FEATURE: Looking Forward (2011-2012 Developments I)

We’re in the midst of Pilot Season at the major Hollywood networks, right in the middle of watching as the various pilot scripts gear up to shoot the pilots that will earn them a pickup, or leave them behind. As with every year, there are same-olds, exciting new ideas, great castings, and less-than-great castings…

This year, Nellie Andreeva‘s made it easy to follow with Deadline’s Primetime Pilot Panic, which now features listings for all the potential series in play. In our first look at pilot season, we’ve taken a look at the so-far cast lists to analyse who we’d like to see hit the small screen next season…

Edited 9:30. Seven hours later, and a scad of pilots have cast actors I really like. So, I’m adding a few names to these lists…

Martin Henderson – NBC
Sarah Paulson – NBC
Lauren Ambrose – Fox


Friday Night Lights alumn Minka Kelly, who’s done pretty good work on a few projects, stars in ABC’s remake of Charlie’s Angels. She’s backed by two folks who I’ve liked elsewhere in smaller doses: Rachael Taylor, who is currently balancing the right amount of spunk and sharp as a recurring doctor on Grey’s Anatomy, and Ramon Rodriguez, who was pretty enjoyable in ABC one-season-wonder Day Break a few years back. I can’t not get excited about seeing The Wire alumn Lawrance Gilliard Jr. in a regular role again, even if the show doesn’t sound particularly unique. I’d be a lot more suspicious of Pan Am if it hadn[‘t locked in the fantastic Christina Ricci to lead, as well as the man who singlehandedly made Scrubs: Med School one of my weekly addictions after the show came back from the dead, Michael Mosley. Though her shows very rarely hook me like they did in Grey’s Anatomy’s prime, Shonda Rhimes knows how to cast, and she’s got two actors in Damage Control who’ve done superlative work elsewhere: Lost‘s Henry Ian Cusick and WeedsGuillermo Diaz. Don’t Truist the Bitch in Apartment 23 not only has my lucky number in the title, but Krysten Ritter, who capped a number of increasingly fun guest spots with a meaty arc in Breaking Bad season two (and then a detour to Starz’ critically-lambasted Gravity, but hush). I enjoyed Malcolm Barrett in Better Off Ted, and enjoyed Bonnie Somerville‘s work on one-season-wonder Kitchen Confidential, but I doubt even they will get me to watch Other People’s Kids, and the same for the boring-sounding Suburgatory casting charming Whedonite Alan Tudyk. Edited to add: Hours after I posted this, two other names of interest were announced for ABC pilots: Katie Cassidy, who I’ve considered a name to watch since the season she spent on Supernatural, has been cast against Jimmy Wolk  for Georgetown. Also, Weeds standout Allie Grant has landed a role on Suburgatory, making her the second great actor playing a supporting role on the show. Perhaps I might check it out after all. And Angela Bassett has joined a remake of a Brit show, Identity. Casting points: 10 13.


CBS has gotten ahold of the elusive Sarah Michelle Gellar, who finally gave up on starring in a string of bad horror movies to make her glorious return to TV. Lets hope this pilot fares better than her turn in HBO’s The Wonderful Maladys, which didn’t make it to series. The show also has Nestor Carbonell, whose work on Lost was enjoyable even as the show itself slowly sank. I’ve been a longtime fan of Leelee Sobieski and can’t fathom why she never saw more success; though the base premise of the show puts me to sleep, her involvement (as well as a creative who worked on The Wire) makes me think it’s one to keep an eye on. Of course, with the cast of Lost dispersing to new shows, one with the most draw is Michael Emerson, who is consistently fantastic. Other than this small handful of names, only two of which genuinely excite me (Sobieski and Emerson), CBS seems to have little in the way of awesome casting. Perhaps its early and the network is just gearing up… Casting points: 4.


NBC gets a bad rap because their ratings aren’t blowing the roof off of anyone, but their casting tends to be full of people I love. I’m a big fan of Friday Night Lights alumn Adrianne Palicki, even though I’m less a fan of David E. Kelley. Jason Isaacs stars in one of the season’s most exciting pilots (more below). Jamie Bamber of Battlestar Galactica, among other things, headlines another. Kirk Acevedo, who I’ve come to really like as the ‘alternate’ version of his Fringe character this season, is in the Prime Suspect remake NBC’s preparing – as is unlikely suspect Joe Nieves, who I was surprised and charmed to find was bartender Carl on How I Met Your Mother all these years. Russell Hornsby and Rachel Lefevre, who I quite liked in In Treatment and Off the Map respectively, are in exciting pilots as well: Hornsby‘s in olden-times fantasy Grimm and Lefevre, if Off the Map doesn’t make it, will headline Civil Wars drama The Crossing. Laura Prepon, who solidified the good will she earned on That 70’s Show by doing a very fun guest arc on How I Met Your Mother a bit ago, will play Chelsea Handler in a comedy based on her autobiography, Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea. I’m not sure whether I really like Ryan Hansen, or he just keeps attaching himself to shows I love, but I’m happy to see him grab a role in the intriguing Lovelives. I’m an Amanda Peet fan, so I’m rooting for Bent as well. Edited to add: Hours after I posted this, two more notable names were cast. Martin Henderson, who has been really interesting in Off the Map despite the character being a bit boring, has gotten the lead in The Crossing, which is getting more and more intriguing. Fun fact: he’s been cast alongside Rachel Lefevre in The Crossing, and their characters on Off the Map are also love interests. And last but not least, Sarah Paulson has been cast as the lead of an untitled pilot about a woman who helps folks deal with being downsized. Casting points: 9 12.


Though I wasn’t a 24 fan, I do like Kiefer Sutherland, even though I’m hesitant to cheer for Touch. Another Lost alumn has scored an interesting role as Jorge Garcia extends his relationship with J.J. Abrams by landing a role in Alcatraz. Zooey Deschanel stars in a comedy alongside Max Greenfield who I very much liked in Veronica Mars. Kerry Bishe was solid as the new lead of Scrubs: Med School, so I’m happy to see her score a role in Iceland. I’ve raved before, if not here than to my close and personals, about Mike O’Malley‘s work on Glee, so I’m glad to see him working, especially as he’s guarenteed work on Glee as well. The main reason I’m very excited about unlikely contender I Hate My Teenage Daughter is because of the two leads: Jaime Pressly, who was wonderful for four years of My Name is Earl, and Katie Finneran, who I’ve loved in not one but two one season wonders: Wonderfalls and The Inside. After escaping her show-killer tag when Gary Unmarried made it to two seasons, Paula Marshall is back in the pilot season game, and I’m hoping she can make it a bit further this time. And Ana Ortiz, who was very funny as Betty’s sister in now-gone Ugly Betty, should be fun in OutnumberedEdited to add: Another name was cast hours after this was posted: Lauren Ambrose snagged the lead of Weekends at Bellevue, about a woman working the wekend shift of a psychiatric unit at Bellevue hospital. Casting points: 10 11.

The CW

 I will forever be a Rachel Bilson fan, thanks to her fun work on The O.C. and a great guest arc back in season one of Chuck, and seeing her reunite with Josh Schwartz for Hart of Dixie sounds like fun. Sadly for The CW, they seem to be behind on their casting (having only cast 9 actors for this whole pilot season so far, according to Andreeva‘s chart), so she’s the only name to make my heart flutter. Casting points: 1.


So, you’ve seen the lists. Who know who I’m excited about. How about you? And wait up, because next time, The Signal will be taking a look at what kinds of pilots that are contending for spots on next year’s schedule…


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