TV Surf Report: Nets Play It Safe With Pre-Sold Titles & Re-Boots Popular Among Pilot Orders


Santa Monica, CA — (Updated, 19 March 2016)

Fear runs rampant through the halls of networks and streaming services as they have all these great scripts based on original ideas, and yet, they have little or no time to market them to their dwindling audience who is busy binge-watching a competitor’s programming or something on YouTube.

So what do the networks decide to do: Order pilots based on hit films (aka, pre-sold titles) and re-boots of Old Chestnuts (aka, well-loved and long-canceled series). It’s a successful strategy.

Oh, and they all want to “go younger.”  Sorry, 50+ readers/viewers.  You are dead to broadcasters.  Nice knowing you.

Blame it on The X-Files (which, by the way, is created by someone over 50, stars two people over 50, and was greenlighted by network executives over 50!)


Fox’s successful limited series re-boot of the television classic has not gone unnoticed by its competitors, all of whom are scrambling and sorting through their pile of pilot scripts looking for those titles that jump out and scream, “We already have an audience waiting to watch us!” 

So far this season, CBS has succeeded with Limitless (including guest-spots from executive producer Bradley Cooper) but failed with Rush Hour while Fox, pre-X-Files, bombed with the Tom Cruise-less version of Minority Report. NBC kinda succeeded with Heroes: Reborn but has cancelled it anyway along with its re-boot of Coach.  ABC has yet to premiere its re-boot of Uncle Buck, and the jury is still out on the recently re-tooled re-boot of The Muppets.


Here are those pilots and series (based on pre-sold titles and/or re-boots) ordered thus far from the networks and various streaming services:

  • The First Wives Club at TV Land.  Pilot order for the ex-wife revenge comedy that starred Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler and Diane Keaton.
  • Galaxy Quest at Amazon.  Dean Parisot and the producers return for the re-boot, but will Tim Allen?
  • Jack Ryan at Amazon.  Carlton Cuse brings Tom Clancy’s hero to the small screen.
  • Howard’s End at BBC-1.  Kenneth Lonergan adapts E.M.Forster for television most likely without both Emma Thompson and Helena Bonham Carter.
  • MacGyver at CBS. Henry Winkler returns as EP in this re-boot of an old favorite that now features a 20something Mac learning his trade.
  • Training Day at CBS.  No Denzel Washington or Ethan Hawke, but director Antoine Fuqua returns as EP in this cop drama.
  • Drew at CBS. Forget the Emma Roberts movie and the Pamela Sue Martin series and the Carolyn Keene series of books.  This update finds Nancy Drew as a 30something NYPD detective (and she’s to be played by a minority actor, which of course, is cool).
  • Star Trek at CBS.  Alex Kurtzman and Bryan Fuller re-boot the next adventure in Gene Roddenberry’s serial outer space western soap opera.  Premieres in 2017 tho.
  • Riverdale at The CW.  The young’uns who watch The CW have never heard of Archie Comics, so this darker, edgier version of Betty, Veronica and Jughead from Greg Berlanti will seem totally new.
  • 24: Legacy at Fox.  No Jack Bauer, tho.  Kiefer Sutherland is unavailable as he is shooting Designated Survivor for ABC.  Re-boot goes younger, natch.
  • Lethal Weapon at Fox.  Damon Wayans stars in the re-make of the Mel Gibson-Danny Glover buddy comedy.
  • The Exorcist at Fox. Weekly demonic possession, anyone? Didn’t think so.  Somehow, Geena Davis has signed on to star.
  • Prison Break at Fox.  Another limited series “event,” original stars Dominic Purcell and Wentworth Miller return.
  • Tennison at ITV.  A young Jane Tennison returns for six episodes from Lynda LaPlante in this prequel to Prime Suspect.
  • Taken at NBC. No Liam Neeson in this Luc Besson television version, however, his character is back, and yes he’s much younger!
  • Cruel Intentions at NBC.   If the characters played by Reese Witherspoon and ex-husband Ryan Philippe had a teenage kid and that kid is now alone and sexting at a fancy boarding school, well then that’s what writer/director Roger Kumble has cooked up for your sadistic viewing pleasure following The Voice.  Sarah Michelle Gellar returns.
  • Law & Order: You the Jury at NBC.  The audience will decide the outcome of real-life civil cases for six episodes.  Oy vey!
  • Gilmore Girls at Netflix.  Amy Sherman Palladino’s redemptive new season returns with original stars Lauren Graham and Alexis Bleidel, but alas, no Sookie.
  • One Day at a Time at Netflix.  Schneider and the gang are now Latino!  Justina Machado (Six Feet Under) stars in the Bonnie Franklin role.
  • Lost in Space at Netflix.  Danger, Will Robinson!
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events at Netflix.  Neil Patrick Harris stars as Count Olaf in the latest incarnation of Lemony Snicket.
  • Twin Peaks at Showtime.  David Lynch and Mark Frost are currently shooting the next chapter of this cult classic with new episodes to premiere in 2017.  That’s a long time to wait for a damn fine cup of coffee, but okay, I’m game.  See, re-boots work!
  • Van Helsing at SyFy.  The basic cabler has acquired 13 episodes of a Neil LaBute-produced series featuring a female descendant, Vanessa Van Helsing.  Ugh.
  • Tales From The Crypt at TNT.  Director M. Night Shyamalan attempts to revive The Cryptkeeper (and Anthology).
  • Shooter at USA.  Ryan Philippe stars in the Mark Wahlberg role from the 2007 Paramount film which itself was adapted from Stephen Hunter’s novel Point of Impact.  Series order.
  • Salt at Sony International.  The Angelina Jolie spy thriller is being shopped at international markets for a television adaptation.


Up Next: A Film Surf Report on 2017 which looks to be a great year for Disney.



About Surfing Hollywood

Steve La Rue is an internationally recognized leader in Film & Television with 20+ years experience as a Development Executive championing such series as Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Battlestar Galactica, and Farscape. He writes, blogs, and consults on All Things Entertainment from his home at the beach in Santa Monica, CA, where he balances his life by surfing every damn day.
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