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FOX Looks to Some Familiar Faces For its Last Traditional Pilot Season

The network says it plans to move off-cycle after making this spring's pilot orders.
  • Small screen returns for Mayim Bialik and Sarah Michelle Gellar are among the series being developed at FOX this year.
    Small screen returns for Mayim Bialik and Sarah Michelle Gellar are among the series being developed at FOX this year.

    With the broadcast network development cycle back in full swing. Primetimer’s resident pilots expert Jean-Maxime Renault is firing up his coverage of pilot season this week with a look at some of the most exciting projects being developed at each of the broadcast networks. Today: FOX. Which of their projects will be ordered to pilot, and which of those will get a series order? Visit our pilots area daily for complete coverage.

    As it enters its first pilot season without 20th Century FOX Television as an in-house studio, the FOX network seems to be in the throws of an identity crisis, at least as far as scripted programming goes. Unscripted is in much better shape, thanks to sports and reality programming. The Masked Singer is a bonafide hit for the network (with a spinoff on the way), while football, baseball and wrestling continue to draw a large male-dominated audience to the network.

    It’s a less rosy picture on the scripted side. Empire will soon be gone, Almost Family is a flop and Deputy faces an uncertain future. All is not lost, however: both 9-1-1 and its spinoff 9-1-1: Lone Star should be solid performers into the foreseeable future, Last Man Standing continues to draw a crowd, and new fall entry Prodigal Son is doing well enough to earn an early renewal for next year.

    But what’s the FOX scripted brand? The only area where there’s a clear answer is Sunday nights and animation domination. Over the past year, Fox Entertainment (the new name of the network’s in-house production entity) has ordered four new animated comedy series:  Bless the Harts, Duncanville, The Great North and Housebroken. They join legacy shows The Simpsons, Family Guy and Bob’s Burgers, all produced by 20th Century FOX Television.
    As for what’s next, that’s not entirely clear. During the winter TCAs, FOX announced that they'll order only a handful of comedy and drama pilots this month, with a view to move completely off-cycle next year. As it stands, their development slate is more heavily weighted toward comedy, with the search for shows that can build off the success of Last Man Standing a clear priority.  

    Here's what FOX has in store for the coming pilot season: 


    When tragedy strikes an Indiana suburb, the survivors are brought together by the unlikeliest of heroes, who form the unlikeliest of choirs. 

    => FOX is touting this project as "a celebration of American resilience that showcases music’s power to reach across the divides of race, age, religion, and politics to heal". Into the Badlands creators Al Gough and Miles Millar are behind it. 

    The Mayor of Los Angeles doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with his chief of staff or his deputy mayor, but the trio is committed to making the city a better place. It’s a goal that will exact a toll on our characters and test their moral compasses as they are confronted with the day-to-day issues facing the city. 

    => A character-driven drama with an inspirational twist? It seems This Is Us and The Good Doctor are still having babies this pilot season. 

    Three wildly different families form a "created family" to support each other after their loved ones are diagnosed with mental illnesses. 

    => It’s surprising that Disney didn't keep this one for themselves, as it is produced by This Is Us star Sterling K. Brown and director Ken Olin.  It’s inspired by writer Laura Bensick’s life events and looks to be another uplifting drama. 

    What if heaven was the place where your life was finally explained to you, by five people you touched? The ongoing storylines of interwoven characters will explore larger themes of  redemption, love, hope and human connection.

    => Based on Mitch Albom’s bestselling novel (which he’s adapting himself), the premise sounds like it may be too complicated for its own good. Touched by an Angel, anyone?

    Since personal tragedy struck five years ago, loquacious, eccentric Bell Prescott hasn’t left the rambling property on the Apalachicola River that he shares with his mother. When Bell discovers a dead body, he’s forced to venture beyond his agoraphobic boundaries and  partner with the sole cop in town, the practical and brutally direct Cammie Jessop, to solve the murder. With local infrastructure decimated, Bell grudgingly becomes the town’s volunteer criminologist, investigating murders with Cammie as he secretly tries to solve the crime that destroyed his life.

    => Nick Stoller ("Neighbors") has paired with former "Bones" executive producer Carla Kettner for this quirky rom-com procedural, which already has a put pilot commitment.

    Classical and urban music will clash when Willie Mae Gray, Europe's most celebrated and only African American conductor, returns to Baltimore to reinvent her hometown's crumbling symphony orchestra, while attempting to rebuild the relationship with her teenage son, an underground MC on the rise. 

    => Musical dramas are still very much a thing, on FOX and elsewhere. Clearly envisioned as a potential Empire successor, Opus has Empire actress Nicole Ari Parker in the lead-role, Empire writer Felicia D. Henderson as creator and Empire studio 20th Century Fox Television behind it. 

    Using the lens of social media, Other People’s Houses tells the story of nine people living on a bucolic street in a quiet, affluent neighborhood of Los Angeles. Each navigate their way through emotional ups and downs as they try to figure out their lives as partners, parents, friends, and neighbors. In the middle of the block — and the center of the drama — are our two main characters, two mothers : one stay-at-home, one working.

    => FOX wants to be the Sarah Michelle Gellar business this year. She has two projects in the works at the network. In this one, she's reteaming with Ringer creators Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder for what’s being described as a cross between Big Little Lies and Catastrophe. 

    The Spellman Files (FOX ENTERTAINMENT) 
    A close-knit family of private investigators are intensely suspicious and spend much time investigating each other.

    => This drama, based on Lisa Lutz's book series, is a huge IP for FOX and they really wanted it. “I’ve always tried to get it as a producer, I wanted it when I was at 20th Century Fox Television but it was always tied up," Fox Entertainment President Michael Thorn told critics at the summer TCAs. 

    Set inside the New York City field office of the FBI, The Tribe explores the personal lives of three female agents juxtaposed with the demands of protecting America from its greatest threats.

    => Former Queen Sugar showrunner Monica Macer is writing this project inspired by journalist and author Doug Stanton’s interviews with women in law enforcement. May not be the best fit for FOX this year, but sounds like a very interesting take on the FBI drama. 


    Already ordered to series for fall is Carla (WARNER BROS. TELEVISION), a domestic take on Miranda Hart's BBC series Miranda, about a 39-year-old woman who spends the money her parents set aside for her wedding to open a Cat Café in Louisville, KY. It will star The Big Bang Theory's Mayim Balik and reunites her with on-screen partner Jim Parsons as executive producer. Also being developed is Kidless (20TH CENTURY FOX TELEVSION / FOX ENTERTAINMENT), an ensemble comedy that follows two married couples, a widow and a single dad as they reimagine their lives now that their kids have left the nest; Every Other Weekend (FOX ENTERTAINMENT), about four single moms who try to reclaim their fun, sexy selves two weekends a month after discovering that their custody weekends are in sync; People Person (SONY PICTURES TELEVISION / FOX ENTERTAINMENT), about a married couple who couldn’t be more different — Sam doesn’t like people and doesn’t like doing things, while Emmy may be the friendliest, most outgoing woman in the world; Pivoting (WARNER BROS. TELEVISION), a single-camera comedy set in a small, middle-class town in Long Island, focused on three close-knit childhood friends, after the death of another;  Re-Friended (SONY PICTURES TELEVISION / FOX ENTERTAINMENT), which revolves around two childhood friends who stayed connected through the years via social media. When they become roommates as adults, they realize how much they don’t know each other at all, and have to “re-friend” all over again, learning how to live with and love the un-curated versions of each other; and Sidelines (FOX ENTERTAINMENT), following a newly separated mother of two (played by Ali Larter), who, at age 40, decides to achieve her lifelong dream of becoming a professional cheerleader.

    Jean-Maxime Renault is a TV addict based in Paris who writes about television and movies on AlloCiné (aka "the French IMDB"). In 2015 he created Season Zero, a website about television development and pilot season, which is now a part of Primetimer. Follow him on Twitter @SeasonZeroCom

    TOPICS: FOX, Anthem, Call Me Kat, Everyday Insanity, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Florida Man, The Masked Dancer, Opus, Other People's Houses, Ali Larter , Felicia D. Henderson, Jim Parsons, Ken Olin, Laura Bensick, Mayim Bialik, Mitch Albom, Nicole Ari Parker , Sarah Michelle Gellar, Sterling K. Brown, In Development, Pilots