Pilot Buzz 2021 Update As ABC, CBS and the CW Near Pickup Decisions

·3 min read

As we head into the first broadcast upfront presentations on Monday, the two networks that are going up first, NBC and Fox, have made the decisions on their outstanding pilots. This leaves ABC and CBS, which also are presenting next week, as well as the CW, which has some leeway as it is not unveiling its fall 2021 schedule until the week after. Things have never been murkier so close to showtime but here is what I have heard since publishing the initial 2021 Pilot Buzz last week.

No major changes at the front of the ABC echelon, with The Wonder Years reboot, from Saladin Patterson, the original series’ Fred Savage and Lee Daniels, and drama Queens, headlined by Brandy, Eve, Naturi Naughton, Nadine Velazquez and Pepi Sonuga, staying hot through the screenings and still looking good.

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Comedy pilot Maggie lived up to the “dark horse” moniker I gave it in the original handicap. I hear it came in strong and has moved up to the top group of half-hour ABC contenders, joining The Wonder Years as well as Quinta Brunson’s Abbot Elementary, which has kept its momentum.

Meanwhile, medical drama pilot Triage has lost its momentum to continue its rollercoaster ride. The project, told in three different time frames, did not fare well with the first cut, fared better with the second cut, which had promising testing results, but faced new challenges during screenings, I hear.

The buzzy National Parks, executive produced by Kevin Costner, had been a wild card for fall consideration. I hear there is still no final, broadcast-length cut of the pilot ready but it may come in at the last minute to be factored into fall 2021 decisions.

As we reported, drama pilots Epic, Promised Land and Dark Horse are on a different track and will be filmed for post-upfront consideration, likely for midseason. Comedies Black Don’t Crack and Bucktown have been quiet but considered a possibility.

No major changes at CBS, with both drama pilots, medical drama Good Sam, headlined by Sophia Bush, and political drama Ways & Means, starring Patrick Dempsey, in contention following solid feedback from screenings. The current political fatigue remains a factor for Ways & Means, which I hear could go for midseason, giving it more time to adjust the concept.

The two CBS’ 2021 comedy pilot presentations were delivered and screened within the last week. Both were received well, I hear. The multi-camera Untitled Tom Smallwood project, based on the pro bowler’s life and starring Pete Holmes, feels like a typical CBS sitcom and is tipped as a solid contender. The untitled Sarah Cooper/Cindy Chupack single-camera comedy, which has three female leads and tackles gender politics, is a departure but is well liked, with some suggesting that it could potentially move to Paramount+ if there is no shelf space at CBS. CBS’ 2020 comedy pilot, Welcome To Georgia, starring Hannah Simone and Elizabeth Hurley, is not looking very promising after getting a boost from solid testing.

Any CW handicapping on the network’s traditional pilots is done sight unseen because neither of the three pilots have been delivered yet. Diablo Cody and Berlanti Prods.’ Powerpuff, Ava DuVernay’s DC-themed Naomi; and millennial nun dramedy Our Ladies Of Brooklyn from Jennie Snyder Urman, all enter the final stages of the game with a chance to get on the air, depending on the execution. And depending whether the CW picks up all three — or fewer –to series, the network will give a series order to one — or more — of its backdoor pilots. Continuing to lead the pack is All American: Homecoming, which has been garnering rave reviews.

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