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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.


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