Pilot Season Guide

Pilot Season '17: Scoop on This Fall's (Possible) New Shows, Who's In Them

Pilot season is upon us, meaning the broadcast networks are taking stock of their needs for 2017-18 and getting the ball rolling toward filling any gaps. With things about to get really interesting — meaning it’s time to start booking actors for these wannabe hits! — TVLine presents its annual round-up of who’s planning what, and well as our guide to the lingo that gets tossed around.

For easy access: Review the list of pilots for ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox and NBC, and we urge you to bookmark this constantly-updated page for the latest intel.

PILOT | When a network orders (or “picks up”) a pilot, they’re asking its writers/producers/studio to cast and produce a facsimile of what a series’ first episode will look like. Each pilot is reviewed by network brass, then typically put into testing before its fate is decided. (A “put pilot” has a greater guarantee of going to series, as there is a significant financial penalty if it does not.)

PLANTED SPIN-OFF | Also called a “backdoor” pilot, this is an episode of an existing series that sets up a prospective offshoot. For example, Chicago Fire took us inside a hospital in Season 3, and that was a planted pilot for Chicago Med. (Free History Lesson: That Brady Bunch episode with neighbor Ken Berry adopting three diverse orphans? That was an ill-fated planted pilot, for the spin-off Kelly’s Kids.)

DRAMA/COMEDY PRESENTATION | Due to time or budget restraints, a network sometimes won’t order a full pilot but a “presentation” of a not-quite-complete drama or sitcom.

CAST-CONTINGENT | Sometimes a network will order a pilot with the caveat that production can’t start until a suitable (read: “name”) actor has been cast in a lead role. (One translation: “The premise is iffy, but a big star could 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 picks up the pilot.)

SECOND POSITION | AKA the two words that make fans of “bubble” shows nervous each spring, as stars from low-rated series start booking pilots (provided they get the OK from their current bosses). The term literally means that a pilot role is in second position/priority should their show get renewed. An actor booking a second position gig doesn’t always mean his/her current show is doomed… though it usually does. Variation: A “safe second” means the pilot’s bosses have been discreetly all-but-assured that the actor will be available.

UPFRONTS | 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 officially a goner.

And now, our running update of pilots ordered for the 2017-18 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. Jason says:

    Wonder when we’re gonna start to hear casting news about Cloak and Dagger over at Freeform since its straight to series marvel project

  2. TinLV says:

    Anything from the mind of Marc Cherry is ok with me.. I love his shows !

  3. Imzadi says:

    ORVILLE sound interessting and I like the cast.

  4. Maria says:

    The Reba/Marc Cherry thing sounds good. Also the Feuerstein comedy (love him) but with a different title. The existing one is clunky.

  5. Clarissa says:

    Deception and Thin Ice sound the most interesting so far.

  6. Kay says:

    9J, 9K and 9L sounds interesting, but the title is horrible. Why not just cut it down to 9K?

  7. Alec says:

    Another year, same male leads on CBS’ shows.

  8. Traditionalist says:

    wow, so excited for NONE of theses (except new W&G)

  9. Jared says:

    I’m surprised more networks aren’t ordering more “This is Us” type character driven pilots considering how popular that show is this year.

    • TvDiva says:

      Fox has a character driven show from the creator of “This is Us” called Pitch. Hopefully they renew it.. it deserves a second shot in a new day/time.

    • Nero tTVFiddler says:

      I agree 100%… maybe there are more pilots in the pipeline coming? But if the networks don’t have any pilots in the same vein as This Is Us, they are missing a golden opportunity.

      That said, perhaps writing scripts as intricate and compelling as This Is Us are hard to do (I don’t doubt that); and hence, many producers/writers are not able to do it. That’s a shame.

  10. Brigid says:

    The Crossing sounds cool.

  11. Red Snapper says:

    So far there are a few that I’m excited about and some that could be good but depends on casting. ABC; The Crossing sounds like its up my alley and I am very excited about Inhumans. Question, is The Good Doctor based on the Kdrama? It seems to be pretty much the same story. The Kdrama was okay, not my favorite but I liked the cast. I can think of much better Kdramas to adapt. Nothing really jumps out at me from CBS and there’s nothing from CW yet. Fox; I’ve been really looking forward to Orville and I really hope the just announced Mutant series is good. Thin Ice sounds like it could be fun but really depends on the cast. NBC; I loved Will & Grace when I was younger but for some reason I just can’t seem to get excited about the revival. Reverie sounds interesting but again it depends on the cast and I am curious about the Seth Meyers project. I’ll keep checking back in for updates as I love pilot season and always look forward to casting and what got picked up announcements.

  12. herman1959 says:

    Thank you, Vlada, for taking the time to explain all these terms. I’d never heard of the term or the concept of cast-contingent, how common is it?

    • Nero tTVFiddler says:

      I want to second this … I was about to write the same comment. Vlada has done a wonderful job here, and the words and phrases that she’s used (rarin’, iffy, History Lesson) show such joy, fun and anticipation of Pilot Season and Upfront that it makes for enjoyable reading. That’s what this is all about… a chance for people to come together, learn new things about television, and smile and enjoy.

      Thank you Vlada and TVLine team! Well done. Now, bring on the Pilots!!!

  13. Every time pilot season comes around I wish there was a fantasy team type game for TV. You would have to pick shows based only on the description and then get points if it was picked up, if it goes to series, etc. TVLine, make this happen!

  14. David Hambly says:

    gee, like lets do 2 CAST-CONTINGENT unfunny shows,with no scripts, about a clueless middle aged father with a hot young wife to be a clueless dad to his kids.oh wait,we already got 2 of them this year with matt le blanc and kevin jameswait,let’s do another one. showkiller dermot mulroony is available,right

  15. kirads09 says:

    The only one that caught my interest in anyway was the Kyra Sedgwick Ten Days In The Valley.

  16. kirads09 says:

    Can I just say this? ALL of them sound relatively “safe”. Nothing really bold, daring, original or different. They may play out differently, but just from reading these descriptions. If that is the case, no wonder streaming (Netflix, Amazon, etc) and cable originals are kicking butt over broadcast.

    • Nero tTVFiddler says:

      Yep – agree 100%. The picks sound safe… ‘corporate.’ Like a bunch of company corporate execs sat around a table and tried not to tip anything over. Indeed, that’s why people (customers), including most all young people, head elsewhere. Not good in the long term. One could argue, the movie industry is in the same ‘corporate’ mode. But that is good for the rise of teams/companies like Netflix and Amazon… opportunity knocking. I heard yesterday that Apple is thinking of getting into the same business.

  17. AngelWasHere says:

    What a borefest. None of these interest me.

  18. Ally Oop says:

    So far, 3 shows interest me: Crossroads, The Marc Cherry Drama and Good Girls.

  19. No pilots being ordered thus far by the CW is good news for those of us who love “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”–hopefully, this points to renewing it for another season. I cannot understand why more people have not watched this show–it’s fantastic.

  20. Kris says:

    I will watch anything from Fey and Carlock after 30 Rock and Kimmy Schmidt, so yes to The Sackett Sisters… (They need to change the name tho)

  21. Agent 86 says:

    Whatever happened to NBC’s planned reboot of Xena: Warrior Princess? Last I recall, Javier Grillo-Marxuach had finished the pilot script and submitted it to NBC. Did they reject it? Is it being re-written? Are they pursuing Witchblade or another fantasy TV series with a female lead instead?

  22. Dan says:

    Does anyone remember a pilot up for contention last year about a young women that enrols into university after her brother his murdered on campus? I think it was meant to be at ABC, and it sounded very intriguing to me, but I’m having trouble trying to find out much more about it.

  23. Jackie says:

    Please watch TV… Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Goldbergs, Modern Family and Designated Survivor.

    Don’t Watch TV… Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away with Murder, Scandal, The Real O’Neals, Fresh Off the Boat, Dancing with the Stars, The Bachelor, The Middle, Speechless and Black-ish.

  24. Jackie says:

    Renewal Agents of Shield season 5. Inhumans. Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger.

  25. Sargun says:

    When will percy jackson TV show by TheCW will start. As rumours are there.

  26. Sargun says:

    When will percy jackson show starts by TheCW as rumours are there about its start.

  27. Jackie says:

    Good News!!!
    Renewal Agents of Shield- final season, Fall 2017.
    Inhumans September 26, 2017.
    Cloak and Dagger, Winter 2018.
    New Warriors, Spring 2018.
    Damage Control, 2017 or 2018.

  28. Jackie says:

    Legends of Tomorrow- Season 3

    Cast: Firestorm, Atom, White Canary, Rip Hunter, Heat Wave, Vixen, Citizen Steel and Kamandi..!!!!

    ???? Constantine, Black Siren and Nightwing. or Felicity Smoak???? or Roy Harper????

    Crossover: Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, Black Lightning and Legends of Tomorrow. (Justice Society of America).

  29. Joanne says:

    I am hoping the Seal project is picked up. I would watch ANYTHING with David Boreanaz!

  30. amystika18n says:

    I’m really hoping Wisdom of the Crowd makes it to series. The premise is really interesting and should hold attention in our tech-filled world, and I’d love to see Jeremy Piven back on TV.

  31. amystika18n says:

    Deadline says Wisdom of the Crowd made it to series. Really looking forward to it!