Magazine article Variety

Shows Building Buzz in a Less-Frantic Pilot Season

Magazine article Variety

Shows Building Buzz in a Less-Frantic Pilot Season

Article excerpt

There's something missing from pilot season this year - that blood-pressure-raising sense of overwhelming frenzy.

The do-or-die panic surrounding the annual springtime ritual of producing some 70-80 pilots in nine weeks or so has ebbed because the process has changed so much in recent years, even for the old-guard broadcast networks.

More and more projects are receiving off-cycle pilot orders or straight-to-series pickups. That allows showrunners to start production at a safe distance from the traditional January-February crush of casting and recruiting directors and other key personnel.

For talent, the pressure has eased thanks to the exponential expansion of job opportunities: With 400-plus scripted series now airing across dozens of outlets in the U.S. alone, there's plenty of work to be found throughout the year.

Character and supporting actors now routinely pop up on multiple series during any given 12-month period, sometimes even on shows that air concurrently on different networks. It's no longer an environment where a working actor who didn't have a pilot picked up in May would seriously worry about paying the bills in October - even if the pay usually isn't what it once was when the Big Three broadcasters ruled the world.

Another reason that the pace feels slightly less hectic this year is that there are fewer pilots in total coming from the Big Four. NBC, for one, has slimmed down its orders because its needs are lighter, with "Blindspot" clicking and another planted spin-off in its Chicago milieu coming up, "Chicago Justice," starring Philip Winchester.

Still, even the richest series commitment is no absolute guarantee of getting on the air, which means there's an ersatz pilot phase even for straight-toseries projects like Kiefer Sutherland's ABC drama "Designated Survivor"; Kevin James' untitled CBS comedy; and "Good Place," the NBC comedy starring Kristen Bell from "Parks and Recreation's" Michael Schur. …

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