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The youth-skewing broadcaster has handed pilot orders to three projects: Ava DuVernay’s superhero drama Naomi, the live-action reboot of The Powerpuff Girls and a millennial nun dramedy exec produced by Jennie Snyder Urman. The network has also ordered a reboot of classic sci-fi drama The 4400 straight-to-series.
The drama has received its second pilot order in as many years at the Disney-owned broadcaster.
CBS is one of the networks that believes in the traditional pilot season. But the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to pivot and hand out a handful of straight-to-series orders for the 2020-21 season including The Equalizer, starring Queen Latifah, and Silence of the Lambs sequel Clarice (above). As this year’s development season continues to be interrupted by the pandemic, the network is considering doing the same again.
Demi Lovato is eyeing her first series-regular TV gig since her Disney Channel days. NBC has given a put pilot commitment to Hungry, a single-camera comedy in which “friends who belong to a food issues group help each other as they look for love, success and the perfect thing in the fridge that’s going to make it all better.”
The network, which has a coronavirus-proof fall schedule, will aim to film its four dramas and two comedies as soon as it’s safe to do so.
The network is picking up the cast options for the five projects that it has committed to producing this year through to Sept. 30. They are dramas Rebel, starring Katey Sagal and Andy Garcia and Delroy Lindo’s Harlem’s Kitchen, as well as comedies Bossy, which was formerly known as Kids Matter Now, Topher Grace’s Home Economics and Work Wife. Rolled over into next year’s development season are Adopted, National Parks Service, which was formerly known as ISB and Triage.
With 11 of 12 pilots unable to complete production before the novel coronavirus forced production to shut down across the industry, NBC has opted to adopt a staggered schedule for its 2020 slate and has identified five that it will film this season.
The 2020 pilot season has remained unfinished business, with pilots ordered but not filmed. And yet, under most extraordinary circumstances, amid a global pandemic that has upended the lives of millions and thrown most industries, including Hollywood, into chaos, it was almost business as usual in the month of May, with three of the five broadcast networks picking up new series out of the pool of pilot orders.
This year, there is no pilot production or testing, there actually isn’t much of anything typically associated with pilot season besides the panic, which has been setting in — and growing — as the coronavirus pandemic rages on. Over the past month and a half, pilot season has been suspended, and upfront presentations have been canceled. Yet, we could somehow potentially end up in a quasi-normal situation, with the broadcast networks making new series orders in May.
The ongoing coronavirus health crisis is giving broadcast pilot season a jolt that might be felt long after the global pandemic is over. Following the unprecedented Hollywood shutdown over the COVID-19 outbreak, which left all but one broadcast pilot in limbo, the networks have ordered at least one backup script each for almost all of their projects.
Out of 55 broadcast pilots, only one, CBS/WBSTV’s B Positive from Chuck Lorre (pictured), has been completed. If the coronavirus pandemic isn’t curbed soon, broadcast networks will likely reassess their pilot slates. Between series with firm and blinking orders, networks have enough of a cushion to reduce their dependence on pilots, but after eight weeks networks can enforce their force majeure contract clause and drop any project with no penalty.
How is this for tragic irony? For decades, network executives have been trying to break out of the traditional development cycle with little success. It may take a cataclysmic event like the current global coronavirus pandemic to finally do that. The fast-spreading outbreak has shut down or postponed production on about 50 scripted series across broadcast and streaming; ultimately, all shows are expected to grind to a halt, and some will end up delivering shorter seasons.
As media giants launch their own streaming services, studios are focused on supplying content to their growing roster of platforms rather than focusing purely on broadcast.
Now more than ever, the broadcast networks are feeling the need to change up their typical pilot season strategy. With existing streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus and Amazon and new competitors like HBO Max and Peacock developing shows year-round, the broadcasters are slowly but surely shifting their plans to include more off-cycle pickups.