11 Promising Pilots: Playboy Bunnies, Charlie’s Angels and Other Surefire Fall Bets
Sarah Michelle Gellar, Will Arnett, Kerry Washington
Before the networks unveil their fall lineups next week, TVGuide.com has chosen the 11 most promising pilots:
Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea (NBC)
Starring: Laura Prepon, Lenny Clarke
Summary: An outspoken, sexually aggressive young woman (Prepon) works in a bar, where she drinks away its profits, avoids her eccentric father (Clarke) and goes home with the clientele. Based on comedian Chelsea Handler's best-selling book.
Pedigree: Not only will Handler executive-produce, but she'll co-star as Prepon's stodgy older sister.
Why we like it: Chelsea has no filter, which makes for some pretty risqué comedy. (One joke in the pilot involves excessive pubic hair!) It's a vicarious thrill ride.
Why it has a shot: After a bidding war, Handler became NBC's big "get" for the fall. Plus: It's a put-pilot deal; the network will incur significant penalties if it doesn't air.
Charlie's Angels (ABC)
Starring: Minka Kelly, Rachael Taylor and Annie Ilonzeh
Summary: Based on the 1970s TV show, the Miami-set remake features high-tech gadgetry and an especially youthful cast, including Ramon Rodriguez as a hip, hot Bosley. Old-school smoothie Robert Wagner stands in for the late John Forsythe.
Pedigree: Original series producer Leonard Goldberg, film Angel Drew Barrymore and Smallville's Miles Millar and Al Gough are all producing.
Why we like it: It's high-caliber action sprinkled with a bit of feminine fun, but it's not nearly as campy as the recent Angels films.
Why it has a shot: The series already has a built-in audience and the concept is easy to grasp. Plus: Sexy ladies in bikinis on Miami Beach is kind of a no-brainer.
The New Girl (Fox)
Starring: Zooey Deschanel
Summary: An unlucky-in-love elementary school teacher (Deschanel) moves away from her boyfriend and in with three unruly guys.
Pedigree: Hot screenwriter Liz Meriwether (she of the Natalie Portman-Ashton Kutcher rom-com No Strings Attached) wrote the pilot and will executive-produce.
Why we like it: It's a nice match of actor and writer. Deschanel's frenzied, hipster-next-door charm seems suited to Meriwether's sweet-and-sour writing style.
Why it has a shot: Fox needs a comedy hit that isn't animated to pair with Raising Hope.
Pan Am (ABC)
Starring: Christina Ricci
Summary: The stewardesses and pilots of the titular airline are the stars of this sexy soap set in the Jet Age of the 1960s.
Pedigree: Jack Orman (ER) wrote the pilot and will executive-produce with Tommy Schlamme (The West Wing), who is also directing the pilot.
Why we like it: The first episode starts off like a typical workplace drama, but it's quickly revealed that in addition to coffee and tea, these flight attendants also serve up a tall glass of espionage. Yes, they're spies! Intrigued?
Why it has a shot: In a post-Mad Men world, ABC is not immune to the charms of the scotch-and-sexism bandwagon.
The Playboy Club (NBC)
Starring: Amber Heard, Eddie Cibrian, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, David Krumholtz
Summary: The period drama explores the lives of the first Playboy bunnies (among them, Heard and Dewan-Tatum) and the men who adored them, including Cibrian, who plays a prominent Chicago attorney, and Krumholtz, who manages the club.
Pedigree: Brian Grazer (24, Parenthood and Friday Night Lights) is among the executive producers.
Why we like it: It's a heady goulash of sexual politics, 1960s nostalgia and gritty organized crime.
Why it has a shot: Because the word "Playboy" is in the title.
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar
Summary: A troubled recovering alcoholic (Gellar) who is on the run from some shady characters hides out by assuming the identity of her wealthy twin sister. One problem: Her sibling has a bounty on her head as well.
Pedigree: Eric Carmelo and Nicole Snyder (Supernatural) will executive-produce.
Why we like it: The puzzle of the accumulated details of the sisters' distinct lives unfolds in a clever, satisfying way. Mostly though, we're just excited to see Gellar on TV again.
Why it has a shot: After the success of The Good Wife, CBS might be more in the mood to experiment with a serialized drama with a female star.
Starring: Kerry Washington, Henry Ian Cusick (Lost)
Summary: Washington plays Olivia, a professional "fixer," or crisis management consultant. Based on the career of Judy Smith, who has guided such public figures as Monica Lewinsky and Michael Vick in their hours of need. Cusick plays Olivia's right-hand man.
Pedigree: Shonda Rhimes and Grey's Anatomy's Betsy Beers will executive-produce.
Why we like it: It has a grittiness to it that we like, but its real-world origins keep it grounded. Olivia helps the White House with its own fictional Lewinsky, in the process revealing her own sordid past with the President. Oops!
Why it has a shot: Despite Off the Map's underwhelming performance this season, Rhimes still has some serious juice with the Alphabet network.
Secret Circle (CW)
Starring: Britt Robertson (Life Unexpected)
Summary: Based on the three-book series from The Vampire Diaries author L.J. Smith, the drama focuses on Cassie (Robertson), a young girl who loses her mother, moves to a new town and discovers that she is a witch, the key to a battle between good and evil.
Pedigree: Diaries' Kevin Williamson will executive-produce.
Why we like it: The series has the same dreamy atmospherics as that show over in Mystic Falls, but has the advantage of just one brand of supernatural being.
Why it has a shot: It worked before!
Starring: Debra Messing, Katharine McPhee
Summary: A group of people (including Messing as a put-upon lyricist and McPhee as a spirited ingenue) come together to put on a Broadway show about Marilyn Monroe.
Pedigree: The series is based on an idea by executive producer Steven Spielberg. Grammy and Tony winners Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Hairspray) will write original songs for the show.
Why we like it: We're suckers for stories about backstage drama. Unlike Glee, this is a show for adults, which means it gets vicious, and is thus, very enjoyable.
Why it has a shot: NBC has clearly taken notice of all the revenue streams Fox has for Glee, and wants its own song-and-dance cash cow.
Untitled Susannah Grant Project (CBS)
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Jennifer Ehle
Summary: The life of an ultra-competitive surgeon (Wilson) is changed forever when his ex-wife (Ehle) dies and begins teaching him about life from the hereafter.
Pedigree: Susannah Grant (the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Erin Brockovich) is executive-producing.
Why we like it: Once you get on board with the woo-woo-concept, it's actually quite smart... and sweet.
Why it has a shot: CBS knows from "talking to dead people" shows. Remember The Ghost Whisperer?
Up All Night (NBC)
Starring: Christina Applegate, Will Arnett
Summary: An irreverent look at parenthood from the perspectives of an acerbic working mother (Applegate), her stay-at-home husband (Arnett) and her outspoken mom and dad
Pedigree: Parks and Recreation writer Emily Spivey wrote the pilot and will executive-produce with Saturday Night Live's Lorne Michaels.
Why we like it: The ever-zany Arnett and Applegate seem well cast to play harried parents/children who communicate in sharp, witty dialogue. (For further proof, see Applegate's verbal sparring with Jean Smart on Samantha Who? and Arnett's foray into fatherhood as gay shark Devon Banks on 30 Rock).
Why it has a shot: NBC has had luck with female-skewing comedies from Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Plus: The network will almost certainly have to restock its comedy vault after canceling Perfect Couples, The Paul Reiser Show and, most likely, Outsourced.