Before the networks unveil their fall lineups in May, TVGuide.com has chosen the 13 most promising pilots:
1600 Penn (NBC)
Starring: Bill Pullman, Josh Gad, Jenna Elfman
Summary: It's a family drama set in the White House. Papa POTUS (Pullman) and his first lady (Elfman) live very public lives, but behind the scenes, their kids (including Gad and Superbad's Martha MacIsaac) are a hot mess.
Pedigree: Book of Mormon's Gad wrote the pilot and will executive-produce with Modern Family's Jason Winer.
Why we like it: It's Modern Family, but the Jay Pritchett character is the leader of the free world.
Why it has a shot: ABC revived the family format to great success, and NBC could afford to jump on those coattails, especially in an election year. Plus: Who wouldn't want to peek behind the curtain of the most powerful family in America? (No, not the Kardashians.)
Starring: Stephen Amell, Katie Cassidy
Summary: Hung's Amell stars as DC superhero Green Arrow in this modern retelling of the legendary archer's adventures. Melrose Place reboot alum Cassidy plays his love interest, the future Black Canary.
Pedigree: Brothers & Sisters' Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim will executive-produce with The Vampire Diaries' Andrew Kreisberg.
Why we like it: While the concept is similar to Smallville, it's grittier and more fast-paced than its predecessor. Plus: Oliver Queen is a wealthy playboy who decides to hone his natural-born skills to make a difference, which makes it much more like Batman Begins than Superman Returns.
Why it has a shot: Smallville fans and comic-book aficionados — i.e. men — will flock to it, giving the CW audience a much-needed boost of testosterone.
The Carrie Diaries (CW)
Starring: AnnaSophia Robb, Austin Butler
Summary: Based on the novel by Candace Bushnell, a teenaged Carrie Bradshaw (Robb) comes of age in the '80s, when she first wondered aloud about love, sex —Butler plays a proto-Mr. Big — friendship and family.
Pedigree: Bushnell will executive-produce alongside Gossip Girl superstars Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, Len Goldstein and Sex and the City writer Amy Harris.
Why we like it: Have you seen Sex and the City? Wouldn't you love to go back 20 years and find out how Carrie Bradshaw fell for the love of her life: New York City?
Why it has a shot: The brand already has a built-in audience, and its high school setting will indoctrinate a new generation into the world of Manolos and Cosmos.
Starring: Jonny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu
Summary: It's a modern take on the cases of Sherlock Holmes, in which Sherlock (Eli Stone's Miller) is a recovering addict and consultant for the NYPD. Liu plays his distaff Watson.
Pedigree: Robert Doherty (Medium) penned the pilot and will executive-produce with Justified duo Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly.
Why we like it: Watson is a woman! And that woman is Lucy Liu! Awesome, right?
Why it has a shot: More than 100 years after first appearing in publication, the Sherlock Holmes mythology still entertains. (Just ask Robert Downey Jr.)
Last Resort (ABC)
Starring: Andre Braugher, Scott Speedman, Robert Patrick
Summary: A renegade crew of a nuclear submarine (among them Speedman and Patrick), led by Men of a Certain Age's Braugher, go AWOL after defying an order to fire nuclear missiles. They find sanctuary at a NATO base where they declare themselves the world's smallest nuclear nation.
Pedigree: The Shield's Shawn Ryan executive-produces the pilot, which he wrote with Karl Gajdusek (Dead Like Me).
Why we like it: The immaculately scripted pilot plays like a tense wartime thriller (think of sub-based classics like The Hunt for Red October or Das Boot), a genre not often seen on episodic television.
Why it has a shot: ABC could really use a series that appeals to men.
Starring: Connie Britton, Hayden Panettiere
Summary: This family soap plays out in the Nashville music scene and tells the story of two musicians, one who's already a star (Britton) and the other who's on the rise (Panettiere).
Pedigree: Callie Khouri (Thelma & Louise) and RJ Cutler (the documentarian behind The War Room) wrote the pilot and will executive-produce.
Why we like it: Even if you don't like country music, you'll immediately fall in love with this pilot's Southern charm. Plus: The open hostility between Britton and Panettiere's characters is delicious.
Why it has a shot: Fresh off her unexpected run on American Horror Story, Britton is a hot commodity that any network would be lucky to have.
The New Normal (NBC)
Starring: Andrew Rannells, Justin Bartha, Ellen Barkin
Summary: A gay couple — Book of Mormon's Rannells and The Hangover's Bartha — try to start a family with the help of a surrogate. Barkin plays the birth mother's not-so-tolerant grandmother.
Pedigree: Along with fellow Glee producer Ali Adler, Ryan Murphy co-wrote the pilot and will executive-produce.
Why we like it: Murphy balances his acerbic writing style with an honest portrayal of something people of all sexual orientations struggle with: trying to have a child.
Why it has a shot: Murphy is a hit-maker (see: Glee, American Horror Story, Nip/Tuck, etc.), and NBC is probably chomping at the bit to get into business with him. Plus: If this and 1600 Penn both go to series, NBC can brag about snagging both stars of the wildly successful Broadway musical Book of Mormon.
Nic and Jen (NBC)
Starring: Andrea Anders, Minnie Driver, Josh Hopkins
Summary: Two friends, one put-together (Anders) and one not so (Driver), can't live without each other, much to the chagrin of the former's husband (Hopkins).
Pedigree: Kari Lizer (The New Adventures of Old Christine) wrote the pilot and will executive-produce.
Why we like it: It's essentially what happens about two years after Bridesmaids ends (but don't worry, no one defecates in a sink).
Why it has a shot: Female-centric comedies haven't set the world of fire on the Peacock (See: Whitney and Are You There, Chelsea?), so NBC needs a win in that column.
Starring: David Krumholtz, Michael Urie, Sophia Bush, Brandon Routh
Summary: Lifelong friends and business partners — one straight (Krumholtz) and one gay (Urie) — navigate tricky waters when one decides to propose to his girlfriend (Bush), leaving the other in an awkward position with his boyfriend (Routh).
Pedigree: Will & Grace duo David Kohan and Max Mutchnick will executive-produce.
Why we like it: The men's banter recalls the rat-a-tat-tat days of Will & Grace, another show in which you wonder if any outsider has a shot at getting between the real couple of the show.
Why it has a shot: CBS does well with multi-camera comedies (see: The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother), but not since Everybody Loves Raymond has the network won an Emmy in that category. Will & Grace won 16.
The Selection (CW)
Starring: Aimee Teegarden, Ethan Peck
Summary: Based on the book series by Kiera Cass, this epic romance is set 300 years in the future. A poor young woman named America (Teegarden) is chosen by lottery to participate in a ruthless competition to become Peck's future queen.
Pedigree: The Vampire Diaries' Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain wrote the pilot and will executive-produce.
Why we like it: It's The Hunger Games meets The Bachelor! Yeah, it's definitely weird, but trust us, the catty backstabbing among the potential wives is just as compelling as The Bachelor's ridiculousness and less bloody than Games' serial child murders.
Why it has a shot: In a post-Hunger Games world, this show's wacky premise is suddenly completely viable — both creatively and financially. (And remember, this is the network that capitalized on Twilight mania with The Vampire Diaries.)
Untitled Mindy Kaling Project (Fox)
Starring: Mindy Kaling, Anna Camp — Ed Helms and Bill Hader will guest-star
Summary: The Office's Kaling stars as a Bridget Jones-type OB/GYN trying to navigate both her personal and professional life. Her well-connected friend (Camp) is always bailing her out, and her love life (Helms and Hader are among her suitors) is continually in flux.
Pedigree: Kaling wrote the pilot and will executive-produce with Office producer Howard Klein.
Why we like it: Kaling captures the raw comedy of a not-so-polished woman who believes in the promise of the romantic comedy movies she reveres. And even if we haven't personally been arrested for drunk-driving a bicycle into a pool ourselves (as Kaling's character is in the pilot), we can certainly relate to the potential humiliation of singledom.
Why it has a shot: Fox already tested out a Tuesday night comedy block without success, but Kaling, and her wealth of funny friends — move over, 30 Rock, this is where the best and brightest guest stars will soon be popping up — could pair very well with New Girl.
Untitled Ralph Lamb Project (CBS)
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Michael Chiklis, Jason O'Mara, Carrie-Anne Moss
Summary: Set in 1960s Las Vegas, this is the true story of Ralph Lamb (Quaid) — a rodeo cowboy-turned-sheriff who, along with his brother (O'Mara), go toe-to-toe with the Mob (Chiklis among them). Moss portrays his potential love interest, with whom he shares a past.
Pedigree: Goodfellas' Nicholas Pileggi and Without a Trace's Greg Walker wrote the pilot and will executive-produce alongside Men in Trees duo James Mangold and Cathy Konrad.
Why we like it: Cowboys take on the Mob among the rich narrative territory of Sin City's heyday.
Why it has a shot: It's got a long list of things CBS loves, including being a crime drama with an A-list pedigree.
Untitled Kevin Williamson project (Fox)
Starring: Kevin Bacon, James Purefoy
Summary: In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, an incarcerated, though still diabolical serial killer (Purefoy) taunts the damaged FBI profiler (Bacon) who captured him by recruiting an army of deluded followers.
Pedigree: Kevin Williamson wrote the pilot and will executive-produce.
Why we like it: Forget the Williamson that created lovey-dovey Dawson's Creek and The Vampire Diaries, and remember that the man is also responsible for writing the Scream movies. This pilot is tense, terrifying and — dare we say — witty?
Why it has a shot: Bacon. Williamson. Need we say more?
Which of these pilots sounds the most promising to you?
Related Articles on TVGuide.com
- Pilot Scoop: Check out the pilots that are in contention at ABC
- Pilot Scoop: Check out the pilots that are in contention at CBS
- Pilot Scoop: Check out the pilots that are in contention at The CW
- Pilot Scoop: Check out the pilots that are in contention at Fox
- Pilot Scoop: Check out the pilots that are in contention at NBC