TV Pilot Season’s Criminal Offerings

2011 TV Pilot Season
2011’s TV Pilot Season is Ready forTakeoff!
Next week, network TV executives will converge on New York City to announce their new fall TV schedules.

More than 80 new pilots are currently being screened and selected to join returning favorite shows, and here’s a glimpse at a few of the criminally inclined that we’re hoping to see on the boob tube come September:


Annie Ilonzeh, Rachael Taylor, and Minka Kelly as Charlie’s Angels
Not Strapped: Annie Ilonzeh, Rachael Taylor, and Minka Kelly as Charlie’s Angels
There’s a plethora of female-starring shows in contention at all the networks this year for a welcome change. One of the highest profile debuts for fall is ABC’s reboot of Charlie's Angels. Featuring a trio of lovely (and multi-racial!) crime solving ladies who report to the mysterious Charlie (voiced by Robert Wagner), this one’s reportedly a lock for fall.  ABC also has Partners in contention, featuring half-sisters who tag-team as police detectives (starring 24’s Annie Wersching and the lesser-known Scottie Thompson) and the CW has Cooper and Stone as a new Cagney and Lacey-ish duo with far more pop culture savvy and fashion acumen than those old school partners. The remake of the successful British crime drama Prime Suspect, with Maria Bello stepping into Helen Mirren’s venerable shoes, could be the beginning of a beautiful franchise for NBC and is considered a sure bet for fall. Meanwhile, CBS is keen on Poppy Montgomery as The Rememberer, a former cop who has hyperthymesia – like Pacey Witter, she remembers everything—and is brought back onto the NYPD force.


Letters to Juliet’s Christopher Egan to play Poe
Moody as a Sunny Spring Break? Letters to Juliet’s Christopher Egan will play Poe
Minnie Driver plays a soccer mom who looks into the murder of her son and somehow forms an unlikely crime-solving duo with his best friend—who happens to be a drug dealer—in CBS’s Hail Mary. Traveling back to the Boston of 1840, Poe (ABC) finds Christopher Egan (of Kings and Eragon) starring as the famous gothic horror novelist. But he doesn’t just write about ticking hearts under floorboards.  Nope.  In this show, he investigates them as the world’s first detective. FOX’s The Finder, a spinoff from Hart Hanson’s Bones, features sexy Geoff Stults as a former soldier with a unique talent for unearthing anything, including clues and bodies. This one’s already aired a test-drive as part of Bones’ current season, but to little fanfare and average ratings. It remains to be seen if the network will take a chance on it full-time.


Touted by many as the smartest script of all the fall prospects, NBC’s REM was created by hot writer Kyle Killen, of last season’s critically praised, but swiftly cancelled, Lone Star and Mel Gibson’s latest movie, The Beaver.  It features Jason Isaacs as a cop whose life fractures in two after a tragic accident. In one possible reality, the accident killed his son; in the other, his wife. Living this double life means contending with two therapists, two cop partners and clues to the week’s cases in one universe that help him solve crimes in the other. The question: which world is real? Does he want to find the answer and possibly give one of them up forever? Clearly ambitious.  If audiences can wrap their minds around this twisty, almost Inception-like premise, it could be the buzzworthy hit NBC desperately needs.  From the co-writer of Inception himself, Jonah Nolan, comes CBS’s Person of Interest. The net is keeping this one under tight wraps, no doubt to preserve the pretzel-y goodness it entails? All we know is that Lost’s chillingly conniving Michael Emerson stars as a crazy billionaire who recruits a former CIA agent, played by Jim Caviezel (movie star and one-time Jesus!),  to fight crime in New York City. 


Ensemble dramas are hot as always with crime-fighting task forces and police precincts abounding. One of FOX’s top prospects is said to be Exit Strategy, starring Ethan Hawke as part of a team of CIA agents who are sent in when tricky missions go wrong. Angela Bassett and Orlando Jones star in Identity (ABC) playing members of the FBI’s Identity Crimes division, tackling hacker thiefs and cyber criminals. Crime novelist Richard Price created Rookies (CBS) featuring six new NYC cops, including Leelee Sobieski and Adam Goldberg. This sure-to-be-gritty drama also comes with Robert DeNiro attached as an executive producer. And in a change of coasts, Metro (NBC) features a group of L.A. investigators led by Jimmy Smits who navigate the criminal and political worlds in a tangled drama penned by Crash writer Stephen Gaghan


Not every crime show has murder in its heart though. Missing (ABC) sees Ashley Judd and Sean Bean (who’s already delighting weekly as Ned Stark on Game of Thrones for HBO) in a tense drama. Ashley’s a former CIA agent who takes matters into her own hands when her son goes missing while doing a summer internship in Europe. In ABC’s The River, it’s a different kind of search, as the crew of a state-of-the-art research vessel goes on a quest to find a missing TV explorer, their excursion captured by a documentary crew. So, think Lost meets The Blair Witch Project meets the technical parts of Titanic?  Over at FOX, J. J. Abrams’ new show Alcatraz is surprisingly being called an iffy prospect, despite stars Jorge Garcia (Lost’s lovable Hurley), Sam Neill and Robert Forster on-board.  As you’d expect from Abrams, the drama bends the time-space continuum, following a group of prisoners and guards who magically appear in the present-day prison as well as the FBI team investigating their disappearance… thirty years in the past.


James Callis and Jamie Bamber on set at 17th Precinct
Do magic cops shoot webs? James Callis and Jamie Bamber on set at 17th Precinct
Bringing a new twist to an old format, a pair of dueling procedurals with a magical bent are vying for a slot on NBC’s schedule. Grimm, created by Buffy and Angel exec producer David Greenwalt  about a cop who figures out that fairy tale monsters are real (Oh No!) and living among us, has the edge over Battlestar Galactica creator Ron Moore’s 17th Precinct, an ensemble drama featuring cops who use magic to solve crimes in an alternate universe called Excelsior. The latter’s strong cast (featuring Stockard Channing, Eamonn Walker, Matt Long, and a trio of BSG faves Jamie Bamber,  James Callis, and Tricia Helfer, plus bonus Caprica vet Esai Morales!) is very appealing, but insider buzz is inexplicably laying the odds on the former in this showdown.  At FOX, Heroes producer Tim Kring is lining up Touch for this summer, starring Keifer Sutherland as a JFK airport baggage-handler who discovers his mute, autistic son is psychic. Even though the pilot won’t  be shot till after Keifer takes his final bow in the Broadway play he’s currently doing, the network is said to be so keen on the concept that it’s a strong contender for fall, or possibly, midseason.

For more peeks at this pilot season’s offerings, including sizzling soaps and comic capers, check out Heroes and Heartbreakers.

Tara Gelsomino is a reader, writer, pop culture junkie, and internet addict. You can tweet her at @taragel.


  1. Clare 2e

    Casting questions: I confess to some doubts about thats harp-featured blonde-blue for Poe, but maybe he’ll act me out of my worries. Leelee Sobieski as a cop? Maybe. Maria Bello’s great, but Helen Mirren is unforgettable in that role. Hmmm.

    My own insecurities: Though I like the idea of not wanting to give up either reality (a little Life on Mars-y, too), I think it’s going to be tricky to follow REM if it really lives in both worlds fully. Lost started to get too Byzantine and I was happy to bail. (I suck and am tasteless.)

    If Grimm or 17th Precinct could cross paranormal policing with some of the humor of Barney Miller, I’d be a happy girl. Where’s Sam Vines and the Night Watch when you need them?

  2. Tara Gelsomino

    @clare2e Many folks have dubbed Poe a “period Castle” so I think the blonde blue-eyed charmer thing might work for ABC. It’s not like anyone ever said “No, they’re tooo pretty!” anyway I guess. 😉 I share your reservations about Leelee and Maria. We’ll have to see maybe…

    There’s a lot of fantastic buzz for REM but I worry that it’s a little TOO thinky and slightly slow paced. Especially the first act of script which has him in both therapy sessions switching back and forth. You have to lay out a lot of info in that pilot episode. But Jason Isaacs is pretty excellent so hopefully that’ll be compelling.

    Hee. There wasn’t much humor in Grimm or 17thP scripts, although Stockard Channing had one or two good one-liners. Overall, with both the network and cable scripts I’ve read this season, all the dramas felt pretty dark and profanity-laden. And in fact, Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story (for FX) was super-twisted and I couldn’t believe they got Connie Britton to sign on or that half of what’s in the pilot will make it to air. But…who knows… it is cable!

  3. Elyse Dinh-McCrillis

    FOX just announced its early pickups and ALCATRAZ is on the list! I guess they didn’t want to mess with J.J. Abrams, though NBC had no problem canceling the dull UNDERCOVERS last year.

    HUMAN TARGET & BREAKING IN were canceled. Anyone watching them?

    I have reservations about PRIME TARGET because Mirren is irreplaceable but Bello is very good so I’m open to sampling it.

  4. Ron Hogan

    I thought HUMAN TARGET was still a strong show, even though I wasn’t fully satisifed with the way they tried to expand the core in the second season. I was willing to give them time to refine the character dynamics in exchange for the inventive (for network TV) action sequences. Sorry to see it go.

  5. Dr. Lewis Preschel

    I think that people go to television to relax and escape after a hard day working. Someone said, you could never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public. In a reverse sense, can you devise a show for television that is too cerebral to survive, and yet for our community, we would enjoy it completely. I think that is the trouble with many television shows today. They work for those who want to think, but in the majority of our country, do they want to sit down at 9 or 10 o’clock at night and be mentally challenged with a significant mystery or with questions about Einstein’s time-space continuum?
    Such shows flame out quickly because of commercial failure, while being an artistic success.
    Good luck to two separate worlds operating at the same time. Good luck to the Philadelphia Story clone (a battleship that was transported through time with its crew during an experiment in the second world war.) Alcatraz.
    We need simple story with good twist and characters who make us want to know them and root for them. It’s just like writing a book, which by the by, is probably the medium through which some of these arcane story concepts could be communicated in a superior manner.
    Oh well, I’ll just get back to my copy of War and Peace.

  6. Clare 2e

    Mad Mutt- You may have a point, but you made me laugh, too. Philadephia Story was Hepburn and Cary Grant. Philadelphia Experiment was the dislocated battleship. We may have to compare notes on Alcatraz once it launches and see what we think.

    Our CE blogger Julie Summerell wrote a great, impassioned plea to save HUMAN TARGET a little over a week ago, because she smelled the coffee.

  7. Ron Phillips

    Sounds like some interesting risks, some rehash I’m not really interested in.

    Sad about HUMAN TARGET, I liked it and the core cast. BREAKING IN, wow, wasn’t even given a chance. Perhaps they realized they cast Christian Slater and knew it was doomed. Loved the guy back in the day, but every year they bring out another series with him in the lead and boom goes the dynamite.

    LeeLee Sobieski and Adam Goldberg? What kind of pairing is that?

    Sadly, there’s not much listed that sounds like a keeper or will be given the chance to succeed.

  8. The Ragi

    Did the networks finally get tired of serial killers?

  9. Summer Brooks

    I’m curious to see if 17th Precint is given a chance to find its footing (meaning it stays on more than 3 episodes!)

    I was underwhelmed by “The Finder” episode of Bones, to the point where I fast-forwarded to the end just to see what happened, and definitely not interested in watching if they go to series with it.

    And I like Christian Slater, but not Breaking In. I may have been in the rare handful of people who watched “the forgotten” a couple years ago, and was rather surprised it wasn’t picked up for a second season… wish I knew the full story on why it ended.

    Loved the first season of Human Target, but I have no idea why it went off the rails so badly for second season. It also looks like Fox may be cutting Lie to Me, which I was still enjoying.

    And hadn’t they said that TNT’s “The Closer” was an homage to or inspired by Prime Suspect? I could have sworn I’d read that someplace, on more than one occassion.

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