The Light from the TV Shows: Pilot Season Ahoy!

It’s a sure sign that spring is on the verge of emerging when the networks start to let slip the names, premises, and attached actors for all of the pilots under consideration for the next TV season. Most of these pilots go nowhere, which is the way the cookie has always crumbled, but a few lucky programs end up getting the go-ahead for a series commitment. I don’t claim to have any real idea how the networks think – as a critic, it’s pretty much a given that I never know what the networks are thinking (and, in turn, they don’t care what I’m thinking) – but that doesn’t mean I’m afraid to give my thoughts on 15 of the pilots that I’d like to see come to fruition and join the fall schedules of their respective networks. You can check out a much fuller list from The Hollywood Reporter by clicking here, but in the meantime, here’s the stuff that I’m hoping to be TiVo’ing in a few months’ time….

1. Gilded Lilys (ABC)

It’s been quite awhile since a broadcast network has managed to sell viewers on a period piece set prior to the 20th century, so the fact that ABC is even considering this series, which takes place in 1895 and revolves around the first luxury hotel in New York, is proof of how much pull executive producer Shonda Rhimes has with the American Broadcasting Company. In truth, the big selling point for me is John Barrowman. This doesn’t exactly bode well for another season of “Torchwood,” but the dude deserves a big U.S. break. You never know: this could be it.

2. Untitled Louis C.K. / Spike Feresten Comedy (CBS)

Go on, admit it: you were sold the moment you saw the name “Louis C.K.,” weren’t you? And Spike Feresten isn’t bad, either. Seeing these two guys attached to this project is the only reason why it stands out, since the only real description available is that it’s an an ensemble comedy about a bunch of twentysomethings trying to make their dreams come true despite today’s crappy financial climate. But, damn, after two seasons of “Louie,” the idea of Louis C.K. putting his spin on anything makes it something that’ll surely be worth seeing. With that said, however, I hope Dan Byrd ends up not being available to do the show, as that will mean that “Cougar Town” has been renewed.

3. Animal Kingdom (NBC)

Two words: Tyler Labine. I mean, come on, America, what more does this loveable teddy bear of a comedy actor have to do to get a show to stay on the air for more than a season or two? NBC is, if memory serves, the last of the broadcast networks that has yet to cancel a series out from under Mr. Labine – “Invasion” was on ABC, “Reaper” was on The CW, “Sons of Tucson” was on Fox, and “Mad Love” was on CBS – and, frankly, this could be his last stop before the autograph-show circuit. Doesn’t Tyler Labine deserve a better fate than that? You’re damned right he does.

4. Untitled Kevin Williamson serial killer drama (Fox)

The man behind “The Vampire Diaries” brings Kevin Bacon to the small screen to play Ryan Hardy, a former FBI agent on the hunt for serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy), who’s busy building himself a whole cult full of serial killers. If that isn’t enough to sell you, the cast also features Natalie Zea (“Justified”).

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The Light from the TV Shows: Chatting with Natalie Zea about “Justified” (with a little bit of “Dirty Sexy” talk, too)

FX’s “Justified” continues to be one of the best series on television, with a lot of the credit for its success rightfully being attributed to Elmore Leonard’s original source material and the love and respect series creator Graham Yost and his writers have for Leonard’s work. Lest we forget just how important the cast is to the success of the series, however, I wanted to make sure that I took advantage of the opportunity to chat with at least one of the actors from the ensemble after they wrapped the “Justified” panel at the January TCA tour. As there’s such a wealth of talent to choose from, I’m sure you’ll believe me if I assure you that it was complete coincidence that I just happened to end up talking to the most gorgeous one of the bunch.

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t entirely coincidental. Look, I’ve been smitten with Natalie Zea since she first crossed my radar as part of the cast of ABC’s “Dirty Sexy Money,” and I had the chance to talk to her in a perfectly legitimate capacity. So sue me.

Also, just so it’s out there, I should probably also mention that I sound like a complete doofus a couple of times, responding to her responses by simply saying, “Really?” I’m not usually like that, but, hey, this is what happens when you’re blindsided by a beautiful woman…

Bullz-Eye: So what was it like when the cast gathered back together for the first table read of Season Three?

Natalie Zea: We, uh, don’t do table reads. [Laughs.]

BE: [Surprised.] Really?

NZ: Regretfully. I think they’re very handy. I think it’s that Graham (Yost) is not a fan of table reads. I’m not sure why. So, yeah, you kind of get thrown back into it on the first day. My first scene of Season Three was a love scene. And it’s, like, “Oh, hello, haven’t seen you in six months! How are you doing? Great! Let’s get into bed!” [Laughs.] And then, y’know, after the first 15 minutes, it’s like I never left.

BE: There’s at least a slightly different dynamic with your character this season, owing to her pregnancy, but you indicated during the panel that you’re not planning to play her a whole lot differently.

NZ: No, I’m not. Also, in regards to the pregnancy, what I realized but didn’t say is… We’re not really talking about the pregnancy as much as we are the baby. So I think probably Winona’s pregnancy is going quite well. [Laughs.] She’s having a really easy time of it. Which I like. I think…y’know, if there are concerns with viewers – and I think there would be, given the nature of this show – that it’s going to turn into this, like, “Baby? Pregnancy? I want ice cream and pickles! My feet hurt!” [Laughs.] It’s not happening. The pregnancy almost never gets addressed. But the issues…the outcome and the issues regarding the outcome, those are discussed. Because it’s life. And you have to discuss it.

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