Know your 2009 pilots: The buzz at NBC
Because the network is giving the 10 p.m. hour to Jay Leno every weeknight, NBC has a lot less room for comedies and dramas on the 2009-10 schedule. One current 10 o'clock show, "Law & Order: SVU," has already been renewed, and it seems likely that the solid performance of the new cop drama "Southland" will earn it some more episodes as well.
The network could go to a more cable-like model and schedule shorter seasons of some of its shows -- which could help on-the-bubble series like "Chuck" (for an eloquent plea on the need for a third season for that series), please read my colleague Alan Sepinwall's letter to the network) and opening up some spots for new shows as well.
NBC will be the first to announce its 2009-10 schedule at its "in-front" (rather than upfront) presentation on May 4 and 5 -- a mere two weeks from now. The first pilot buzz story appeared in The Hollywood Reporter on Monday (April 20), so for this edition of Know Your Pilots, I'm going to highlight the shows the trades are deeming buzzworthy at the moment, plus a couple more that sound like they could be worthwhile.
Will any of these be the show that helps lift NBC out of its fourth-place funk? Well ... there's nothing that screams "hit" on this list, but after a season filled mostly with remakes, retreads and half-baked concepts, it at least looks like the network is at least trying to return to the things -- well-written scripts and strong actors -- that made it strong in the past.
The buzzed-about shows
What it is: A medical drama focusing on EMTs and doctors who are the first to administer care to trauma victims.
Why we're interested: The pilot reportedly is heavy on action, and with "ER" gone, a high-octane medical show could be welcome. The cast includes several likable actors, including Derek Luke, Kevin Rankin and Aimee Garcia. "Parenthood"
What it is: Ensemble family dramedy based loosely on the 1989 movie about four adult siblings, their own kids and their parents.
Why we're interested: It's another remake/update, sure, but it's got a really appealing cast -- Maura Tierney, Peter Krause, Erika Christensen, Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia, among others -- and it's being written by "Friday Night Lights" showrunner Jason Katims.
Why we're interested: We like both lead actors a lot, and the idea of Whitford playing a little crazy could be quite a bit of fun.
What it is: A comedy about a group of oddballs who are all enrolled at the same community college.
Why we're interested: Is this the show that finally catapults Joel McHale from "The Soup" to stardom? And will it be a further step in the career revival for Chevy Chase? We'll see, maybe.
"100 Questions for Charlotte Payne"
What it is: A comedy about a young woman living in New York; the "questions" frame each episode.
Why we're interested: We'd like to see the premise in action, and another female-centric comedy on TV would be nice too.
What it is: Crime show about a detective who has to work cases involving anonymous victims.
Why we're interested: Katee Sackhoff as the detective and Brian Cox as her curmudgeonly partner. 'Nuff said.
A couple others
What it is: Drama about the residents of an apartment complex who survive a global disaster.
Why we're interested: We tend to be suckers for high-concept ideas like this one, and we like several of the people involved: Xander Berkeley, Julie Gonzalo, Catherine Dent and Carly Pope.
What it is: David E. Kelley's latest, about a young lawyer (Charity Wakefield) who joins her dad's (Hugh Bonneville) firm.
Why we're interested: It promises the usual array of Kelley-esque eccentrics, played by the likes of Kristen Chenoweth, Loretta Devine and Kurt Fuller. The question is whether this will look and feel much different from previous DEK efforts.