As we get closer to this year's upfronts, the networks are closing deals on a daily basis for their new top-tier projects. From movie stars looking to make the leap to TV to old favorites in new roles, it's hard to keep track of all the familiar faces you may see on your screen in 2014.
Scott Bakula, Zoe McLellan, and CCH Pounder, NCIS: New Orleans
The NCIS mothership looks to be expanding (for real this time) with the upcoming embedded pilot for NCIS: New Orleans. Each of the previous spinoffs has brought big names, and CBS (NASDAQ:VIAC) isn't disappointing this time. TV veteran Scott Baklula (Quantum Leap) will headline with Zoe McLellan (JAG, Dirty Sexy Money) and CCH Pounder (The Shield) taking lead roles as well.
Impact on network
When CBS announced last year it was doing an NCIS: Los Angeles planted spinoff, everybody (myself included) thought it was a lock to make the schedule. Yet in the end, it joined Beverly Hills Cop as the biggest network passes of the fall season. Now with Mark Harmon on board as a producer, this one looks likely to become the third edition of the popular procedural to make the network's schedule.
From a network perspective, casting Baklula is a good "get" for the show and he should appeal to audiences. What's interesting though is that the company that produced Bakula's most well-known series, Quantum Leap, is Belisarius Productions, which also launched NCIS. The connection gets more interesting as McLellan got her big break on JAG, which spun off NCIS, although she will play a different character on the new series. As confusing as that may sound, it just goes to underscore the longevity and success of this brand.
CCH Pounder's casting is just icing on the cake as she's a strong actress who can command any scene she's in. Pounder will reportedly play the show's medical examiner who is being described as very much in the same vein as David McCallum's fan favorite character Ducky.
Sissy Spacek and Linda Cardellini, Untitled Netflix Drama
The other week Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) revealed it had inked Kyle Chandler to front its new untitled drama, and now two more big names have joined the Friday Night Lights star. The series revolves around a close knit family thrown into disarray when the black sheep of the group returns. Oscar winner Sissy Spacek (Carrie, Coal Miner's Daughter) will co-star as the matriarch of the family and E.R. alum Linda Cardellini has signed on as Chandler's wife.
Impact on network
In Spacek's illustrious career, she had never been a series regular on a TV show (the closest she came was recurring on HBO's Big Love), so landing her for this drama is a coup for Netflix. Remember Netflix's model is to post all the episodes at the same time, so the production schedule is much quicker, which is a major benefit for film actors looking to try TV. Her casting also shows Netflix is capable of continuing to draw big names for its new original series.
In the case of Cardellini, audiences fell in love with her on the cult series Freaks & Geeks and have been fans ever since. The actress is also coming off a well-received (and Emmy nominated) arc on Mad Men, which is still top of mind with viewers.
Ryan Phillippe, Secrets & Lies
Murder mysteries continue to remain a hot property for TV networks and ABC's (a subsidiary of Disney (NYSE:DIS)) latest may have snared Ryan Phillippe. The Cruel Intentions star is in final negotiations to star in Secrets & Lies where he'd play a family man who comes across the dead body of a young boy and quickly becomes the main suspect. He's then forced to prove his innocence as everything begins to come crashing down around him.
Impact on network
Phillippe was lined up to play the lead in CBS' Golden Boy last year but then dropped out before production got under way. He's no stranger to TV series -- he most recently appeared on Damages and first broke through on One Life to Live, playing the first gay teenager on daytime TV. Should this deal go through (and Phillippe not bow out), it would make the drama a strong contender for ABC's fall slate. The network would love another big name to front one of its pilots and the actor also has a big female following, which would fit in nicely with ABC's current slate.