The 9 Weirdest, Dumbest, or Beautifully Baffling TV Pilots of 2019

“What if Alexa... but, like, evil?”
Image: Fox (YouTube)

Every year, networks get ready for the fall season with a “hot” list of new television shows. Usually, the final lineups are culled from a slough of pilot episodes, spec scripts, and at least one person’s crushed hopes and dreams. Here are some of the weirdest ones we’ve spotted this year—along with whether you can actually expect them anytime soon.

This year, the fall lineup is looking intriguing. We’ve got a few promising shows like Batwoman, Nancy Drew, and Stumptown. But there are a couple of fun little surprises you may not know about—as well as some others that were considered not quite ready for primetime. I chose to focus on shows in the io9-friendly department, although there were a couple special “unicorns” that were so ridiculous, they might as well be fantasy.

Picked Up To Series

neXt (Fox)

Last year, I reviewed the summer smash Reverie, which was NBC’s attempt to tackle Black Mirror and Westworld for an audience that probably hates both of those shows. Now, it’s Fox’s turn.

This is neXt (yeah, that’s how it’s spelled). It stars John Slattery (Mad Men) as a no-nonsense tech CEO who still makes fun of nerds for being virgins. Funny! He has to become a fake police dude for some cyber-crimes unit because the totally-not-Alexa machine he helped invent is maybe killing people and trying to take over the world. I love how no matter the premise, these things always end up turning into cop shows.

Pandora (The CW)

Before CW launches Batwoman or Nancy Drew, it’s taking summer 2019 by storm with Pandora (funny how even though it’s supposed to come out before both of those shows, we actually haven’t seen anything from it yet). Pandora has a doozy of a plot, folks. Buckle up your space belts.

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It takes place in 2199 at Earth’s Space Training Academy, where a young woman named Jax (played by Priscilla Quintana) and her friends have to learn how to defend the galaxy—just as Jax learns she may be the Chosen One destined to save or destroy humanity. There’s people, aliens, cyborgs, and (presumably) lots of interspecies boning. I mean, come on, it’s CW.

Emergence (ABC)

Little town, it’s a quiet village. Also there’s a little girl who might be an alien, a psychic, or Space Jesus. Emergence stars Fargo’s Allison Tolman as a police chief (of course) who finds herself at the center of an otherworldly mystery after coming across a plane crash site and finding a little girl with no injuries, no memories, and some strange abilities.

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This show was originally passed on by NBC, but later got a series pick-up at ABC. It looks a bit like a mix of Stranger Things and Fox’s cancelled series The Passage, but it’s got some nice visuals and what looks to be an interesting premise. So, we’ll see what happens with this one.

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (NBC)

A musical dramedy about a young woman who can hear people’s innermost desires through song. Feels like an NBC rip-off of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Next.

Bonus: The Unicorn (CBS)

No, it’s not a TV version of Brie Larson’s Netflix movie about a store. The Unicorn is a CBS dramedy about a guy who’s basically the Most Perfect Man in the Whole Entire World who gets “smokin’ hot” women fawning all over him just because he has a job, takes care of his kids, seems relatively normal, and is a widower. Yes, losing a loved one is hard, but it doesn’t make you catnip for literally all the womenfolk. That’s the real fantasy. Apparently when you’re a white guy, the bar isn’t just low, it’s like...the ground.

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Passed

Richard Lovely (Fox)

Syfy’s Happy! has been doing pretty well, so it’s only natural that other networks are looking into the live-action/cartoon hybrid thing. One of Fox’s pilots this year was called Richard Lovely, centering around a grouchy children’s book author (played by Thomas Lennon) who ends up conjuring up a version of his most-popular character, Mr. Mouse (voiced by Jason Alexander). The two of them end up in a sort of father/son relationship—except one of them is a cartoon mouse. The show is currently being shopped to other networks.

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Republic of Sarah (CBS)

What if Wakanda, but white and stupid? That seems to be the thought behind Republic of Sarah, about a small town in New Hampshire that discovers it’s sitting on top of a valuable resource and decides to secede from the United States to keep it for themselves, forcing small-time mayor Sarah Cooper into a role she did not expect.

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I just love television shows that force you to ignore the fact that 15 minutes into the pilot they should all be dead from a takeover by the United States military. You don’t just get to secede, folks. We kind of had a war about that.

Alive (CBS)

Two words: MISSED OPPORTUNITY. Alive starred Ryan Phillipe (yes, that Ryan Phillipe) as a San Francisco police investigator named Mark Escher who was killed in the line of duty. He returns six months later, but something has changed about him. Mark’s no longer the man he used to be, and he’s haunted by the memory of a case he was working on when he died.

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What happened to him? Is he a ghost? Was he brought back to Earth by angels? Oh, no no no. All I need to say are two words, which will explain everything: Victor Frankenstein. CBS, come on. You went with that Unicorn guy and ignored this perfect gem of a television show sitting right in front of you? For shame.


Still In The Running

Triangle (ABC)

Lost was ABC’s lightning in a bottle, but now it looks like the network is trying really, really hard to strike twice. That’s where we get Triangle, a Legends of Tomorrow-meets-Land of the Lost saga that sounds so amazing I will riot in the streets if it’s not picked up to series (it’s being considered for spring 2020). I can’t possibly do the plot of this series justice, so I’m going to have you read the logline:

What if the Bermuda Triangle was not a watery grave in the middle of the ocean, but a land lost in time that has trapped travelers over the course of human history? When a family is shipwrecked in this strange land, they must band together with a group of like-minded inhabitants—from throughout history—to survive and somehow find a way home.

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TV, make this happen. NOW.


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About the author

Beth Elderkin

Video Editor and Staff Writer at io9. My doppelganger is that rebelling greeting card from Futurama.