by Julian Spivey
We’re only a few weeks away from the network upfronts presentations where the broadcast networks will unveil their 2013 Fall season television schedules, including, of course, all of the new pilots that they have picked up.
Below is a list of the 10 comedy pilots that I hope will get picked up the most. Now, it’s always incredibly hard to determine what will make a good series without actually viewing the pilots, so this list is basically going off of pilot synopsizes and cast.
10. Ex-Men (CBS)
“Ex-Men” follows a young guy played by Chris Smith (who frankly I’ve never heard of) who finds camaraderie living among the more experienced guys he meets in a short-term rental complex. Co-stars include Kal Penn, Jerry O’Connell (who’s unfortunately known as a series killer) and Tony Shalhoub. Honestly I can take or leave Penn and O’Connell … Emmy-winner Shalhoub (in his first post-‘Monk’ series) is the reason for my interest here.
9. Jacked Up (CBS)
“Jacked Up” stars Patrick Warburton, a much underrated comedic actor, as a beloved, recently retired professional baseball player who finds out that life after baseball isn’t as easy as he figured it’d be. Between my love of baseball and Warburton’s fantastic sarcastic humor this could be right up my alley. Veteran television actress Tyne Daly will co-star.
8. Untitled Jim Gaffigan Project (CBS)
The Jim Gaffigan sitcom pilot that is currently untitled will reportedly be based off of the popular stand-up comedian’s life at home with his wife and five kids. The series will be set in New York City and Gaffigan’s onscreen wife will be played by Oscar-winning actress Mira Sorvino. Gaffigan’s humor is something that should be family friendly and apply to the screen in a likely similar vein as Ray Romano in “Everybody Loves Raymond” and Kevin James in “The King of Queens.”
7. Untitled Craig Robinson Project (NBC)
Craig Robinson has been one of the funniest cast members over the last few seasons on “The Office” and for this reason I believe it will be interesting to see what he can do in a starring sitcom role of his own. In this currently untitled project for NBC Robinson will star as a musician who is forced to adjust to his new life as a middle school music teacher. The show will also feature the talented Jean Smart in a supporting role.
6. Untitled Andy Samberg Project (Fox)
The only possible Fox sitcom pilot on my list features former “Saturday Night Live” funnyman Andy Samberg in the lead role and revolves around a diverse group of detectives at a New York precinct, which is one of the more interesting sitcom synopses of pilot season. Not only should Samberg bring in a young audience for the network, but the series will also feature one of my favorite television actors in Emmy-winning Andre Braugher, who will get the chance to show his comedic chops after so many great dramatic roles over the years.
5. Brenda Forever (NBC)
Much like Craig Robinson (see number seven), Ellie Kemper has been one of the bright spots on the great NBC sitcom “The Office” over the last few seasons and I can’t wait to see what she can and will do in a lead role. Kemper will star in “Brenda Forever” an interesting concept that will follow her in current day life and her as a 13-year old (played by Daija Owens). If done right this could be another fun and quirky female role in the vein of Zooey Deschanel on “New Girl” or Mindy Kaling on “The Mindy Project.”
4. Trophy Wife (ABC)
The only possible ABC sitcom on this list stars Malin Akerman as a reformed party girl who finds herself thrown into a family when she falls in love with Bradley Whitford, who has three kids and two ex-wives. The series will also feature Marcia Gay Harden and Michaela Watkins (I’m not sure, but I would imagine as Whitford’s exs). I honestly don’t know how believable Akerman and Whitford are as a couple just based on both age and looks, but I do know that the Emmy-winning Whitford has been one of my favorite television actors ever since “The West Wing” and is really my main interest in this pilot.
3. The Crazy Ones (CBS)
“The Crazy Ones” is comedy legend Robin Williams’ first venture back to television since the late ‘70s/early ‘80s sitcom classic “Mork & Mindy” that put him on the map … and is the main reason for my intense interest here. The sitcom will feature Williams and the popular Sarah Michelle Gellar in a father-daughter workplace at an advertising agency. The series will also feature the talented James Wolk in a supporting role.
2. Untitled Will Arnett/Greg Garcia Project (CBS)
Will Arnett’s last two sitcoms (“Running Wilde” & “Up All Night”) didn’t fare too well, but he’s still one of the hottest commodities for sitcoms come pilot season and for good reason. I have a feeling that Arnett could be right at home in this untitled Greg Garcia created project that will feature him as a recently divorced man whose life is complicated when his parents move back in with him. The series will feature the talented Margo Martindale, Beau Bridges and J.B. Smoove. Garcia has created two of the best sitcoms on television of the last half dozen years or so with “My Name is Earl” and “Raising Hope” so expectations for this one are high.
John Mulaney is an incredibly witty and talented stand-up comedian who may not be known to many television viewers (which hopefully won’t work against him too much), but if they don’t know his name or face they certainly know his work, as he is the “Saturday Night Live” writer who writes for Bill Hader’s much-beloved Stefon character. Mulaney will star in this Lorne Michaels produced sitcom that is loosely based on his life. The show features a talented supporting cast that includes current ‘SNL’ cast member Nasim Pedrad, as well as acting vets Martin Short and Elliott Gould.
Let us know which comedy pilot you would most like see make a network schedule come the fall in the comments section below …
by Julian Spivey
I might be unusual. But, I don’t just turn to late night television for laughs.
Maybe it’s because I’ve always been a David Letterman fan and consider him to be one of my pop culture heroes, but I also turn to late night TV for some serious talk, politics and good conversation … something that Letterman has really revolutionized as part of a late night talk show. Just watch his response as the first late night show host on television after the 9/11 attacks and you’ll understand why he’s among the most admirable people on television.
The tragedy at yesterday’s Boston Marathon, which saw multiple deaths and over 100 hurt in two bombings was something that I knew would have to be approached on late night TV.
Unfortunately, Letterman (along with Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon) all aired repeats, as they were originally scheduled to do. However, Craig Ferguson, host of the CBS “Late, Late Show” did have a new episode Monday night and I knew he would take on the topic, because he had done so in the past with the Aurora, Colo. theater shooting, and I believe a few others, as well. Ferguson’s show is produced by Letterman and the Scottish host has followed in the late night vet’s footsteps very nicely when it comes to serious matters.
Ferguson began the show not with his typical comedy monologue, but with this statement:
“Hey everybody, good evening. Tonight's show is a little bit different. Obviously, the news of today is so horrendous that it would seem insensitive at best to say 'It's a great day for America,' so I won't be starting the show with that tonight.
Is anyone else sick of this s***? I seem to have to say that too often. People say to me 'Craig, your job is to make people laugh at the end of the day.' And I think, yes, that's true, but I've never professed to be any damn good at that. And, the thing is, people want their mind taken off it. And I think, well OK, if you want your mind taken off it, you know, watch a cartoon or a video or something. I understand it, it's perfectly acceptable. I don't think it's a terrible thing to not want to think about it, but I can't not think about it.
Also, I have a personal connection with the city of Boston. I have some history there. I have family there. When I became an American citizen in 2008, I spoke at Faneuil Hall on July 4, at the invitation of Tommy Menino who is the mayor of Boston, and one of the more colorful characters in American politics ... I've been there for the Fourth of July many times and every cop in Boston looks like I'm his brother. My first stand-up special in America, I shot it in Boston. I like that town. I'm appalled by this thing and when I watch it on these streets that I know, it's horrifying.
If I have all this inside of me, if I have all this rage and anger and distress and upset inside of me, I'm not a good enough comedian to hide all that from you.”
Ferguson’s statement on the Boston Marathon bombings was highly classy and the most appropriate way I can think of to begin his episode. It also brings up a good conversation starter. Ferguson has a real good point when he says, “And, the thing is, people want their mind taken off it. And I think, well OK, if you want your mind taken off it, you know, watch a cartoon or a video or something. I understand it, it's perfectly acceptable. I don't think it's a terrible thing to not want to think about it, but I can't not think about it.”
I believe in situations like this people too frequently take their minds off of it or refuse to think about it. In my opinion, sweeping tragedies under the carpet like this is partially why they continue to happen. If you’re not thinking about it, because it’s not pretty or it’s too sad or depressing, then you’re also not doing anything to help put an end to meaningless tragedies like this one. We all need to think about it and even though Ferguson accepts that people might not want to, he knows what he’s doing when he brings up his feeling on the subject.
One of the great running things about Ferguson’s “Late, Late Show” is his 'It's a great day for America' line every night, because you can tell how proud the Scottish-born host is to be a naturalized citizen of the United States of America. He wears his patriotism like a badge of honor. Thus, when tragedies like the one at the Boston Marathon happen the emotion in his voice is 100 percent sincere and greatly appreciated by his viewers.
To answer Ferguson’s question from last night: “Is anyone else sick of this s***?”
Yes. Yes, we are. Now let’s all try to do something about it. In his own little way Ferguson is doing his part.