Whenever a new TV season rolls around, critics, bloggers and everyone else online cry out the demise of network television and the rise of cable. You don’t have to go beyond the award shows to realize that this appears to be the case, with the networks being completely shut out at this year’s Golden Globe Awards.
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So what are ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and The CW to do about this trend? If the pilot orders they announced today for the 2013-2014 season are any indication, it’s all about reboots and book-to-screen adaptations. How original. (That’s not to say cable doesn’t do the same thing — Game of Thrones, anyone?) So let’s take a look at some of the more intriguing options that may show up on our TV screens starting next fall.
Beverly Hills Cop and Sleepy Hollow: A Blast from the Past
When was the last time we saw comedian Eddie Murphy do anything? He’s been in only two films in the past two years. Maybe a transition into television will work to his advantage, especially since he’s rebooting (and executive producing) Beverly Hills Cop for CBS. Then again, he won’t be the star this time around. In fact, this new edition centers on Detective Axel Foley’s son, played by Brandon T. Jackson. Murphy is scheduled to appear in at least the pilot.
CBS always has a very predictable formula with their dramas; they go with the cop, detective and CSI type shows. But it works, plain and simple. Look at their recent success with Elementary, a modern day reboot of Sherlock Holmes. If that’s anything to go by, CBS may know exactly how they can make sure Beverly Hills Cop is a hit. If they play their cards right, in a year from now we won’t be complaining about CBS not being original.
Over at FOX, they’ve ordered a pilot for Sleepy Hollow, and according to Deadline, it’s being described as a “modern-day supernatural thriller based on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “follows Ichabod Crane as he partners with Sleepy Hollow’s local female sheriff to solve the mysteries of a town ravaged by the battle between good and evil.” FOX has seen the recent popularity and trends with fairy tales, folktales and children’s stories — Snow White and Oz on the big screen, Once Upon a Time and Grimm on the small screen, to name a few — and they want to grab a share of that market as well. If it means not focusing on original programming, then so be it, in their eyes. It’s hard to tell what level of success Sleepy Hollow may have on FOX. Would you watch it?
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The Selection and Delirium: The Future is Now
Dystopian stories are all the rage nowadays, thanks to the hugely successful film adaptation of The Hunger Games last year. And they all seem to be marketed toward young adults. Two of the pilot orders fit this formula: The Selection for The CW and Delirium for FOX.
The Selection is based on a book series of the same name by Kiera Cass. The CW originally ordered a book-to-screen adaptation for the current season, but production never made it past the pilot when they decided to hold off and retool before making a decision whether to pick it up again. Based on quotes over the past several months by executives, it’s obvious The Selection has been a priority for the network.
The CW wants its own version of The Hunger Games. And what do you know? The Selection is most often described as The Hunger Games meets The Bachelor, with protagonist America Singer taking part in a competition to become their country’s next queen. You take two already successful movies/shows, mix them together, make sure it’s geared toward the younger demographic and voila! The CW may have their next hit.
Delirium has its own take on dystopias, but maybe a little more original. Lauren Oliver wrote the trilogy about Lena Holoway, who lives in a “world where love is deemed illegal and is able to be eradicated with a special procedure,” according to Deadline. But with only three months until she’s scheduled to undergo that procedure, Holoway falls in love with someone. FOX is no stranger to gritty dramas. But will their viewers latch on to a dystopian story? Should it have been targeted as a film instead?
I’ve read positive reviews about these book series, but with either work? Of the two, I think The Selection has a better chance of success. It’s on a network that has stuck with it through the highs and lows of production, the story fits their demographic and it’s been positively compared to another book series that’s now a movie.
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The Returned: Bringing the Undead to Network TV
The biggest trend for ABC’s new pilots is primetime soaps, with two pickups having a Revenge feel to them. And while this choice is very predictable, I want to focus on another drama that ABC may air next season: The Returned, from the creator of The Killing. Here’s the tagline: “What happens when the people you have mourned and buried suddenly appear on your doorstep as if not a day’s gone by? The lives of the people of Aurora are forever changed when their deceased loved ones return,” as reported by TV Line. It’s not only bringing the undead to network TV, but if picked up as a series, ABC hopes that a premise normally done on cable will translate to a Big 4 network where you can’t get away with as much gore or violence.
While The Returned is a book by Jason Mott, it hasn’t even been published yet; Mira Books will release it in September. Deadline notes that there was a bidding war between various studios and production companies for the rights to adapt the novel. With that much interest and devotion, ABC is banking on this high concept show bringing in more viewers, should they choose to pick it up as a series.
Out of all the pilots the networks have ordered, there are around 10, if not more, based on books, movies, fairy tales and foreign TV shows. (Others include Rake, a legal drama starring Greg Kinnear and The Sixth Gun, based on a graphic novel.) It’s obvious, based on these decisions, they are choosing to rely on already existing stories instead of focusing time and effort on original programming. But having said that, is there a reason behind it? It’s not like it’s only ABC or only FOX doing it. It’s all five networks. They know what they’re doing and are willing to bet their money that viewers will flock to what they’re already familiar with, just like film studios do with motion pictures.
If you were in charge of one of the networks, would you follow this pattern that’s being set up for next year? Or would you decide on original material that brings with it the risk of viewers being turned off from something they don’t know? And do any of the above pilots intrigue you?
These pilots may or may not air on TV next season. But in the meantime, you can add current shows like Homeland, American Idol and Girls to your very own watch-list. Download BuddyTV Guide for free for your phone.
(Images courtesy of Paramount Pictures & HarperTeen)