Although this year's new crop of television is only a couple of months old -- some of the shows won't even make it to air for a few months! -- it's still somehow time to start planning for fall 2012, with new shows already in the works for next year's pilot season. So what should we be expecting to see, genre-wise?
Worryingly enough, early reports are suggesting that this year's fantasy and fairy tale fetish is going to continue through to the next round of pilots, with ABC prepping both 666 Park (about an apartment building wherein all the tenants have made a literal deal with the devil) and Wicked Good (about a coven of witches in Southern California fighting evil. I think this used to be called Charmed, but I don't think ABC can really be blamed for forgetting about that show), as well as developing a brand new show based on the Beauty and The Beast story (CBS is also developing a revamp of the 1980s show of the same name). There's also The Magicians at Fox, based on Lev Grossman's novel, although the cynic in me worries that that show is headed toward a similar fate as the network's Locke & Key pilot.
Sitcoms are going fantasy as well, with Fox having at least two projects where the central character is dead. (In one, he's a ghost, the other, he's a zombie. In both, he has to make up for his sins when he was alive. Ah, serendipity.) They also have a sitcom about an angel who gets banished to New York City, while ABC has one about an angel who also gets banished to Earth and has to do good deeds to earn her way back to Heaven. If that's a little too religious for you, don't worry, because NBC takes the cake with a sitcom about a woman who believed God speaks through her. More scientific yuks could maybe be found in Fox's comedy about a man sent back to 2011 from 2016 to realize how sucky his life is, or ABC's sitcom about three scientists who realize that the world really is ending. Yes, that's really supposed to be a sitcom.
Superheroes are back after a year living down the stink of both The Cape and No Ordinary Family. In addition to the expected Marvel/Disney/ABC keeping-it-in-the-family pilots for The Incredible Hulk and AKA Jessica Jones (The television title for the comic called Alias; turns out, JJ Abrams did a little something with that title for a TV show a few years back), Marvel's Punisher is headed towards the small screen in a pilot for Fox, and the Chuck creative team of Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage are working on an American remake of the British superpowers show Misfits to shop around to American networks. Will any of these shows make it past the pilot stage, or are they all going to become the 2012 equivalent to David E. Kelley's Wonder Woman? Given my ambivalence towards small-screen superheroics, I'm not sure which would be the worse fate, but I'd be surprised if Hulk didn't make it to series at the very least.
There's also a surprising return for conspiracy theories, after The Event seemingly proved that audiences weren't willing to show up in enough numbers to make that work - Or maybe that's just what they wanted us to think? Hmmm... - with Fox's Pandemic (Think the recent Contagion on a smaller budget and with a bad guy behind it all) and ABC's Zero Hour leading the charge, but I'm weirdly hoping that NBC's Pillars of Smoke, about the mysterious disappearance of an entire town of cult members, makes it all the way to series.
Maybe most surprisingly, however, is the return of two once-familiar genres that have had mixed success in movie theaters recently: Westerns and Pirates. The latter are covered with NBC's Republic of Pirates (it's about exactly what you'd assume from the title: lots of sea-faring scurvy dogs banding together to form their own society) and Fox's Pyrates (spelling wasn't so big in those days), while ABC has hired Ron Moore to develop a western called Hangstown, suggesting that maybe his magic procedural Precinct 13 isn't faring so well after all. CBS also apparently has three separate western projects in development, while NBC has two. Maybe horse rental has become incredibly cheap in LA recently or something.
If you're thinking that all of this sounds familiar, then... Well, you're entirely right. This time of year is always like a strange example of the proof of "Ideaspace," that concept of why multiple people can somehow come up with the same idea at the same time -- seriously, how else can you explain so many sitcoms based around angels or dead people? -- as well as the idea that there are no new ideas under the sun. On the plus side, natural selection and limited budgets will ensure that not all of these shows make it to pilot production, never mind series, but as a glimpse inside the minds of network TV executives thinking about genre television in late 2011, it's... oddly depressing, really. How many of these shows would you actually watch?