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Fall TV Pilots: Best of the Rest

It's TV pilot season, when hopeful writers, directors, and actors give the networks glimpses of what could be their next big hits. Few pilots will ever make it to air, and the odds might be especially long over on ABC, which has already renewed many of its current shows. Over the past few weeks, I've been looking at the pilots and trying to spot the trends that could be coming soon to a TV near you. I've already told you about tough working women, the supernatural, British imports, and cops.

For this, the final installment before the networks begin announcing their schedules on Monday, I wanted to take a look at some of the most intriguing shows that don't fit into any of the trends. Sometimes these one-of-a-kind shows go on to become the biggest hits, so here are a few that caught my eye:

  • "Dirty Sexy Money": I hate the name, but I love everything else about this ABC drama pilot, which stars Peter Krause (at right) as an attorney who takes over his father's practice after his death and ends up thrust into the world of the Darlings, a wealthy and fundamentally screwed-up New York family. The series was created by Craig Wright, who was a writer on "Six Feet Under," and it also stars Donald Sutherland and William Baldwin. When I recently interviewed Krause, he said he almost didn't do the series because of comparisons to "Six Feet Under" but said it would be a funnier show that would examine "some of the more wobbly things in the world — greed, division between rich and poor, that sort of thing." It's been getting a ton of good buzz, and I'd be surprised if it doesn't earn a spot on ABC's schedule.

  • "Gossip Girl": The CW reportedly went gaga for this pilot from "The O.C." creator Josh Schwartz. The show is based on the popular book series about an anonymous teen girl blogger who dishes dirt on everyone at her wealthy private school. Schwartz has shown he knows the world of boozy, floozy rich kids, and the network is already talking like this is a sure thing.
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  • "Pushing Daisies": The newest show from writer Bryan Fuller ("Wonderfalls," "Dead Like Me") is a modern fairytale focusing on a man who can briefly bring people back from the dead by touching them. He's going along fine, working alongside a private investigator friend, when one day he brings his childhood sweetheart back to life — and she stays alive. In a King Midas-style twist, if he ever touches her again, she'll die (for good). Kristin Chenoweth, Chi McBride and Swoosie Kurtz are among the stars of the offbeat ABC comedy, which reportedly had a strong pilot and is a good candidate for a series slot.

  • "The Return of Jezebel James": This show is second only to "Dirty Sexy Money" on my personal list of pilots I'd love to see. The Fox comedy from "Gilmore Girls" creator Amy Sherman-Palladino stars two of my favorite actresses, Parker Posey (at left) and Lauren Ambrose, as estranged sisters who come together when the older sister (Posey) asks the younger to carry a baby for her. This is another pilot with a title I hate (it refers to a character that Ambrose's character made up as a kid and that Posey's has turned into a children's book), but I love the concept, and I'm not sure anyone does witty banter between women better than Sherman-Palladino.

  • "Viva Laughlin!": This CBS pilot deserves a mention if only because of its crazy concept: The show is envisioned as a musical — yes, a musical — about a family running a casino in Laughlin, Nevada. Starring Hugh Jackman and Melanie Griffith, the show sounds like quite the departure for the usually staid, reserved CBS. Of course, it easily could be a total disaster, but I certainly appreciate the effort.


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