US TV Sci-Fi Pilots 2013

It's US TV pilot season again, an occurrence as regular as the turning of the Earth, the rising of the sun and the sacking of another politician for having an affair/tweeting a naughty word/getting someone else to take his driving points.

We've thrown together this list of American television's most interesting upcoming telefantasy shows for your perusal. A couple of years back it was all fairy tales. This year we seem to be getting an awful lot of teenagers with powers, shows starring former Home And Away actors, and titles starting with “The”: The Hundred , The Last Ship , The Sixth Gun , The Selection , The Originals , The Tomorrow People ... (Funny how that happened with bands a few years ago as well. Everything's connected.)

Do you approve of these new pilots? Which shows pique your interest? Make sure you vote on each page to tell us!

You can start browsing, or leap straight to a show that interests you from the list below:

• Believe

• Delirium

• Gothica

• Human

• Intelligence

• Legends

• Second Sight

• Marvel’s SHIELD

• Sleepy Hollow

• The Hundred

• The Last Ship

• The Originals

• The Selection

• The Sixth Gun

• The Tomorrow People


Network : The CW

Starring: Joseph Morgan ( The Vampire Diaries ), Claire Holt ( The Vampire Diaries ), Daniel Gillies ( The Vampire Diaries ), Phoebe Tonkin ( The Vampire Diaries ), Charles Michael Davis ( The Game ), Daniella Pineda ( The Vampire Diaries ), Danielle Campbell ( The Vampire Diaries ), Leah Pipes (Three Guesses Which Show She Also Appeared In)

Main creative forces: From executive producer/writer Julie Plec ( The Vampire Diaries ) and Leslie Morgenstein and Gina Girolamo (also The Vampire Diaries stalwarts – there's a theme here).

One-line pitch: The Vampire Diaries meets Interview With A Vampire (well, it's set in New Orleans, so it's either that or Treme ).

The skinny: On 25 April The Vampire Diaries will air an episode called “The Originals”, which will spin off into this new series. Focusing on the original family of vampires who went on to spawn so much trouble and so many bad flashback wigs, The Originals stars Klaus (Morgan) and has him returning to his old stomping ground, the French Quarter of New Orleans, to get up to all sorts of mischief. Once there he meets up with his brother Elijah (Gillies) and all sorts of things happen that don't involve Mystic Falls at all.

Initial thoughts: What do you do when your show about two vampire brothers and their One True Love accidentally spawns a vampire who threatens to become more popular than they are? You give him his own show, of course! It worked for Angel when he got too big for Buffy , so who knows if it'll do the same for Klaus? He has been stuck in Mystic Falls for way too long, so it'll be good to see him step into the limelight at last. Plus he's brought his interesting gang of fellow supernaturals with him.

This could be good if it feels fresh enough, and Morgan has undeniable charisma... but could The Originals sink under its own mythology, with newbies unsure of what to make of it, and Vampire Diaries fans finding their diet now too vampire-rich?


Network: CBS

Starring: Josh Holloway ( Lost ), Marg Helgenberger ( CSI: Crime Scene Investigation ), Michael Rady ( The Mentalist ), James Martinez ( Gravity )

Main creative forces: Writer and producer: Michael Seitzman ( Empire State ); director David Semel ( Person Of Interest ); producer Tripp Vinson ( Journey 2: The Mysterious Island )

One-line pitch: Chuck meets Alphas

The skinny: Gabriel Black (Holloway) works for US Cyber Command and has a microchip inserted into his brain to help him carry out missions. Details of exactly what this chip can do are sketchy (does he know kung fu?*) but we do know that it'll let him access “the entire electromagnetic spectrum”. So if we get to see what he's seeing, expect some pretty trippy, LSD-style sequences. CSI stalwart Marg Helgenberger plays the director of Cybercomm.

(*Gratuitous Chuck quote, sorry)

Initial thoughts: If you're reading this and thinking “Brain influenced by computer? That's Chuck !” you're not the only one. There's no such thing as an original idea these days, is there? Hell, the old “chip in brain” scenario even includes Johnny Mnemonic , and look how good that was. Still, Intelligence has a top-notch cast – Holloway was one of the best things about Lost , and Helgenberger ain't no slouch – and if it's as slick and smooth as most intelligence agency/high-tech spy stories are (see: Alias , Nikita , Person Of Interest ), it could be a winner. We can't help but think, however, that this will be sold on Holloway's charisma alone... and it's been a few years since Lost . Do people still love that Sawyer guy?


Network: CBS

Starring: Jason Lee ( My Name Is Earl ), Kim Dickens ( Deadwood , Treme )

Main creative forces: Paula Milne (original UK series); executive-produced by Carol Mendelsohn ( CSI ) and Michael Cuesta ( Homeland ), who co-wrote it with his brother Gerald Cuesta.

One-line pitch: Awake meets The Dead Zone

The skinny: Based on the 2000-2001 BBC series starring Clive Owen – which wasn't half bad – this American update stars Lee as Ross Tanner, a police detective who finds himself having terrible hallucinations and dreams. It turns out that he's developed a weird autoimmune virus that affects his eyes but, miraculously, helps him solve cases by feeding him clues.

Initial thoughts: The UK show was pretty bleak, so it'll be interesting to see what tone this new version takes – particularly given Lee's proven gift for humour, as any My Name Is Earl fan will tell you. Our money's on it playing things desperately straight, however, and possibly suffering as a result. Awake did much the same thing with a similar plot device, and only improved when it lightened up... but by then it was too late to save the show.

Interestingly, along with The Originals , this is the second show on this list set in New Orleans – is the city offering some kind of tax break to film there, or is it just a coincidence, and both shows will be filmed in towns that are only pretending to be The Big Easy ?


Network: NBC

Starring: Jake McLaughlin ( Heroes ), Jamie Chung ( Once Upon A Time ), Sienna Guillory ( Resident Evil: Retribution ), Delroy Lindo ( Up ), Johnny Sequoyah ( Ass Backwards )

Main creative forces: The Bad Robot team, so that's mainly JJ Abrams to you and me. Story by Alfonso Cuaron ( Children Of Men ) and Mark Friedman ( The Forgotten ).

One-line pitch: Firestarter meets Akira (okay, we really have no idea, but doesn't this combo sound cool?).

The skinny: Tate (McLaughlin) is languishing in jail when he's suddenly sprung so that he can perform an important task: looking after a mysterious young girl with super-powers. One catch: these powers won't start working for another seven years, and evil bad guys want to find her first.

Initial thoughts: Well, it's JJ Abrams, so we're inclined to think that this will be a cracker. However, Alcatraz was a bit of a disappointment, so we know not everything Abrams touches on our tellies can turn to gold – and he must be stretched so thin these days with his movie projects that who knows how much input he's had on this? However, the good news is that Cuaron can only be a positive force (and he's producing as well as writing, which is a relief). Also, the fact that this is an NBC show means it'll have serious dollars behind it and a helluva lot of heft. Believe? We probably should.


Network: NBC

Starring: Laura Ramsey ( The Ruins ), Aldis Hodge ( Leverage ), W Earl Brown ( Deadwood ), Graham McTavish ( The Hobbit )

Main creative forces: From the comic series by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt; showrunner: Carlton Cuse ( Lost ), story by Ryan Condal ( Hercules: The Thracian Wars ), director Jeffrey Reiner ( The Event )

One-line pitch: Supernatural meets Jonah Hex , with a possible whiff of Firefly .

The skinny: Set just after the US Civil War, The Sixth Gun focuses on Becky Montcrief (Ramsey), who finds herself in possession of one of six very special guns. She must team with gunslinger Drake Sinclair (actor TBC) to protect it from the undead Confederate General Hume (Brown) and his legions, who want to do what all undead bad guys want to do: destroy the world.

Initial thoughts: Supernatural westerns don't tend to have a good track record on TV or in cinema, even when they're based on decent comic books ( Jonah Hex , anyone)? Still, it's about time we got a good 'un, and The Sixth Gun must have promise or NBC wouldn't be interested – they're not a network known for frivolities or risk-taking. The lack of big names in the cast might be a problem (although we're loving the sight of Leverage 's Aldis Hodge in this roster) so this could well be a case of “wait and see”, “keep those fingers crossed” and “Wild West zombies? Where's the bad in that?”


Network: ABC

Starring: Janet Montgomery (Princess Mithian in Merlin ), Raza Jaffrey ( Spooks ), Tom Ellis ( The Fades ), Chris Egan ( Home And Away )

Main creative talent: Writer: Matt Lopez ( The Sorcerer's Apprentice ), producer Mark Gordon ( Reape r) and director Anand Tucker ( Girl With A Pearl Earring )

One-line pitch: Grimm meets Sunset Beach

The skinny: Grace Van Helsing (Montgomery) discovers that her famous surname isn't just a coincidence – all the monsters and related characters we've read about over the years are actually real. This includes Dracula, Dr Victor Frankenstein (Ellis) and Dorian Gray (Egan).

Initial thoughts: Once upon a time there was something called “an original concept”. This isn't one of them. We've been seeing variations of this idea for so many years now that generations are probably growing up thinking that Dracula did exist and it's silly to assume otherwise. Gothica is also pitched as a “sexy gothic soap opera”, which could be so easy to stuff up it's amazing anyone's willing to take the risk. However, the cast is pretty good, and it's rather mean of us to be so down on a show before it's even started filming, so...

...No, no... we can't fake it. This is going to suck out loud. Really. Think Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter or The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen , but on your telly. And then make it worse. That's what this will be. Betcha anything.

HUMAN (working title)

Network: Fox

Starring: Michael Ealy ( FlashForward , Common Law ), Lili Taylor ( Six Feet Under )

Main creative talent: Producers: JJ Abrams ( Star Trek ) and JH Wyman ( Fringe ); pilot directed by Brad Anderson ( Fringe ).

One-line pitch: Alien Nation meets Total Recall 2070 .

The skinny: Dorian (Ealy) is an android police officer working with the LAPD to solve crime. He's no Data, though: he's fully aware of what humans are and what they do, and at times is more human than his own partner, John Kennex (casting TBC). So it's a buddy cop show where one of them is the Tin Man, only it's not the guy you think.

Initial thoughts: It's still early days for this show (hence the limited cast, although even as you're reading this there are probably names being announced), and so all we really know so far is that it's JJ Abrams' second pilot of the year. This is enough to get us excited. Our only quibble: haven't there been enough police-procedural shows over the years? Throwing an android into the mix can't make an old genre new, can it? We'll see... ( Anybody else thinking Holmes and Yoyo ? – ed. )


Network: Fox

Starring: Tom Mison ( Salmon Fishing In The Yemen ), Nicole Beharie ( The Good Wife ), Orlando Jones ( Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant ), Katia Winter ( Dexter )

Main creative talent: Producers: Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci ( Fringe ), Len Wiseman ( Underworld ), pilot directed by Brad Anderson ( Fringe )

One-line pitch: Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow meets Once Upon A Time

The skinny: Ichabod Crane (Mison), central character of Washington Irving's 18th-century story “The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow”, is the star of this curious series. The official synopsis says: “Ichabod gets time-warped into present day, where he is confused by the modern technology but turns out to be a great detective once his enemy, The Headless Horseman, comes back to haunt the town.” He pairs up with Detective Abby Archer (Beharie) and is investigated by Lt Frank Williams (Jones), while Winter plays Crane's wife (presumably in the past).

Initial thoughts: Isn't this the plot of Tim Burton's Dark Shadows given a few tweaks? Either way, the show's success will depend on how well Tom Mison plays the possibly kooky, definitely spooky Crane – he'll have Johnny Depp's performance to beat. The plot point of “evil rising in a small town” could be just about any fantasy show from the modern era, though. Let's hope this is more American Gothic than The Secret Circle (when Len Wiseman was attached to direct he told SFX that the show was intended to have a hard edge ). Producers Orci and Kurtzman bode well: they've been responsible for everything from Fringe to Hawaii Five-O to the Star Trek reboot, so fingers crossed they don't let us down.


Network: The CW

Starring: Yael Grobglas (a newcomer), Sean Patrick Thomas ( Ringer ), Peta Sergeant ( Winners And Losers ), Michael Malarkey ( Raw ), Anthony Head (every comedy on Radio 4), Sarah Winter ( An Adventure In Space And Time )

Main creative talent: From the book by Kiera Cass, written and produced by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain (T he Vampire Diaries )

One-line pitch: The Hunger Games meets The Bachelor

The skinny: The Selection is set 300 years in the future, in a world in which the charming Prince Maxon (Malarkey) holds a lottery to find 25 women who must fight for his hand in marriage. Thus they can become queen. America Singer (Grobglas) is a working-class woman who finds herself chosen to participate – but rebels are desperate to overthrow the rulers...

Initial thoughts: Dear God, this sounds terrible . Not only does it read like a thinly veiled rip-off of The Hunger Games (instead of fighting for food, the women are fighting for marriage), it's also horrendously sexist. That's a first impression, of course: in reality, this could end up being quite compelling. If it's handled sensitively and doesn't descend into The CW's simplified, gooey-eyed, star-crossed lovers clichés, it could be pretty good. Unfortunately producers Fain and Craft have the soppiness of The Vampire Diaries and the wobbliness of 666 Park Avenue behind them, so this may not end well.


Network: TNT

Starring: Sean Bean (not a proper officer), Ali Larter ( Heroes ), Amber Valletta ( Revenge ), Tina Majorino ( Veronica Mars , True Blood )

Main creative talent: Based on the novel by Robert Littell, adapted by Howard Gordon ( Homeland , Awake ), Mark Bomback ( Total Recall ) and Jeffrey Nachmanoff ( The Day After Tomorrow , Homeland ). Pilot directed by David Semel ( American Horror Story )

One-line pitch: Alias meets Dollhouse

The skinny: Martin Odum (Bean) is a chameleon-like CIA agent who can change himself into a new person every time he's on a case – so much so that it's hard to know where his job ends and he begins. But what's his real story?

Initial thoughts: This was originally going to star Brendan Fraser before he pulled out of the project, but boy, did they find a good replacement. It'll be fascinating to see Sean Bean's acting talents being stretched: we know he can play a gruff bad guy or a gruff good guy, but rather like Eliza Dushku in Dollhouse , he'll be called on to portray all sorts of types of people in this role. Add to this a cool supporting cast – including Majorino, who was cruelly underused as the techie vampire in True Blood last season – and a stellar production team (you can't argue with Howard Gordon's CV) and this could be the breakout hit of the year.


Network: Fox

Starring: Emma Roberts ( Scream 4 ), Billy Campbell ( The 4400 ), Corey Reynolds ( The Closer )

Main creative talent: From the novels by Lauren Oliver, adapted by Karyn Usher ( Prison Break ), executive-produced by Peter Chernin and Katherine Pope ( Touch , Terra Nova )

One-line pitch: The Host meets THX-1138

The skinny: Lena (Roberts) is a young girl in a world without love. Literally – it's been banned, and just in case anybody is daft enough to fall in love accidentally, it's removed by surgery when people hit 18. Unfortunately Lena makes the silly mistake of falling madly in love with only 95 days to go before her surgery. Whoops.

Initial thoughts: This sounds so similar to Stephenie Meyer's The Host that it's almost laughable, but then again, a lot of young adult novels these days have similar themes and it's the handling of them that gives each story its uniqueness. But will Lauren Oliver's trilogy – the final installment hits shelves this month – translate to the screen? At the moment this sounds like angsty teen drippiness at its worst (a world without love? A teenager defying the rules? Come ON!), so we don't have high hopes. It doesn't help that the character of Lena is being described all over the internet as “the defiant heart of the drama”, which sounds like someone's struggled not to use the word “feisty” (code for: “a female character who isn't a plank of wood”) and come up with something even worse. Ugh.

Still, if Delirium avoids the saccharine suggested by the plot, and focuses instead on the totalitarian world in which it's set, it could be interesting. But we doubt it.


Network: The CW

Starring: Robbie Amell ( Alcatraz ), Madeleine Mantock ( Casualty ), Peyton List ( Mad Men ), Luke Mitchell ( Home And Away , Neighbours ), Mark Pellegrino ( Lost )

Main creative talent: From the UK show by Roger Price, adapted by Phil Klemmer ( Chuck ), executive-produced by Greg Berlanti ( Arrow ) and Julie Plec ( The Vampire Diaries ). The pilot will be directed by executive-producer Danny Cannon ( Alacatraz )

One-line pitch: The X-Men meets Heroes

The skinny: The next stage of human evolution is underway, with “homo superior” displaying amazing powers such as telepathy, teleportation, telekinesis and, er, other things starting with T, probably (Time-keeping? Tea-making?). The one thing they all have in common is that they're teenagers, so expect angst, love affairs and “adults don't understand us” drama.

Initial thoughts: Those of us who grew up with the '70s version of The Tomorrow People – or the early '90s reboot – already know that the concept is basically a rip-off of Marvel Comics' mutants. But hell, this hasn't stopped other shows from using the idea ( Mutant X and Alphas , to name but two, let alone Heroes ) and there's enough nostalgia for the old days for us to be fairly excited by this adaptation. The fact it's being penned by Chuck 's Phil Klemmer suggests it could be sparky rather than stodgy, and director Danny Cannon is famous for coming onto a pilot and setting a “feel” for the rest of the series that's pretty damn good. We can but hope that the next wave of human evolution isn't a monumental cock-up, then.

( I’m also pretty impressed that the show seems to be embracing its roots with a villain called Jedekiah – the same as in the original series – and a Tomorrow Person called Stephen. Also, the USP this show will have over other “superpowered average Joe’ shows is that they can all teleport – or “jaunt" – a superpower not that prevalent on the small screen. Sorry to interrupt this broadcast, but I LOVED the original, and, strangely I’m quite optimistic about this new version – ed )

Marvel’s SHIELD

Network: ABC

Starring: Clark Gregg ( The Avengers ), Ian De Caestecker ( The Fades ), Ming Na ( Stargate Universe ), Elizabeth Henstridge ( Hollyoaks )

Main creative talent: Written and produced by Joss Whedon ( The Avengers ), Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen ( Dollhouse ). Executive-produced by Jeffrey Bell ( The X-Files ), Jeph Loeb ( Ultimate Spider-Ma n) and Gary A Brown ( Prison Break ). Pilot directed by Joss Whedon.

One-line pitch: The Avengers without the Avengers

The skinny: Forget the big guns like The Hulk, Captain America or Iron Man – here's a show about the guys on the ground, fighting diligently against evil in the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division. They're led by Agent Phil Coulson (Gregg) and include Agent Melinda May (Ming Na) and Agent Leo Fitz (De Caestecker). No final word yet on whether Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) will appear due to her scheduling, but it would be nice to see her reprise her role from The Avengers .

Initial thoughts: Well, aside from the obvious (spoilery) question about Agent Coulson, our biggest thought on SHIELD is this: can it possibly live up to the hype? Let's face it, if you're not excited about this, you're dead. But that could be the show's undoing, with people expecting way too much from a series which won't feature any of the regular “super-powered” Avengers (imagine trying to afford Robert Downey Jr on an ABC budget). Of course, it still has Coulson – who's got one helluva internet following – and Whedon and company rarely let us down.

If nothing else, SHIELD should get the kind of viewing figures ABC execs have hitherto only dreamed about... and they're also not Fox, so the show should last for more than 13 episodes if they commission it after the pilot. Which, of course, they will. Won't you, ABC? Good network.


Network: TNT

Starring: Adam Baldwin ( Firefly ), Eric Dane ( Grey's Anatomy ), Rhona Mitra ( Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans ), Michaela McManus ( The Vampire Diaries )

Main creative talent: From the novel by William Brinkley, adapted by Hank Steinberg ( Without A Trace ) and Steven Kane ( The Closer ). Pilot directed by Jonathan Mostow ( Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines )

One-line pitch: Odyssey 5 meets Battleship

The skinny: The crew of naval destroyer USS Nathan James find themselves stranded on board their ship after a pandemic destroys the majority of the Earth's population. (Fun fact: in the 1988 book it's a nuclear war. Clearly we've progressed beyond bombs to germs in the 21st century.)

Initial thoughts: It doesn't sound very cheerful, does it? But there's a great cast, and location filming has been taking place on real ships as opposed to on sets, so that's a good sign. This could be a relentlessly gritty drama or a silly action-adventure; we're guessing the latter, seeing as its production company is Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes, but we're happy to be proved wrong. At the moment The Last Ship is still too much of an unknown quantity for us to judge.


Network: The CW

Starring: Marie Avgeropoulos ( Cult ), Eliza Taylor ( Neighbours ), Henry Ian Cusick ( Lost ), Bob Morley ( Home And Away )

Main creative talent: From the books by Kass Morgan, adapted by Jason Rothenberg ( Body Politic ). Executive-produced by Gina Girolamo ( 666 Park Avenue ), Leslie Morgenstein ( The Vampire Diaries ) and Bharat Nalluri ( Outcasts ), who also directs the pilot.

One-line pitch: Earth 2 meets The Tribe

The skinny: Almost 100 years after a nuclear war, a spaceship hovers in orbit, the last remnants of the human race wondering if they can go home again. To test whether things are okay down there, they send down 100 troublesome teenagers to see what's going on. Post-apocalyptic survival ensues, with the main focus on Octavia (Avgeropoulos) as the lead delinquent.

Initial thoughts: Not sure this one will make it – it sounds too gritty for a network like The CW, which prefers “fluffier” signature series such as Gossip Girl . Still, it's nice to see them trying to do something different, and if this is half as bleak as it sounds, it could be killer. Unless we're mistaken, of course. The Hundred could merely be a bunch of grubbier-than- Gossip Girl teens falling in love and gossiping about it with each other. Their MO on post-apocalyptic Earth does appear to be to “repopulate” it, so there could be lots of shagging...

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