The major broadcast networks have announced their Fall TV ’13 primetime schedules, and it’s shaping up to be a very good time to be a TV viewer. Genre fans have plenty to look forward to, including superheroes, vampires, pirates, fairy tales, apocalypses, and cops. Lots of cops. Here are all of the 2013 Fall TV pilots you should get excited for now.
In learning about these new shows and watching their trailers and clips, I can’t remember ever seeing so many new shows that are based on novels. That’s right, books are the new source of inspiration for broadcast television. We’ve had shows based on books before, but never this many, I think. There are also several shows that borrow plots from international TV, and most excitingly, lots of high-concept, big budget action, scifi, and fantasy.
One word of caution: this is not an exhaustive list. There are other genre shows coming this Fall. But these are the ones we believe are the most exciting, holding the most potential for greatness.
We’ll be updating this page until the Fall, so bookmark it!
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
When: Tuesdays at 8:pm
The Marvel cinematic universe comes to television for the first time! Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) returns from his apparent death in The Avengers, leading a hand-picked crew of SHIELD agents, each with unique talents. Their mission is much the same as Coulson’s was in the movies: investigate the strange, the weird, the otherworldly, and make first contact with new superpowered people. It’s going to be crazy fun to see how this overlaps with the Marvel cinematic universe as more movies release, and everyone is wondering if any lesser-known Marvel heroes might make their big-screen debut by first appearing on the smaller one. Plus, Joss Whedon is back on television — with a high-profile project that has hardcore network backing — and that just might be the coolest thing ever. Whedon’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. production crew includes writers Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, Jeff Bell, and comic book superstar Jeph Loeb.
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland
When: Thursdays at 8:pm
As you can tell from the not-at-all-subtle title, this is a spinoff of Once Upon a Time. Except it really has nothing to do with the hit Sunday night show, aside from the fact that they’re both modernizations of fairy tales. This one looks more gothic and even more stylized than its predecessor, and those are good things as far as we’re concerned. The trailer above tells the tale: a young adult Alice has been confined to a mental hospital in Victorian England, where the doctors are bent on purging her psyche of her “imagined” adventures in Wonderland. Only they weren’t imagined at all, and there’s a whole lot more to Alice’s story than history reveals. Like the handsome genie she fell in love with, Cyrus, who she believes killed by the Queen of Heart’s soldiers but it turns out, maybe not. She escapes the asylum, hooks up with the Knave of Hearts and the White Rabbit (voiced by John Lithgow), and heads down the old rabbit hole in search of her lost love. Looks like good escapist fun.
When: not yet scheduled, presumed midseason
Boasting a great cast and a-little-bit-scifi/fantasy plot, Resurrection is based on Jason Mott’s novel The Returned. It shows a world where the dead mysteriously return to life, but it’s not a zombie thing (that we know of). The story kicks off as a young boy suddenly wakes up in a field in China, and has no idea how he got there. After a lot of handing-off to various authorities, he winds up back at his home in the U.S. When he shows up at his own front door, his now-elderly father is stunned to see the son he buried many years ago, alive and well and not aged a day. Has the potential to be a touchy-feely Nicholas Sparks kind of thing with all the heavy emotion, but the pedigree of the cast and the focus on the mystery has my hopes up. And according to Mott’s book, the young boy is just the beginning.
When: Mondays at 10:pm
CBS is only bringing a handful of new shows to the 2013 Fall TV pilots, because… Well, they’re the #1 network, so they don’t have a whole lot that’s broken to fix. They’ve never been the most genre-friendly of networks, but a pair of shows coming up this season caught our attention. First is this new Bruckheimer tentpole, with a twisty plot and characters gray enough to suit HBO. Toni Collette stars as a surgeon chosen to operate on the President. But seemingly sinister forces led by Dylan McDermott invade her home and take her family hostage, promising to kill them unless she kills the President while he’s on her operating table. Oh, and McDermott’s character is actually an FBI agent. Confused yet? We assume there will be enough intrigue and thrills to keep the story going beyond this do-or-die plot that could easily be resolved in the pilot episode. But it sounds awfully serialized for standalone-episode-preferring CBS. Hostages is based on an Israeli show.
When: Mondays at 10:pm (it takes over Hostages‘ slot midseason)
Remember Lost alum Josh Holloway’s super-cool super-spy cameo at the beginning of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol? And remember how much you were digging seeing him in full-on action spy mode — and then he suddenly bit it? Think of Intelligence as his reward for not being able to return to future Impossible missions. Holloway gets top billing in this spy-happy show as a former Special Forces elite operative who gets a microchip embedded in his brain, giving him instant access to the entire information superhighway, not to mention mad hacking skills. It also has some unexpected benefits, such as the ability to analyze a situation and predict potential outcomes, as well as a kind of evidence collection-and-analysis that he sees all around him like virtual reality. If the whole thing sounds too cerebral, don’t worry; the trailer looks like a cool, action-packed good time.
When: Sundays at 9:pm, midseason
Two words: Alfonso. Cuaron. The director of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (arguably still the best one in the series), Children of Men, and the upcoming Gravity is making his first-ever TV show. And some guy named J.J. Abrams is helping him out. Cuaron created, wrote, and is directing the pilot for Believe, about a very special 10-year-old girl named Bo who has incredible abilities and has been hunted all her life because of them. Once protected by a small, benevolent group, circumstances change forcing Bo into the hands of the one person suitable to be her sole companion and protector: a wrongfully imprisoned death row inmate named Tate. Together these two set out on a journey together to try to always stay one step ahead of dark forces that want Bo’s power. And with Cuaron involved, you can bet there’s a lot more to it than that.
When: Mondays at 10:pm
I’m getting a “Season 2 of Alias” vibe from this unconventional action thriller starring James Spader as a former government agent who’s now the most wanted man in the world. When Spader’s “Red” Reddington turns himself in to the FBI, he brokers a deal: he’ll help the Feds find and capture the world’s worst villains, but there’s a twist. He’ll only reveal his secrets to first-day-on-the-job profiler Agent Elizabeth Keen, who has no known connection to him. What Red is really up to, what his interest is in Agent Keen, and whether or not she’s keeping secrets of her own — these answers and more will drive the show’s mythology, along with some intense action and delicious manipulation from Spader. NBC claims this pilot tested better with sample audiences than any show in the network’s history. Needless to say, they’re pretty excited.
When: Sundays at 10:pm, midseason
An elite Washington high school is where the nation’s most powerful politicians, CEOs, and diplomats send their kids to be educated. Even the President’s son attends this school. But while on a field trip, their bus is hijacked and the teens and their chaperone (Dermot Mulroney) taken captive. Now the most powerful people in the country are at the mercy of a mastermind villain whose endgame is anybody’s guess. Crisis may sound action-lite, but the trailer looks like anything but. There’s loads of intrigue and some seriously nail-biting tension on display. Check it out.
When: Fridays at 10:pm, midseason
Despite consigning this one to the infamous “Friday deathslot,” NBC managed to snag John Malkovich to headline the cast of this pirate adventure as the legendary Blackbeard. Based on a book by Colin Woodard called The Republic of Pirates, Neil Cross (creator of the UK’s Luther) is adapting the pseudo-historical story of an undercover assassin named Tom Lowe, who’s sent in to Blackbeard’s rogue nation of New Providence to take him down. But as so often happens in Hollywood undercover-agent plots, Lowe finds himself taken by Blackbeard’s charisma and political ideals. Assassinating Blackbeard might not be as easy as Lowe first thought, since there’s a long list of enemies trying to get to the pirate tyrant first, not to mention Blackbeard’s greatest weakness — the love of his life. The real question here is whether or not NBC can pull off a high-concept historical drama of this nature on a television budget. Pirates are notoriously hard to get right on film, and Blackbeard’s island nation is a unique environment like no other. Plus, there’s the little matter of filming at sea, which is never easy (or cheap). And am I the only one bothered by Malkovich’s stubbly, non-black beard? The odds are stacked against Crossbones, but then, that’s just the way pirates like it.
When: Fridays at 10:pm
We can’t quite seem to get excited about this one, which finds The Tudors‘ Jonathan Rhys Meyers back in “outrageous historical drama” mode. This time, he’s the world’s most famous vampire, but Drac’s story is moved to high society Victorian London, where he’s introducing a personal passion: the technology of electricity. But he has ulterior motives for visiting England. He’s out for revenge against those who made him a vampire so long ago. Complicating matters is an enchanting woman who’s identical in every way to Dracula’s dead wife. If the plot sounds soapy, that’s because it is. The trailer looks an awful lot like Meyers’ last gig, with plenty of elitist debauchery, wicked secrets, and violent revenge. We’re including it on this list because it has an impressive roster of cast and crew from across the entire spectrum of genre film and television, but we’re not giving it more than one or two episodes to prove itself.
When: Mondays at 8:pm starting “late Fall,” which probably means Novemberish
Thirty-five years in the future, human-looking robots called Synthetics are paired with human police officers. The show follows one very damaged cop who doesn’t trust Synthetics, but gets paired with a very unique Synthetic that’s different than all others (he can feel human emotions). The great Karl Urban is the cop, and Michael Ealy is his robot partner. The trailer shows a highly stylized future world, with lots of cool technology and feature-film-level production values. Almost Human is created by J.H. Wyman, better known as half of the Fringe showrunner team, and J.J. Abrams is onboard as producer. Oh yeah, this is gonna rock.
When: Mondays at 9:pm — but not until midseason
What if The Legend of Sleepy Hollow were real, the Headless Horseman was one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and Ichabod Crane actually a special agent dispatched to Sleepy Hollow by George Washington to investigate the Horseman’s murders. Now imagine that Ichabod Crane crawled out of his grave today, not knowing how or why, only to find that the Horseman has also returned and resumed his rampage through the old New England town, and you’ve got yourself a high-concept supernatural thriller. This one comes from the powerhouse writing team Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, the scifi masterminds that have written for half the genre shows on TV, as well as a load of big-screen films including the new Star Trek movies. And feature director Len Wiseman (Underworld, Live Free or Die Hard) is behind the camera for the pilot. We’re ready to watch this one right the heck now.
When: unknown; starts sometime midseason
The CW has been trying to get a Hunger Games-esque series off the ground for a few years now, but once again it’s failed to get a series order. They’ll have to settle for this one post-apocalyptic series for their 2013 Fall TV pilots. Based on a young adult book series (like just about everything at The CW) by Kass Morgan, The 100 is set in a post-nuclear-war future where the only living remnants of mankind are about 4,000 inhabitants of an orbiting space station. After several generations, they’ve decided to send an expedition back down to the planet to see if it’s habitable again. The expedition just happens to be comprised of 100 “juvenile delinquents” that the station would really like to be rid of. Yeah, it’s a slightly silly premise, but the books are popular so Morgan must make it work. (Fortunately, there are parallel storylines that unfold on the space station, so there’s potential for coolness there.) The preview clip is interesting, but would a group of futuristic undesirable teenagers really look like the perfectly-coiffed, well-dressed stars of every other CW show?
Tell me if this doesn’t sound like vintage CW: a human girl and an alien boy engage in their very own Romeo & Juliet romance, sharing a deep connection despite the disapproval of their respective societies. The aliens in question are a race that crash-landed on Earth ten years ago and were immediately captured and put into an internment camp, District 9 style. The
action scifi romance begins when nine teenage aliens, known as “The Orion 9,” are allowed to enroll in a human high school as an experiment in societal integration. Yeah, we’re plenty skeptical. But we’ll give it a fair shake.
The Tomorrow People
When: Wednesdays at 9:pm
On the plus side: it’s a superhero saga based on a popular British series. (And as we all know, Brits make good TV.) In the minus column, it’s yet another “pretty young adult drama” from a network that never airs anything else. Like X-Men, the premise is about a new species of human, a group of people who represent mankind’s next evolutionary step. Unlike the X-Men, the Tomorrow People all share the same abilities, which include teleportation, telekinesis, and telepathy. The trailer is slick, and it’s always fun to see actor Mark Pellegrino in bad guy mode (he’s head of a military organization known as “Ultra” that wants to hunt down all these superpowered kids). Hopefully it’ll be better than Heroes. A lot better.