It goes without saying that J.J. Abrams is hot stuff in Hollywood. He's got the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises, and, as of Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon, he's got two TV pilots set to air. Fox ordered Almost Human, a police drama involving robots, before NBC went for Believe, a series about a girl with special powers and the ex-con who taked with protecting her. But while J.J. Abrams shows are undoubtedly sexy, they also aren't always successful.
Networks, of course, place all sorts of hopes on all shows that go to series. But NBC is probably hoping Believe is a mega-hit in the making. It's got Abrams executive producing alongside Children of Men's Alfonso Cuarón, who wrote and directed the pilot, and it stars Kyle MacLachlan—of Twin Peaks lore and Sex and the City fame. But NBC has been let down by Abrams before. Last year's big upfront reveal, Revolution, wasn't the run away success the network was hoping for—and this network needs success stories. Revolution is doing fine now, but the big-budget blackout drama has been buoyed by its big-time lead-in, The Voice, as TV by the Numbers' Bill Gorman explained, and it may crash and burn without that kind of support. We'll have to wait to see these two new shows at NBC and Fox's upfront presentations on Monday, but it's true: not everything Abrams touches, at least on the small screen, turns into automatic gold.
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Abrams has been executive producer on ten shows, beginning with Felicity in 1998. Alias, Lost, and Fringe have all surpassed 100 episodes. Person of Interest has been on the air since 2011. It's probably fair to call What About Brian, Six Degrees, Undercovers, and Alcatraz all failures. Revolution is on the fence. Of note, Abrams's stats look even better when you take into account the shows which he was a writer/creator on: Felicity, Alias, Lost, Fringe, and Undercovers.
Pointing all of this out is not to undermine Abrams, who does have a good—if not fantastic—track record, but his name alone doesn't guarantee that Almost Human or Believe (which he didn't write) will help their networks, both of which, actually, are in need of some help. NBC also picked up the Dermot Mulroney-starring drama Crisis, and the comedies Sean Saves the World, featuring a Will & Grace reunion of sorts, About a Boy, an adaptation of the Nick Hornby-adapted film, and The Family Guide with Parker Posey.
(Stay tuned to the Wire's Upfront Central for the latest on all the new shows all week long.)