eight seasons on CBS.
Our only reservation is that Jay Hernandez may come up short in the role that made Tom Selleck an ‘80s icon. Hernandez has never spearheaded a project of this magnitude, and if his other starring roles (Hostel, Carlito’s Way: Rise to Power) are any indication, Lenkov and his writers may have to work a bit harder than usual.
Genre: Supernatural, Drama
Cast: Melissa Roxburgh, Josh Dallas, J.R. Ramirez
Summary: A plane disappears and resurfaces years later after being presumed lost at sea. No time has passed for the passengers on the plane, however, and they struggle to both acclimate to the changes in their loved ones and unravel the mystery of what happened.
Hit or Miss: Manifest is the perfect high concept pitch for a network, in that it’s appeal can be surmised as a mix between two other acclaimed shows: Lost and The Leftovers. The premise is sure to draw in tons of viewers, and the cast is promising enough, with Melissa Roxburgh, Josh Dallas and J.R. Ramirez leading the charge, but the trick here will be in keeping the intrigue fresh after the initial episodes.
As long as head writer Jeff Rake can avoid unnecessary twists and detours, and series creator Robert Zemeckis, a man who knows his way around a plane disaster (see: Cast Away and Flight), can bring some of his dramatic flair to the table, Manifest should be one of the bigger events of this coming pilot season.
Title: Welcome to the Neighborhood
Cast: Cedric the Entertainer, Sheaun McKinney, Marcel Spears
Summary: Calvin is a nice Midwestern family man who moves into a tough neighborhood in Los Angeles. Whilst there, he realizes that not everyone appreciates his optimism and bubbly demeanor.
Hit or Miss: Hard miss on this one. While Cedric the Entertainer continues to be a welcome comedic presence, he lacks the clout to pull of a show this generically pitched. Welcome to the Neighborhood sounds like any sitcom that could’ve aired in the last two decades, instead of one that sounds fresh and contemporary. Plus, Cedric isn’t even playing the lead role of Calvin, but rather his neighbor, an acerbic L.A. native who he feuds with.
Toss in the fact that the comedian has had his fair share of flop shows in the past-- Cedric the Entertainer Presents, It’s Worth What?-- and Neighborhood looks as though it's already dead in the water.
Title: L.A. Confidential
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Cast: Walton Goggins, Brian J. Smith
Summary: A string of brutal murders brings together three homicide detectives, a reporter, and an aspiring actress against the glamorous backdrop of 1950s Los Angeles.
Hit or Miss: We’re going to list L.A. Confidential as a tentative hit. While past shows in the film noir style have failed to connect with audiences-- Mob City and Public Morals, most notably-- Confidential does have the benefit of being based on an Oscar-winning 1997 film. Also keep in mind that showrunner Jordan Harper will likely bring the same gritty spirit that’s kept Gotham on the air for four seasons, and actors Walton Goggins and Brian J. Smith are hot off acclaimed roles in Vice Principles and Sense 8, respectively.
If done right, L.A. Confidential could be CBS’ answer to True Detective, as the James Ellroy novel upon which the show (and the film) is based connects to a series of other novels, and could open up the possibility for an anthology format.
Title: The Enemy Within
Genre: Thriller, Suspense
Cast: Jennifer Carpenter, Morris Chestnut, Raza Jaffrey
Summary: Former CIA agent and traitor Erica Wolfe is enlisted by the FBI to help catch informants, moles, and anyone else who could pose a viable threat to national security.
Hit or Miss: All the makings of a handsomely mounted miss. The Enemy Within will almost certainly be presented with taste, nice visuals, and some good acting from leads Jennifer Carpenter (as Wolfe) and Morris Chestnut (as her FBI connect), but there’s nothing to separate it from the dozens of other shows-- Hannibal, Mindhunter, The Blacklist-- that we’ve seen with the same concept. In fact, the latter is still drawing strong ratings for NBC on Thursday nights.
Even the way The Enemy Within has been pitched thus far, as a “character-driven investigative thriller”, reeks of recycled verbiage. If it is in fact doing something different, than it will have to do a much better job advertising it.
Title: The Passage
Genre: Science Fiction, Drama
Cast: Brianne Howey, Zach Appelman, Tyler Barnhardt
Summary: A federal agent must aid and protect a little girl after she’s selected as a test subject for a secret government facility that’s experimenting with a dangerous, potentially apocalyptic virus.
Hit or Miss: The Passage looks like a hit to us. An adaptation of the first novel in Justin Cronin’s fantasy trilogy, the series will have elements that’ve proven incredibly popular in the past-- namely, vampires, deadly viruses, and an evil government agency. There has been some complications with regards to the tone of the series, as several reshoots were ordered at the end of last year, but all reports seem to point to the idea that it’s back on track and ready for a big debut on FOX.
The Passage also has the benefit of a production stable that includes director Jason Ensler, who has worked on shows like The West Wing and The Exorcist, and executive producer Matt Reeves, the man behind the similarly themed Planet of the Apes prequel trilogy.
Genre: Mystery, Drama
Cast: Toby Kebbell, Jim Belushi, Will Patton
Summary: After moving back to his Florida hometown, ex-cop Jimmy Hill gets drawn into a complex mystery involving a murder, a sunken Spanish treasure, and his own suspicious father.
Hit or Miss: While murder cases and tropical settings have definite appeal, Salvage appears to have little else going to going for it. The premise for the show is needlessly complicated, hitting us with a laundry list of villains and mysteries before we even get a feel for the main character. Executive producer Don Todd lends clout to the production, but his tenure on the melodramatic This Is Us may be a hindrance if he attempts to take a similar creative direction here.
Then there's the matter of Toby Kebbell’s star power. While he’s proven himself a gifted motion capture actor in the Planet of the Apes films, Kebbell has fared worse with his real face, starring in critical disasters like Fantastic Four and Ben Hur. We’re not saying he can’t give a good live-action performance, we’re just saying we’ve yet to see one.
Title: Untitled Austen Earl and Tim McAuliffe
Cast: Damon Wayans, Jr., Felix Mallard
Summary: A couple fed up with their mundane life are revitalized when an emerging pop star, inspired by their mundaneness, decides to move in.
Hit or Miss: Damon Wayans, Jr. is reported to be the most hotly pursued comedy actor of this pilot season, which makes his decision to appear in this untitled sitcom a huge deal. Wayans has proven his ratings appeal with hits like New Girl and Lethal Weapon, and it's easy to see his easygoing charm working well with such a light premise.
To further bolster the show’s chances, co-creators Tim McAuliffe and Austen Earl have proven themselves crackerjack pair of writers, with their credits including The Last Man on Earth and The Late Late Show with James Corden, respectively. We feel pretty confident in labeling this one a hit.