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The current US television season is only just half-underway, but already the major networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and the CW) have made the majority of their pilot orders with regards to new programming for the 2012-2013 season.
John Wells, former show-runner of the hit medical drama ER and current show-runner of the cable dramas Shameless and Southland, makes his return to network television with two pilot orders this development season. The first of his pilots is a comedy co-effort with Glee actor Mike O’Malley for FOX, and is currently titled Prodigal Bully.
The premise of the series, if it is picked up beyond its pilot order, would be that of “a young boy genius who uses his brains and brawn to get whatever he wants“. As for Wells’ other pilot, he is developing a remake of the British drama hit Bad Girls for NBC. This series would follow the activities of a group of female prisoners, and ran for seven years in the UK.
Other notable figures to have sold new pilots to the major networks include: JJ Abrams (Lost, Alias, Alcatraz), who has sold Shelter to CW; Josh Schwartz (The O.C., Chuck, Gossip Girl), who will be writing Carrie Diaries, a teenage prequel to the Sex and the City franchise); and NCIS star Mark Harmon, who will be producing Joey Dakota for the CW.
It is unusual that so many pilot orders have taken place by the beginning of February, as several midseason shows have yet to debut for the 2011-2012 season, while the fates of such long-running hits as FOX’s House and NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit remain uncertain. In any case, the networks appear to be stockpiling in a effort to combat the ratings decline which has struck many of them this season – particularly, The CW.
The CW came into this season with the high-profile television return of Sarah Michelle Gellar, however, its ratings declines have been well-documented and the network has now picked up five drama pilots with the potential pick-up of several more. This aggressive development move is in contrast to CBS which has so far picked up just a handful of projects, although, CBS’ ratings are in a much stronger position.
As the remainder of the 2011-2012 season plays out and the networks learn of the fates of their long-running shows, while also seeing how their new midseasons shows fare among established competition, it will become more clear just how many of the ordered pilots will indeed make it to air in the fall, how many will be benched until midseason and how many will be put out of contention altogether.