2012 TV Pilot Review – Sitcoms & Cable Shows

The final trends covered in this brief overview of this year's pilot season are the new bout of network sitcoms and also the new cable shows that are fighting their way onto your screens.

Fred Salmon


The final trends covered in this brief overview of this year’s pilot season are the new bout of network sitcoms and also the new cable shows that are fighting their way onto your screens.

Sitcoms appear to be following the trend of success stories like Modern Family and New Girl and becoming more single-camera based than traditional multi-camera. Multi-camera sitcoms being the shows recorded in front of audiences on sets a la Friends and Seinfeld, whilst single camera sitcoms are the ones that are shot more like films with plenty of different locations a la Parks and Recreation and Community. This trend doesn’t seem to apply, however, if you’re CBS, the network appears to be enjoying a renaissance of multi-camera sitcoms with the successes of How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory which were both picked up for multiple seasons earlier this year.

The Goodwin Games

Writer/Executive Producer: Carter Bays & Craig Thomas (How I Met Your Mother), Peyton Reed (Yes Man, New Girl)
Cast: Scott Foley (Felicity, Grey’s Anatomy), Becki Newton (Ugly Betty)
Network: Fox

What’s it all about?
Follows three siblings whose father dies and leaves them a large inheritance, but only one of them can receive the money, and only if they pass a series of tests.

What we thought:
Extremely high concept in the same way as How I Met Your Mother with a great mixture between laugh out loud comedy and genuine emotional moments. 7/10

Will we ever see it?
This is probably the best and most well conceived sitcom pilot of the season, and with the newly found success of How I Met Your Mother I think it is very likely we will be seeing more of this crazy family and their father’s games. 8/10



Writer/Executive Producer: Joe Port & Joe Wiseman (The IT Crowd), Steve Levitan (Modern Family)
Cast: Aly Michalka (Hellcats), Matt Jones (Breaking Bad), Malcolm Barret (The Hurt Locker), Hayes MacArthur (Perfect Couples), Will Forte (30 Rock)
Network: Fox

What’s it all about?
This show follows a recently widowed man as his friends, all equally as messed up as him, try their best to help him through.

What we thought:
Bitter sweet and genuinely heartwarming as well as being hilarious this comedy pilot walks a very fine line and manages to come out of it fantastically well. 6/10

Will we ever see it?
Fox has seen some great success with single camera comedies lately and I think this will complement that very well. 7/10


Prairie Dogs

Writer/Executive Producer: Jeff and Jackie Filgo
Cast: Kal Penn (House, Harold & Kumar), Charlotte Newhouse (Community, Big Bang Theory), Dayo Akeniyi (The Hunger Games), Michaela Watkins (Wanderlust), Cary Elwes (Princess Bride)
Network: ABC

What’s it all about?
Follows an office worker who dreams of living a happy life as he hires the con man that stole his credit card to help him make his life better.

What we thought:
This show is a great comment on today’s dreams and desires, remaining eternally charming but ultimately not all that funny. 5/10

Will we ever see it?
This has a great cast and I think that Cary Elwes, after his fantastic guest stints on Psych, will nail the role of the conman. It has potential but it feels more CBS than ABC. 5/10


Super Fun Night

Writer/Executive Producer: Conan O’brien, Rebel Wilson (Bridesmaids)
Network: CBS

What’s it all about?
Three girls, complete losers, who have stayed in on Friday nights their whole lives decide to mix it up by going out and enjoying life from now onwards.

What we thought:
Not particularly funny, clever or engaging. But then again it’s a CBS multi-camera broad strokes comedy, broad strokes it does well. 4/10

Will we ever see it?
It’s on CBS and it’s perfectly standard so possibly. 5/10

Cable shows have begun to draw in larger and larger audiences. Just look at the success of channel AMC, which used to show classic movies; it now has three original programs on the air: Breaking Bad, Mad Men and the hugely successful The Walking Dead. Everyone from all the other cable networks wants to desperately recreate that success, and thus we open the floodgates of post-watershed intelligent programming, which means lots of tits.



Writer/Executive Producer: Justin Marks (Street Fighter), Jack Bender (Lost, Alcatraz)
Cast: Shane McRae (The Help)
Network: SyFy

What’s it all about?
Follows a New York cop after his wife is killed in a terrorist attack that wipes out New York. He becomes part of a select team that go back in time to stop such tragic events before they happen. The smallest mistake could change everything.

What we thought:
A very ingenious take on the time travel genre that has a host of interesting people and an engrossing situation. However it’s all run of the mill until the fantastic twist ending that makes this series worth seeing more of. 6/10

Will we ever see it?
It’s a sci-fi show, which Syfy have been tending away from lately (they even commissioned a cooking program!) However I think this will fit well with the SyFy audience and there are also a few older shows ending next year so this could take the mantle. 7/10


Political Animals

Writer/Executive Producer: Greg Berlanti
Cast: Carla Gugino (Entourage), Sigourney Weaver, James Wolk (Lone Star), Britany Ishibashi
Network: USA

What’s it all about?
Follows the ex-wife of a former president as she embarks on a political mission to become the first female president of the US.

What we thought:
A very strong pilot with plenty of intrigue and plenty of real life parallels (though the writer is clear that this is all fictional there are more than a few winks and nudges to the contrary). This is an astute political show that attempts to bring a strong and intelligent female to the screen. 6/10

Will we ever see it?
It has enough smarts to fit in with HBO let alone the less cerebral USA Network, famous for it’s less serious shows like Psych. This could well be the show that brings The USA Network into the forefront and is a nice compliment to a growing trend for smarter shows on the network. 7/10


L.A Noir

Writer/Executive Producer: Frank Darabont (The Walking Dead, The Shawshank Redemption), Michael De Luca (The Social Network), Elliot Webb (Tall Time Tales), Allisa Philips (Moneyball)
Cast: Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead), Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes), Neil McDonough (Justified)
Network: TNT

What’s it all about?
Set in Los Angeles during the 1940s and ’50s the show tells the true story of a decades-long conflict between the LAPD, under the determined leadership of Police Chief William Parker and ruthless criminal elements led by mobster Mickey Cohen, a one-time boxer who rose to the top of LA’s criminal world.

What we thought:
Entertaining and gripping with fantastic action and brilliant characters, this is Boardwalk Empire by way of LA Confidential. 8/10

Will we ever see it?
With Frank Darabont overseeing it and the cast they already have on-board this will be a series that will be completely unmissable, and might finally be the hit TNT has been looking for. 8/10


DaVinci’s Demons

Writer/Executive Producer: David S. Goyer (The Dark Night, Blade)
Cast: Tom Riley (Monroe)
Network: Starz

What’s it all about?
Follows the mercurial Leonardo DaVinci in his mission to be a respected artist in Renaissance Italy. He is hired by a secret sect to find an object of great wealth, and uses at as his chance to become respected and catch the eye of the beautiful noblewoman he is in love with.

What we thought:
It’s a fun pilot filled with interesting characters, none more so than DaVinci himself, a tenacious and charming man who is held back by his status as a bastard child. However there wasn’t really enough to really draw us into this world beyond DaVinci’s character. This pilot really needs something more if it hopes to get people watching.

Will we ever see it?
I’m not sure about casting Tom Riley but with David S Goyer at the helm this has a good chance of making the cut, but I have not been convinced by the pilot. 5/10



Writer/Executive Producer: Alan Ball (True Blood), Jonathan Tropper & David Shickler
Cast: Ulrich Thomsen (In a Better World, The World is Not Enough), Antony Starr (Rush), Ivana Milicevic (Casino Royale)

What’s it all about?
Follows a thief as he leaves prison to find his ex-partner in crime and lover now married with children in the small town of Banshee. When the thief arrives he watches the new Sheriff get killed and decides to take his identity and pretend to be the Sheriff himself.

What we thought:
Entertaining with plenty of action this could be a great series. However most of the time it ends up feeling like a muted version of Justified but not without potential. 5/10

Will we ever see it?
Cinemax has already picked this up for an initial ten episodes.

So there it is, Pilot Season is over and now we have to wait until what the networks call upfronts (usually in the third week of May) before finding out what shows are going to make the cut and be on our televisions for next season.

This was just a brief overview, there are several more pilots that have been greenlit (there have been a lot this year), so if there’s any show I haven’t covered, that you want a review of, just let me know!


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