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Pilot Highlights

15 US telefantasy shows hoping to get the green light. Tell us which ones you like the sound of!


It’s pilot season in the US again as casts and crews knock together introductory episodes for new shows in the hope they’ll impress studio bosses enough to get the greenlight for a full series. We’ve had a look through the list of what’s being prepped (on the big, main networks, anyway) and selected 15 of most interest to SFX .

There are certainly some clear running themes:

  • Procedural shows with a fantasy element
  • Fairy tale characters coming to life
  • Mysterious outsiders arriving to stir things up
  • Supernatural teen shows that don’t feature vampires

So, have a browse through the list and use the voting forms on each page to let us know which shows you are most excited/least excited about.


Starring: Terry O'Quinn ( Lost ), Arielle Kebbel ( Gilmour Girls ), Jesse L Martin ( Law & Order ), Frances O'Connor ( AI ), Donal Logue ( Terriers )

Main creative forces: writer – Marc Cherry ( Desperate Housewives ); pilot director – Michael Apted ( The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader , The World Is Not Enough ).

One-line pitch: Blue Velvet meets High Plains Drifter to the soundtrack of O Brother Where Art Thou

The skinny: The small town of Hallelujah Tennessee is riven by the forces of good and evil. The town is run by the uncompromising Del Roman (O'Quinn) but people like diner boss Rye Turner (Logue) are beginning to question his authority. Then a mysterious stranger comes to town and everything changes. A gospel choir will apparently be providing the show’s musical backbone, punctuating the episodes with inspirational bellowing and rapturous arm waving.

Initial thoughts? Sounds like less whimsical version of Eastwick , or a less teen-orientated Point Pleasant . Has the potential to be high on soap and low on fantasy. The success of the show could all hinge round Jesse L Martin’s performance as “mysterious stranger” Jared O’Neal and his relationship with O’Quinn’s character.




Starring: Robert Carlyle ( Stargate Universe ), Jennifer Morrison ( Star Trek , House ), Ginnifer Goodwin ( Ed, Big Love, Robot Chicken ), Jamie Dornan ( Shadows In The Sun )

Main creative forces: showrunners – Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz ( Lost ); pilot director – Mark Mylod ( Entourage )

One-line pitch: The Tenth Kingdom meets Twin Peaks

The skinny: A mix of sci-fi and fantasy with a strong mystery element. The premise is a modern-day take on fairy tales, with the plot set in two realities – ours and a fantasy universe. In our world the setting is Storybrooke, Maine. A woman (Morrison) with a troubled past is drawn there, and the place’s magic may hold the key to unlocking some dark secrets about her. Robert Carlyle plays Rumplestiltskin. No, you did read that correctly…

Initial thoughts? Robert Carlyle as Rumplestiltskin? Is it us who’ve entered a parallel universe? Sounds interesting – or intriguingly bat's-arse at the very least – but let’s hope the mystery isn’t stretched out to Lost proportions. If it opens with a close-up of an eye, just pass along…



POE (Network: ABC)

Starring: Chris Egan ( Kings ), Kevin McNally ( Pirates Of The Caribbean ), Natalie Dormer ( Captain America: The First Avenger ), Tabrett Bethell ( Legend Of The Seeker )

Main creative forces: creator – Christopher Hollier ( Kyle XY ); showrunner – Brad Kern ( Charmed , Human Target ); pilot director – Alex Graves ( Terra Nova , Journeyman )

One-line pitch: A 19th Century version of Castle / Monk / The Mentalist /any other procedural show with a quirky detective you could mention .

The skinny: Set in 1840s Boston, the show reimagines Edgar Allan Poe as the world's first detective, using unconventional methods to investigate dark mysteries. America clearly yearns for its own Sherlock Holmes.

Initial thoughts? This one may not even be fantasy – well have to wait and see how “dark” these “mysteries” are. It seems a rather contrived idea, but if it’s done in the right style it could find a groove. Let’s just hope it’s not full of literary in-jokes, like “The Nevermore Inn” or Poe meeting characters who “inspire” those who end up in his work. That could wear very thin, very quickly.



THE RIVER (Network: ABC)

Starring: Bruce Greenwood ( Nowhere Man ), Paul Blackthorne ( The Dresden Files ), Joe Anderson ( The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn ), Leslie Hope ( 24 )

Main creative forces: creators – Michael R Perry & Michael Green ( Kings ); pilot director – Jaume Collet-Serra ( Unknown ); executive producers – Michael Green, Zack Estrin ( No Ordinary Family ), Oren Peli ( Paranormal Activity )

One-line pitch: Lost on a river

The Skinny: A horror-based show that kicks off when a TV explorer (Greenwood) and his crew go missing in the Amazon, and another group sets off to find them in a state-of-the-art research vessel.

Initial thoughts? Hmmm, this sounds like it’s going to be serialised, but do we want another Flash Forward or The Event ? Not bad shows either of ’em, but the big serialised mystery show does seem to have had its day. This one will need to do something special in its pilots to convince studio bosses that it's going to convince audiences to stick with it for the long haul.




Starring: Patrick Wilson ( Insidious ), Jennifer Ehle ( The King's Speech ), Julie Benz ( No Ordinary Family , Buffy )

Main creative forces: creator – Susannah Grant ( Erin Brockovich ); pilot director and executive producer – Jonathan Demme ( The Silence of the Lambs )

One-line pitch: Ghost meets Dr Ruth

The skinny: Drama about an ultra-competitive surgeon whose life is changed forever when his ex-wife dies and begins teaching him what life is all about from the hereafter.

Initial thoughts? Blimey, that’s some hefty movie-making clout behind-the-scenes. We’d love to see what they could come up with. But with Ghost Whisperer and Medium having been given the elbow by CBS in the past two years, you have to wonder if a show like this is going to tickle the studio bosses’ collective fancy? And the concept does sound ripe for some prime schmaltz.




Starring: This is the Battlestar Galactica reunion show with James Callis, Tricia Helfer and Jamie Bamber all on board, plus Battlestar spin-off Caprica ’s Esai Morlaes

Main creative forces: More Battlestar old-timers: showrunner – Ronald D Moore; pilot director Michael Rymer

One-line pitch: Harry Potter meets Hill Street Blues

The skinny: A police procedural set in an alternate version of San Francisco where magic rules instead of science. Often described as “an adult Harry Potter” but we don’t think that means lots of rutting witches and wizards… though we could be wrong.

Initial thoughts? At least Moore’s not trying to get more blood out of the Battlestar stone. It’ll be good to see what he does with a whole new fantasy playground to play in, and we’re sure it’ll be delightfully dark. But surely the chances of both this and Grimm getting commissioned are very low? They sound far too similar. And after the brilliant Virtuality was unceremoniously dumped, Moore can hardly be considered a sure bet any longer.




Starring: David Giuntoli ( Eli Stone ), Reggie Lee ( No Ordinary Family ), Bitsie Tulloch ( Lonelygirl15 ), Russell Hornsby ( Haunted ), Sasha Roiz ( Caprica )

Main creative forces: showrunner – David Greenwalt ( Angel ); pilot director – Marc Buckland ( My Name Is Earl )

One-line pitch: 17th Precinct meets Once Upon A Time

The skinny: Nick Burckhardt (Giuntoli) is a detective who starts to see humans as beast/animals and discovers that he has a legacy – to protect “humans” from these beasts. Apparently, characters from Grimms’ Fairy Tales will be cameoing – hey, maybe Robert Carlyle will turn up as Rumplestiltskin? How that quite tallies with “beast men” isn’t quite clear.

Initial thoughts? As much as we think Greenwalt was is a genius, this could be one fantasy show too many for this season. At the moment, going on the skimpy info available, this doesn’t sound quite as interesting as Moore’s pilot, but you never know: the final product could be a stylistic triumph with a few tricks ups its sleeve. In a perfect world both this and Moore’s show will go to a series, and we’ll see a glorious return to Deep Space Nine versus Babylon 5 -style rivalries.




Starring: Jason Isaacs ( Harry Potter ), Laura Allen ( The 4400 ), Dylan Minnette ( Saving Grace ), Cherry Jones ( 24 ), BD Wong ( Jurassic Park )

Main creative forces: creator – Kyle Killen ( Lone Star ); executive producer – Howard Gordon ( 24 ); consulting producer – Tim “Cancelled Again” Minear ( Firefly , Terriers , Dollhouse ); pilot director – David Slade ( 30 Days Of Night , Twilight: Eclipse )

One-line pitch: Sliding Doors meets Inception

The skinny: After a horrible car accident, a police detective finds himself living in two different realities. In one his son survived the accident, and in the other his wife did.

Initial thoughts? We really need to know a little bit more about the “ Inception ” angle the producers are touting before we can really make a judgement, because otherwise it sounds horribly soapy, and not much like Inception (though apparently the pilot, “is built on the premise that, given the opportunity, people would accept a world they knew to be fake in order to see their loved one again” so maybe that’s the Inception vibe? Shame if it is – we want bending buildings). And can “Cancelled Again” Minear break his curse? Honestly, we’re not being mean; that’s how he’s started to refer to himself on Twitter! Interesting choice of director for the pilot.




Starring: Adrianne Palicki ( Smallville , Supernatural ), Justin Bruening ( Knight Rider ), Cary Elwes ( The Princess Bride ), Elizabeth Hurley ( Austin Powers ), Pedro Pascal ( The Adjustment Bureau )

Main creative forces: showrunner – David E Kelley ( Ally McBeal ); pilot director – Jeffrey Reiner ( The Event )

One-line pitch: Wonder Woman meets a car crash/a hen night/ Sex And The City

The skinny: This is a high concept makeover for DC’s premiere superheroine. As well as her Diana Prince alter ego, Wonder Woman also has a third guise and a day job as Diana Themyscyra, the head of Themiscyra industries. While little Ms Prince is a disguise, it is well known in this world that Themyscyra, and Wonder Woman are the same – think Tony Stark and Iron Man in the second film. Apparently, it’s all about the traumas of being a “modern woman”, trying to balance home life and work, with a lot of goofy comedy.

Initial thoughts? We really want this show to turn out brilliantly and surprise us all, because the internet scuttlebutt has been almost uniformly negative: the script, the costume and the casting have all come in for scathing criticism. And yeah, we have to admit, we have serious misgivings. But Kelley isn’t a hack. He’s can be a great writer. Maybe when/if the show finally airs it’ll all make some crazy sense, and we’ll be applauding his guts to tamper with the myth so much. Or maybe it’ll just be The Bionic Woman all over again…




Starring: Sarah Jones ( Sons of Anarchy ), Jorge Garcia ( Lost ), Robert Forster ( Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle ), Sam Neill ( Jurassic Park ), Jason Butler Harner ( Next )

Main creative forces: creators – Bryan Wynbrandt ( Kyle XY ), Elizabeth Sarnoff ( Lost ), Steven Lilien ( Kyle XY ); executive producer – JJ Abrams ( Lost, Fringe, Star Trek ); pilot director – Danny Cannon ( Judge Dredd )

One-line pitch: The 4400 meets Prison Break

The skinny: A group of Alcatraz prisoners and guards who went missing 30 years ago reappear in the present day. The show chronicles the efforts of a team of FBI agents to track them down and unravel the mystery behind their disappearance.

Initial thoughts? Does this sound like Abrams on automatic to anyone else? Hopefully the pilot will add some more interesting elements into the mix.




Starring: Jesse McCartney ( Young Justice ), Mark Pellegrino ( Lost , Being Human ), Miranda Otto ( The Lord of the Rings ), Nick Stahl ( Carnivàle )

Main creative forces: Based on a comic by – Joe Hill; developed for television by – Josh Friedman ( Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles ); executive producers – Steven Spielberg (never heard of him), Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman ( Fringe , Star Trek )

One-line pitch: Stephen King’s son wrote it!

The skinny: A kind of spooky, teen-driven, magical house drama with added psycho-killer sub-plot. After their dad is murdered, the remainder of the Locke family move in with their uncle to the family’s estate in Lovecraft, Massachusetts (surely the property prices in anywhere named Lovecraft are gonna be low?). The kids discover magical keys that open secret door in the mansion. Meanwhile, dad’s killer has escaped capture and is on their trail…

Initial thoughts? We actually like the sound of this one, maybe just because it doesn't sound like a zillion other things in development this year. Gotta admit, its natural home sounds like the CW network, but it’s got a good cast and good team behind it, so let’s hope Fox hasn’t blown its entire telefantasy budget on Terra Nova . And would Pellegrino be able to fit both Being Human and this into his schedule?




Starring: Kiefer Sutherland ( The Lost Boys … oh we know we should put something more recent, but that’s still his greatest genre role)

Main creative forces: Creator – Tim Kring ( Heroes ); pilot director – Charles McDougall ( The Good Wife )

One-line pitch: The Medusa Touch meets Rainman

The skinny: Life gets complicated for a JFK baggage handler when he discovers that his autistic, mute son can predict the future.

Initial thoughts? A doting dad is not quite the role we want to see Sutherland doing, so hopefully this concentrates less on daddy issues and more on him taking tips from his son then going forth to kick ass. But with Kring in control, if it does go to a series, can we beg him not repeat the first season ad infinitum with diminishing returns?




Starring: Brian Hallisay ( Priviledged ), Lucy Griffiths (the UK’s Robin Hood ), Meredith Hagner ( Lights Out ), Titus Welliver ( Lost )

Main creative forces: Creators – Bill Laurin & Glenn Davis ( The Listener ); pilot director – David Van Ancken ( The Vampire Diaries )

One-line pitch: The Walking Dead meets Twilight

The skinny : Two antagonistic sisters have to act their age when they get caught up in the middle of a zombie infestation. Lost ’s Man In Black plays, “a mysterious figure with piercing eyes and a dark overcoat who is hunting the zombies behind the first wave of the awakening.” Apparently in this show, some sneaky zombies are living normal lives, disguising themselves among the living, presumably getting through an awful lot of deodorant.

Initial thoughts? The CW clearly wants a zombie version of The Vampire Diaries . It does sound like an identikit CW show, but we like the idea of Titus Welliver as some kind of zombie Van Helsing, and The CW does have a knack of making corny-sounding shows work better than you’d expect.




Starring: Lauren Cohan ( The Vampire Diaries , Chuck ), Ben Aldridge ( The Devil’s Whore ), Elizabeth Ho, Ryan Eggold ( 90210 )

Main creative forces: Creator – Richard Hatem ( The Gates , Supernatural ); executive producers – Robert Doherty ( Medium , Tru Calling ), Ross Fineman; pilot director – Mimi Leder ( Deep Impact )

One-line pitch: Highway To Heaven meets Eli Stone

The skinny: A San Francisco attorney teams up with a former angel in an effort to save their clients and their clients' souls.

Initial thoughts? Sounds ghastly. Stunning looking cast, though!




Starring: Britt Robertson ( Scream 4 ), Thomas Dekker ( Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles ), Jessica Parker Kennedy ( Smallville ), Phoebe Tonkin ( Home And Away )

Main creative forces: Based on the books by – LJ Smith ( The Vampire Diaries ); showrunner – Kevin Williamson ( The Vampire Diaries ); pilot director – Liz Friedlander ( The Vampire Diaries )

One-line pitch: The Vampire Diaries , with fewer vampires and more witches

The skinny: The story follows a California teen named Cassie Blake who moves to her mom’s hometown of New Salem, Maine, and discovers that she comes from a family of witches.

Initial thoughts? Why didn’t they just do a Vampires Diaries spin-off starring Bonnie? She never gets enough to do.