TV has always been a crap shoot, and the odds of landing a series on the air are long. But don't bet against writer and producer Greg Berlanti, who has managed to land a whopping five pilot orders this winter — including two at CBS and one each at Fox, The CW and USA.
Berlanti, whose previous credits include Brothers & Sisters and Everwood, leads the list of this year's hot pilot producers. "The real work of casting and putting together great production teams is still to come," he says.
Berlanti's pilots include The CW's Arrow, starring Stephen Amell as DC Comics hero the Green Arrow, a vigilante superhero whose real identity is billionaire politician Oliver Queen. He's also the writer and exec producer behind the D.C. drama Political Animals, which USA immediately gave a 6-episode order (to air this summer).
At CBS, Berlanti co-created a multi-camera comedy with How I Met Your Mother writer Greg Malins. That pilot, which will be directed by James Burrows (whose pilots have a knack of getting series orders), revolves around a man who realizes he's in love with his female best friend. Berlanti also has the CBS cop drama pilot Golden Boy, about the meteoric rise of a Manhattan cop; and the legal drama Guilty, which centers on a disbarred defense attorney who takes on cases outside the system, at Fox.
Berlanti co-wrote Arrow with his frequent collaborator Marc Guggenheim (Eli Stone), while Guggenheim also wrote Guilty. Nicholas Wootton (Chuck) is the writer behind Golden Boy.
"We had a clear strategy of working with writers we knew and on ideas we were excited about," says Berlanti, who's in his first year under a new deal for his Berlanti Television production company at Warner Bros. TV. "It's big characters with juicy parts for actors, and hopefully they feel like sustainable TV shows."
Other producers having a good pilot season include Terra Nova executive producer Aaron Kaplan, who has four pilots in the works, including Kirstie Alley's ABC sitcom The Manzanis and and HBO's Viagra Diaries. Mark Gordon (Grey's Anatomy) also has four new projects in the works, including an ABC pilot with Roland Emmerich, the Showtime drama Ray Donovan, starring Liev Schreiber, Elliott Gould and Jon Voight, and the ABC comedy White Van Man.
Producers landing three pilots apiece include Marty Adelstein, Becky Clements and Shawn Levy's 21 Laps/Adelstein Productions, with pilots including Shopgirls at E! Entertainment; 3 Arts' Howard Klein, an executive producer on Greg Daniels' U.K. adaptation Friday Night Dinner at NBC and Mindy Kaling's untitled Fox comedy; and Peter Chernin and Katherine Pope's Chernin Entertainment, including Demitri Martin's animated comedy at Fox.
Then there are the household producer names, many of whom also have been busy this winter. Big-time TV producers Josh Schwartz, J.J. Abrams and John Wells each have two pilots this season. Schwartz's roster includes The Carrie Diaries at the CW, while Abrams has Revolution at NBC and Wells has pilots at NBC and Fox.