May 6, 2014

NIELSENWAR 2014-15: FOX & NBC Begin Their Pick-Ups


NBC and FOX will be the first broadcast networks to announce their 2014-15 schedules next Monday, so it makes sense that they’re the first to begin announcing their new series pick-ups.  No trailers have yet been released, but here are some quick facts on each:

Note:  In addition to those below, FOX has ordered several shows straight to series, including the dramas BACKSTROM, with Rainn Wilson as a troubled cop, and HIEROGLYPH, an Egyptian-themed fantasy-mystery, as well as the comedies MULANEY, created by and starring comic John Mulaney (which just had ita order upped from 6 episodes to 16), the oddball rom-com WEIRD LONERS and THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (the latter, starring and created by Will Forte, is reportedly for midseason), so it has a limited amount of additional space still available.

GOTHAM:  This was actually the first to be announced yesterday, although it was so widely assumed to be a direct-to-series order (FOX had already been promoting it on the network website) that its confirmation seemed like a formality.  It’s a Batman prequel centering on James Gordon, who will become commissioner of police, and the young versions of Bruce Wayne, Riddler, Penguin, Poison Ivy and Catwoman.  Benjamin McKenzie (from The O.C. and more recently Southland) plays Gordon, and Donal Logue and Jada Pinkett Smith are also in the cast.  The series creator is Bruno Heller of The Mentalist.  The pilot was directed by Danny Cannon, and the studio is Warners.

EMPIRE:  A hip-hop version of the Dallas/Dynasty genre of family soap, with quite a few impressive names attached.  The cast includes Terence Howard, Jurnee Smollett and Taraji P. Henson (along with recurring guest stars Gabourey Sidibe and Macy Gray), and the series creator is Danny Strong, whose credits include The Butler and Game Change; The Butler‘s director Lee Daniels is also the director of the pilot.  It’s an in-house production from 20th Television and Imagine.

RED BAND SOCIETY:  Octavia Spencer and Dave Annable head the cast of a drama (based on a hit Spanish format) about teenagers who live in a hospital.  The US version was created by Margaret Nagle, and the producers include Steven Spielberg.  It hails from ABC Studios/DreamWorks TV.



ODYSSEY:  An international conspiracy thriller (let’s hope it works out better than this season’s Hostages and Crisis), that involves 3 families who become embroiled in the skullduggery.  It features an ensemble cast that includes Anna Friel (barely seen here since Pushing Daisies) and Treat Williams.  The creators are Adam Armus and Kay Foster (let’s not hold it against them that they’ve been writer/producers on The Following), the pilot was directed by Peter Horton, and it’s an in-house Universal TV production.

ALLEGIENCE:  Think The Americans meets Homeland (like the latter, it’s based on an Israeli format), with Gavin Stenhouse as a CIA analyst who realizes that his family (Scott Cohen, Hope Davis, Margarita Levieva) are actually Russian spies who have been activated for terrorist purposes.  The US version was created by George Nolfi, who also directed the pilot, and apparently showrunners will be brought in to assist Nolfi on the series.  It’s in-house from Universal Television.

STATE OF AFFAIRS:  Ready or not, Katherine Heigl is returning to TV, this time as a CIA agent who works directly for the President (Alfre Woodard).  So the lesson this pilot season is that at NBC, it helped to feature spies.  There’s already been some behind-the-scenes drama, as original writer Alexi Hawley is gone, and Joe Carnahan, who took over and directed the pilot, will also not be with the series on a day-to-day basis.  Universal TV will have to deal with the logistics of all this.


MARRY ME:  It’s as close as we’ll get to the return of Happy Endings, as that show’s creator David Caspe has reunited with Casey Wilson, who stars with Ken Marino as an engaged couple.  (In real life, Wilson and Caspe are the engaged couple, which will surely be mentioned about nine zillion times between now and the time the series premieres.)  It’s from Sony TV, and Seth Gordon directed the pilot.

UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT:  Excruciating title aside, this is one of the A-list projects for next season, written by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, and starring Ellie Kemper as a woman starting her life over after leaving a cult.  It’s an in-house Universal TV production.

MR. ROBINSON:  Craig Robinson is the Mr of the title, as a musician who takes a job teaching music at a high school (AKA someone watched the Wendell Pierce storyline on Treme).  The creators are Mark and Robb Cullen, and it’s another Universal TV series.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."