Which sci-fi TV pilots will live and which will die? We take a look

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

It's been a long, hard winter, but spring is finally here, bringing with it budding flowers, warm weather and the national pastime of trying to figure out which television pilots might be picked up by the networks next month.

The broadcast television networks will announce their fall 2009 television schedules soon, and we'll then have an entire summer to stew about it, hoping another Lost or Heroes will invade our homes.

Among the potential new series are plenty of sci-fi and fantasy possibilities. While 71 pilots are being developed, only a few will make it onto the fall schedule. After the jump, our list of the hopefuls and how they stack up. (This is part one of a two-part article covering pilots from ABC, CBS and NBC. Part two, on Fox and the CW's pilots, will run tomorrow.)


Flash Forward For 2 minutes and 17 seconds, the entire world population blacks out and has mysterious visions of their future. They wake up to chaos. An FBI agent desperately attempts to figure out why this has happened and to stop a future he can't bear to face. Based on the novel by Robert J. Sawyer, Flash Forward comes from executive producers David Goyer and Brannon Braga, the creators of the short-lived Threshold, and stars Joseph Fiennes, Sonya Walger, John Cho, Christine Woods, Courtney Vance, Brian O'Byrne, Jack Davenport, Payton List and Zachary Knighton.

Does our vision Flash Forward to the future? It does. Despite the loss of such imaginative endeavors as Pushing Daisies and Eli Stone, ABC continues to push the creative envelope. This isn't like anything else on television.

Which means ... It may be a tough sell to the audience, but the network is sold. Flash Forward already has a series commitment.

Eastwick This dramedy mixes Desperate Housewives with a little devilish fun when three modern-day women discover they have magical powers. Based on John Updike's novel and the 1987 film The Witches of Eastwick, Eastwick was written by Maggie Friedman (Jack & Bobby) and directed by the amazing David Nutter, who has helmed an astonishing number of pilots that made it to series. It stars Rebecca Romijn, Lindsay Price, Jaime Ray Newman, Sara Rue and Veronica Cartwright.

Will Eastwick cast a spell? It's looking good. Eastwick is the women of Wisteria Lane with magic. What's not to love?

But ... What worked as a movie with an all-star cast might not work on television. Still, this incarnation of Updike's novel has a good chance of getting a timeslot come fall.

V Alien visitors come to Earth with promises of peace and technological advancements. Unfortunately, they are liars. And that's one of their better qualities. When a human agent discovers that the visitors have sinister motives, she joins the growing human resistance movement. Based on the 1983 miniseries V. This re-imaging comes from Scott Peters, the creator of The 4400, and stars Firefly's Morena Baccarin, Scott Wolf, Elizabeth Mitchell, 4400's Joel Gretsch, Morris Chestnut and Smallville's Laura Vandervoort.

Will V invade our television sets? Possibly. The miniseries was a blast, with fun alien bad guys whose humanity ran only skin deep. If this V can hang on to some of that fun factor—remember those live-mouse snacks?—it has potential.

Unfortunately ... We remember the 1984 television series that came after the miniseries. It was bad.

Captain Cook's Extraordinary Atlas A 13-year-old girl named Gwen discovers a magical atlas that unlocks a fantastical world of adventure and magic that exists right beside our own, leading to amazing and sometimes terrifying adventures. Captain Cook's Extraordinary Atlas comes from writer Tom Wheeler and was directed by Emmy winner Thomas Schlamme (The West Wing). Jodelle Ferland takes on the role of Gwen, with West Wing's Janel Moloney and Patrick Breen playing her parents.

Will Captain Cook's Extraordinary Atlas fly? It's iffy at best. This fantasy pilot was actually created for last season but was put on hold until now. It's supposed to be Harry Potter meets Pan's Labyrinth, with a dab of Nim's Island. With the new Harry Potter movie headed our way, the timing might be perfect.

But .... It's gonna be expensive to maintain. Really expensive.

No Heroics Based on the British series, this sitcom explores the lives of a group of superheroes who aren't so super. These less-than-formidable, not-so-heroic heroes like to hang out at a bar. No Heroics stars Freddie Prinze Jr., Arielle Kebbel, Paul Campbell and Eliza Coupe.

Chances No Heroics will live to fight another day? Not good. Yes, it's Cheers meets Mystery Men, but is ABC ready to give No Heroics a shot when the hysterically funny The Tick couldn't survive?

Still ... Considering ABC took on Cavemen as a sitcom, anything is possible.


I Witness Not actually sci-fi, but may be of interest to sci-fi audiences. It sounds like there's more than a little Bones going on when a detective/professor utilizes her psycho-physiological skills to solve crimes. From writers Pam Veasey and Trey Callaway, who produced CSI: NY.

Will we get a chance to witness I Witness? Unlikely. No cast has been announced yet, and there's not much buzz about this one.

Nevertheless ... It does seem like a perfect fit for CBS.


Day One After a "global event" devastates the Earth's infrastructures, a group of survivors attempts to rebuild society and figure out what happened.Heroes' Jesse Alexander wrote the pilot, which was directed by Alex Graves (Fringe). Day One stars Julie Gonzalo, David Lyons, Carly Pope, Adam Campbell, Thekla Reuten, Derek Mio, Addison Timlin and Catherine Dent.

Will Day One get a day two? It's promising. Day One was specifically announced by NBC as a possibility to take over Heroes' Monday timeslot.

But don't forget ... That pesky Jay Leno will be taking over five prime-time hours a week come fall, and there's only a handful of dramas are going to make it onto the schedule. And one other little tidbit ... This sounds an awful lot like Jericho.

Check back tomorrow to take a peek at the upcoming Fox and CW pilots.