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Chris Philpott is nzherald.co.nz's resident TV expert.

Chris Philpott: Seven exciting shows from pilot season

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Chris Philpott has been keeping his eye on pilot season in America. Here are his recommendations.
Will Tina Fey's new TV show 'Cabot College' take off?
Will Tina Fey's new TV show 'Cabot College' take off?

January and February are exciting times in the world of American television - not because of what is on, but because of what will be on later: the madness of Pilot Season has descended on US networks as they figure out what will be on the air when the 2014-15 television season begins.

For the uninitiated, Pilot Season is where networks find new shows: writers and producers pitch ideas to the American networks, who choose 70-odd to be turned into pilot scripts (this happens in June), then ask for about 20 of those 70-odd scripts to be turned into pilots (a single episode which will be used as a test episode).

The networks watch all the pilots, then order some of those pilots to series - meaning that the networks will broadcast the resulting shows.

The 2014 Pilot Season is a little different, as several of the networks are adopting straight-to-series orders - that is, giving a new show a series order based only on the pilot script.

Fox, one of the most forward-thinking channels in the US, has even admitted that they aren't following tradition at all, and will move to program year-round.

Regardless, there are plenty of new shows to look forward to, and you can check out a full list at THR. Here are seven of the most intriguing pilots ordered this season. Enjoy!

Untitled David O Russell/Susannah Grant Drama (ABC)
It sounds a little soapy - the show takes place at a private country club and will follow the lives of the lower-class staff and their posh clientele - but you have to give at least a cursory watch to any show developed by David O Russell, the Oscar-winning director of Silver Linings Playbook and current awards darling American Hustle, right? The show has already picked up a series order, and the first of its 13 episodes will air later this year.

How I Met Your Dad (CBS)
The first reports about this spin-off from How I Met Your Mother, which is being developed by Carter Bays and Craig Thomas - the men behind the original HIMYM - as a replacement for the original, indicated it would be based around The Mother as she worked her way toward meeting Ted Mosby, in a kind of reflection of the existing series. I thought that sounded horrible. Newer reports, however, have it involving all new characters in a new setting. That sounds good; the premise of HIMYM was never the problem, only the longevity. How I Met Your Dad could be a good show, at least for a few years.

Battle Creek (CBS)
The show is about a pair of detectives who approach the job differently, but combine their skills to try and clean up the streets of Battle Creek, Michigan. And I'll be honest, it doesn't sound like anything special. But then you realise it's being developed by both Vince Gilligan (the man responsible for Breaking Bad) and David Shore (the man responsible for House MD) and you start to convince yourself that this could be something pretty special. I'm there right now.

Cabot College (Fox)
Tina Fey (30 Rock, SNL) and Matt Hubbard (30 Rock, Parks & Recreation) join forces for a comedy set in a females-only university which has just started accepting enrolments from men, with comedian Margaret Cho signing up to star. 30 Rock is one of the great comedies of the last decade or two, so the input of Fey and Hubbard is reason enough to tune in.

Backstrom (Fox)
Rainn Wilson has already signed on to play the title character in this crime drama based on the books of Swedish writer Leif Persson. Detective Backstrom is described as an "overweight, offensive, irascible" investigator who tries to change his self-destructive behaviour while leading a special investigation team. The series already has a 13 episode order, and is being developed by Bones showrunner Hart Hanson and original author Persson. It sounds like a good time.

Gotham (Fox)
The first of three major comic book series joining the schedule next season, the DC Comics show is set in fictional Gotham City before Bruce Wayne becomes Batman - and even though Bruce will be a teen, Fox president Kevin Reilly has made clear that the show will feature plenty of characters from Batman storylines (like Commissioner Gordon, The Joker, Catwoman, and so on), and the channel has already ordered a full season of the show.

In addition to Gotham, DC Comics have two other projects on the go: Constantine - which was previously adapted into a 2005 movie starring Keanu Reeves - has been ordered to pilot at NBC and will be based on extreme exorcist John Constantine, while The Flash has been created at The CW as a spinoff from hit superhero show Arrow.

Mission Control (NBC)
I love space and I love Anchorman, so when you describe a show as "Anchorman set in the world of space exploration", then throw in producers Adam McKay (the director of Anchorman) and Will Ferrell (the star of Anchorman), you can absolutely count on my adoring eyeballs.

* What new shows are you looking forward to?

Chris Philpott

Chris Philpott is nzherald.co.nz's resident TV expert.

In a strange way, Chris Philpott has grown up with television: his first big addiction was The X Files, which he watched as a teenager, enthralled by what was possible with the form. Chris’ love of TV grew over the years, parallel to the popularity and quality of serial dramas like The Sopranos, Lost, Mad Men and Breaking Bad. He began writing about TV professionally in 2010, before joining the NZ Herald in late 2013, and considers writing about TV more than a passing interest or hobby: he genuinely loves sharing new series and discussing the big shows with readers. Chris is based in Whangarei, and lives with his wife and daughter. When he isn’t watching television … just kidding, he’s always watching television.

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