Our resident script reader Jean-Maxime Renault has read the pilot scripts for almost all of this year's series pickups heading into upfront week. For his detailed thoughts on each of the year's contenders, be sure to check out his pilot script reviews.
When newly appointed NBC Entertainment chiefs Paul Teledgy and George Cheeks take the stage Monday morning at NBC's upfronts, they'll do so from a position of strength as the Peacock is enjoying its sixth season as TV’s No. 1 network in the adult 18-49 demo. That's thanks to a lineup consisting entirely of Chicago shows on Wednesday nights, the declining but still potent The Voice and other bright spots here and there, including This Is Us. As a result, they're expected to be pretty conservative with their schedule. For a network that really isn't in need of many new shows this coming season, it has a surprisingly strong development slate, with some big names attached. Which shows have they picked up and which shows have they passed on? Did they make the right decisions? The answers below:
What they've ordered…
BLUFF CITY LAW (Pilot script review)
NBC is short a legal drama since Chicago Justice became the one Chicago show that got away three years ago ,while Law & Order: True Crime did poorly the year after. Bluff City Law is a solid option to get back in the game. This efficient and emotional family-driven legal drama is right up NBC's alley, fitting well with existing shows such as New Amsterdam and This Is Us.
COUNCIL OF DADS (Pilot script review)
Despite the consecutive flops of Rise and The Village, two projects developed as suitable companion shows for This Is Us but ultimately used as its Spring replacement, NBC hasn't abandoned the idea of having a drama in the same vein that could resonate wih a similar audience. Council of Dads is a promising new attempt with a good cast and a distinctive set-up.
ZOEY'S EXTRAORDINARY PLAYLIST (Pilot script review)
A musical dramedy is always a risky bet, both creatively and ratings-wise. Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist isn't groundbreaking but it has its charms and its “case of the week” feel-good procedural nature may be an unsuspected strength. Plus, it's NBC's first project to come out of a mega deal signed with Universal Music Group and Lionsgate, corporate vertical integration in full force.
LINCOLN (Pilot script review)
Between the IP (it's based on The Bone Collector book series), the promise, the efficiency of the script and its ratings potential, Lincoln was the network's strongest pilot contender in the semi-serialized, high-octane thriller genre since The Blacklist and Blindspot. Considering those two are nearing their end, there's a spot to grab.
What they've rejected
PRISM (Pilot script review)
Prism was not your typical legal show, nor was it typical network fare. It had a strong cable-feel and it’s hard to figure a timeslot on NBC where it would have been able to grab the large audience needed to survive on broadcast. It's too bad since it looked like a great show in the making, but with Bluff City Law in the picture there was no reason to take a risk on it.
EMERGENCE (Pilot script review)
In one of this development season's most whiplash inducing developments, ABC announced Saturday that it had ordered to series this high concept Allison Tolman thriller that had been in development at NBC. In retrospect, it makes sense: after the Timeless wreck and wreck-in-the-making Manifest, NBC is probably best served steering clear. Since it's owned by ABC Studios, it may make more sense there.
What they've ordered…
THE KENAN SHOW
NBC seems very high on SNL's Kenan Thompson and this vehicle could prove a great showcase of his talent, even though it's not exactly on-brand. It has lot of heart and energy and it is reportedly being eyed to kick off after the 2020 Summer Olympics, so basically next season.
This is the kind of niche comedy NBC loves but viewers often flee, like Parks And Recreation or Community. I’m not sure it fits with today’s NBC or network television in general these days, where you really need to be effective from the get-go if you want people to stick around. It almost surely won't be the network's next big comedy hit but doing okay would an achievement in itself.
This adult version of Glee, set at a church instead of a high-school, isn't particularly surprising or groundbreaking, but it does boast some funny and sweet moments, creating its own world the same way The Good Place has. It would be a nice addition to the Thursday comedy line-up,sandwiched between the Kristen Bell-starrer and Will & Grace.
While Abby's seemed to prove once again that multicamera comedies just don't work on NBC anymore (unless they're Will & Grace), Indebted has a promising cast and a focus on “normal” people having to deal with real life issues. It would probably be a better fit with CBS or ABC, but time will tell.
What they've rejected…
This was just a lazy workplace comedy -- rarely funny, predictable, cringy and well… enough said! They made the right call here.
This one was way too cheesy for its own good and far too predictable. By the way, NBC only ordered a pilot presentation for it so it seems they too weren't sold on it from the start.
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