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Fall TV Pilot Trends: Supernatural Shows

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 next few weeks, I'll be looking at the pilots and trying to spot the trends that could be coming soon to a TV near you. Last week I told you about the tough working women trend, and today I'm looking at shows about the supernatural.

It seems that every year, a crop of shows springs up trying to imitate the style of the past season's breakout hit. This season's producers seem to be taking their cues from the striking success of NBC's "Heroes" and putting forth a crop of shows about superheroes, time-travelers, vampires and more. Some of them were great fodder for my spot the fake pilot quiz, while others sound like they really could be hits. Here are a few:

  • "The Bionic Woman": NBC has to have high hopes for this series, a remake of the '70s show that spun off from "The Six Million Dollar Man," and I wouldn't be surprised to see it either before or after "Heroes" on the network's fall schedule. The show stars British actress Michelle Ryan (at right) as Jamie Sommers, a struggling bartender who is near-fatally injured in a car accident and survives only by being "rebuilt" as half-woman, half-machine. Of course, she then must decide whether to use her superhuman powers for good or evil [insert cackle here].

  • "New Amsterdam": This Fox pilot caught my eye for two reasons: First, it's directed by Lasse Hallstrom, whose excellent track record in film includes What's Eating Gilbert Grape, The Shipping News and The Hoax. And second, it had the single most ridiculous summary description of any pilot this year: "Police detective who is secretly centuries old." Fox later released a longer description of the show, which you can read over at the Futon Critic, but knowing more about the legend of John Amsterdam (who became immortal in 1642, if you were wondering) still left me baffled.
  • Three more, so

  • "I'm in Hell": On the lighter side of the supernatural spectrum is this CBS pilot about a Wall Street executive (Jason Biggs) who dies in a horrible BlackBerry-related crash and is sent to Hell on Earth, which I assume features a crappy apartment, a broken-down car and dinners of ramen noodles. He'll be checked on from time to time by the devil's earthly agent, otherwise known as Sam. The news that "Arrested Development" alum David Cross (at right) will play Sam has me excited about the show, against my better judgment.
  • "The Reaper": Perhaps this supernatural CW show will be a good counterpart to, uh, "Supernatural." The network has described it as a dramedy about the devil's bounty hunter who reclaims souls that have escaped from hell, which sounds like just the kind of soapy, campy show that the CW is known for.

  • "Area 57": Another of my favorite descriptions from the pilot quiz, this NBC sitcom is sort of like "The Office," if "The Office" were set in a top-secret desert locale and Michael, Dwight, Jim and the gang were tasked with keeping watch over a foul, crude alien. Cringe-worthy Matthew Lillard stars as the colonel overseeing the mission, but the most inspired bit of casting has to be Paul Reubens (at left) as the alien.


Join The Conversation
moonpetal moonpetal 10 years
I definitely agree that it seems that definitely television is moving toward Supernatural themed shows. Its nice to see so many commenting on Supernatural, instead of bringing up heroes. I always liked the show, its far from what CW usually produces "the campy fest", its actually good. The show is dark and edgy as mentioned before, and I simply hate when a show I like gets typecast when its better than that.
immie8 immie8 10 years
Of all the pilots you listed the one that sounds the most intriguing to me is the FOX pilot: New Amsterdam. I have to say, though, I'm worried about tuning into this show and liking it only to have FOX pull the plug like it has so many times before! ...which sounds just like the kind of soapy, campy show The CW is known for. Isn't that so unfortunate that a network as new as The CW has already been branded as the "soapy, campy" network. (And really, it's only their own fault, especially with the ads they run.) And even more unfortunate is that, because of this, a show that is just the opposite gets branded in the same way, simply because it airs on that network. The show I'm referring to is Supernatural - which is not soapy or campy, but dark and edgy! Supernatural is without a doubt one of the best shows on television today - featuring great writing, which manages to balance horror, comedy, angst, action and family drama into one hour each week, two of the roundest, most dynamic characters on the small screen, and two extremely talented (as well as extremely sexy) young actors (Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki) who have truly brought their characters to life. Supernatural is NOT just a cult/horror genre show; at its core Supernatural is a show about family, about brotherhood, about loyalty and the lenghts one will go to for loved ones. Surrounding this core are elements of urban myths and legends, spirits and demons, a classic '67 Chevy Impala and classic rock music, which only further the shows unique flavour. I only wish that there were more shows around with this kind of quality!
calicokat calicokat 10 years
"Wow, for a post that isn't actually about the CW show "Supernatural," there are an unprecedented number of comments about it. Almost like a bunch of people are trying to "generate hype" for the show. Or something." It's Supernatural night, and lots of people are online. I did happen to link this article a couple places, earlier!
caramel-latte caramel-latte 10 years
Wow, for a post that isn't actually about the CW show "Supernatural," there are an unprecedented number of comments about it. Almost like a bunch of people are trying to "generate hype" for the show. Or something.
Mistyeyes461 Mistyeyes461 10 years
While these supernatural shows look okay, there's already an amazing supernatural show on TV that I doubt anyone of these can surpass. I've been waiting to see when this site would mention The CW's amazing Supernatural.
KAZ-2Y5 KAZ-2Y5 10 years
I honestly don't really need anymore Supernatural shows for the next season since I already have one show that fits the Supernatural genre PERFECTLY. And it even has the exect same name as the genre it portrays: "Supernatural." This show has gotten me hooked the minute I saw it and it is genuinely the best show of its genre, and the best show PERIOD I have ever seen. Not many people know about the show unfortunately, so I guess if you've never heard of it, you can use it as your "new pilot" for the season and get hooked into the world of the unknown! You wont be disasitisfied, trust me, all the comments raving about the show prove it. If you're a guy, then the kickass demon hunting rock music part of the show you will love. And ladies, the leading men are not only extremely and insanely talented, but equally hot. Not that's the only thing about the show that makes it good, but it's definitely a benefit.
Entertainment Entertainment 10 years
Hey Phil, you mentioned two of the potential fall shows I'm most excited about! I have a BBC imports roundup coming up soon (maybe even next Thursday), so stay tuned.
slightlyj slightlyj 10 years
After finding it's legs mid-first season on the WB, I think that Supernatural has been the best show on the CW this year. Primarily because it does satisfy on the level of 'urban legend thrills.' But I also like the show because Supernatural manages to cross genres and be an honest, frank approach at brotherhood, family and being an American. The time Dean and Sam spent in Peoria, Illinois was especially intriguing since that's my hometown. I liked watching them zig zag across the country and end up in my backyard.
Phil Phil 10 years
I'm pretty underwhelmed by the TV class of '07-08. I spent a bit of time reading up on all the fall pilots being considered, and only a handful of shows really sparked my attention. One show that really stood out that I'm actually (extremely) excited for is ABC's retake of the Beeb's "The Thick of It." Why? First and foremost because it marks the return of Mitch Hurwitz (the beloved creator of Arrested Development [!!!]... and also of Golden Girls fame!). And second, because the pilot features Michael McKean (!This is Spinal Tap!!!), John Michael Higgins (attorney Wayne Jarvis!), Oliver Platt and Alex Borstein. Also, I'm a bit interested to see Dirty Sexy Money which is produced by Brian Singer (Arrested Development, House, and probably hundreds of other recognizable titles) and written by Craig Wright (who has written for Lost, Brothers & Sisters and Six Feet Under); it features Donal Sutherland, Peter Krauss (Six Feet Under), Victoria Pratt (the under-appreciated Daybreak, and Mutant X), and Samaire Armstrong (The OC and Entourage). Also looking out for Cashmere Mafia.
hmcwinchesterfan hmcwinchesterfan 10 years
This article is very interesting because I am a fan of supernatural type shows/movies and I especially enjoy the show "Supernatural". This show is so much more than a scary story week after week. I can't do any justice to the show compared to Calicokat's eloquence but the show is full of family drama, loyalty, faith, and honor. The characters have a life of their own since the main actors, Jared and Jensen, are so talented. They don't have to hardly say a word - their expressions speak volumes. If this is the trend for next year, or years to come, I already know what I will be watching!
torigates torigates 10 years
Just chiming in the chorus of "Supernatural is awesome", and I don't normally enjoy thriller/horror type shows. It definitely does not get the credit it deserves, and I encourage this site to promote it more, if only for the very cute Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles! :)
duchessconlon duchessconlon 10 years
Really, shows with supernatural themes are nothing new to TV. Because of their focus, however, many viewers pass them by and end up missing out on some truly great shows. I have to say, I'm dubious about the possibilities of most of the pilots listed here. If viewers are interested in checking out some supernatural-themed programming that is always of the highest quality, then they need look no further than the CW's "Supernatural." Really, the title says it all, I think. What's to like? Well plenty. Just check out calicokat's more than eloquent comment. I definitely couldn't say it better.
Pukio Pukio 10 years
Being in total agreement with everything calicokat said above, I'd definitely recommend SUPERNATURAL to anyone looking to delve into the 'supernatural' television trend. The show, starring Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles (who are so much more than a couple of CW pretty boys), has something for everyone: rollicking badass monster of the week storylines, an overarching mythology (that actually seems to have a direction and a purpose, rather than some unnamed shows that seem to have LOST what their actual story is about), fantastic characters that develop, and a sweet car and musical soundtrack - what more can you ask for? For a show based in the supernatural elements of hunting ghouls and goblins, SUPERNATURAL is stunningly realistic in its portrayal of the relationships and 'human drama.'
hanncoll hanncoll 10 years
I agree that anyone who's interested in the coming supernatural trend on TV should be watching 'Supernatural.' It's a little bit like 'The X-Files' mixed with 'Route 66' with a liberal dose of classic rock music thrown in for good measure, all wrapped up in gorgeous 60s-era muscle car. The brothers are the real heart of the show, though, and the intricacy of their relationship is what keeps me coming back for more, episode after episode. Seriously, check it out. The "supernatural" trend is already here! (Shows on The CW at 9 p.m. Thursdays.)
donilou donilou 10 years
"Supernatural" has very comfortably filled an empty niche on television for two seasons now. If there were any other contenders, I can't even recall them now. It deftly combines the trials of family loves,losses and conflicts with the chills of the paranormal world in a way no other show has. To me, "Heroes" "The Bionic Woman" and "Area 57" fall into the category of science fiction, thus making any comparison with "Supernatural" invalid. As to the rest, I'm willing to give them a chance to lure me in, but "Supernatural", with its brotherly angst and urban legends, will remain my first love within the genre.
swwonder swwonder 10 years
Ooh yey for Michelle Ryan, getting something like this. I'd wondered where she'd got to after Eastenders.
KellyMichele KellyMichele 10 years
I'm a HUGE fan of Supernatural, and like Calicokat stated, it's not new to the fans that have been with it through the two seasons! I won't restate everything, becuase she did an AMAZING job covering all the bases of the show, but it does not get enough press or credit.
Maggie-Mae Maggie-Mae 10 years
Calicokat, are you a PR rep for Supernatural? I think anything with Matthew Lillard in it is doomed. Doomed I say. I'm in Hell seems like it's view-worthy if not just for the first episode witha "blackberry induced accident". Hilarious.
calicokat calicokat 10 years
I found your website googling for an article on the CW's Supernatural. "Supernatural" shows may be a "new" fall trend, but for millions of viewers, Supernatural's been "in" for two years running. It's a shame the show's hidden on the tiny CW network, because the only thing it lacks for is exposure! The show deftly juggles drama, comedy, horror, and action and still packs a huge emotional punch. There's chills and thrills, but the core focus of the show has nothing to do with the genre flavoring that spices its creepier moments. This is a show about the ties that bind family members together, over whatever distance, through death, and despite so many disagreements. Supernatural recognizes that family members aren’t just the people who are always supposed to be there for you, they’re the people who see the worst sides of you. From grappling with the issues brought on by familial estrangements to delving headfirst into the most wrenchingly realistic exploration of the grieving processes ever seen on TV, no show’s been truer to what makes family precious than Supernatural. The leads, Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, aren't just beautiful eye candy, they're incredible actors who work hard to bring the audience two of the most fully realized characters on television. They're so into Sam and Dean Winchester that they've got the show's creator on speed dial to approve last minute changes they make to the script while filming. (Not many actors can say that!) We're heading into the final stretch of this season, and the show's got five fantastic episodes lined up, ranging from straight up comedy to pure character drama. The best thing is, if you've got the show's premise in mind -- two blue collar boys on the great American road trip in a classic muscle car saving people and hunting evil -- you can start on just about any episode and not be completely lost. There's constantly developing serial drama, but it's framed inside episodic stories about the creatures Sam and Dean are hunting and lives they're touching that week. If people want to get a head start on this trend, I recommend tuning in to Supernatural.
Linda-McP Linda-McP 10 years
Think I'll pass on all of these.
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