TV networks spend billions of dollars each year for ideas you’ll never see on television.
That’s a bold statement. But it’s nevertheless true. Literally. And also by the bass-ackward “new” “definition” of “literally” adopted through repeated utterances on Parks and Recreation. So, too, there’s research and development, and then there’s what’s considered R&D in TV Land (not to be confused with the R&D division within the individual cable channel called TV Land).
More than 100 pilot episodes will be ordered, cast, staffed with crews, taped before audiences (or not), tested with focus groups and network suits, then debated about and slotted into the primetime schedule for Fall, for Midseason, left in limbo or dropped. All so a handful of new sitcoms can make it to broadcast, suffer the slings and arrows of millions of armchair critics (professional and putting the free in freelancer varieties) in print and online, and maybe, if they’re lucky, survive at least throughout their initial order of 13 episodes. If they’re really lucky, they earn “back nine” orders before the first 13 have aired to complete a “full” 22-episode season from September to May. If they’re not so lucky, they slip through the cracks and are soon forgotten to all but their friends and families — or the cast and crew with their friends and families would forget those series even aired.
But there are hundreds more ideas for sitcoms and quirky dramas that don’t even get that far in the process, that don’t even make it to pilot season. Even bigger but: They do make it into the process.
What’s that process? The how, the why, the WTF is up with that process?
Studios buy ideas even before taking them out to pitch to networks. They sign talent to holding deals, development deals, agreements bound in money and legalese ensuring that star actors, actresses, writers and producers don’t become even bigger stars on another network down the dial. Whether or not that talent ever lands a show on the network he/she is signed to is moot and muted by money. Networks buy up pitches. Make script commitments. Agree upon future pilot orders, putting penalties into the deal as safeguards (hence, the “put pilot”).
An anonymous poster to Defamer detailed the hard numbers</a> for sitcoms at the network level, in a post titled, “In Case You Wanted to Create A TV Show, Just Give Up Already,” noting: “Last year, ABC comedy bought 74 scripts and only 5 will air at some point this year. NBC comedy wasn’t far off, with only 5 shows out of 79 scripts. Fox has 5 new comedy series out of 65, and CBS has only 4 out of 52, which isn’t as bad until you remember that they probably spend all of their money on bodyguards to protect Chuck Lorre from Charlie Sheen.”
This year, let’s not take any anonymous word for it. Let’s track this ourselves. From the buying and selling of pitches to production studios, to the networks, and eventually to pilot season and the May Upfronts.
The network TV calendar year, for now, still begins for viewers in September and ends in May. Behind the scenes, however, it really already has begun, here in the dog days of the summer, the Network TV Fiscal Year began by Aug. 1 — ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC grabbing the rights to pitches from eager writers and producers.
A few shows from this past 2013 pilot season have earned carryover minutes into 2013-2014, too, given reprieves with orders for new pilot episodes to shoot in 2014. Of course, that’s a partial reprieve, for while the creators and stars get to try again, oftentimes they’ll be recasting some or several of the supporting and co-starring roles.
So. Have a buried the lede of next year’s list aspiring primetime network sitcoms deep enough for you?
Keep digging! Dive down the rabbit-hole with me, why don’t you. We’ll dig through this together, you and me, and come out the other end next spring having a fresh perspective of the process. Even if that perspective may wind up being upside-down.
Note: This list will be regularly updated, revised and corrected as needed. Please forward any hot tips to thecomicscomic AT gmail DOT com. Thanks.
- Untitled single-cam — Sept. 18 — from Ali Adler, about the joys of being a parent when your ex has the kids. Adler is executive producing with Fake Empire’s Josh Schwartz, Stephanie Savage and Len Goldstein. From ABC Studios.
- Dylan Moran signs a deal Sept. 13 with ABC Studios to write and star in a potential pilot for ABC.
- Women & Girls, — Sept. 11 — from Kristin Newman. Single-cam about a woman and her younger half-sister.
- Untitled Ali Rushfield — Sept. 11 — single-cam about a 36-year-old woman who grows up once she moves in with two 21-year-olds. Leslie Grossman consulting. From Brillstein Entertainment Partners and ABC Studios.
- DINKS — Sept. 11 — PILOT COMMITMENT — From June Diane Raphael and Casey Wilson, with Jonathan Groff and ABC Studios. With Raphael starring. Based on a couple in their 30s who fit the Double Income No Kids model.
- The After Party — from writer Scott King and Mark Gordon Co. — Sept. 10. Based on three single adult siblings who all recently failed in their marriages. Their parents, however, still married. Now what? ABC Studios producing.
- First Timers — Sept. 4 from writers Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger. From Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage and Fake Empire. Based on the writers own relationship.
- PILOT PRODUCTION COMMITMENT WITH SERIES PENALTY, Sept. 3 — Damaged Goods, a single-cam from Lauren Iungerich and Warner Bros TV. Men and women are different in the year 2014.
- Untitled single-cam — PENALTY attached, Aug. 27 — from Brian Gallivan, about a city guy who takes his family to New Hampshire to open tourist cottages. Written by Gallivan. Executive produced by him, with Will Gluck and Richie Schwartz from Olive Bridge. Not Newhart.
- Untitled semi-autobiographical series from Jay Baruchel (Baruchel not attached to star) — PENALTY attached, Aug. 26 — written by Baruchel and Jesse Chabot, about a Hollywood actor who moves back to his boyhood home in Vermont with his friends. Reverse Entourage. From 20th Century Fox TV/Tagline.
- Untitled multi-cam from Jen Burton — originally in development with NBC — about a 30-year-old who moves back home. With Betty Thomas, and produced by Hazy Mills.
- Irreversible — PILOT COMMITMENT WITH PENALTY, Aug. 23 — From Peter Tolan, based on the Israeli series Bilti Hafich, about a young couple with a baby and problems; lots of problems. Adapted and directed by original writer/creator Segahl Avin. Sony TV, Fedora and Reshet producing.
- Every Other Saturday, a single-cam created by Neil Forsyth, with Jon Pollack, Amblin TV and Universal TV. Based on a father who has post-divorce custody of his son on alternate weekends. (Aug. 21)
- Middle Age Rage, single-cam from 2013 development season, kept alive through cast option extensions. Cast includes Annie Mumolo as the middle-aged woman enraged, with Will Sasso, Melanie Leishman, Wyatt Oleff, Kellee Stewart and Skyler Gisondo. From Cheryl Holliday, Amblin TV, ABC Studios.
- An untitled sisters comedy project from Danielle Sanchez-Witzel, who is under an overall studio deal. Based on a hot mess who moves in with her younger sister.
- Cristela, a multi-cam from stand-up comedian Cristela Alonzo. SCRIPT COMMITMENT WITH PENALTIES. Based on Alonzo’s life as an American and a Latina, trying to fit into either or both cultures. Written by Alonzo with Kevin Hench. 20th Century Fox TV, Marty Adelstein and Shawn Levy’s 21 Laps/Adelstein producing.
- Fresh Off The Boat, a single-cam from Don’t Trust The B—- creator Nahnatchka Khan. PUT PILOT COMMITMENT From 20th Century Fox TV, executive produced by Khan and Jake Kasdan. Based on the memoir by Eddie Huang, and a Chinese family moving to Orlando in the 1990s.
- Untitled project from Mike Arnold and Ed Helms, and Universal TV. Based on a lawyer heading up a small law firm.
- Untitled rom-com from Jason Katims and Sarah Watson, set in a law firm.
- SCRIPT deal with actresses and writing partners Casey Wilson and June Diane Raphael, for a series to star at least Raphael. HOLDING DEAL for her.
- EXTENDED deal with Dan Fogelman, writer/producer and creator of The Neighbors, to develop additional projects.
- The 40s — PUT PILOT COMMITMENT — Sept. 17 — Single-cam from Jonathan Groff about a group of friends of that certain age, who also all live on the same street. Not in Cougar Town. From ABC Studios.
- The Runt — PILOT PRODUCTION COMMITMENT — Sept. 12. Single-cam from Kay Cannon about five adult siblings, from the perspective of the runt of the family. Directed by Jason Winer. With 20th Century Fox TV producing, and Small Dog Picture Co.
- Sister Whipped — Sept. 12 — written by Hank Nelken based on his experience as a man raised by his sisters. Executive produced by David Janollari and Steve McPherson through David Janollari Entertainment and Wonder Monkey, with Universal TV.
- Jim Gaffigan single-camera project. NEW PILOT ORDERED. Based on the stand-up comedian’s life as a husband and father of five children in a two-bedroom New York City apartment. Retooling from 2013 pilot from Gaffigan, Peter Tolan and Sony Pictures TV. Michael Wimer, Alex Murray and Fedora Entertainment also executive producing.
- The McCarthys (no relation?). NEW PILOT ORDERED. Retooling as multi-cam — filmed a single-cam pilot during 2013 pilot season. From Brian Gallivan and Sony Pictures TV. Based on a family in Boston obsessed with sports, religion and everything else you think they’d be obsessed with. Jack McGee as the father, a high-school hoops coach; Joey McIntyre, the shortest son and sibling. Other family members being recast.
- Raised By Wolves — SCRIPT DEAL, Aug. 29 — From Fred Savage and Matt Dearborn, about a 20-something father who raises his 7-year-old daughter with his buddies.
- Punching Out — PUT PILOT COMMITMENT, Aug. 26 — a single-camera comedy from John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, who wrote the film, Horrible Bosses. Similar concept: Guys in their 30s who hate their jobs and make a pact. Instead of killing their bosses, they take new jobs at the mall? From 20th TV and Chernin.
- Gorgeous Morons, a multi-cam from Lee Eisenberg, Gene Stupnitsky and ABC Studios. PUT PILOT COMMITMENT. Co-created by Eisenberg, Stupnitsky and Danny Chun. Based on two brothers who make up the title as a model and personal trainer, who have as their roommate a woman with a literature Ph.D.
- Massholes — Oct. 16 — from Spike Feresten, an animated comedy about a nerdy tween in Massachusetts and his small-town neighbors.
- Untitled from former Wall Street Journal reporters Lauren Blum and Rebecca Dana — Oct. 16 — based on Dana’s memoir, “Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde.” Produced by Sony TV and Fanfare.
- Last Night — Sept. 18 — Single-cam from Jamie Abrams and DJ Lubel, pitched as “Entourage meets Seinfeld.” 20th TV and Aaron Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment producing; Kaplan executive producing.
- PUT PILOT COMMITMENT — Sept. 12 — Untitled multi-cam from Matt Silverstein and Dave Jeser, produced by 20th TV, and based on their lives growing up in New Jersey.
- Clothing Optional — Sept. 10 — from Scott King and Mark Gordon Co. Based on a family-owned all-inclusive resort that decides to exclude clothing (optional) to keep the resort running. ABC Studios producing.
- The Worst Best Thing — Sept. 10 — single-cam from Barry Schwartz, with Greg Malins as showrunner. From Sony TV. Based on three couples in the process of becoming new parents.
- Dead Boss — PUT PILOT COMMITMENT Sept. 9 — single-cam adapted from a five-episode series that aired last year on BBC3. Created by and starring Sharon Horgan. Adaptation written by Patricia Breen. Based on a woman convicted but innocent of killing her boss. Breen, Horgan and Aaron Kaplan executive producing. From Warner Bros. TV.
- Untitled from Vijal Patel — Sept. 6 — SCRIPT DEAL with penalty. Single-cam about tiger parents whose kids grow up to be teenagers who are too smart and confident for their own good. Patel writing/executive producing, with Coquette (Courteney Cox and David Arquette), ABC Studios. Tean Mann co-e.p.
- Here’s Your Damn Family — Sept. 4 — from Ricky Blitt, Johnny Galecki and Stephen McPherson. From Warner Bros TV. Multi-cam, sold with penalty, about a guy in his 30s living with his mom, and she remarries, with new husband now step-dad bringing in three teens.
- SCRIPT COMMITMENT — Sept. 4 — based on the life of Judge Greg Mathis. Produced by Warner Bros TV and A Very Good Production. Multi-cam. Written by brothers Todd Jones and Earl Richey, about a former teen gang member who grows up to be a judge and father of four. Mathis executive producing with Ellen DeGeneres, Jones and Richey, and Jeff Kleeman.
- Untitled from Kate Gersten — Aug. 29 — based on her Juilliard play about two high school friends who reconnect as adults. Produced by Lionsgate TV, Wonder Monkey and Fishbowl.
- Untitled from Brandon Schwartz — Aug. 28 — about a naive guy who moves into a West Hollywood apartment building where his new neighbors welcome him to a new life. Not Melrose Place. Produced by Lionsgate TV.
- Falling Into Place — IN DEVELOPMENT, Aug. 22 — A multi-cam from Andy Gordon. Based on five friends from college, who a few years later, are each overcoming obstacles. With 20th TV.
- PUT PILOT COMMITMENT MADE AUG. 21 — Paroled, from writer Andrea Abbate, 20th TV and 21 Laps/Adelstein. Pitched as “male Laverne & Shirley on parole.”
- PUT PILOT COMMITMENT MADE AUG. 21 — A Moody Christmas, single-cam adapted from an Australian sitcom about a young man’s dysfunctional family. Doug Ellin executive-producing, with CBS TV and Tannenbaum Co. Written by original creators Trent O’Donnell and Phil Lloyd.
- SCRIPT COMMITMENT MADE AUG. 20 — Fives, a single-cam from writer/executive producer Shawn Wines. Based on a group of average people trying to live as 5s in Los Angeles, where everyone strives to be, or at least look like, a 10. With executive producer Aaron Kaplan and Warner Bros. TV.
- SERIES COMMITMENT MADE AUG. 16 — The network made the first full series order for 2014, awarding it to writer Matt Hubbard for an untitled multi-cam he’s writing, with Tina Fey and Robert Carlock executive producing. Also 3 Arts’ David Miner. Based at an all-female college that’s admitting men for the first time to become a coed institution. From Universal TV and Little Strangers productions.
- The Henchman, from Dan Kopelman. PUT PILOT COMMITMENT. Based on the henchman of a supervillain and his life inside and outside of crime. Live-action, not animated.
- Stuck, a single-cam from writer Alexandra Rushfield and produced by Will McCormack and Rashida Jones. PUT PILOT COMMITMENT. Based on a middle-aged woman who gets her daughter a job at the same bank she works at, only to find her becoming the boss.
- Sober Companion, from Jennie Snyder Urman (under deal with CBS Television Studios). With writer/e.p. David Rosenthal, based on a lawyer who hires a sober companion.
- The Longest Date, a single-cam from Cindy Chupack and Jake Kasdan. PILOT PRODUCTION COMMITMENT. Based on Chupack’s memoir, “The Longest Date: Life As A Wife,” coming out in January 2014 by Viking Press. Chupack writing and executive producing; Kasdan directing the pilot and is executive producing with Melvin Mar. From 20th Century Fox TV.
- An untitled single-cam from Ken Marino & Erica Oyama and producer Will Gluck. PENALTIES ATTACHED. Starring Marino and based on the life of Sam Calagione and his wife Mariah, who founded Dogfish Head Brewery. Workplace and family comedy. Produced by Sony Pictures TV and Gluck’s Olive Bridge shingle, with Marino, Oyama, Gluck and Richie Schwartz exec producing.
- Mulaney, the 2013 NBC pilot from stand-up comedian John Mulaney, has moved to FOX and remains in negotiations for retooling.
- Fatrick, from Nahnatchka Khan and the team of Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. PILOT PRODUCTION COMMITMENT. Based on a guy in his 30s who seems like he has it all but still has the insecurities from when he was a chubby kid. Patrick was once Fatrick. Khan co-created and will write the pilot with Corey Nickerson, with Faxon and Rash directing. All four executive producing.
- Sibling writers Wendy and Lizzie Molyneux (Bob’s Burgers) have a two-year overall deal with 20th Century Fox TV to develop new projects.
- F.O.M.O., from Ian Edelman and Ruben Fleischer. PENALTIES ATTACHED. Based on young insurance brokers who have a Fear Of Missing Out. Edelman and Fleischer will executive produce, with Heather Petrigala, head of development at Flerscher’s claudeismydog, producing.
- G’Uncle — SCRIPT COMMTIMENT with PENALTY Sept. 18 — from Billy Finnegan. Single-cam inspired by Finnegan’s life, with siblings living together: one straight, one gay. From Sony Pictures TV and Olive Bridge, with Will Gluck, Michael Patrick Jann and Richie Schwartz executive producing.
- Untitled single-cam chef comedy — Sept. 16 — PUT PILOT COMMITMENT. From Mike White, and inspired by the real-life teen-aged chef, Flynn McGarry, in Los Angeles. Written by Joe Port and Joe Wiseman. Pilot would have teen prodigy chef working for his celebrity chef idol. McGarry will be a producer. With RipCord Productions, 20th Century Fox.
- Bitch Off The Ol’ Block — Sept. 16 — PUT PILOT COMMITMENT. From Lauren Iungerich. Single-cam about a woman whose smart-ass daughter moves in with her and her roommates. From David Janollari and Universal TV.
- My Parents Are Too F**king Happy — Sept. 16 — a single-cam from Heather Hach, about three siblings who aren’t as good at romance as their parents still are. From Silent Machine Entertainment and Universal TV.
- Season Tickets — Sept. 13 — single-cam from Craig Gerard and Matthew Zinman, via 20th Century FOX TV. Based on a New Yorker who joins a season-ticket group for the Kansas City Royals.
- Untitled single-cam from Aseem Batra — Sept. 13 — on a single dad from the city who moves to an eccentric Southern town. Based on Batra’s own life growing up in Georgia. Not Suburgatory. With Aaron Kaplan of Kapital Entertainment and Joe and Anthony Russo, with Universal TV.
- Harmony House — Sept. 11 — Single-cam from Neil LaBute, set in a mental institution. Executive produced by Aaron Kaplan (Kapital Entertainment), with 20th Century Fox TV producing.
- Half — Sept. 4 — a single-cam from Matt Angel, from a pilot presentation he made via Kickstarter. Based on a true story of a teen conceived via artificial insemination who starts looking for all of her half brothers and sisters. With Greg Malins and Dan Angel executive producing. Sony TV producing.
- Former Fat Girl — PILOT PRODUCTION COMMITMENT Sept. 4. Written by J.J. Philbin based on the book by Biggest Loser contestant Amy Parham, “10 Lessons from a Former Fat Girl.” From Jason Katims and True Jack Productions, with Universal TV. Philbin executive producing with Katims and Michelle Lee.
- PUT PILOT COMMITMENT — Aug. 30 — A single-cam from writer/producer Justin Springer set in a Detroit auto company. With Kapital Entertainment and Universal TV.
- Thursdays — SCRIPT DEAL WITH PENALTY, Aug. 27 — Single-cam from Breckin Meyer and Sony TV, about a group of guys who have dinner together on Thursdays. Written by Meyer and Jesse Stern, produced by them and Jamie Tarses.
- IN DEVELOPMENT — Aug. 29 — Untitled multi-cam from Krysten Ritter and Aaron Kaplan, about friends who meet on Wednesdays for bowling league team started by a couple of team members who have since split up. Written by Liz Vassey.
- IN DEVELOPMENT — Aug. 26 — From Adam Levine, a single-cam about his friendship with roommate Gene Hong (writer/producer, Community). Written by Hong. Produced by Universal TV and 222 Productions, with Jordan Feldstein.
- Me and My Needs — IN DEVELOPMENT Aug. 23 — In redevelopment, actually. Based on an ABC pilot from 2001, and based on the life of late comedian Judy Toll (Toll died in 2002).
- An untitled Wil Calhoun project — IN DEVELOPMENT Aug. 23 — with Scott Stuber and Quan Phung. Based on a college football coach in the South.
- Reality Bites — IN DEVELOPMENT Aug. 22 — Single-cam adaptation of the 1994 movie. From Ben Stiller’s Red Hour (Stiller directed and starred in the film) and original screenwriter Helen Childress. With Double Feature Films co-producing along with Universal TV.
- Aug. 19: PUT PILOT COMMITMENT — Untitled single-cam from Jenny Bicks and 20th Century Fox TV. Based on a mermaid on land in Miami.
- An untitled project from Harris Wittels. Based on a guy who still lives with his parents, while his younger brother is already rich and famous as a high-school entrepreneur. From Universal TV and 3 Arts.
- An untitled multi-cam from Dan Mazer, with 20th Century Fox TV, Tom Werner’s Good Humor TV and 3 Arts.
- Gifted, a multi-cam from David Janollari. Based on a middle-class family with a gifted teen-aged son. With Universal TV.
- Girlfriend In A Coma, from the previous development season, still has a pulse. PILOT ORDERED. With David Frankel directing, written by Lix Brixius and procuded by Wolf Films and Universal TV. Options extended on original cast members Miranda Cosgrove and Daniel Stern. Based on Douglas Coupland’s book, about a woman who wakes up from a coma after many years, learning she has a daughter who is now 17 (Cosgrove). Stern plays Cosgrove’s father.
- An untitled comedy from Tina Fey and her 30 Rock showrunner Robert Carlock. Written and executive produced by Colleen McGuinness, about a woman who wants to reconnect with her father, and does so at work and home on Fire Island. With Fey’s Little Stranger shingle producing.
- Marry Me, a single-cam from David Caspe. PILOT PRODUCTION COMMITMENT WITH PENALTIES. From Sony Pictures TV, with Seth Gordon directing and executive producing, with Jamie Tarses. Based on a young couple engaged to be married.
- An untitled multi-cam from writer-producers Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont, and Eva Longoria attached to executive produce. Based on, or rather, inspired by the life of therapist Laura Berman (OWN’s In The Bedroom With Dr. Laura Berman), about a sex and relationship therapist whose own home life includes two sons and an ex-husband. With Universal TV producing. Kaplan, Elfont and Longoria executive produce with UnveliEVAble’s Ben Spector and Freestyle’s Francesca Silvestri and Kevin Chinoy. Berman will consult.
- Mr. Robinson, the 2013 pilot starring Craig Robinson as a musician and schoolteacher, remains in the mix somehow, someway.
Please send any tips, updates and corrections for this list of potential network TV sitcoms in 2014 to thecomicscomic AT gmail DOT com.