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”).

5. Joey Dakota (The CW)

Okay, I don’t know what to make of this show, which is apparently an American adaptation of an Israeli series called “Danny Hollywood,” but they had me at the phrase “romantic time-travel musical,” and they kept me when they revealed that it was about a documentary filmmaker who somehow time-travels to the ’90s, falls in love with the rock star she’s been making a film about, and, upon being thrust back to the present, struggles to find a way to get back to the past and save the rock star’s life. The only person I know in the cast is Amber Stevens (“Greek”), but it’s produced by Mark Harmon, whose nephews have more than a bit of passing familiarity with the ’90s rock scene. (They’re Gunnar and Matthew Nelson, you know). Also, the pilot is directed by Allan Arkush, who always managed to make “Heroes” look good no matter how crappy the material may have been.

6. Elementary (CBS)

I’m the first to admit that the world desperately does not need another incarnation of Sherlock Holmes, especially given that we’ve already got a movie franchise and a perfectly good British TV series inspired by the Holmes mythos. But what can I say? Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu as Holmes and Watson is just ridiculous enough for me to watch to tune in. Not necessarily because I think it’ll be any good, you understand, but the curiosity factor alone is off the charts. Plus, Aidan Quinn is in it, and he usually does good work.

7. Untitled Roland Emmerich Drama (ABC)

Anything with Roland Emmerich’s name on it has got my attention immediately, particularly when it involves a grad student being selected to fight the forces of evil. But knowing that Martin Landau and Linus Roache are in the mix…? Sold. And then some.

8. American Judy (ABC)

Judy Greer isn’t quite the female equivalent of Tyler Labine (although she certainly didn’t help her cause any by co-starring with him on “Mad Love”), but suffice it to say that she’s at least as deserving of a successful series. This one might have a terrible title, but it co-stars the always funny Ken Marino, along with Mimi Kennedy and the ever-hot Elaine Hendrix. With that talent, does it even matter what it’s about? Well, just in case it does, Greer plays a city girl who gets married, moves to the suburbs with her new husband (who’s the sheriff), and learns to deal with her stepkids, mother-in-law, and her husband’s ex-wife.

9. Untitled Ralph Lamb (CBS)

Another period piece, but this one only steps back to the 1960s. Based on the true story of Ralph Lamb, a former rodeo cowboy who became the sheriff of Las Vegas, it comes courtesy of Nicholas Pileggi (“Goodfellas,” “Casino”), and the cast features Dennis Quaid, Michael Chiklis, and Carrie-Anne Moss. I hope to hell it’s good, because if it isn’t, that’s a lot of talent gone to waste.

10. Downwardly Mobile (NBC)

Unless it turns out to be really, really, really unfunny, I cannot conceive of a way that NBC won’t pick up a sitcom that reunites Roseanne Barr and John Goodman, especially when Roseanne is playing the owner of a mobile home park.

11. Like Father (Fox)

I’ve got Bill Lawrence’s back on just about anything that comes down the pike with his name on it, and that includes “Like Father,” which stars Colin Ferguson and is inspired by the relationship between Lawrence and his own father. Here’s hoping he’s buried in work and has to deal with this show being picked up and “Cougar Town” getting renewed. (A guy can dream, can’t he?)

12. Devious Maids (ABC)

I know better than to approach this as anything other than the eventual guilty pleasure that it will prove to be, but putting Marc Cherry (“Desperate Housewives”) at the helm of a show about four maids in Beverly Hills who work for the famous while trying to make their own dreams come true…? That just seems like a match made in heaven. Throw in Susan Lucci, and just step back and watch the fireworks.

13. Susan 313 (NBC)

It stars Sarah Silverman, features Jeff Goldblum playing her dad, and is executive produced by Ron Howard and Brian Glazer. You just know it’s going to end up being too hip for the room, but how can I not be excited about the prospect of seeing such a thing?

14. Last Resort (ABC)

Okay, this just sounds way too crazy for me to not want to see it come to fruition: per The Hollywood Reporter, the show centers on the crew of a U.S. nuclear submarine who, after ignoring an order to fire nuclear missiles, wind up being hunted and escape to a NATO outpost where they declare themselves to be the world’s smallest nuclear nation. It stars Scott Speedman and Andre Braugher and, in recurring roles, Bruce Davison and Robert Patrick. There’s no way it’ll get the green light. It just sounds way too interesting.

15. The Frontier (NBC)

Might as well bookend things with another period piece set in the 1800s, this time focusing on a group of settlers heading west, but this one particularly grabs my attention, as it comes from the mind of Shaun Cassidy, who – at least in my estimation – has yet to attach his name to any TV series that hasn’t at least proven interesting. Clancy Brown is in the cast, which is always a plus in my book, and so is Ethan Embry, who I’ve liked for as long as I can remember.