Are these early series orders a trend or a mirage?
It's not unprecedented for broadcast networks to give series orders without even seeing a pilot. NBC ordered "The Firm" and "Hannibal" straight-to-series, for example, but that was with ample international financing to defray the risk. NBC also gave "The Michael J. Fox Show" 22 episodes without seeing a pilot, but that was a preemptive bid to bring Fox back to the network and, barring a reversal of fortune in the spring, it was a failure. Looking ahead to 2013-2014, though, there are already at least a half-dozen shows with guaranteed schedule space, ranging from established brands like FOX's "Gotham," to established creative teams like Tina Fey & Robert Carlock's NBC thing to Vince Gilligan's CBS drama "Battle Creek." Then there are big swings like FOX's "Heiroglyph," which earned its early order for the same development-based reasons FOX went out early on "Terra Nova," which didn't end especially well. The pilot process has always been a tremendous waste of money for production studios, but it has also aways been a tremendous boon to Los Angeles' economy. Are we witnessing the early stages of an actual shift in the TV business to something more closely resembling the British model? Or are all of these pre-spring big swings just an aberration? We probably won't know until two or three of them become huge successes or huge failures.
- Daniel Fienberg