What's Trending: 2016-17 Scripts

What's Trending is a series looking at what is popular or will become popular, and spitballing ideas for what the present and future will entail.

It's the new year, and by this point, a very strong majority of ideas and pitches have been given to the networks. Outside of some scripts being given special treatment, whether it be commitments, an early pilot order, or even a series order, we have no idea what will happen to these shows. Some may be uried in the vault. But regardless, it's certainly fun to see what tropes and ideas will arrive in less than a year. So, with the intro out of the way, let's see what interesting little quirks are in some of these scripts.
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Trump, Watch Out!
As of 2014, Hispanic and Latino Americans make up 18% of the U.S. population. They are the largest ethnic minority group in the United States. The United States is the second-largest community of Hispanics, only behind Mexico. By 2050, it is estimated that 1 in 3 Americans will be Latino or Hispanic. The networks are paying close attention to these facts going by these script pickups. ABC has three comedies, including stand-up Gabriel Iglesias starrer The Fluffy Shop, multicam The Better Half, and a currently untitled project by producer and writer Bobby Bowman (Family Tools, My Name is Earl), in addition to dramas The Death of Eva Sophia Valdez, Personal Motives, a remake of the 2005 Spanish series of the same name, and a modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar that very specifically stated in the log line that one character is a Hispanic mayor. 

CBS' multi-cam sitcom How to Speak American, from executive producer Greg Garcia (My Name is Earl, The Millers) and creator Bobby Bowman, focuses on a "coddled millenial" teaching ESL to immigrants. The last series will likely feature other ethnicities, but definitely expect a Mexican character to appear on that script. Fox has a similar premise for a pilot entitled...ESL, co-created by Masi Oka, of Heroes and Hawaii Five-0 fame.

Fox's dramas include a television adaptation of the 2001 film Behind Enemy Lines, which, its logline states, is "about an American flight crew that is shot down while on a secret mission over the jungles of Latin America". In addition, there's Paradiso, a drama about a nightclub in a ficiontal city similar to Havana. Fox also has 305 and The Divine Monster which may not specifically state anything related to the Hispanic community, but do have rapper Pitbull and Ugly Betty creator Silvio Horta as producers for these respective shows.

NBC's multicam Bonita & Mechelle features both an African-American character, and a Latina as the leading roles, while the untitled Ian Edelman drama focuses on a Cain and Abel story about two Cuban brothers.

Yes, there are other shows that specifically mention characters of color, but the rise in Hispanic-led series is certainly fascinating and much more prominent, especially looking at the severe lack of attention this demographic has been given, even with shows like Jane the Virgin, Cristela, and the upcoming Shades of Blue and Telenovela.

Comic Books Aren't Only For Reading
Obviously, shows based on comic book characters is absolutely nothing new, and is going strong today with shows like Supergirl, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and The Flash. But in next year's scripts, there seems to be a bigger push for smaller characters, and a more unique lens.

In the drama territory, ABC has already given a pilot order to Marvel's Most Wanted, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spinoff featuring Adrianne Palacki's Bobbi Morse, and Nick Blood's Lance Hunter as the lead characters, while Fox's Hellfire focuses on The Hellfire Club, an organization in the X-Men comics, and is expected to take place in the same universe as the Bryan Singer features. Fox is also adapting the graphic novel Protocol Orphans, co-created by Twilight actor Peter Facinelli, with the pilot being written by Amanda Segel (Person of Interest). At NBC, there are plans to adapt the DC Comics miniseries, Red, which non-comic book readers may recognize from the Bruce Willis-Morgan Freeman 2010 film and its 2013 sequel, and lastly CW has Riverdale, a Greg Berlanti-produced reboot of the Archie comics.

But what is also interesting is the two comedy pilots about comic book universes. ABC's Damage Control focuses on the clean-up crew of the Marvel Universe, while NBC's Powerless is a workplace comedy about an insurance company in the world of DC Comics. Both shows seem to be likely to be high on both networks' list, especially considering they can get comic book characters to guest star for stunt episodes.

While comic book shows might not be an original idea, the trend certainly seems to be branching out to the more obscure.

The Future is Time Travel Shows
This is an oddity! The idea of time travel is an inherently interesting idea, but the networks are going overboard with that idea. ABC's Time After Time is an adaptation of the Karl Alexander story, FOX's In Time is a comedy all about 3 time traveling friends, and NBC's Time focuses on a trio that battle criminals in the past, present, and future to protect history as we know it. It's bizarre seeing as how time travel is not only not that popular in today's entertainment, but also time travel as a storytelling device can be very convoluted and complex rather easily. But who am I to judge?

It's All in the Family Business
I'm sure anyone who follows television ratings is aware of Empire's success, and the networks are clearly taking notice. Almost every network has some sort of drama all about a family dynasty, ranging from political (ABC's Conviction, and NBC's House of the Rising Sin) to business (ABC's Black Heart and The Death of Eva Sofia Valdez, FOX's The Divine Monster, NBC's The Bourbon Kings, Casino) to fashion (ABC's House of Moore). And this is only including dramas about family businesses, this is excluding topics like feuding families, murder mysteries focusing on family members, and much more. It's obvious that Empire had impacted these script choices, but time will tell if this will seriously catch on. And speaking of Empire...

I Got the Music in Me...
This season seems to have a lot of shows about music, ranging from rap to ballet. Naturally, FOX by far has the most, with their crown jewel being Star, from Empire creator Lee Daniels, and featuring Queen Latifah and Benjamin Bratt. FOX also has Eat Pray Thug, a comedy starring rapper-actor Utkarsh Ambudkar, and the drama Paradiso, all about a famous nightclub. Meanwhile, ABC has Big Ballet, focusing on ballet dancers, NBC has Talent, a family soap focusing on a music prodigy, and The CW has The Drop, a drama about the world of DJs. Whether they're shining stars or one-hit wonders, this is certainly a trend to keep an eye on.

Classic Novel? DARK AND EDGY!
Probably the lamest trend of them all is the many adaptations of popular or classic literature, and almost all of them being either modernizations or dark and gritty reimaginings. ABC's Caesar is a modern-day adaptation of the Shakespearean tragedy Julius Caesar for instance. In fact, ABC has two scripts based off of Shakesperean tragedies, the other being Still Star-Crossed, a sequel to Romeo and Juliet. CBS by far has the most. This includes Marple, a show based on Miss Marple, a character found in the majority of the works of acclaimed mystery novelist Agatha Christie, Moreau, based on the HG Wells novel "The Island of Dr. Moreau", but this time with a female protagonist, Nancy Drew, based on the mystery fiction novels but in a more contemporary setting, and Tom and Huck, based on the Mark Twain novels, and focusing on racial issues plaguing today's world. Then over at The CW, there's The Notebook, based on the timeless masterpiece of the same name by acclaimed author Nicholas Sparks, and Little Women, which is quoted as a "hyper-stylized, gritty adaptation of the 1868 novel by Louisa May Alcott". None of these shows seem like winners, but they were given script orders for a reason I suppose.

There are certainly more in there, but these were the ones that stood out to me the most. Maybe there are some trends or common tropes that I'm missing. Please give your own thoughts and opinions in the comments down below.

-Eric McInnis

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