First look at 2011-12 pilots: NBC

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The pilot season for broadcast networks is heating up - most are cast and beginning production. Not all these pilots will air as everything is whittled down in early summer, and even more will likely get canceled. But, this year's crop of newbies has potential so here's a rundown of some of the more interesting pilots to keep an eye on for fall … if they make it that far.

NBC is taking some risks this fall because, well, they have to. They're dead last in key ratings demos and look to inject some buzz into their lineup with new dramas that hit popular tropes - Sci-Fi, superheroes, reboots/adaptations, 1960s Americana. We'll see if these familiar concepts can be groundbreaking. The one area NBC is strong is its Thursday night comedy block where the four staples have already been renewed. Yeah, more "Community" and Parks and Rec!"

David E. Kelly's "Wonder Woman" reboot is getting the most press, especially the pictures of Adrianne Palicki in the super heroine's new duds. I have serious doubts about this one, especially Kelly. The early word on his pilot script is it's just terrible. Very disappointing because Wonder Woman is probably the most iconic female superhero and Palicki seems more than capable for the part.

"The Playboy Club" (aka "Playboy") is the network's attempt to cash in on the booze-filled free love nostalgia of the 1960s that "Mad Men" has done so well. About the famous 1960's gentleman's club in Chicago and starring Amber Heard, this could be a big risk, big reward situation - especially given today's news that the cast has signed nudity clauses. If done right, and with the right amount of edge, that you don't normally find on broadcast, those "Mad Men"-shaped holes in our hearts could be filled.

Still, NBC's biggest risk may be the Kyle Killen (creator of "Lone Star") project "REM." Billed as "an 'Inception'-style thriller" where a cop bounces between realities - one where his son dies, and in the other his wife. "Brotherhood's" Jason Issacs stars as the cop, and "Terriers" alum Lauren Allen was recently bumped up to the female lead after originally cast in a supporting role. Smart move, Allen is incredibly talented, if mostly unknown.

The risk is "REM" looks to be a highly serialized drama with intricate plot mechanisms. Broadcast viewers usually hate complex, intelligent shows - that's why "Two and a Half Men" and "C.S.I." are so popular. And even though Killen is a talented showrunner with brilliant ideas, his critically-acclaimed "Lone Star" was booted from Fox last fall after only two episodes. Critics and general audiences have very different opinions on what makes good television.

The one pilot that seems to have a built-in fanbase with strong pedigree is "17th Precinct" from "Battlestar Galactica" creator Ron Moore. It's a police drama (which people like) set in a world of Harry Potter-type magic (which people really like). Moore is more than adept in the sci-fi/fantasy arena and if he receives a big budget this could look really cool, too. I expect to get picked up for a full season.

Lastly, an adaptation of the popular British series "Prime Suspect" starring Helen Mirren is in the works starring Maria Bello, Kirk Acevedo and Aidan Quinn. It's got a good cast and great source material, and should be hard to screw up. But, you never know.

On the comedy side, Chelsea Handler is producing the series "Are you there, Vodka? It's me, Chelsea" based on her same-name memoir. Starring Laura Prepon ("That 70s Show") as a younger Handler, it could immensely popular. People like Handler's brand of comedy, but I'm not a huge fan.