Pilot Season 2013: Get Scoop on This Fall's (Possible) Newcomers, and Who's In Them

PilotGlossaryPilot season is here, meaning the networks are taking stock of their needs for 2013-14 and getting the ball rolling toward filling any gaps. With development season about to get really interesting — meaning it’s time to start booking actors for these wannabe series! — we thought it might help to round up the current crop, and well as define some of the lingo that gets tossed around.

For easy access: Review our always-updated list of pilots for ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox and NBC.

PILOT | You really want get basic, eh? When a network orders (or “picks up”) a pilot, they’re asking its writers/producers/studio to cast and produce a close facsimile of what their series’ first episode will look like. Each pilot is reviewed by network brass, then typically put into testing before a decision is made on whether it’ll land on the schedule (for fall or midseason).

PLANTED SPIN-OFF | Also called a “backdoor” pilot, this is an episode of an existing series that sets up a prospective offshoot. For example, The Vampire Diaries this April will air an episode focused around Klaus, Elijah and Hayley in New Orleans, and that’s a planted pilot for the potential spin-off The Originals. Free History Lesson: That Brady Bunch episode with new neighbor Ken Berry adopting three orphans? That was a(n ill-fated) planted pilot for a spin-off to be called Kelly’s Kids.

DRAMA/COMEDY PRESENTATION | Occasionally, due to time or budget restraints, a network won’t order a full pilot but a “presentation” of a not-quite-complete drama or a taste of what a sitcom would look like.

CAST-CONTINGENT/CAST CONTINGENCY | Sometimes a network will order a pilot with the caveat that production can’t start until a suitable (usually “name”) actor has been cast in the starring role. (A possible translation: “The premise is iffy, but a big star could really help sell us.”) So you’ll sometimes hear that with the casting of so-and-so, “the cast contingency has been lifted” on a pilot. (The sorta flip-side is an “if-come deal,” meaning the major players are pre-signed and rarin’ to go the instant the network OKs the pilot itself.)

SECOND POSITION | These are perhaps the two words that makes fans of “bubble” shows most nervous each spring, as stars from underperforming series start booking pilots (provided they get the OK from their current bosses). The term literally means that the pilot role is in second position (or priority) should their current show be renewed. Example: In spring 2011, Damon Wayans Jr. booked a lead on Fox’s New Girl, but when ABC renewed Happy Endings, New Girl had to replace his character. An actor booking a second position gig doesn’t always mean his/her current show is doomed… though it often tends to. Variation: A “safe second” means the pilot’s bosses have been discreetly all-but-assured that the actor will be available.

UPFRONTS | This is the week in mid-May when the networks take turns unveiling their schedules for next season — including the pilots that have been ordered to series. With rare exception, if your show doesn’t make the cut here, it’s (gulp) officially a goner.

And now, our running update of pilots ordered for the 2013-14 TV season, going network by network….


Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Mom and Friends with Better Lives sound like they might be funny. The Rob Greenberg project also sounds like it could be good, mainly because I like the cast. I might check out Doubt just because I LOVED House and I want to see if David Shore’s next show is just as good.

  2. chris says:

    any word on the cable pilots?

    • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

      The cable industry works on a greatly different timetable in developing pilots, one that is spread throughout the year, and thus is never covered in this annual document.

  3. Ela says:

    Any news on Crossbones? I need Hugh Laurie back on my TV screen, especially in the role of Blackbeard

  4. Vevie says:

    Yes, the cable pilots are really what’s interesting. The best tv is on cable

  5. Jared says:

    I hope the CW picks up Oxygen and pairs it with BATBs second season :)

  6. maria says:

    I’m really interested on NCIS:LA spin off

  7. lauren says:

    All the shows sound insering

  8. omabin says:

    Does anyone know what happened to Crossbones from NBC? Did it get a pilot order or what?There were rumours a while back about hugh laurie even joining it!

  9. Elle says:

    I want Delirium, The Selection, The Originals, Oxegyn, Mom, Crazy Ones, Super Fun Night, Brenda Forever, Bloodline, Trophy Wife, S.H.I.E.L.D, Venice and Boomerang picked up.

  10. Cameron says:

    Intelligence seems to have the same premise of Chuck.

  11. AimanGabz says:

    Super fun night, the tomorrow people, the selection and oxygen are really doing my mind at the moment :D CANT WAIT!! OOO AND THE ORIGINALS XD TVD FAN WOO HOOO!!!

  12. Sasha says:

    Pilots I want picked up-
    Super Fun Night-I LOVE Rebel Wilson and ABC would be idiotic to pass up the chance to have her on a show before she gets too ‘big’ for TV.
    S.H.I.E.L.D-This just sounds amazeballs! Whedon + Marvel + Coulson=Me tuning in every week!
    Gothica-Sounds interesting and I really like the cast could break the Sunday at 10 curse.
    Westside-Cause ABC have some amazing soaps!

    Bad Teacher-I liked the movie but wasn’t too enthusiastic about this until I read the cast!
    Mom-Anna Faris can make anything good, even a Lorre sitcom.
    Crazy Ones-SMG returning to TV is a must.

    The CW:
    The Originals-Love TVD and this could be fun.
    The Selection-Sounds interesting.
    Oxygen-What can I say? I love a good paranormal romance show.
    Tomorrow People-Sounds good!

    Delirium-Loved the books, this show needs to be picked up!
    Friends & Family-Sounds really cute plus, love the cast.

    Bloodlines-Sounds intriguing.
    Assistance-I need Krysten Ritter back on my TV.

  13. Melanie says:

    I used to love the CW but little by little all of the shows I loved are gone. They have not done a great job replacing the theme of the shows they removed and the previews to come are not going to keep me watching. Once Vampire Diaries and Hart of Dixie go if this is what the CW is planning they will be down one more viewer.

  14. Madi says:

    I am really hoping for Murder in Manhattan to get the green light. It’s not very often that we see shows with such a strong family basis already built right into them. Blue Bloods is really the only drama on TV right now I can think of that fits the bill and it seems that the media prefers to focus so much more on like other relationships, usually the romantic ones. It’s nice to see a premise involving something a little different. The fact that it’s starring Bridget Regan is just an added bonus.

  15. Hayley says:

    There are a couple of promising pilots but it’s mainly a crap pilot season and ‘She’s Got Balls’ is one of the worst concepts I’ve ever read

  16. Htet Arkar says:

    Excited in the Hunger Games inspired the Selection. Wooopiiii

  17. Victoria says:

    I think some of the descriptions are kind of lack luster. I know it’s not suppose to be super descriptive but Gothica had a very vague description which has done it no justice. I’ve was able to see the pilot for this show and I’m really hoping it makes it to air. It left me wanting more, so I hope I get to see where this story goes. Trully a drama full of twist and turns, taking the old and making it new and fresh. I don’t watch a lot of prime time TV but I would certainly tune into this show. A few of the other pilots also look pretty interesting and worth checking out. Hopefully they are as good as they sound.

  18. Tanya says:

    Really want Delirium to be picked up!!!!

  19. Miranda says:

    Donor Party has already been made. The series is called Seed, and it’s a Canadian production. It would be an insult, not to mention possible lawsuit if that series was green lit.

  20. Dianthrax says:

    I know the description explained that it’s already a re-make of a show from the UK, but the synopsis for “The Tomorrow People” also describes a storyline that people have been telling for the last 50 years! it’s called “The X-Men” and Marvel has been successfully exploring the idea in comic books since issue #1 in 1963- I find it doubtful that anyone will do a better job with it than they have.

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  23. Scott Smith says:

    Well, The new Smallville spin off will be very well done, As it will be taking off from season ‘Ten’ and the actors whom are some well known not world wide, Now the scripts and are ready for this fall. As is the first original Smallville, Some of the cast where not known, Yet when you would watch the show you did not dawn on that.