With options expiring June 30, ABC has reduced its remaining pilot crop.
Of ABC’s five remaining drama pilots, the network has expanded options on Disney’s fairytale entry Epic and Latinx family drama Promised land. This means that the pilots Triage, National Parks Survey and Black Horse no longer advance. Black Horse, based on an Australian format, will be purchased by producers Universal Television. Elsewhere in pilot decisions, NBC passed on its comedy Jim Jefferies.
Epic, which marks the return to ABC for Once upon a time creators Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, was chosen to pilot in January and was cast. The fairytale anthology stars Brittany O’Grady and Modern familyby Sarah Hyland and is produced in-house at ABC Signature, where Kitsis and Horowitz are the subject of a global agreement.
Promised land was another pilot commissioned in early 2021. From writer Matt Lopez (who is writing the Father of the bride update for Warner Bros.), the drama is an entry spanning a generation about two Latinx families vying for wealth and power in California’s Sonoma Valley. Jean Ortiz (Luck) and Christina Ochoa (Animal Kingdom) star in the ABC Signature drama.
Both Epic and Promised land were ordered to pilot under ABC’s new executive regime, which in December saw Hulu’s Craig Erwich add broadcast network oversight to his jurisdiction after his predecessor, Karey Burke, was promoted to oversee the studio 20th Television owned by Disney. Burke and Erwich developed both shows.
As for pilot passes, Black Horse was also chosen to pilot in March under the supervision of Erwich. William Jehu Garroutte, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, wrote the script for a drama about an Indigenous woman entering politics. The pilot was never cast. The project was a co-production between Universal TV, ABC Signature and Keshet, who oversaw the Australian original.
National parks survey was also a co-production between A + E Studios (which Big sky back for a second season on ABC) and 20th TV. Kevin Costner wrote the script for the drama about a group of national park security guards solving crimes while protecting national treasures. Billy Campbell starred in the drama. National parks survey was picked to pilot twice – once in early 2020 and again early this year – as the novel coronavirus pandemic upended last year’s pilot season.
Complete the passes is Sorting, another holdover from last year that must have been filmed after the pandemic. The medical drama with a story spanning more than three decades starred Michael Ealy and hailed from Criminal minds showrunner Erica Messer. The project was produced by 20th Television. Messer, meanwhile, now has a revival of Criminal minds working for Paramount +, which is probably his top priority.
The pandemic wiped out the 2020 pilot season, forcing comedies and dramas picked up over a year ago to compete with other newly commissioned projects. Some pilots from last year’s crop have gone straight into series and produced entirely during the pandemic, with most of this year’s first-year crop not having reached a second season. ABC’s Rookie Class is back Big sky and comedy Domestical economy, while Call your mother and Rebel have both been canceled.
ABC has already added four new series for the 2021-22 airing season – comedies Abbott School, Maggie and The good years updated as well as hip-hop drama Queens – with Epic and now Promised land also in the running for production vans for a possible mid-season or beyond the premiere.
As for the other four broadcast networks, only NBC has other pilots still waiting for a word on their future after the network passes the 2020 deadline. Jefferies. The comedian was to play and write Universal TV’s multicamera comedy, Suzanne Martin and Sean Hayes (Hot in Cleveland). The project was taken over to pilot in January 2020 by the former NBC regime. The network is now part of a content portfolio overseen by Susan Rovner and Frances Berwick.
NBC’s roster of remaining pilots consists of a mix of 2020 relics and 2021 additions with comedies Crazy for you, hungry, night court and Someone there; as well as dramas At this age, Dangerous Moms, Echo, Getaway and the untitled Nick Wootton. Of these, sources say the cast Echo – of The blacklist producers John Davis and John Fox and writer JJ Bailey – could upgrade to a streamer.
Elsewhere, The CW is redeveloping Greg Berlanti and Diablo Cody’s Powerful, although it is not clear if this has an impact on the 2021-22 schedule.
In the aftermath of the pandemic, broadcast networks have shifted more to a year-round development schedule, with pilots vying beyond the traditional start of the year. The pilot season has always been an insane time of year, as the five broadcast networks compete for top talent, directors and filming locations in the same three-month window. The year-round move follows a cable and streaming model while allowing broadcast networks to take more time with scripting.
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