Sci Fi TV Development: Tracking All the Sci Fi and Fantasy Entries in the 2017 Pilot Season

By | February 6, 2017

Pilot season is upon us and now is when the broadcast networks (and some of the cable channels) start ordering pilots for shows they will consider adding to their upcoming schedule.  A pilot is like an intro episode to a series that establishes the premise and the characters, and the network executives view these to decide which will connect best with their audience.  As this only gives a very limited glimpse of the potential series, pilot orders have been on the downswing the last few years with more shows getting straight to series orders, especially with the cable channels.  But the broadcast networks have still not completely changed their old ways and remain busy this time of year greenlighting and reviewing pilots as part of their prep for the upcoming season.

Below is a rundown of the pilot announcements that I have seen thus far for sci fi and fantasy shows (or ones the could contain genre elements).  Also listed are the straight to series orders from the broadcast networks so far.  Be sure to check back here from time to time, as I will update this post with any new announcements and I will also track which of these eventually get the greenlight to series.  And be sure to keep up with all the currently airing, returning, and upcoming sci fi shows at this link.

Ordered Straight to Series:

The Inhumans (ABC): The series will not be a spin-off from Agents of SHIELD, but will follow the characters originally introduced in the comics: Black Bolt and the royal family.

Comments: The first two episodes of this will premiere in IMAX theaters before airing on television. Eight episodes have been ordered for the show’s first season.

Orville (FOX): This series is set 300 years in the future. It follows the adventures of the Orville, a not-so-top-of-the-line exploratory ship in Earth’s interstellar fleet. Facing cosmic challenges from without and within, this motley crew of space explorers will boldly go where no comedic drama has gone before. The Wrap

Comments: This is created by Seth McFarlane (Family Guy) who will also star with Adrianne Palicki. Jon Favreau will direct the first episode


Black Lightning (CW): He made his choice: He hung up the suit and his secret identity years ago, but with a daughter hellbent on justice and a star student being recruited by a local gang, he’ll be pulled back into the fight as the wanted vigilante and DC legend Black Lightning. Deadline Hollywood

Comments: This comes from Greg Berlanti and it was originally developed for FOX. That network passed on it, so The CW will consider bringing this character into the Arrow-verse.

Charmed (CW): The drama is described as a reimagining of the original TV series set in 1976. The reboot will be connected to the original series in some fashion, though it’s not entirely clear at this point how that will come to pass. THR

The Crossing (ABC): In this series, refugees from a war-torn country start showing up to seek asylum in an American town. Only the country these people are from is America and the war they are fleeing is 250 years in the future. The local sheriff with a past, a federal agent, and a mother in search of her missing refugee daughter drive the conspiracy-centered story. THR

Comments: pointed out that this concept is very similar to an episode previously done on South Park.

Deception (ABC): It tells the story of superstar magician Cameron Black, who, when his career is ruined by scandal, has only one place to turn to practice his art of deception, illusion, and influence — the FBI. Black becomes the world’s first consulting illusionist, helping the government solve crimes that defy explanation and trap criminals and spies by using deception. THR

Comment: This comes from Greg Berlanti (who is EP on all The CW’s superhero series) and may or may not have genre elements in it.

Doomsday (ABC): This series is set in the aftermath of Sept. 11, when the U.S. government instituted a secret think tank comprised of the most creative minds in science and entertainment, tasked solely with dreaming up manmade disaster scenarios and their possible solutions. The ideas they invented were so dangerous that the list was sealed and the program shut down. But when a catastrophe occurs, ripped from the pages of the missing doomsday book, the team is brought back years later to prevent the disasters of their own making. THR

Comments: It is unclear if this will have genre elements, and since it comes from veterans of CSI and Justified, it might lean more heavily on the procedural angle.

Ghosted (FOX): A comedic take on The X-Files that centers on a cynical skeptic, and a genius “true believer” in the paranormal who are recruited by The Bureau Underground to look into the rampant “unexplained” activity in Los Angeles — all while uncovering a larger mystery that could threaten the existence of the human race. THR

Comments: This comes from Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation) and Craig Robinson (The Office) who will both also star in the series.

The Gospel of Kevin (ABC): Described as a “light” one-hour potential series, this follows a down-on-his-luck man who is tasked by God with a mission to save the world. The Wrap

Comments: This one comes from Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters, the former showrunners of Agent Carter.

The Legend of Master Legend (Amazon): A dark comedy about the life of Frank Lafount, a.k.a. Master Legend a homemade superhero whose mission is to protect the people of Las –Vegas from evil-doers. Master Legend juggles the demands of justice with the even more complicated demands of his real family, who don’t see him as a hero at all. Variety

Comments: Amazon will release this pilot for viewers to vote on beginning March 17th.

Mission Control (CBS): This series revolves around the next generation of NASA astronauts and scientists who juggle their personal and professional lives during a critical mission with no margin for error. Deadline Hollywood

Comments: This comes from Andy Weir who wrote the book The Martian which was adapted to the big screen by Ridley Scott.

The Machine (Syfy): This series is set in a world that is being transformed by the emergence of artificial intelligence. The project explores the epic conflict between man and technology through the lives and motivations of six interwoven characters – each of whom holds the key to humanity’s victory or its destruction. Deadline Hollywood

Comments: Annet Mahendru (The Americans) has been cast in this pilot.

Oasis (Amazon): Based on the cult-hit novel The Book of Strange New Things from Michel Faber, Oasis follows a chaplain who is sent into space to help establish a colony on a distant planet. What he ends up discovering not only puts his faith to the test, but life as we know it. Variety

Comments: Amazon will release this pilot for viewers to vote on beginning March 17th.

The Passage (FOX): Based on the fantasy book trilogy by Justin Cronin, the story begins as a character-driven government conspiracy thriller and morphs into a post-apocalyptic saga with vampires. The series spans over a century and focuses on a young girl named Amy who must save the human race. Deadline Hollywood

Comments: This comes from Ridley Scott’s production company Scott Free.

Update: (3/7/16) This one has been pushed past pilot season according to Deadline Hollywood with plans to film it during the Summer.  That means that FOX would be considering adding it a mid-season or later.

Redliners (NBC): This series centers on a pair of former operatives who get reactivated and drawn into a larger conspiracy while attempting to maintain their undercover lives. The Wrap

Comments: This is based on a series of spy/espionage short stories by True Blood author Charlaine Harris, and it is unclear at this point how much in the way of genre elements it will contain.


Reverie (NBC): This series is a described as a grounded and dramatic thriller about a former detective specializing in human behavior who is brought in when the launch of an advanced virtual reality program has dangerous and unintended consequences. Variety

Comments: This comes from Mickey Fisher who previously created the science fiction series Extant for NBC.

The Searchers (CW): Ten years after the death of their parents, a pragmatic brother and free spirited sister are forced to team up when they learn that their mother’s terrifying and bizarre stories may be a road map to discovering the great legends, myths and unexplainable mysteries of the world. The Wrap

Comments: This comes from the ever-busy Greg Berlanti (EP of The CW’s superhero shows and more) as well as creator of The 100 Jason Rothenberg.

Spaced Out (NBC): This is a workplace comedy that centers on a working class genius and his struggles to fit in with an established team all made more difficult when their job is building a rocket to Mars. Deadline Hollywood

Witchblade (NBC): Based on the comic book of the same name, this series centers on homicide detective Sara Pezzini, who’s on the hunt for an elusive serial killer and must navigate the grisly streets and police politics of San Francisco’s Mission District — until one day, the bracelet she has worn her entire life gives her supernatural insight into a crime she’s trying to solve. Her bracelet is the Witchblade, an amulet that has been worn by remarkable women throughout history, and Sara is next in line. THR

Comments: Note that this has a script commitment only at this point, NBC has not ordered a pilot yet. Vampire Diaries showrunner Caroline Dries will be working on this one.

Untitled X-Men Series (FOX): This series will focus on two ordinary parents who discover their children possess mutant powers. Forced to go on the run from a hostile government, the family joins up with an underground network of mutants and must fight to survive. Variety

Comments: Bryan Singer will be directing the pilot and Matt Nix (Burn Notice) developed the idea and will be penning the script. Unlike FX’s Legion, this series will allegedly be connected to the FOX X-Men movies.

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