2013 Pilot Watch: NBC Comedy

If you keep up with TV news, this time of year is the ultimate mind-f#ck. Every day news comes out about yet another awesome sounding pilot that you just can’t help but get your hopes up over and then come to realize it’ll never get past the pilot stage. It’s a lot like getting a puppy, realizing it has parvo, and trying not to get attached in case it dies. Hmmm… I think I just won an award for worst analogy ever.

Awful, but that’s pretty much how it works out.  Because this is an ever changing world, we here at Grizzly Bomb decided to do everyone a great service and round up the best looking puppies, I mean pilots, so you can be on the lookout for them. This has been a banner year for pilot orders (around 100 so far, up from last year) so we are going to break it down by network. Might as well start off with the basement dwellers… NBC.

NBC logo

There is no question, NBC needs to find a winner this year. They are no longer the king’s of primetime, they aren’t even second, or third, or sometimes even fourth. Nope, this last round of sweeps? NBC finished behind Univision, something Univision is quite proud of, for good reason.

In other words, things are bad at 30 Rockefeller Center. Are you looking for further proof?

Part of tonight’s prime-time lineup is being moved to late night Saturday/early Sunday morning night for a special presentation of “Matlock – ‘The Legacy'” at 9pm.

That would be a programming note from Cleveland’s NBC affiliate, WKYC, regarding this past Thursday’s line-up. Episodes of The Office, 1600 Penn, and Law and Order: SVU were preempted for Matlock. Not only that, they are planning on doing it next week as well.  Turns out the station executives were miffed that Andy Griffith was left out of the In Memoriam section of the Oscars on Sunday so they took it upon themselves to honor him. Because we all know that viewers are very keen on having their show pre-empted for an episode of a show from 21 years ago that only people who have since died watched on the regular. However, if they saw NBC’s Thursday night programming as easily moved to the middle of the night on a Sunday, doesn’t that herald a bigger problem?

What can help NBC regain some face? Does this year’s batch of new shows find their new Friends or ER? Only time will tell, but there are a few that look to have promise. Because NBC has so many pilots this year, I’m going to break this up between comedies and dramas. Of course, I’m going to start off with the comedies!

Michael J. Fox

Michael J. Fox is returning to family comedy! This pilot might not have a name, but it does already have a 22 episode series order. Said to be a semi-autobiographical look at Fox’s life, he is set to star as a husband and father of 3 who works to balance job and family while dealing with Parkinson’s.

It’s not hard to imagine that Fox will do well as he is quite good at sitcoms. That and he’s bringing along some good actors with him. Betsy Brandt of Breaking Bad, and Wendell Pierce of Treme and The Wire. That’s three shows that don’t automatically scream “sitcom” so it’ll be amusing to see how these dramatic actors make the leap.

In addition to a good cast, this project is being written by Sam Laybourne of Cougar Town and directed by Will Gluck who directed both Friends with Benefits and Easy A. Not bad names to have behind the camera.

Michael J Fox

About a Boy

Based on the 2002 Hugh Grant movie, this sitcom has slated David Walton as the bachelor living next door to single mom, Minnie Driver. Casting hasn’t been announced as of yet for Driver’s son.


Although I love Minnie Driver, (shut up – she’s adorable) I’m most excited about this one because Jason Katims is showrunner. He’s found a bit of success in recent years with Friday Night Lights and Parenthood, but I was a huge fan of Roswell back in the day. Granted I imagine About a Boy will be more along the lines of Parenthood than Roswell but I’m interested to see how it turns out. If nothing else, seeing how he tackles yet another movie to TV recreation should be worth watching.

Another listed producer is a name that isn’t unknown but somewhat surprising. Michelle Lee of Knots Landing fame. I imagine most of our readers here don’t remember Knots Landing but just imagine it as the 80’s version of Revenge. This is actually her first producer credit since 1998 and the first TV series (as opposed to made for TV movie) so hopefully she’ll find success in this new world.

Last but not least? Jon Favreau as director. That’s a good thing.


Krysten Ritter

The moment it was announced that Don’t Trust the B_ in Apt. 23 was tragically canceled, an egg timer started to time how long Krysten Ritter would be unemployed. Turns out, didn’t even make it to the bell as she was picked up rather quickly to play the “idealistic working girl torn between her work husband and her real-life fiance.”

Peter Cambor is also somewhat of a reason to watch (not really) but the real draw is Ritter. I loved her in Don’t Trust the B and Veronica Mars and will certainly be waiting for this one.

But wait! There’s more! Assistance could be in the dubious position of having the most to lose. Well when it comes to comedy pedigree at least. See the men behind this sitcom aren’t your usual “nameless except to those who follow TV comedy writers” executive producers. Nope, Assistance is being produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. I would bet a lot of money that come promo time, NBC is going to trot those two names out as a carrot on a stick hoping that the Talladega Nights and Funny or Die audiences follow it.

That alone is worth watching, well at least watching the ratings.

We might also be able to convince our fearless leader, Brian Kronner to watch as it is created by Leslye Headland who was a writer for one of his favorite shows, Terriers.

The Gates

Ken Marino - Party Down
Marino on PARTY DOWN

It wouldn’t be pilot time if we didn’t have at least one (or a dozen) remake from a British show. The Gates fills that role on this list. Not going to lie, given the premise, I am somewhat shocked that this is even something people find watchable, much less a hit.

It is set at the gates of an elementary school and is about the interactions between the parents, students, and teachers during the drop off and pick up times. Having sat in many a carpool lane waiting for my siblings, I can not find a single reason as to why this situation made its way on to the small screen.

That being said, I will probably watch this for no other reason than I happen to love quite a few members of the cast. Ken Marino is a funny guy and I can totally see him being “that” dad in the carpool lane. He just has that goofy while trying to stay hip in his kid’s eyes air to him, much like Phil Dunphy from Modern Family. I can see that working.

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that Greg Germann is going to play some kind of asshole. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it and Germann playing an ass is far from broke. He just does it so well.

In addition to those two, Echo Kellum has been announced as a guest star. He was on this year’s cut way too short, Ben and Kate and is just adorable. I’d be sad at the guest star status but he is also cast in another pilot on this list, an unnamed project from Victor Fresco.

The Gates also has found their director, Marc Buckland. Being a fan of both My Name is Earl and Ed, which he directed many episodes of, almost makes me want to wish this sitcom makes it to series. Almost.

DJ Nash/Jason Bateman

When I think of DJ Nash, I do not think of shows I want to watch. Sorry but Guys with Kids, ‘Til Death, and Accidentally on Purpose is not a history that bodes well for the future. Of course the same could be said for The Return of Jezebel James but I am far from holding that against Parkey Posey and she is the main reason I’ll be hoping this one sees the light of day.

This comedy also has the most intriguing logline I’ve seen so far: “A son idolizes his blind father and is bemused by his mother’s newfound adolescence as he watches his family come closer together post-divorce.” Divorce, blind, and newfound adolescence in a grown adult? Yes I will watch that. Well a few episodes at least.

Of course having Jason Bateman on board as an EP can’t hurt. We can only hope the comedy skews more Arrested Development than Guys with Kids.


John Mulaney/Lorne Michaels

If you are new here (welcome!), or just haven’t read much of my contributions to the site, you might not realize that I am a huge SNL fan. HUGE. So it comes as no surprise that the sitcom I’m perhaps most looking forward to is this unnamed project from SNL writer John Mulaney which has Lorne Michaels on board as an executive producer.

Based on Mulaney’s life, it also holds the potential of being even better than I hoped. A TV show about a TV comedy writer and his life? It sounds familiar and I like it. Mulaney is set to star as himself and Martin Short has also been cast. There’s nothing here that sounds bad. All good. Please don’t let this puppy have parvo.

Martin Short SNL

Victor Fresco

If this pilot gets a series order, I will eat my hat.

When I saw Victor Fresco’s name, I had high hopes. When I saw that it had Sean Hayes as the lead, I was even more excited as I was a huge fan of Will and Grace back in the day. When I heard that the previously mentioned Echo Kellum and the fabulous Thomas Lennon were part of the cast? Hell yes.

When I saw it was multi-cam and had this logline?

Centers on Sean, who must figure out how to parent his 14-year-old daughter, who just moved in, while navigating a temperamental new boss at work.

Well the wind went right out of my sails. It’s hard to judge and entire series by a logline but that just does not sound like a show that is going to make the cut. As it looks right now, a waste of a lot of talent.


Girlfriend in a Coma

Based on the 1998 book by Douglas Coupland, which was titled after the Smiths’ 1987 song, Girlfriend in a Coma is about a young woman who loses her virginity to her boyfriend falls into a coma hours later, and ends up pregnant. Years later she awakes and discovers that she has a 17 year old daughter.

Christina Ricci is cast as the 34 year old recent comatose woman and in a bold-ish move, Miranda Cosgrove is on board as her daughter.

One – for some reason I can’t believe Christina Ricci is old enough to play a 34 year old. I fully realize that’s ridiculous as she is in her early 30’s, but for some reason I always imagine her still as a teenager.

Two – Outside of a few movie roles and guest spots here and there, this is Cosgrove’s first venture out of the Nickelodeon nest. Girlfriend has put on her big girl panties and decided it’s time to sit at the adult table.

Even with these two interesting actresses that I enjoy watching, I wasn’t planning on giving this one much attention until I saw that Dick Wolf is one of the executive producers. Of course he’s had some crappy shows (Stars earn Stripes comes to mind) but the man knows how to sniff out a winner.

Combine him with Liz Brixius who has a creator credit for Nurse Jackie and has written for one of my favorite new comedies of the year, Go On, I’m looking forward to this one.

So there you have it! A sampling of NBC’s upcoming comedy pilots. Will we have the privilege of ever seeing these shows? Outside of Michael J. Fox’s, who know? I’m sure Assistance will find itself a nice spot on Thursday nights, but all we can do is sit back, wait, and hope that some affiliate out there doesn’t find a Matlock episode it finds more appealing.

Next up? NBC Dramas – See you there!

Update: As series orders roll in, see how I did across the board!
NBC Dramas
FOX and The CW

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