Published May 16, 2013 on Vancouver is Awesome
Update: The Tomorrow People, which shot its pilot in New York City, moves production here to film its CW series. But Intelligence, which shot its pilot in Vancouver, moves production to Los Angeles to film its CBS series.
Five American broadcast networks unveiled their fall plans in New York this week and four of the seven TV drama pilots and one TV presentation we saw filming in Vancouver this spring made the cut for next season. Once Upon a Time ‘s Victorian-era spinoff Once Upon a Time in Wonderland is scheduled for Thursday nights on ABC. While Almost Human, starring Karl Urban (Star Trek’s Bones) and Michael Ealy as futuristic human and android police partners, will air Monday nights on FOX after the World Series. Intelligence starring Josh Holloway (Lost’s Sawyer) as “The Six Billion Dollar Man” will debut on CBS on Monday nights next year. And post-apocalyptic The 100 about a hundred juvenile delinquents sent back to Earth from space almost a hundred years after nuclear disaster is slated for early 2014 on The CW.
Not a bad outcome, considering there were fifty odd drama pilots vying for thirty prime time slots this year (double the 15 drama openings from last year after a slew of cancellations including locally-filmed Emily Owens, M.D., Cult and Red Widow).
Unfortunately, even in a big year for new dramas, some star vehicles didn’t make the cut. Uncle Jessie won’t be returning to film in Vancouver anytime soon. John Stamos (Full House/ER)’s pilot Victor stayed in the mix until the end but NBC opted not to put the drama about a high-powered L.A. divorce attorney, who helps his clients find new faith in life, on its schedule.
Nor will Dwight Schrute be back. CBS held onto Rainn Wilson (The Office)’s pilot Backstrom in round after round of cuts but ultimately passed on the drama about a Portland detective version of Dr. House — self-destructive, offensive, irascible and brilliant.Perhaps it’s too soon for a new House, even one who’s not a doctor.
Vancouver remains popular for American shows because of its beautiful land and cityscapes which can look like anywhere U.S.A. and great, professional crews but this week’s election is a blow to the BC film industry. Premier Christy Clark is on record saying her government will not match incentives with the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, where film and TV production has shifted in the last five years. Will some of these new green-lit pilots choose to film their series elsewhere where it’s cheaper?
Let’s hope they all stay here. Once Upon a Time in Wonderland is the big surprise of the Upfronts. Originally pitched as a bridge between batches of episodes of the mother show Once Upon a Time on Sundays, crew filmed only five scenes in Vancouver to present to network executives. But the finished trailer looks so magical that it boosted what was conceived as a spinoff to its own slot on Thursday nights at 8 p.m. on ABC. Set in Victorian England, poor Alice (Sophie Lowe) is trapped in an insane asylum muttering about mermaids, mushrooms, pirates and her lost love Cyrus (Peter Godiat) until she is rescued by the Knave of Hearts (Michael Socha) and the White Rabbit (voiced by John Lithgow). Will there be some intersections with Fairy Tale Land, Neverland or Storybrooke? The other ABC pilot Big Thunder, a 19th century western based on a popular Disney ride and filmed mainly in Maple Ridge and Squamish, did not get picked up.
FOX pilot Almost Human came to Vancouver with an excellent pedigree. From J. J. Abrams and Fringe showrunner Joel Wyman it paid homage to its smart predecessor in so many ways. The production used many of the former Vancouver Fringe crew as well as its production signs BELLY. Some of the set dressing looked familiar too, with futuristic kiosks like Quick Volt electric car stations and Quick Stands offering everything from Experience Enhancers to Intellect Expanders and Synthetic Pets observed. The pilot filmed for three weeks here in familiar Fringe locations from the downtown business district to Gastown’s Winters Hotel to under the Cambie Bridge to the Terminal City Ironworks complex dressed like a Blue Light district.
But now Almost Human is a show in its own right. And a surprisingly funny one at that , with sardonic John Kennex (Karl Urban), a man not fond of the “synthetics”, trashing one and ending up partnered with Dorian (Michael Ealy), an android who has more emotions than he does. It’s a buddy cop duo for the future.
CBS pilot Intelligence about an American government agent Gabriel (Josh Holloway) with a super-computer microchip in his brain that makes him the smartest smart phone ever is another VFX-heavy show. Something Vancouver does extremely well. But this agent who can hack into anything is reckless and unpredictable so the head of the government cyber-security agency Lillian Strand (Marg Helgenberger of CSI) assigns secret service agent Riley Neal (Meghan Ory from Once Upon a Time) to protect him from himself and others. The pilot filmed all over Vancouver but was spotted only a couple of times on location. Crew told me most places were chosen for their privacy.
The CW pilot The 100 also proved hard to find on location. Based on an upcoming book series, it’s about a hundred juvenile delinquents sent back to Earth from space almost a hundred years after nuclear war to see if the planet is habitable. And judging from a clip filmed in one of our local forests, at least part of the planet has recovered nicely. Can they re-colonize? Only the pretty ones survive, joked Television Without Pity. The other CW pilot Blink — about a girl whose father is in a coma — did not get picked up.
But there are rumours that another CW pickup The Tomorrow People might shift production to Vancouver, reuniting Arrow and The Tomorrow People stars Stephen and Robbie Amell here. The cousins shared a childhood photo on stage at today’s Upfront to a chorus of awwws from the audience.