Last week, in the wake of Eddie Huang's complaints that he felt ABC's "Fresh Off the Boat" was distorting and softening his childhood experiences, this column examined how hard it is for any biographical or autobiographical sitcom to be true to the life of its source and still be a crowd-pleasing primetime network entertainment. You'd think, after decades of trying, TV writers and network programming executives would be aware of this.
Nonetheless, according to The Hollywood Reporter, the networks have no fewer than ten such sitcom pilots in production, as the first episodes of potential 2015-16 primetime series. Some are based on the lives of already famous entertainers, some on the self-referential stand-up comedy routines of not-quite-famous comics, and some on memoirsts who've lived interesting lives.
Here's a rundown of these pilots, with a look at who these shows are about, who's starring in them, what the series might be like, how likely they are to become fall 2015 series, and what their chances for success are if they do.
"Delores & Jermaine" (ABC)
Who inspired it? Comedian Jermaine Fowler
Who's in it? Fowler and Whoopi Goldberg
What's it about? Fowler plays a version of himself as a young ne'er-do-well who moves in with his strict, ex-cop grandmother, with each bringing perspective and attitude to the other's life.
What will it be like? Fowler is a writer and executive producer of the show, which should help it stay authentic. Still, judging by the title, it looks like Fowler will be playing a supporting role in his own life story, and that Goldberg may get most of the yuks out of deference to her greater star status.
Chances for pickup: Good, since Goldberg already has a strong relationship with ABC because of her key role on "The View." Then again, the show will have to be shot around her commitment to the daily panel series, and if the extra workload puts one of the two shows in jeopardy, it's the sitcom that will fall by the wayside.
Chances for success: Iffy. Goldberg has a poor track record with primetime sitcoms. Fowler may be well known to millennials from his College Humor and "Guy Code" stints, but it's not clear that he'll bring that following to primetime, or that they'll want to watch him play second fiddle to Goldberg.
Who inspired it? Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo
Who's in it? Ben Aldridge, Peter Gallagher, Olivia Thirlby, Joey Morgan
What's it about? Aldridge plays a 30-ish rock star, who, like Cuomo, drops out of his successful band in order to go back to college. Morgan plays his nerdy dorm-mate.
What will it be like? Hard to say. Besides Cuomo, the producers include Steve Franks ("Psych") and Jeremy Garelick (screenwriter of "The Wedding Ringer"), so expect quirkiness.
Chances for pickup: Good, since this is an in-house creation of 20th Century Fox Television.
Chances for success: Crap shoot. British actor Aldridge is an unknown on this side of the pond. Plus, it's not clear whether Weezer's multigenerational following (they've been modest hitmakers for more than 20 years) cares enough about what Cuomo did on his educational sabbatical to make this show a hit.
"Dr. Ken" (ABC)
Who inspired it? Doctor-turned-comic-actor Ken Jeong
Who's in it? Jeong, Dave Foley, Tisha Campbell-Martin
What's it about? Jeong plays a doctor who's overwhelmed by the competing pressures of his practice, his marriage, and his kids.
What will it be like? As fans of "Community" and "The Hangover" know, Jeong excels at cranky frustration, so the material seems like a good fit.
Chances for pickup: Good. The network's in-house production arm (ABC Studios) is one of the production companies behind the show. Also, the success of "Fresh of the Boat" will give ABC confidence that another show about an Asian-American family can succeed. (Yeah, that's crass, but don't imagine that network programmers don't think that way.)
Chances for success: Hmmm. In his past projects, a little Jeong usually goes a long way; can the longtime supporting actor carry a whole series?
"Family Fortune" (ABC)
Who inspired it? Comedian Fortune Feimster
Who's in it? Feimster, Annie Potts, John Carroll Lynch, Lacey Chabert
What's it about? Feimster plays a well-respected gym teacher in North Carolina who comes out as a lesbian. More shocking to her family and colleagues, however, is the revelation that her divorced parents have started sleeping together again.
What will it be like? Benignly absurd, given that the executive producers include not only Feimster (best known for her stint as a writer/performer on "Chelsea Lately") but also "30 Rock" and "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" showrunners Tina Fey and Robert Carlock.
Chances for pickup: Good, given the industry love for Fey.
Chances for success: Fair, given that "30 Rock managed to stay on the air for seven years without ever becoming a ratings smash. More interesting, perhaps, is that ABC thinks a show about a popular lesbian living in heartland America is an easy sell to sponsors. If they're right, that says a lot.
"Fantasy Life" (Fox)
Who inspired it? ESPN fantasy-sports analyst Matthew Berry, author of the memoir "Fantasy Life"
Who's in it? Kevin Connolly, Vanessa Williams, Christopher McDonald, Jamie-Lynn Sigler
What's it about? Connolly plays a regular guy who lands his dream job as a fantasy-football pundit on a TV sports network. He's forced to navigate both sudden fame and tricky office politics.
What will it be like? Sounds like Aaron Sorkin's "Sports Night" with a little "Entourage" thrown in, courtesy of that show's Connolly and Sigler.
Chances for pickup: Good, since it's a 20th Century Fox Television production, and since Berry has a past relationship with the network as a former writer for "Married... With Children."
Chances for success: Berry has a sizable fanbase, but there haven't been many successful sitcoms set in the sports world. "Sports Night" is fondly remembered, but few watched it at the time.
"The Real O'Neals" (ABC)
Who inspired it? Sex advice columnist Dan Savage, the driving force behind the "It Gets Better" campaign aimed at preventing suicide among gay teens.
Who's in it? Noah Galvin, Martha Plimpton, Jay R. Ferguson
What's it about? A teen (Galvin) comes out of the closet to his Norman Rockwell family. (His dad is a Chicago cop.) Initial shock gives way to further revelations of secrets behind the family's all-American facade.
What will it be like? It sounds a lot like CBS' "The McCarthys," but it's being shot as a single-camrea, laughtrack-free show, like "Modern Family" or Plimpton's "Raising Hope."
Chances for pickup: Decent, given that it's an ABC Studios-produced show. Then again, there's already been some controversy over the show because of the limited involvement of Savage, whose long history of outspoken gay-rights activism has made enemies of conservative religious organizations and politicians. Though Savage is not a writer of the show, groups opposed to ABC even doing business with him have bombarded the network with phone calls and postcards begging the programmers not to put the series into production.
Chances for success: Well, the controversy can only help the show, especially if it turns out to be as safe and appealing as "Modern Family." But if it turns out like the more sardonic "The McCarthys," -- well, that show isn't exactly setting the Nielsen ratings on fire.
The Carmichael Show (NBC)
Who inspired it? Comedian Jerrod Carmichael
Who's in it? Carmichael, Amber West, Loretta Devine, David Alan Grier
What's it about? It's based on Carmichael's stand-up routines, focusing on his relationships with his girlfriend and his parents.
What will it be like? Carmichael's co-producer on the show is Nick Stoller, who worked with him in last year's feature hit "Neighbors."
Chances for pickup: NBC has already ordered six episodes.
Chances for success: Um, do the young males who make up Carmichael's fanbase even watch television?
Untitled John Stamos Project (Fox)
Who inspired it? John Stamos
Who's in it? Stamos, Paget Brewster, Josh Peck, Christina Milian
What's it about? The actor plays a variation on his bachelor self, discovering that he's about to become both a dad and a grandpa.
What will it be like? Besides Stamos, the production team includes Danny Chun ("The Office") and Dan Fogelman ("Galavant"), so the comedy should be pretty sharp. Like both of those shows, it'll be single-camera, no laughtrack.
Chances for pickup: Even. Stamos has another iron in the fire as a producer and guest star of "Fuller House," the "Full House" reboot that Netflix is expected to pick up.
Chances for success: Well, who doesn't like John Stamos?
Untitled Johnny Knoxville Project (ABC)
Who inspired it? Johnny Knoxville
Who's in it? Johnny Knoxville
What's it about? The "Jackass" prankster narrates the show about his own childhood, growing up in a Knoxville, Tennessee family of self-styled outlaws and experiencing the events that inspired his unorthodox adult career path.
What will it be like? It sounds like a Southern-fried version of "Everybody Hates Chris." Knoxville is an executive producer, as is Victor Fresco, an alumnus of "My Name Is Earl," which featured a similar setting and characters.
Chances for pickup: Good, since it's another ABC Studios in-house production.
Chances for success: Never underestimate Johnny Knoxville's appeal.
Untitled Tommy Johnagin Project (CBS)
Who inspired it? Comedian Tommy Johnagin
Who's in it? Johnagin, JoAnna Garcia Swisher, Kevin Nealon, Jane Kaczmarek
What's it about? Johnagin plays a stand-up comic raising a family in his Midwestern hometown.
What will it be like? Who knows? Along with Johnagin, known for his clean act and his seven appearances on David Letterman's "Late Show," the producers include Justin Halpern and Patrick Schumacker, the duo behind such forgettable family comedies as "S#*! My Dad Says" and "Surviving Jack" -- but also Bill Lawrence, of "Scrubs" and "Cougar Town" (and also "Surviving Jack").
Chances for pickup: Middling; this is Johnagin's third pilot attempt at his third network. Then again, CBS seems to love Halpern and Schumacher.
Chances for success: Also middling, given the competing track records of Halpern/Schumacher and Lawrence. At least they've surrounded Johnagin with a cast of veteran sitcom pros.
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