It's pilot season, which means TV networks are looking at lots of potential projects to potentially add to their portfolios. On paper, just about anything can look good (or bad), but with brilliant early casting and a snappy log line, certain ideas stand out from the pack. These are the 20 in-production pilots that caught our attention as the best of the bunch (with a few artist's renditions of what they might look like).
(Note: These projects are all in pilot stage, meaning networks have commissioned a premiere episode to review. They are in no way guaranteed a spot on the 2011-2012 TV schedule.)
Don't Trust the Bitch in Apt. 23
Log Line: This comedy centers on an earnest, honest, optimistic girl from the heartland who, due to circumstances beyond her control, is forced to move in with a sexy, unstable New York City party girl with the morals of a pirate.
Starring: Krysten Ritter (Breaking Bad, as the party girl), James Van Der Beek (as himself)
Why this show should be made: In addition to its fantastic title (and thanks for abbreviating "apartment"!), the core cast is solid. With the title and its meta role for Dawson, we get the feeling this show's tone will be eccentric and unique.
Why it might not get made: Sometimes a concept that looks good on the page falls flat when it's actually shot, and that could happen here.
Log Line: REM is described as an Inception-like thriller in which a cop wakes up after an accident to discover he's living in two different realities.
Starring: Jason Isaacs (Brotherhood, as the cop)
Why this show should be made: Boom! You had me at Inception! The potential for stories that will twist our minds into pretzels is high here, and TV could use more shows like this. The always-awesome and in-demand Isaacs is a perfect choice for the cop.
Why it might not get made: This has serialized sci-fi drama written all over it, which is always a risky gamble due to production costs and finicky audiences. Will NBC make the gamble? Hopefully yes, and not just in our dreams within dreams within dreams.
More As the Story Develops
Log Line: A behind-the-scenes look at a cable news network.
Starring: No cast has been announced yet.
Why this show should be made: This project comes from Aaron Sorkin, who wrote Sports Night, The West Wing, and The Social Network. This guy could write a show about the behind-the-scenes goings-on at a children's show and it would still be compelling, but in this age of infotainment and the 24-hour news cycle, there's plenty of dirt to shovel around.
Why it might not get made: No reason. This is a show that could, should, and will be made.
Log Line: Based on the comics of the same name, Powers is a police procedural set in a world where superpowers are relatively common. It centers on two detectives who deal with cases involving people with superpowers.
Starring: No cast announced yet. But... (see below)
Why this show should be made: With the huge success of The Walking Dead's translation from comics to the small screen, the powers behind Powers should follow that lead and stay close to the comic's tone. If it can do stay true to the source material, this should be a winner. Plus, Katee Sackhoff is rumored to be interested in playing the female lead.
Why it might not get made: FX isn't known for straying from reality, so a foray into science-fiction might make the network a little nervous.
How to Be a Gentleman
Log Line: Loosely based on John Bridges' book How To Be a Gentleman: A Contemporary Guide to Common Courtesy, this show is described as a buddy comedy about an uptight guy who's learning to live his life with the help of an old high school classmate.
Starring: David Hornsby (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's Rickety Cricket), Rhys Darby (Flight of the Conchords), and Dave Foley (News Radio)
Why this show should be made: Hello? Did you see that cast? I laugh just by reading Rhys Darby's name, that's how great he is. Hornsby is an upcoming talent, and Foley is a classic TV comic who still has it.
Why it might not get made: Can Hornsby and Darby parlay their cable stardom into network success? And on rigid CBS, no less?
Log Line: Labeled as an adult Harry Potter, 17th Precinct is a cop drama that's set in a world where super elements and magic rule over science.
Starring: Eamonn Walker, Stockard Channing, Jamie Bamber, James Callis, Tricia Helfer
Why this show should be made: This is Battlestar Galactica creator Ronald D. Moore's newest baby, so at least you know it won't be cheesy. Of the many "cops in supernatural situations" pilots, this one seems the strongest (though we admit that we're saying that based solely on Moore). Plus, we love the epic BSG reunion with Bamber, Helfer, Callis, and Moore.
Why it might not get made: It's a sci-fi serial drama, and those often go over well with critics but not mass audiences. Plus, if NBC tries to make it too family-friendly, it could sink.
Log Line: The project is about six NYPD rookies who must balance their personal lives with learning the beat on the streets of Manhattan.
Starring: Adam Goldberg (The Unusuals), Leelee Sobieski
Why this show should be made: Gritty cop dramas have been done before, but how many have had Robert De Niro executive producing them? Expect it to redefine "network-TV gritty."
Why it might not get made: Will it be different enough from other "gritty" cop shows?
Log Line: A period drama about a civil war soldier who crosses the country and settles into a complicated town where he is welcomed as its savior, whether he likes it or not.
Starring: No major names attached yet.
Why this show should be made: The log line may make it sound like a snoozer, but this idea was originally in development at FX, and its unique setting will stand out from the rest of television. C'mon, get some culture for a change.
Why it might not get made: Try selling a period piece that's set just after the Civil War to advertisers. It won't be easy.
Network: The CW
Log Line: A drama about a California teen who moves to her mom's hometown of New Salem and discovers that she is a witch.
Starring: Britt Robertson (Life Unexpected, as the teen)
Why this show should be made: We've already reserved a spot for this one in our guilty pleasures treasure chest. Based on the books by L.J. Smith (author of The Vampire Diaries), we think this show will cast a similar spell on us. Plus, Robertson proved to be a star-in-the-making on LUX, and we're eager to see more of her.
Why it might not get made: It fits perfectly with The CW's demographic. We can't fathom a reason why this won't get a green light.
Log Line: A workplace comedy that's set in the Los Angeles County coroner's office.
Starring: Gary Cole (The Good Wife), Tommy Dewey (Roommates)
Why this show should be made: If The Office can make working at a paper company funny, imagine what Tagged can do with dead people. This should be made based on the concept alone.
Why it might not get made: Where's the star? If this idea doesn't pull in a big name (apologies to Gary Cole), it might not get the love from executives.
Log Line: Alcatraz chronicles the efforts of tenacious cop named Rebecca and a team of FBI agents who are trying to track down a group of missing Alcatraz prisoners and guards from the past who've reappeared in the present day.
Starring: Jorge Garcia (Lost), Sam Neill (Jurassic Park), Sarah Jones (Sons of Anarchy), Santiago Cabrera (Heroes), Robert Forster (Heroes)
Why this show should be made: It's produced by J.J. Abrams, dude. I'm already dying to know the answers to the mysteries. Plus, it has Hurley on another island!
Why it might not get made: Alcatraz could end up costing a pretty penny to make, and it's got that serialized-drama feeling. It will have to be really good to get picked up to series.
House of Lies
Log Line: Follows a self-loathing, highly successful management consultant who works at a top-tier firm and who is never above using any means necessary to get his clients the information they want.
Starring: Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda), Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars), Ben Schwartz (Undercovers)
Why this show should be made: Cheadle is an eye magnet on screen, and he has the talent to pull off the anti-hero lead role. The addition of Bell and up-and-comer Schwartz doesn't hurt either.
Why it might not get made: No idea. Showtime is pretty good about only putting projects it likes into development in the first place, so we'll be surprised if this doesn't get on the schedule soon.
I Hate My Teenage Daughter
Log Line: Centers on two women who now have daughters just like the girls who picked on them in high school.
Starring: Jaime Pressly (My Name is Earl), Katie Finneran (The Inside, Wonderfalls)
Why this show should be made: This is a terrific spin on mother-daughter relationships, and the flashback possibilities are endless (we're hoping the teenage daughters play their moms' tormentors in the FBs). Pressly, even with an Emmy win, is terribly underrated as a comedic actress.
Why it might not get made: Fox has a history with live-action comedies. And that history sucks.
Log Line: A period drama about the Playboy bunnies who worked in the famous Chicago club in the 1960s. The drama examines the background of the political and moral changes in the era.
Starring: David Krumholtz (Numb3rs), Amber Heard (Zombieland)
Why this show should be made: Admit it, you've always wanted to know what goes on behind the closed doors of institutions like this.
Why it might not get made: It's essentially a salacious Mad Men rip-off on a network that can't really be that raunchy. If this show were in development at Starz and had a soft jazz soundtrack, then we'd be talking!
Log Line: A sexy Jet-Age soap about pilots and flight attendants working at the iconic Pan Am airline in the 1960s.
Starring: Christina Ricci (Black Snake Moan)
Why this show should be made: Doctors have gotten their due over and over again. Taking the sexy soap formula and setting it in the airline world is just what the genre needs to refresh itself.
Why it might not get made: With so many period pieces being pitched this year, there may be a backlash against shows inspired by Mad Men.
Log Line: A horror drama in the same vein as Paranormal Activity, about a crew that travels to the deep Amazon with high-tech gear to locate and rescue a missing TV personality/adventurer.
Starring: Eloise Mumford (Lone Star)
Why this show should be made: Horror is hugely popular in the film business; why shouldn't it also be popular on TV? With the creators of Paranormal Activity behind this project, it could successfully make that leap. Plus, I'm a sucker for gore and cheap frights and I want to see this.
Why it might not get made: There's a reason horror hasn't worked on TV, and it's usually because it's simply not that good.
Log Line: This remake of the iconic British police drama centers on Jane Timoney, a female detective who has to fight preconceptions in a tough New York precinct that is dominated by men.
Starring: Maria Bello (A History of Violence), Kirk Acevedo (Fringe), Aidan Quinn
Why this show should be made: We'd normally be apprehensive toward a remake of a series as treasured as Prime Suspect, but so far it seems like producers are giving the old show the respect it deserves.
Why it might not get made: The original was anchored by Helen Mirren's dominating performance. Bello is fantastic and all, but is she on the level of Dame Mirren?
Brave New World
Log Line: A workplace comedy that follows a group of unusual characters who spend their days toiling at Pilgrim Village, a theme park that specializes in recreations of 1637 New England.
Starring: Ed Begley, Jr. (St. Elsewhere)
Why this show should be made: Brain is overloading with potential hilarious situations...
Why it might not get made: Does this scenario actually have legs? Or will it be the same joke repeated over and over?
Locke & Key
Log Line: Based on the comics by Joe Hill, Locke & Key tells the story of Nina Locke and her three children who, after the brutal murder of Nina's husband Rendell Locke, return to Keyhouse, his old family home in Massachusetts. There, they are pestered by an evil entity named DODGE that's determined to hold the family hostage one way or another until it gets what it wants.
Starring: Miranda Otto (Lord of the Rings), Nick Stahl (Terminator 3), Sarah Bolger (In America), Jesse McCartney (pop star!)
Why this show should be made: Joe Hill is the nom de plume of Stephen King's son Joseph. So expect this one to be nice and creepy.
Why it might not get made: This project might be too ambitious for network TV.
Keep an eye out for news of any of these shows getting ordered to series over the next few months. Executives should be making their decisions by May.
Which of these pilots sounds good to you? Which ones sound not-so-good?
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom