Looking Back At Our 2011 Pilot Wishlist

By Tim Surette

Apr 17, 2012

In our ongoing coverage of the metamorphosis of television from tadpole (a pilot script) to bullfrog (six seasons and a movie!), we're about to hit you with a list of the 20 current pilots (out of the 100+ in development) that we hope earn a spot on next season's schedule. But before we do that, let's time-travel back to just over a year ago, when I engaged in the very same exercise by digging through the television development slate and named the pilots I hoped would get picked up to series based on what little information was available at the time.

Now that we know how everything turned out, I can say one thing with absolute certainty: I am a moron. Seriously, you have every right to take this opportunity to point out my distinct lack of prognostication, but first let me just say that PREDICTING PILOTS IS HARD, YOU GUYS!

Anyway, let's take a look at where the items on last year's list ended up by dividing them into five different categories: what was good, what was just okay, what was horrible, what's still in development, and what never got made. We'll start with the good I can build some credibility before tearing it all down...

What turned out to be good:

Awake, Don't Trust the B---- in Apt. 23, The Secret Circle

Okay, I'm using the term "good" loosely. But Awake is, in my opinion, one of the best new network shows of the year, and Don't Trust the B---- in Apt. 23 has already bubbled up to somewhere near the top of this year's new comedies. The young kids on the message boards I lurk tell me The Secret Circle is pretty good, too. But where was Homeland? Or Suburgatory? Or Enlightened? Let's take a look at the batting average: 3 out of 20. That's a .150. Good enough to be the chief of programming for NBC, but not good enough to be a real programmer. This is embarrassing.

What turned out to be just okay:

House of Lies, Pan Am, Prime Suspect, The River, NYC 22

These are the shows I was looking forward to but that never really achieved greatness (though to be fair, NYC 22 has only aired one episode so far). That's to be expected because things always sound better on paper. For example, I thought it'd be a great idea to write this story until I realized how stupid it's going to make me look. I'm sure Maria Bello thought the same thing about wearing "cool" hats and the producers of The River were convinced a jungle full of cameras was a novel idea.

What turned out to be terrible:

How to Be a Gentleman, Alcatraz, I Hate My Teenage Daughter, The Playboy Club

And here's the part where we all point at Tim and laugh. I'll try to defend these picks as best I can, but I will make no argument that any of these shows were good because they were horrible. Between How to Be a Gentleman and I Hate My Teenage Daughter, I don't even know which one I'm more embarrassed about. With those two, I was looking at casts. That guy from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia as the prude? Rhys Darby from Flight of the Conchords? Emmy-winner Jaime Pressly? Those are three proven commodities! It just goes to show that a pilot's cast means squat in terms of overall quality and you'll be even more depressed if the show stinks. And The Playboy Club? Well, admit it. We were all curious with regard to finding out what NBC was thinking.

What didn't ever get made:
17th Precinct, The Crossing, Tagged, Brave New World, Locke & Key

Look, I don't know if these shows would have been good if they'd been picked up, but for the sake of my reputation I'm gonna say they would have been AWESOME. Like if the first seasons of Lost and Battlestar Galactica had a baby and named it after The West Wing.

What still has yet to air:

Powers, The Newsroom

FX is reportedly still thinking about Powers, a slick-sounding drama about cops who investigate superhero crime, but there's still no timetable or indication if it will actually become a series. HBO's The Newsroom (previously More As the Story Develops) looks very solid, according to this trailer and will debut this summer. If these end up being good, expect a follow-up article with the headline of "Toldja!"

Check back tomorrow for this year's list of the 20 pilots I think should get picked up to series! And please, have mercy when discussing my TV-prediction shortcomings in the comments.

Learning About Pilot Season Through Pie Charts
Don't Trust the B---- in Apt. 23: A Wacky, Live-Action Cartoon
20 TV Pilots We Hope Get Made Into Series (2011 Edition)

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  • DashReindeer Apr 21, 2012

    Why isn't anyone talking about Grimm? Best new show of 2011 hands-down. In David Greenwalt we trust.

  • bohannon Apr 19, 2012

    Who put House of Lies in the OK category. I don't even know whether to call it a TV series or just another one of the Showtime products. We know that SHO bases its series not on protagonist but rather on the antagonist, but it seems lately that all of their series follow the same concept. A narcissist sociopath/psychopath/homicidal maniac is the central character and we are supposed to empathize with all of their anti social behavior just because they have faced difficulties in their lives. I watched House of Lies because of Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell but halfway through the series i realized, none of the characters in the series are relatable let alone deserving of our sympathy. It seems that they just come up with stuff for each episode right before the shooting and all the network money is being used just to hire attractive actors/actresses and to include some random nudity in each episode just because it is on premium cable TV. Come on showtime, show us some good material. Your father HBO and younger brother Starrzboth have come up with genuine material to cater to the tastes of the viewers, while you are still thinking that by including nudity in each episode you can sell it..............

  • Shreela Apr 19, 2012

    What's up with having to click through a bunch of security warnings just to enter TV.com?? Gaaa, now my comment isn't posting (and I'll probably multi-post too - did TV.com hire Hollywood writers as their webmaster?)

    THE RIVER: Hand-cam=FAIL! At least they ended it at a stopping point.

    B in 23: IMO creepy and over-acted

    ALCATRAZ: I'd still watch another season - close it out properly!

    HOUSE OF LIES: WTF was that cr@p? I was hoping for a US version of Hustle, and was *extremely* disappointed.

    HOMELAND: I had to force myself to watch the 2nd season.

    SUBURBATORY: Amusing filler, but the over-the-top telenovella costumes detract from it IMO

    THE SECRET CIRCLE: Not quite up there with The Vampire Diaries, but I hope they get a few more seasons.

  • absolute6991 Apr 19, 2012

    What second season of homeland? I guess u confused one of best show this year only one season

  • zeddyp Apr 19, 2012

    After reading this article it made me realize...TV really sucked this year for new shows...other than Homeland... no TV show has made me look forward to its next episode....Awake and Person of Interest Ive watched and I have enjoyed both shows.... however I'll probably only end up watching the episodes I've missed when Im really really bored one day

  • chincky Apr 19, 2012

    Put Terra Nova in horrible. The show was a disgrace. Everyone involved deserves to be slapped for wasting money and resources.

  • Fallon21 Apr 19, 2012

    Woah,woah--How to Be a Gentleman was a good show. It just needed more time.

  • meek_the_geek Apr 19, 2012

    Right there with ya on I Hate My Teenage Daughter and Alcatraz.... both seemed really promising. Can't agree about Secret Circle, though. Just because it's still on doesn't mean it's good. :(

  • Watashii Apr 19, 2012

    Come to think of it, there wasn't really any good show that I really liked this year. I like New Girl and it survived but not that much. I also like Suburgatory but not a major fan. I think my top new show this TV year was Terra Nova because I'm a sucker for campy cheese, but it did not survive.

  • mousey17 Apr 19, 2012

    I don't think I will try any of the new programs. I am so tired of getting invested in some of the programs and then they get cancelled. I am just going to stick to the older one's that I have been watching because I can't stand the way they leave programs hanging for the final show of the season and they don't give them a solid ending and your left hanging after you have gotten emotionally involved with the characters and the story line. I don't think it's fair to the fan's the cancelled programs did have. I belive they should make a solid ending for each program that gets the axe for the fan's who do love them.

  • TrevPlatt Apr 18, 2012

    I don't know if anyone else has pointed this out, but you only chose 19 shows, not 20. Seems your counting is as good as your prognostication.

    I don't think you did too badly, with five of them not making it to pilot and two still to air, you chose about seven out of 12 that were worth watching - Awake, Appartment 23, The Secret Circle, House of Lies, Pan Am, The River and Prime Suspect (although it is a bit debateable with The River and Prime Suspect).

    NYC 22 hasn't only just begun, but i suspect it will fail.

    Alcatraz was the biggest disappointment for me, I was really looking forward to it, but it had some very big, yet annoyingly easy to fix, flaws.

    The Newsroom is going to be fantastic, so there is another you can add to the plus column.

    I'm looking forward to tomorrow to see how your new list compares to mine!

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