TV Surf Report: Pilot Season – The Good. The Bad. The You Know What.


Santa Monica, CA — Seems the networks and streaming services are not quite done with Super Heroes, are sticking with struggling new series longer, and are ordering more and more pilots with some sort of built-in marketability (i.e., re-makes or spin-offs).

FX has renewed Legion for S2 as has Netflix for A Series of Unfortunate Events.  Fox has picked up both Star and Lethal Weapon, and surprisingly, The Exorcist. Even NBC picked up struggling Taken and Timeless for S2. The CW found an unlikely creative hit in its reimagined Riverdale.

There’s Good News for Creativity. Bad News for Tiresome Trends. And Downright Ugliness in Re-makes and Spinoffs that are really just Hedged Bets to reach a minimal audience in a crowded marketplace with a glut of product.

Here are the shows that have caught my attention, for better and for worse…

T H E   G O O D:

Amazon continues to make a few pilots and encourage the public to vote for which should be ordered to series.  Marketing ploy? Absolutely.  The New York Times TV Critics reviewed them (see link below).  Imagine if those old Dinosaurs — broadcast networks, cable and other digital streaming services could get that kind of free publicity?!

Amazon Pilots – Vote Now

Amy Sherman-Palladino’s pilot, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, a period comedy about a housewife-turned-standup, has all the buzz, and remarkably, has been given a two season order.  Sorry, Gilmore Girls fans, but you’ll probably have to wait a bit for that second season of the re-boot. Additionally, series star Lauren Graham toplines  Linda from H.R., a comedy pilot for FOX, however, it’s not going forward to series.


And, Adaptations…

  • The Witcher at Netflix.  Polish novelist Andrzej Sapkowski’s series of books get an English translation that sounds like Buffy 2.0, wherein, a group of young people hunt demons. Sean Daniel (The Mummy) executive produces.
  • Rise at NBC.  Series order for Michael Sokolove’s story about a working class high school drama teacher who inspires his students.  Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother) stars. Fantastic auspices.  High hopes.
  • Little Women at PBS.  The BBC and Masterpiece co-produce a new 3-parter of the beloved classic.  Should be a winner. Angela Lansbury to star as Aunt March.  Oh, Beth!
  • The Passage at Fox.  Justin Cronin’s dark vampire tragedy.  I am still troubled by this book which I read many years ago.  Intrigued to see if the series can match it. Off-cycle.
  • Melrose at Showtime.  Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) stars in this limited series adapatation of Patrick Melrose novels.
  • The Vampire Lestat.  Anne Rice and son Christopher are adapting The Vampire Chronicles for TV.  Am hoping Paramount and Anonymous Content (which optioned 11 books) shoot the series first then shop it to a US broadcaster.  Think International Co-production like The Young Pope or Rome on HBO. Christopher Rice scripted the pilot.
  • The Alienist at TNT. Luke Evans (Beauty and the Beast) toplines this Caleb Carr series now shooting in Budapest.
  • Jack Ryan at Amazon. Tom Clancy’s hero comes to the small screen after several feature film incarnations. John Krazinski toplines.

T H E    B A D:

Of course, there are more Super Heroes on the way.  I hear the faint scratching sounds that denotes Television’s inevitable arrival at the bottom of the super hero barrel.  Am thinking we may be near the end of this trend, despite DC Comics and Marvel Studios’ exhaustive best efforts:


  • Titans at DC Comics Digital Streaming. Greg Berlanti executive produces this live-action version story of young, soon-to-be-superheroes that are recruited by Dick Grayson.
  • Watchmen at HBO.  Zack Snyder had planned to adapt his own film for TV, but you know what they say about the best laid plans…so, Damon Lindelof (The Leftovers, Lost) has now taken control of the project and will adapt the comic for television.
  • Marvel’s Runaways at Hulu. Six diverse teenagers who can barely stand each other but are united against their parents. I can barely stand this premise. Series order. Ho Hum.
  • The Gifted at FOX. Stephen Moyer (True Blood) stars. Bryan Singer directs. X-Men meets Running On Empty. Could work!  Here’s a teaser: Marvel’s The Gifted Cannot help but think of Heroes on NBC as I watched it.
  • Inhumans at ABC. Series order. Marvel Studios just cannot be stopped.  Will be interested to see how this correlates to the MCU films. Casting does not wow me.  Here’s the Trailer for the Pilot
  • Krypton at SyFy. Superman’s grandfather is an eco-lawyer warning the planet about climate change in this DC series from David Goyer.  Hmmm….sounds like current events in the US. Series order.  Teaser Trailer for KRYPTON
  • Cloak & Dagger at Freeform. Series order for this Marvel property. Inter-racial pairing solving crimes.
  • Squirrel Girl and The New Warriors at Freeform.  Series order and the likely companion to Cloak & Dagger. Way to go, Marvel.
  • Black Lightning at The CW. Cress Williams stars in this adaptation of the DC Comic.  Uber-producer Greg Berlanti EPs. Series order.
  • Deadpool: The Animated Series at FXX.  An adult version that kids will love.  Donald Glover (Atlanta) EPs with his brother.  Sounds like a winner.


T H E    U G L Y:

And, Re-boots & Re-makes… Some will work. Most won’t, though.  Blame Fox’s successful re-boot of The X-Files (which is coming back for 10 more episodes, btw).


  • Starsky & Hutch at TBD. James Gunn (GOTG) can do pretty much whatever he wants in TV, so Sony is going with the flow and re-booting this buddy cop series from the ’70s and hopefully not the Ben Stiller/Owen Wilson feature.
  • Jumper at TBD. Actor Jamie Bell and writer Julian Simpson (Doctor Who) are looking to adapt this 2008 feature which co-starred Bell (and Hayden Christiansen) as teens who teleport and who are being pursued by malevolent folk intent on their  destruction. I liked the movie.  Good idea that’s perfect for The CW or Starz.  Lionsgate produces, so I’d bet on Starz.
  • The Jetsons at ABC.  This seems like a Hail Mary! attempt as the network will ride the Nostalgia Wave and giving Robert Zemeckis a Pilot commitment to transform the well-loved animated classic into a live-action multi-camera sitcom.  Oy vey!
  • The Munsters at NBC. Oh, I don’t think this was the best of Ideas, Bob Greenblatt.
  • The Karate Kid at You Tube Red.  Ralph Macchio returns in this sequel series to the successful film franchise he and Pat Morita launched several decades ago!
  • Miami Vice at NBC.  Vin Diesel scores a big title with his overall deal with Universal, so expect NBC or USA to be the first stops for this re-boot.
  • The L Word at Showtime. Original cast members eyeing a return to a Sequel rather than a re-boot of the popular and groundbreaking Lesbian drama series.
  • Teen Wolf at MTV.  All new cast. All new wolves.
  • Tales of the City at Netflix.  Hey, this series re-boot also qualifies as an adaptation thanks to author Armisted Maupin’s newspaper columns and books, but more likely, it’s a re-boot of the successful miniseries that ran on PBS and later on Showtime.  Lead actors Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis are back for more drama at 28 Barbary Lane. Update is contemporary, so I am guessing it’s Mrs. Madrigal’s swan song.
  • Tremors at SyFy. So much for re-branding. Kevin Bacon reprises his role from the 1990 cult favorite featuring giant Graboid worms out for blood! UCP and Blumhouse produce. Hope they make it fun and not take themselves seriously.
  • Herbie The Love Bug at Disney XD.  Okay, this could be fun.  Miss you, Dean Jones.  Michele Lee, are you in on it?
  • The Good Doctor  at ABC.  A re-make of a South Korean show brought to ABC Studios by Daniel Dae Kim (Hawaii Five-0).  Freddie Highmore (Bates Motel) stars as a brilliant young doctor with a handicap. Here’s the Preview Trailer
  • S.W.A. T.  at CBS. Shemar Moore stars in the TV version of the 2003 Neil Moritz film, which was a feature version of a ’70s TV series.  Justin Lin, Shawn Ryan EP with a hundred other guys, it seems. Just what audiences need:  Another cop show. Yawn.
  • Snowpiercer at TNT.  Daveed Diggs (Black-ish, Hamilton) to star. Scott Derrickson (Doctor Strange) directs the TV version of Boon Joon Ho’s futuristic film about a train filled with humanity’s survivors circling the globe. Josh Friedman (Sarah Conner Chronicles) is the showrunner. Pilot order. Sign me up!
  • Charmed at TBD. The CW developed a re-boot. Netflix may have it now. So far, this way-too-soon re-boot continues to be up in the air.  Oy! Thumbs down.  The creative auspices for The CW version are from Jane the Virgin, so we shall see if this moves forward off-cycle there or at Netflix.
  • What About Bob? at NBC. Gender flip. Sounds terrible. Yet it’s the familiar title that the network (and its studio, Universal) covet. Script order.
  • Dynasty at The CW. Grant Show (Melrose Place) is the new Blake Carrington. Krystle is Latina. Fallon is ….Fallon. Series order.
  • Lost in Space at Netflix.  Series order.  Danger, Will Robinson! Am hoping for a complete re-imagining of this beloved campy classic.
  • Will & Grace at NBC.  Now, NBC has a winner of an Event Series on its hands (or Peacock feathers, if you will) here.  I predict the 10+ episodes will premiere big and ratings will diminish considerably after that…just like the original series! Remarkably, NBC has ordered a S2.  The political humor will be quite timely. The gay jokes will be tiresome. More Grace, Less Will. Here’s the Teaser for the Re-Boot
  • The X-Files at Fox.  Mulder and Scully are coming back for 10 more episodes.  You’ll have to wait until 2018, though.  Meanwhile, check out Gillian Anderson in her fantastic turn as Media on Starz’ terrific American Gods which has been picked up for S2.  Great news for fans of the book.
  • Roseanne at ABC.  I have a very bad feeling about this one.  The entire cast is on board for a revival, though, even both Beckys.
  • She’s Gotta Have It at Netflix.  Spike Lee directs all 10 episodes of the contemporary update of his feature.



And Spin-offs.

Sometimes, ya get Laverne & Shirley. Most times, ya get After-MASH.

  • Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists at Freeform. The Liars move on to a college town, continue to lie and continue to get caught up in murder.  I. Marlene King writes and EPs.
  • Suits at USA.  Gina Torres’ lawyer character gets her own series set in Chicago.
  • How I Met Your Father at 20th (and presumably CBS). Spin-off of How I Met Your Mother which made a cool $1b for 21st Century Fox, so why not.
  • Supernatural at The CW. Now in its 12th season, the women of Supernatural get their own show, The Wayward Sisters, where naturally, they will battle monsters.
  • Game of Thrones at HBO.  The pay cabler has ordered no less than four spinoffs of the mega-hit adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Fire & Ice series.  Max Borenstein (Kong: Skull Island) and Jane Goldman (Kingsman) are two of the scripters.  Bodes well for Westeros. Meanwhile, I am still waiting for Martin to finally publish Book 7, entitled, The Winds of Winter.
  • Sheldon at CBS. Ordered straight to series.  Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons gets an EP credit (and fee). Parsons will narrate the life of Young Sheldon.
  • Mayans MC at FX.  Sons of Anarchy begets a new chapter.  I trust the creative brain trust at FX to get this right.
  • College-ish at ABC. In a very synergistic move, the Black-ish spin-off is laid off at sister network, Freeform. Eldest daughter goes to college.  Sounds like A Different World, the collegiate spin-off from The Cosby Show. Could work…again.
  • Seattle Fire at ABC.  Shonda Rhimes spins off a firehouse drama from Grey’s Anatomy.  Series order. Stacy McKee scripts this ensemble drama. Gonna be hot.
  • The New Pope at HBO. Paolo Sorrentino begins a new chapter following the success of limited series The Young Pope starring Jude Law. One Pope too many?

N E X T   U P:

Forward/Story, A Report From Indonesia!


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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