A Guide to 2014’s Network Comedy Pilots
We’re in the midst of pilot season again, the time of year when the big four networks cast and shoot pilot episodes of potential shows for the 2014-15 TV seasons. One big change this year is that Fox — and to a lesser extent, NBC — are attempting to do away with pilot season and handing out straight-to-series orders or developing shows year-round like cable networks do instead. Fox is still ordering pilots for its comedies to test cast chemistry, but they’re greenlighting pilots with more serious ambitions to turn them into comedies this season. Five new shows from Tina Fey, John Mulaney, Craig Robinson, and more have already been given straight-to-series orders for the fall.
We weeded through the dozes of comedy pilots and shows that have been ordered straight-to-series for the following guide, which will be kept updated as pilot season continues into early spring.
STRAIGHT TO SERIES:
Mr. Robinson – 6 episode order (NBC)
Developed last season, Mr. Robinsonstars Craig Robinson as a musician-turned-middle school music teacher. The original pilot was created by Owen Ellickson, who wrote on the last two seasons of The Office, but Mark and Robb Cullen, creators of ABC’s short-lived Back in the Game and writers of Cop Out, have boarded the project to rewrite the pilot and serve as showrunners. Jean Smart, Amanda Lund, Amandla Sternberg, Steve Little, Kumail Nanjiani, and Steve Agee played supporting roles in the original pilot but it’s not clear now who’s back or who’s not.
Mulaney – 6 episode order (Fox)
NBC passed on Mulaney, created by and starring standup/SNL writer John Mulaney, last year, but Fox stepped in, had the pilot retooled and ordered six episodes. Mulaney plays a standup comic who writes for a game show host Lou Cannon (Martin Short), lives with roommates Jane (SNL‘s Nasim Pedrad) and Motif (standup Seaton Smith), interacts with trust fund kid Andre Van Horn (Zack Pearlman, The Inbetweeners), and has a gay neighbor named Oscar (Elliott Gould).
Untitled Tina Fey/Ellie Kemper project – 13 episode order (NBC)
The first show Tina Fey has created since 30 Rock ended last year, this series was going by the working title of Tooken but is now untitled. NBC gave a rare straight-to-series order to the single-camera comedy, which stars The Office‘s Ellie Kemper as a woman who escapes from a doomsday cult and tries to make a fresh start in New York City. Fey co-created the series with her 30 Rock co-showrunner Robert Carlock, and she has no plans to act in it at this time.
Weird Loners – 6 episode order (Fox)
Created by Michael Weithorn, who was also co-creator of King of Queens, Weird Loners follows four antisocial people who wind up sharing a townhouse together. Zachary Knighton (Happy Endings) and Nate Torrence (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) have been cast as two of the four leads.
Working the Engels – 12 episode order (NBC)
NBC gave a 12-episode straight-to-series order to Working the Engels, a sitcom starring SCTV‘s Andrea Martin that they’ll co-produce with a Canadian network (the first time a US and Canadian broadcaster have ever collaborated on a show). Martin plays the recently-widowed mother who, with the help of her kids, tries to keep her husband’s law firm alive to get the family out of debt. Andrea Martin’s old SCTV co-stars Martin Short and Eugene Levy will be guest starring on the show.
Will Forte is creating and starring in this half-hour sitcom about two strangers, a man and a woman, who must put aside their differences after the apocalypse to ensure the survival of the human race. Forte’s first regular TV project since leaving SNL in 2010, Last Man on Earth is being produced by Lego Movie directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller who are also directing the pilot.
While most of ABC’s current sitcoms are family shows, the batch of pilots they’re producing have fairly-diverse premises. The network is developing a pretty even mix of family comedies, comedies about young people dating, and weird off-beat comedies that you don’t really see on ABC right now.
An adaptation of the British comedy Bad Education, An American Education stars the UK’s Jack Whitehall, who created and starred in the original version, as a passionate but unorthodox public school teacher at odds with administrators. The supporting cast includes Rosie Perez and Phil Morris, who played Jackie Chiles on Seinfeld. Writing team Peter Huyck and Alex Gregory (King of the Hill, A Good Old Fashioned Orgy) are scripting the adaptation.
One of two pilots created by Happy Endings writer Brian Gallivan this season, this untitled comedy follows an overworked father who moves his family to New Hampshire to open and run tourist cottages so they can be “on vacation all year.”
Executive produced by Laurence Fishburne and Anthony Anderson, Black-ish stars Anderson as an upper-middle-class black man trying to raise his kids with some kind of cultural identity. The pilot is loosely based on the life of creator Kenya Barris (The Game).
A single-camera comedy about modern sexual politics between men and women, written by Lauren Iungerich who created MTV’s Awkward.
One of two pilots written by Don’t Trust the B—- creator Nahnatchka Khan, Fresh Off the Boat is based on the book of the same name by Eddie Huang and it follows a Taiwanese family that moves to Orlando, Florida, in the 1990s. Jake Kasdan, who produces New Girl and directed Walk Hard and Bad Teacher, is executive producing.
A fairy tale musical comedy created by Dan Fogelman, who created ABC’s The Neighbors and wrote the Seth Rogen/Barbra Streisand comedy The Guilt Trip.
David Schwimmer stars in this pilot, which is based on Israel’s #1 original comedy Bilti Hafich. He will play half of a self-absorbed, eccentric couple who are always creating problems for themselves. Segahl Avin, who co-created the Israeli show, is co-writing the adaptation, which will be partially-improvised like Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Co-created by Kevin Hart and Dan Harmon’s old Community co-showrunners Neil Goldman and Garrett Donovan, this untitled comedy follows the life of a couple who try to stay friends post-divorce for the sake of their kids. Romany Malco will play the lead character, while Kevin Hart is expected to play a recurring role if the pilot goes to series.
My Thoughts Exactly
A romantic comedy about a couple whose secret thoughts the audience hears via voiceover. Jeff Lowell, who wrote John Tucker Must Die and was most recently staffed on Two and a Half Men, created the pilot.
Created by writer/actor Christopher Moynihan (ABC’s short-lived 2011 sitcom Man Up), St. Francis follows a conservative blue collar cop (Michael Imperioli) fighting the increasingly-liberal world he lives in while his 29-year-old sister (Paget Brewster) gets pregnant out of wedlock. It’s like if Archie Bunker was a cop in 2014.
After becoming the star of an embarrassing viral video, a 20something woman (Karen Gillan) hires a marketing expert to repair her image. Selfie was written by Suburgatory creator Emily Kapnek.
Rolled over from a script that was sold to ABC last pilot season, Strange Calls is based on the Australian series of the same name and it follows a cop and a paranormal investigators investigating unexplained phenomenon on Nantucket Island. Donick Cary (New Girl, Bored to Death) is adapting for US audiences.
Henry Winkler and wife Stacey Winkler star in this multi-camera comedy about an emotionally-reserved construction worker coming out of his shell. Winklers was created by the stars’ son, director Max Winkler (New Girl); son-in-law, Rob Reines; and Everybody Loves Raymond creator Phil Rosenthal. New Girl‘s Jake Johnson is executive producing.
With How I Met Your Mother ending, CBS is working on its spinoff, How I Met Your Dad, in addition to a bunch of family sitcoms, some of which were resurrected from last season.
Rolled over and revamped from last year’s pilot season, this is standup Jim Gaffigan’s semi-autobiographical comedy starring him as a married father of five living with his family in an apartment in New York. Gaffigan co-created the show with Peter Tolan (Rescue Me), and the cast also features Ashley Williams, Adam Goldberg, Tongayi Chirisa, and Michael Ian Black.
A single-camera comedy, Good Session was co-created by Chuck writer Matthew Miller and I Love You Man director/Meet the Parents writer John Hamburg. It follows a married couple who see a therapist to see if they should have a kid but find they have other issues to discuss.
With How I Met Your Mother winding down in March, How I Met Your Dad is a spinoff that doesn’t feature any of the same characters and has a female title character but does use the same narrative structure and setting. Greta Gerwig will play the lead character and will also serve as a writer on the show.
CBS’s second pilot to be carried over and retooled from 2013, The McCarthys was created by Happy Endings writer Brian Gallivan and almost made it to series last year. The pilot follows the gay son of a loud Boston sports family. Cast members from the original pilot Jack McGee and Joey McIntyre are returning to play the father and one of the brothers, respectively, while Tyler Ritter, Laurie Metcalf, Jimmy Dunn, and Kelen Coleman are new to the cast.
Multi-camera sitcom The Mistake follows a couple who just finished raising their kids but then finds out they’re pregnant. The pilot was co-created by Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm alum David Mandel, and Friends alums Scott Silveri and Shana Goldberg-Meehan who created Joey together.
Executive produced by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, More Time with Family is a multi-camera comedy about a guy (standup Tom Papa) who makes a career change to spend “more time with his family,” only to find that his family doesn’t have time for him. How I Met Your Mother‘s Alyson Hannigan has been cast as Papa’s wife.
Save the Date
Created by That ’70s Show writers Jackie and Jeff Filgo, Save the Date follows a newly-single 35-year-old woman who drunkenly books a wedding chapel and decides to try to meet the right man in time.
Previously developed for HBO, Taxi-22 is based on the French-Canadian show of the same name about an antisocial, politically incorrect cab driver. The series is being adapted by Tad Quill, Scrubs writing staff alum and creator of the short-lived 2012 NBC series Bent.
Fox announced a big change this year with a plan to develop series year-round and order shows straight-to-series instead of wasting a bunch of money, time, and resources on pilots. That applies more to drama than sitcoms since Fox execs want to use pilots to test comedy cast chemistry, but they’ve still ordered Mulaney and Weird Loners straight to series (see above).
A comedy about a women’s college that just opened its doors to men for the first time, Cabot College was created by longtime 30 Rock writer/producer Matt Hubbard and is being executive produced by Tina Fey and fellow 30 Rock co-showrunner Robert Carlock and EP David Miner. The pilot, which has received a “blind series commitment” from Fox, follows a women’s college that opens its doors to men for the first time. The Fox deal doesn’t mean that it’ll definitely make it on the air, but it does mean odds are very good. Margaret Cho and Chelsea Lately’s Fortune Feimster are part of the ensemble cast.
Based on the British series of the same name created by Sharon Horgan and Holly Walsh, Dead Boss follows a woman (30 Rock‘s Jane Krakowski) wrongfully convicted of murdering her boss who’s using her irresponsible sister to prove her innocence. Suburgatory writer/producer Patricia Breen is adapting the pilot.
Expected to get a series order, Fatrick is a single-camera comedy about a 30something man (Zach Cregger, Guys with Kids) named Patrick facing the damage caused by being overweight as a kid, and it’ll have a split focus between him as an adult and as a child. Don’t Trust the B—- creator Nahnatchka Khan co-created the pilot with Corey Nickerson who wrote on her previous show, and the pilot is being directed by Oscar-winning writers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. Fatrick is a frontrunner for a series order but hasn’t received one yet.
Here’s Your Damn Family
A family comedy following a 30something guy (Jon Heder) living with his mom (Malcolm in the Middle‘s Jane Kaczmarek) and has been single for two decades until she quickly remarries a guy who moves in with them along with his teenage kids. Here’s Your Damn Family was created by Family Guy alum Ricky Blitt, who also created the short-lived sitcoms Romantically Challenged (ABC, 2010) and The Winner (Fox, 2007).
A multi-camera comedy about a self-destructive attorney who is given an unconventional court-appointed sober companion, the pilot was written by David S. Rosenthal (The Middle, 90210) and Jennie Snyder Urman (Emily Owens M.D., 90210).
Like Fox, NBC has also given straight-to-series orders to a few comedies without having produced a pilot. They’re also slightly moving away from the kind of broad shows they’ve been doing recently (Michael J. Fox Show, Go On, etc.) while working with folks responsible for their critically-acclaimed older shows (Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Craig Robinson) to make shows more akin to The Office, 30 Rock, and Parks and Rec.
A single-camera ensemble romantic comedy about the world of online dating, A to Z is being written by Ben Queen (Cars 2, Fox’s Drive) and executive produced by Rashida Jones and Will McCormack.
Executive produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay via their company Gary Sanchez, Bad Judge stars Kate Walsh as a woman whose rowdy personal life is at odds with her career as a judge in the San Bernardino Criminal Court system. Mather Zickel (Newsreaders) will play the male lead, a psychiatrist who has an on-again-off-again relationship with Walsh’s character. Bad Judge was created by Chad Kultgen, who sold multiple network pilots in the past and wrote the original draft of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, when it was called Burt Dickenson: The Most Powerful Magician on Planet Earth and before it was completely rewritten.
Ellen More or Less (working title)
Created by JJ Philbin (New Girl), Ellen More or Less follows a woman loses a 100 pounds and reinvents herself. The pilot is being executive produced by Jason Katims, who developed Parenthood and the upcoming About a Boy into TV shows for NBC.
A single-camera comedy following a young woman who’s the last one of her friends to become engaged, Fifth Wheel was created by TV newcomers Heidi Niedermeyer and Elena Crevello, who wrote the viral video “Shit People in L.A. Say.”
Written by longtime Friends writer and What I Like About You creator, Lifesaver is described as an odd couple comedy about two opposite people who have to stick together after one donates a kidney to the other.
Created by Sacha Baron Cohen’s longtime writing partner Dan Mazer, Love Is Relative is a multi-camera comedy about a newly-married couple who start to see their marriage in a new light after the wife’s newly-divorced couple moves in with them.
So far, Marry Me has one of the most impressive casts/creative teams this season, with Casey Wilson and Ken Marino starring in the comedy, which was created by Happy Endings creator David Caspe. Wilson and Marino played a couple who get engaged, only to discover getting married is harder than it seems. John Gemberling (Broad City) is playing a supporting role as Marino’s best friend and Tim Meadows is playing one of Wilson’s gay parents.
Co-created by Casey Wilson and June Diane Raphael, The Mason Twins follows a pair of fraternal twins who reunite as adults after 15 years apart to find that one is focused on her career and the other is still hanging around her hometown. Raphael and Childrens Hospital‘s Erinn Hayes are playing the two lead roles.
Mission Control is an astronaut workplace comedy set in 1962 that was created by longtime Always Sunny in Philadelphia writer/actor David Hornsby, who also starred in and created the short-lived 2011 CBS sitcom How to Be a Gentleman. The show follows a confident woman (Krysten Ritter, Don’t Trust the B) who butts heads with a jerk astronaut a la Anchorman, and the show is produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay.
A remake of the 1986 Tom Hanks/Shelley Long movie, The Money Pit follows a couple who buys a mansion, only to find it’s in need of costly repairs. Justin Spitzer, who was a writer/producer on The Office from its third season on, will write the adaptation. Steven Spielberg’s company, Amblin, who made the original movie, will produce.
Amy Poehler co-created and is executive producing Old Soul. The pilot is loosely based on Natasha Lyonne’s life and stars her as a young woman working as a caretaker for a group of elderly people. Poehler is co-writing the pilot with Josh Bycel and Jonathan Fener, who wrote on Happy Endings and other shows together, and David Wain is directing it. Rita Moreno has joined the cast as a former Broadway star who is one of Lyonne’s clients, and standup Nick Thune is playing Lyonne’s roommate and friend.
Ellen DeGeneres is exec producing this multi-camera sitcom about a lesbian (Elisha Cuthbert, Happy Endings) and her straight male best friend (Nick Zano, 2 Broke Girls) who are having a baby together, right before he meets and marries the love of his life. One Big Happy is created by Liz Feldman (2 Broke Girls, Ellen).
Rob Lowe may have left Parks and Recreation this season, but he’s sticking around NBC. He’s executive producing and starring in The Pro, a single-camera sitcom created by writing team Pete Huyck and Alex Gregory (Larry Sanders Show, King of the Hill). Lowe will play a former tennis champ named “Big Ben” Bertrahm who is now down and out, working at a tennis and golf club trying to climb his way back to being wealthy. It sounds kind of like a more mainstream and smilier Eastbound & Down. Rob Riggle is playing Lowe’s former tennis partner.
Two to Go
Executive produced by Jason Bateman, Two to Go follows two people who are the last single ones in a group of friends that is moving into marriage and parenthood. The show is written by Bryan Shukoff and Kevin Chesley (The Hard Times of RJ Berger).