Mar 19 - 25, 2009 
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Idiot Box

“Who’s Got the Pilot?”

Stars line up for 2009 season

By Devin D. O’Leary

Last year’s crippling Writers Guild strike signaled an end to TV’s traditional pilot season. Stuck with sagging ratings and crummy shows, however, the networks are scrambling to come up with new product for fall 2009. It’s hard to guess which of these shows will actually make it onto the air, but here’s a quick sampling of the star-studded series pilots shooting in Hollywood (and elsewhere).

ABC: Given the number of pilots its got in the oven, ABC is looking for a whole new lineup. Lauren Graham (“Gilmore Girls”) returns to TV in “Let It Go,” a sitcom about a self-help guru whose personal life is a mess. Kelsey Grammer tries again as an impoverished former Wall Street executive in an as-yet-untitled series. John Cho (Harold, from those Harold & Kumar films) and Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love) are among the large cast of the sci-fi mind-bender “Flash Forward.” Alyssa Milano ("Who's the Boss?" and “Charmed”) headlines an unnamed pilot about a single mom in a love triangle “of sorts” with a guy and the guy’s needy best friend. “Dollhouse” can’t be all that stable over on FOX, because co-star Amy Acker is shooting the “Twin Peaks”-ish murder mystery “Happy Town” alongside Geoff Stults (“October Road”). Amy Smart (Varsity Blues) stars as a woman who will one day be a presidential candidate in “See Cate Run” (shades of “Jack & Bobby”). Courteney Cox (“Friends”) and Busy Philipps (“Freaks and Geeks”) pair up for the racy comedy “Cougar Town.” Cedric the Entertainer joins Donald Faison (“Scrubs”) in the reserve police officer comedy “The Law.” As if she didn’t have enough on her plate, “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice” creator Shonda Rhimes branches out into the world of TV news with the drama “Inside the Box” (no doubt with sexy results).

NBC: Now that she’s done with “Battlestar Galactica,” Katee Sackhoff headlines the crime drama “Lost & Found” alongside Brian Cox (The Bourne Supremacy). Bradley Whitford (“The West Wing”) tops NBC’s cop comedy “Off Duty.” Carly Pope (“Popular”) and Julie Gonzalo (“Eli Stone”) are among the ensemble cast of the post-apocalyptic drama “Day One” (shades of “Jericho”). With “ER” going away, NBC recruites Derek Luke (Antwone Fisher) for the medical drama “Trauma.” “The Soup” host Joel McHale finally gets his own show as a lawyer forced to return to college in “Community.”

CBS: CBS looks tight with its current crime-heavy schedule. Rapper-turned-actor LL Cool J—perhaps eyeing that easy “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" money Ice-T is getting—signs on for an “NCIS” spin-off.

FOX: Rick Springfield (yup, that Rick Springfield) headlined a (very) short-lived adaptation of DC’s action comic The Human Target years ago, but that isn’t stopping FOX from ordering up a new version starring Mark Valley (“Keen Eddie”), Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach in Watchmen) and Chi McBride (“Pushing Daisies”).

The CW: “Gossip Girl” gets an ’80s-set spin-off with “Lilly” (starring Brittany Snow of “American Dreams”). Tim Matheson (Animal House), Minka Kelly (“Friday Night Lights”) and Jason Dohring (“Veronica Mars”) star in “Body Politic,” a look at Washington through the eyes of some sexy young political staffers.

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