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. First up: The CW. 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.
The mantra at The CW this development season seem to be if it aint broke, don’t fix it. With their current schedule dominated by spinoffs and reboots of familiar titles, so too is their roster for the 2020 pilot season. And why not? It’s a recipe that’s worked well for the fledgling broadcast network in recent years. (The network’s only original property to earn a pilot order last pilot season was Glamorous, which was ultimately rejected.) This strategy may become even more important now that the network’s long-running output deal with Netflix has come to an end, which means their new shows will no longer enjoy the platform's large viewership to bring in new fans. The so-called Netflix bump served the network particularly well with Riverdale. Since then, The CW’s shows have been a hot commodity online, with the network’s shows accounting for five of the top ten most popular streaming shows among teens.
Moving forward, most of the CW’s new shows will end up on HBO Max and/or CBS All Access (the network is a joint partnership of Warner Bros and CBS). As HBO Max plans to launch a new iteration of Gossip Girl, they in particular will need strong teen-skewing properties to make sure people tune in.
After rebooting Dynasty, Roswell, Charmed, Nancy Drew, betting on another Vampire Diaries spin-off (Legacies), a Riverdale spin-off (Katy Keene) and another Arrow spin-off (Batwoman), The CW is going back to well, with more of the same dominating their development slate: there’s a prequel for The 100; a reboot of Dan Curtis's cult classic series Dark Shadows; a new version of the 1970s series Kung-Fu, produced by Greg Berlanti; an adaptation of the Canadian series The LA Complex; a reboot of The Game (which The CW canceled after three seasons in 2006 but was revived by BET and lasted six more years there); two new Arrowverse spin-offs; and a Walker Texas Ranger reboot with Supernatural's Jared Padalecki as the new sheriff in town.
The network is also developing three book series -- Midnighters, Good Christian Bitches and The Archived -- as well as a smattering of interesting original ideas, including most notably Infamous and Obsessed, both coming from Jane The Virgin creator Jennie Snyder Urman, who's under an overall deal with CBS Television Studios.
The CW is expected to order around 6-7 pilots this development cycle. Which will make the cut? Here's a list of the most exciting projects they’re considering, along with our initial thoughts on which seem the most promising:
The Archived (CBS TELEVISION STUDIOS)
Based on V.E. Schwab's book series, the eldest child in a family of ghost hunters has trained her entire life for the day she'll take up the mantle of "the chosen one," but when her dad dies and her local-weathercaster sister wakes up with the familial powers instead, these night-and-day sisters will have to figure out how to work together and save the world.
=> After a few failed attempts, The CW seems to have accepted the fact that they’ll never be able to create a strong-enough Supernatural spin-off. This project, produced by Jane The Virgin’s Jennie Snyder Urman, sounds like a natural successor, with a feminist twist and probably some good humor thrown in for good measure.
Good Christian Bitches (CBS TELEVISION / ABC STUDIOS)
Set at a prestigious private Christian high school in Dallas, a war stoking the student body's social divide erupts when the new girl on campus, the atheist daughter of a minister, inadvertently tangles with three popular girls.
=> Glamorous' writer Jordon Nardino (Desperate Housewives, Star Trek Discovery) is back at it with this new small screen adaptation of Kim Gatlin's book. Previously developed back in 2011 at ABC. the idea to bring it back came directly from the network's president Mark Pedowitz. A first script was in the works with another writer last year. It followed the clergy and parishioners of a hip church plant in Austin, but didn't go to pilot. The CW brass remained high on the title, rolling it to this season for redevelopment. The high-school setting would seem to blend well with other CW fare.
In this original from George Northy (Charmed, MTV's Faking It) and Darren Stein (Jawbreaker), celebrities who’ve experienced a fall from grace are recruited by a top-secret arm of the CIA with the promise of rehabing their careers in exchange for using their global access (and eccentric reputations) to perform high-risk missions across the globe.
=> This take on the spy drama with a modern, satirical twist doesn't sound like something The CW would do, but that's why it's interesting. It's set in the present day and looks to resonate with the world we live in, while being action-packed and fun.
Midnighters (WARNER BROS. TELEVISION)
On their 29th birthday, an estranged brother and sister discover they’re Midnighters, a chosen few born at the stroke of midnight, with access to a magical 25th hour each day that their kind can use to dramatic, comedic and poignant advantage. They soon learn their destiny is to protect the world from an ancient evil that has been trapped inside the 25th hour for centuries and is about to break free.
=> This Alloy sci-fi/fantasy trilogy book series by Scott Westerfeld has been an important piece of IP for Warner Bros. Several stabs at adapting the novels for TV have been attempted over the last 14 years at NBC, FOX and, yes, The CW back n 2005. This version hails from Blindspot co-executive producer Chris Pozzebon and creator/executive producer Martin Gero. Whether the network will want it this time is a question mark but even if they don’t, HBO Max could save it last minute.
Obsessed (CBS TELEVISION STUDIOS)
A seemingly optimistic millennial struggling to conceal unwanted dark thoughts joins forces with a coworker to launch a true crime podcast chronicling an active serial killer in L.A., helping her understand and confront her own fears while simultaneously putting herself in imminent danger.
=> The true-crime podcast trend is real this pilot season and this project is one of its most interesting contenders, produced by Jennie Snyder Urman and Sweet/Vicious creator Jennifer Kaytin Robinson. It's written by Jessica Amento, an advocate for mental health and OCD awareness, who aims to shed light on the lesser known forms of the disorder in Obsessed.
Superman & Lois (WARNER BROS. TELEVISION)
This Arrowverse spinoff revolves around the world's most famous super hero and comic books' most famous journalist as they deal with all the stress, pressures and complexities that come with being parents with all-consuming jobs.
=> Starring Supergirl‘s Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch as the iconic couple, this project is being developed as a standalone pilot, not as as a planted spinoff (aka backdoor pilot) on one of the existing series. At least for now. My gut feeling is that this may become the very first DC comics-based show The CW says no to. Not because it doesn't have potential but because it could be seen as "too adult" for them and thus too distinct from the other shows. That being said, it would be surprising it doesn't at least get a pilot order.
The Game (CBS TELEVISION STUDIOS)
The Game family was coasting to retirement when they heard the call of their fans to make a comeback… and like the record-breaking winners they are, they decided to pick up and move from a half-hour sitcom in San Diego to a one-hour dramedy in Baltimore. This time, our out-of-touch old-timers are determined to help a bunch of knuckle-head new-schoolers navigate the ruthless game of football on and off the field. They will clash through the pitfalls of fame, fortune and love. Some will win, others will lose, but that’s what happens when you play The Game.
=> I'm conflicted with this one. Doesn't The CW already have All American? They're different for sure, but it still seems strange to have two shows on their line-up that deal with high-schoolers and football. The Game made cable history with the record-breaking audience of 7.7 million viewers who tuned in to the Season 4 premiere that marked its debut on BET in January 2011. That's certainly an argument the CW brass can't ignore. But does it really belong here?
Untitled The 100 Prequel (WARNER BROS. TELEVISION)
Set 97 years before the events of the original series, this prequel it starts with the end of the world - a nuclear apocalypse that wipes out most of the human population on Earth - and follows a band of survivors on the ground as they learn to cope in a dangerous world while fighting to create a new and better society from the ashes of what came before.
=> Written by The 100 creator Jason Rothenberg , this potentials spinoff is being developed as a backdoor pilot and will be introduced as an episode in the upcoming seventh and final season of The 100. This post-apocalyptic drama was long-rumored, teased since 2016 and the script was finally completed this past summer. It's hard to imagine The CW not going for it, since The 100 is one of the most popular shows in the world right now. They could use it as a summer fare.
Untitled Arrow Spinoff Project (WARNER BROS. TELEVISION)
Billed as a next-generation version of Team Arrow with the costumed offspring of the original membership, it’s the year 2040 in Star City and Mia Queen has everything she could have ever wanted. However, when Laurel and Dinah suddenly show up in her life again, things take a shocking turn and her perfect world is upended. Laurel and Dinah are tracking a kidnapping victim with direct ties to Mia and they need her help. Knowing it will change everything, Mia can’t help but be a hero and she, Laurel and Dinah suit up once again to save the city.
=> This proposed spinoff will air as a backdoor pilot on the January 21st episode of Arrow. The episode is titled “Green Arrow and the Canaries", which may very well end up being the official title of the show. Of course, Katherine McNamara, Katie Cassidy and Juliana Harkavy will return in their iconic roles. This one is as near to a sure-thing for series pickup as you can get.
Walker (CBS TELEVISION STUDIOS)
Cordell Walker is a widower and father of two with his own moral code who returns home to Austin after being undercover for two years, only to discover there's harder work to be done at home. He'll attempt to reconnect with his children, navigate clashes with his conservative family, and find unexpected common ground with his new partner (one of the first women in Texas Rangers' history), while growing increasingly suspicious about the circumstances surrounding his wife's death.
=> It may sound like a joke, but yes, they really are talking about rebooting Walker, Texas Ranger. Having already rebooted Hawaii Five-O, MacGyver and Magnum PI, CBS Television Studios is turning to one of its last unused properties in an attempt to keep Supernatural star Jared Padalecki in the family. It was reported that the Texas native has been looking for an opportunity to stay close to home for his next series and sparked to the idea of revisiting this show. Whether we like it or not, this straight reboot is an instant leading contender for next season, but The CW should really ask themselves: will their audience really be interested in this? I’m not that certain.
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