This list will be frequently updated as more pilots are announced and cast.
Pilot season is upon us, meaning the broadcast networks are taking stock of their needs for the 2020-21 TV season and getting the ball rolling toward filling any gaps. With things about to get really interesting — it’s time to start casting stars in 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.
PILOT | When a network orders a pilot, they’re asking its writers/producers/studio to cast and produce a very close facsimile of a series’ first episode. Each pilot is reviewed by network brass, then typically put into testing before its fate is decided. (A “put pilot” has a greater likelihood 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. (See: Arrow‘s “Green Arrow and the Canaries” episode.) Retro History Lesson: That Brady Bunch episode with neighbor Ken Berry adopting three diverse boys? That was an ill-fated planted pilot, for a spin-off that was to be called Kelly’s Kids.)
DRAMA/COMEDY PRESENTATION | Due to time or budget restraints, a network sometimes won’t order a full pilot but a shorter “presentation” that gives a sense of what a drama or sitcom would look like.
CAST-CONTINGENT | Sometimes a network will order a pilot with the caveat that filming can’t start until a suitable (read: “name”) actor has been cast in a lead role. (Translation: “The premise is iffy, but a 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.
SECOND POSITION | AKA the two words that make fans of “bubble” shows extremely anxious 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 if their show gets renewed. The fact that an actor booked a “second position” gig doesn’t always mean his/her current show is doomed… but it usually does. Variation: A “safe second” means the pilot’s bosses have been discreetly 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 a goner.
And now, our running update of pilots ordered for the 2020-21 TV season, going network by network….