PILOT SEASON: Late Pickups, Early Casting, Where Do Networks Stand & Who Will Rose Byrne Pick?
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Pilot pickup season finally got in full swing on Friday with seven orders, four at CBS and three at NBC. That is as many as the broadcast networks had ordered since the first of the year combined as network executives are lamenting the fact that scripts are coming in late this season, delaying pilot orders. Pilot casting, on the other hand, has already started. Part frustration over late scripts, part desire to get a jump on talent led to active pilot casting on a half dozen projects last month, before any had been ordered to pilot. The number expanded further in the first two weeks of January. CBS, for instance, did not formally greenlight the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced drama Hostages to pilot last week until Toni Collette was locked in as the lead.
With the fall producing only three series that can qualify as hits, NBC’s Revolution, the CW’s Arrow and CBS’ Elementary, the networks are back to the drawing board and appear on track to order a number of pilots that will be on par with last year’s haul of 89 (including presentations). That could mean dozens of offers for Damages star Rose Byrne who has emerged as the hottest commodity this pilot casting season, attracting virtually every female lead offer. (She appears more inclined to do comedy but has not ruled out headlining drama if the right project presents itself.)
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As network brass take a breather for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday before what is expected to be an avalanche of pilot pickups tomorrow, here is where each stands. (As usual, there will be some curve balls but maybe not as many as in previous years as the January spec market has been pretty tame this time, so the networks will be choosing predominantly from their development slates.)
One of the biggest surprises this year is how aggressive CBS has been. By this time last year, the network had only ordered one pilot, Jon Favreau’s single-camera spec Tweaked, which was never made. This year, the network already has 9 pilots in contention for next season, including the NCIS: LA planted spinoff.