TV Adaptations: Fall 2012 TV Pilots Part One

The 2012 fall TV pilot schedule has been released! There are some real gems on the list and a few that have made me scratch my head in confusion. This year there are quite a few foreign adaptations from the international marketplace, mainly Britain and Israel. There also the usual book to television adaptations which are a safe bet for prime time success. Time will tell which of these pilots survive both discerning audiences and brutal network executives.

I took a look at the current pilot list for ABC, CBS, CW, Fox and NBC.  The best networks to market your adaptations are ABC and CW. ABC has five dramas and two comedies that are creative adaptations. CW has six new adapted dramas. NBC has three adapted dramas  and one comedy while CBS has two adapted dramas. Fox is the least adaptation-friendly network with zero new adaptations among its fall pilots.

The two part guide is organized alphabetically by network and genre. Since there is a predominance of drama on this year’s list, I have listed dramas first and then comedies. Take a look and determine which shows you should check out this fall. It will be interesting to see which, if any, of these adaptations gets picked up for a full season. I’m planning to run the numbers and compare my list of adapted pilots with the original pilots to see which are more successful in getting picked up.

In Part One of this series, we will be looking at the pilots for ABC and CBS. ABC has a pretty even mix in terms of source material. They have four series that are foreign adaptations and three series that are literary adaptations. Both ABC comedies are adaptations of British series, but the ABC dramas come from Mexico and Holland. CBS only has two adaptations that are both drama adaptations sourced from book series.


666 Park Avenue is an adaptation of the book series by Gabriella Pierce. The pilot centers around a young Midwestern couple who manage an apartment building on the Upper East Side. But this is no ordinary apartment building. All the residents have sold their souls to dark supernatural forces in exchange for their dreams coming true. This sinister new drama stars Vanessa Williams and Rachael Taylor (the girl who replaced Megan Fox in the Transformer movies).

Verdict: A probable hit. If this series sounds like a supernatural Gossip Girl, that’s because it is. The same production teams behind Gossip Girl and Vampire Diaries are heading this project. My only surprise  is that this show is not on CW, but I am guessing the actors may be out of CW’s age demographics.

Beauty and the Beast

After the wild success of ABC’s Once Upon a Time (see my review of the pilot here) and NBC’s Grimm, it is only natural that people are rushing to captialize on this fairy tale trend. First up is ABC’s revamped Beauty and the Beast where the classic story is reimagined. To avoid confusion, the upcoming TV series will be live action but there are no image stills released yet for the pilot so I used a photo from the Disney animation. Not many details about this pilot have been made public. Belle (now named Grace) must try and save her kingdom with help from the Beast. Ruth Bradley, F. Murray Abraham, and Christopher Egan star.

Verdict: Too soon to tell, but I don’t have high hopes. What makes Once Upon a Time and Grimm so successful is that they’re modern reimaginings of classic stories. I’m not sure how much of a primetime audience there is for a fairy tale series  set in the ancient past. However, Beauty and the Beast is a much-loved story so I may be surprised.

Marc Cherry is back! Continuing his long-term relationship with ABC, Cherry’s latest series is loosely based on the Mexican telenovela The Disorderly Maids of the Neighborhood. Devious Maids is about four Latina maids who harbor big dreams and ambitions while working for the rich and famous in Beverly Hills. Actress Eva Longoria is an executive producer. The series stars Dania Ramirez, Roselyn Sanchez, Ana Ortiz, and Susan Lucci.

Verdict: Mega hit. No matter how much it annoys me that one of the few TV series with a leading Latina cast has to be about maids, this show will replace the soap opera void Desperate Housewives leaves behind.

Penoza is an adaptation of a 2010 Dutch TV series with the same name. The show revolves around the widow of an assassinated criminal who is forced to lead her dead husband’s crime cartel in order to protect her family. Twilight writer Melissa Rosenberg will be writing the series which stars Radha Mitchell and Luke Goss.

Verdict: Iffy. With the right marketing, this series could be a hit. Like a female-led Breaking Bad, the premise is also reminscent of Weeds. But with a no-name cast, will the series be able to draw viewers?

The bestselling 1978 novel Scruples by Judith Krantz has been ordered for adaptation. The series revolves around a rich and powerful clothing designer Billy Winthrop Ikehorn who becomes enmeshed in a world of sex, scandal and revenge. Claire Forlani and Chad Michael Murray star in the new series. The author’s son Tony has partnered with Natalie Portman as executive producers.

Verdict: Possible hit. While this premise makes me snooze, it may be popular with E! fans who watch the likes of Rachel Zoe. As long as they can keep the mystery and scandal juicy, the show should be able to find an audience.

In a move that is sure to make British purists groan, ABC has decided to adapt the 1981 comedy series Only Fools and Horses. The series revolves around two brothers and their aging grandfather as they concoct crazy get-rich-quick schemes in an effort to become millionaires. John Leguizamo will star as Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter and Christopher Lloyd stars as the grandfather.

Verdict: Doubtful. British remakes do horrifically with US audiences. For some reason we can steal their reality shows with the best of them, but haven’t yet figured out how to adapt their comedies.  I consider The Office a fluke.

Red Van Man is an adaptation of White Van Man (above)

ABC really loves its British comedies. Red Van Man is a half hour comedy adaptation of British series White Van Man. Protagonist Jack Shea is a drifter who is down on his luck. When his handyman father has a heart attack and is forced to retire, Jack takes over the family business. Kyle Bornheimer plays Jack and J.K. Simmons is Jack’s father. Leah Remini is also cast as Jack’s aunt.

Verdict: Possible. Although I am skeptical about adapting British comedies to American tastes, I can see this one working if it is a heartwarming family ensemble comedy. Smart decision on changing the name due to the less savoury connotations the title evokes. American TV could use more blue collar representations on modern television.


Table reading for Applebaum series

CBS is adapting the “Mommy Track Mysteries” book series as Applebaum. Former public defender turned stay at home mom Juliet Applebaum starts a private investigation business to keep herself from being bored. Twilight star Rachelle LeFevre plays the lead. Book series author Ayelet Waldman is a writer-producer on the series so I imagine it will stay true to the books.

Verdict: Possible hit among the legal drama fans. I was surprised to hear that this series was a drama. For some reason it strikes me more as a comedy when I envision Applebaum driving a minivan full of children while spying on the behalf of her clients. I will be curious to see  the pilot’s tone.


CBS has a modern day adaptation of the classic Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes series lined up for the fall. The new series is titled Elementary and takes place in New York City. Didn’t the Brits already do this with BBC series Sherlock? Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu star in the new series.

Verdict: Probable hit. The Robert Downey Jr. film franchise was a huge success and the British series Sherlock did well with worldwide audiences so there is a clear appetite for Sherlock Holmes. Elementary is trying to differentiate itself with its New York setting but it will be a challenge to turn a quintessential British gentleman into an American.

Out of the ABC and CBS pilots, the top of my list ranks Devious Maids and Penoza.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where we will be looking at the latest pilots for CW and NBC.


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