BIG TALK

FOX's 2020 Comedy Pilots, Ranked From Best to Worst

The network looks to bounce back from a dismal season for live action comedy.
  • Mayim Bialik stars in the FOX pilot Call Me Kat, which she is producing alongside her Big Bang Theory co-star Jim Parsons. (Photo: CBS)
    Mayim Bialik stars in the FOX pilot Call Me Kat, which she is producing alongside her Big Bang Theory co-star Jim Parsons. (Photo: CBS)

    Our resident script reader Jean-Maxime Renault continues his week-long look at the various comedy scripts in contention at each of the broadcast networks this pilot season. Next up: FOX.

    A year after losing 20th Century FOX Television as its in-house studio, the FOX network remains in the throws of identity crisis when it comes to scripted comedy.

    On one side they have their Sunday night "animation domination" programming, comprised of legacy shows The Simpsons, Family Guy and Bob’s Burgers, all produced by 20th Century FOX Television, alongside their new animated comedy series Bless the Harts, Duncanville, The Great North and Housebroken from Fox Entertainment, the new name of the network’s in-house production entity. They seem to be preparing the future, which means building independence from their past hits as quickly as possible. The strategy they're using -- established shows serving as lead-ins for newbies -- is pretty much the only one there is, and the results so far are mixed.

    On the other side, they have their live action comedies, or, more accurately, their (one) live action comedy: the appropriately titled Last Man Standing. Assuming it gets renewed, the Tim Allen-starring multicam will enter its ninth season next year. Given that its companion this year, Outmatched, failed to catch fire, one clear priority for FOX this development season has been to find projects that could build off the (relative) success of Last Man. The network ended up with three very different comedy pilots, none of them looking like a great fit:

    1. CALL ME KAT (Warner Bros. Television)

    Carla is a 39-year-old woman who struggles every day against society and her mother to prove that you still be happy even if you don't have everything you want. Which is why she spent the money her parents set aside for her wedding to open a Cat Café in Louisville, KY.

    A sitcom starring The Big Bang Theory's Mayim Bialik and executive produced with her old partner Jim Parsons that isn't airing on CBS?! Yes, it's strange, but FOX's offer was strongest, including a straight-to-series order whereas the Eye network probably went for a safer pilot production commitment. It's too bad, because what would have been a no-brainer for CBS isn't the same for FOX. This domestic take on Miranda Hart's BBC series Miranda is both respectful of the original and a perfect vehicle for Bialik. The script has great lines, good characters, and some hilarious situations that feature a lot of physical comedy from the actress, whose proven more than adept at it. Quite impressed and even excited for this one, but I'm pretty sure Last Man Standing's fans won't be.

    2. PIVOTING (Warner Bros. Television/FOX Entertainment)

    Three women living in Long Island are faced with the reality that life is short after the death of their childhood best friend.I n desperate attempts to find happiness, they make a series of impulsive, ill-advised and self-indulgent decisions, strengthening their bond, and proving it’s never too late to screw up your life.

    Another odd match for Last Man Standing, FOX nabbed Pivoting, created by Liz Astrof (2 Broke Girls, The Conners), last fall in a script-plus-penalty deal, which included the commissioning of a second script. So it looks like they know precisely where it's heading, and ordered it to pilot anyway. Don't get me wrong: this is a good script that's totally in my personal wheelhouse. Unapologetic female characters drinking a little too much and making bad decisions is always a recipe for good fun. But Pivoting is a single-camera comedy about tragedy, set in a smaller, middle-class town, and its place is on cable -- not on network TV and certainly not on FOX. I can't see it succeeding in their schedule in any possible scenario.

    3. THIS COUNTRY (Lionsgate Television/FOX Entertainment)

    The daily lives of cousins Kelly and Shrub Mallet are trailed by a documentary crew who go to a small town to study young adults and their current concerns in an idiosyncratic surrounding. The show follows the pair as they pursue their dreams, confront challenges and fight each other for frozen pizza.

    This Country is a half-hour mockumentary inspired by a BBC Three scripted format that could fill the void left by Parks And Recreation. The adaptation is written by Jenny Bicks (Sex & The City, The Big C) and produced by Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Zoey's Extraordinary Playist). It stars Seann William Scott, one of the most sought-after actors this pilot season. Among multiple offers, he opted to join This Country, returning to the network where he made his TV series debut in the third season Lethal Weapon. He will be perfect in the role of Father Joe, but other than that, this script left me cold. I didn't find it funny, nor do I understand what it's supposed to be or what it wants to say about America. That being said, it's a thematic match with FOX's Sunday night animated comedies, so if they were to choose to slot a live action series there, it might just work.

    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, Call Me Kat, Pivoting, This Country, Jim Parsons, Mayim Bialik, Seann William Scott