As the 2013-2014 TV season winds down, the upcoming fall season is roaring into high gear with a number of proposals for shows that feature black stars leading the casts. (There’s even a summer series in the mix.) Whether you’re looking for a suspenseful thriller or a laugh-till-it-hurts comedy, these series hopefuls from ABC, NBC, Fox and CBS are bound to pique your interest. Here’s a look at 12 promising pilots that we hope succeed on the small screen.
Shonda Rhimes has already mastered sexy TV shows in a hospital and the White House. With How to Get Away With Murder, she’ll tackle law school and the courtroom. Based in Philadelphia, this thriller stars Viola Davis as a criminal-defense professor who gets involved in a murder plot. Also starring newcomer Aja Naomi King.
Kevin Hart is, arguably, the hardest-working man in Hollywood right now. Hart is the executive producer of Keep It Together, a semiautobiographical comedy based on his post-divorce life. Hart will appear as a recurring character, and his Think Like a Man co-star, Romany Malco, will be featured in the pilot. Bresha Webb (Love That Girl!) and Amber Stevens are also in the cast.
Talk about a star-studded cast and crew! Black-ish stars Anthony Anderson, Laurence Fishburne and Tracee Ellis Ross. The show is loosely based on the life of Kenya Barris, writer for The Game series. Anderson plays an upper-middle-class dad who is trying to balance keeping it real with his assimilated kids. Larry Wilmore (co-creator of The Bernie Mac Show) is signed on as an executive producer and showrunner.
Craig Robinson is finally getting his own show. After one series failed to get picked up last season, NBC decided to give Robinson another shot and has already green-lit a six-episode run. Robinson stars as an ex-musician who gets a job as a music teacher at a middle school.
Move over, Walking Dead. Babylon Fields is a sci-fi drama that centers on zombies who are trying to return to their previous lives. The show itself has actually had its own rebirth on NBC—it was originally shopped at CBS in 2007. The show features Meagan Good, whose last foray into television ended after one season on NBC’s Deception.
Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson are building their own hip-hop empire in this new family drama, based in Chicago, which has Lee Daniels as its director and executive producer. The cast also includes Jussie Smollett, Bryshere Y. Gray and Malik Yoba.
This Batman prequel explores the stories of the “villains that made Gotham famous.” According to the Hollywood Reporter, Fox has given the show a series commitment, which could mean 22 episodes. Jada Pinkett Smith will play the Penguin’s street-smart gangster boss.
This dark comedy is a remake of an acclaimed Spanish series about teenagers who live in a hospital. Octavia Spencer will make her TV-series debut as Nurse Jackson, a no-nonsense nurse in the pediatric ward. (Think Miranda Bailey on Grey’s Anatomy.)
Academy Award-winning actress Halle Berry is making her way to the small screen. She will star in Extant this summer—the first episode airs on July 2—a thriller about an astronaut who returns home to her family after being in outer space for a year.
Set in ancient Egypt, Hieroglyph is a mix of fantasy and reality and has already been picked up for 13 episodes. It follows a notorious crook who is let out of prison to serve the pharaoh. Condola Rashad will star as Nefertari, the pharaoh’s half-sister who wields her beauty around intimidated suitors.
Like his Deception co-star Meagan Good, Laz Alonso has also landed on his feet with an NBC pilot. Alonso will star opposite Debra Messing in this Spanish-series reboot about a homicide detective, Messing, who is trying to handle criminals and her children.
Fresh off his win at the 2014 Oscars, John Ridley will produce and direct the pilot for American Crime. Based in Austin, Texas, this drama will follow the lives of those involved in a racially charged trial. It marks Ridley’s return to TV: He was a writer for The Wanda Sykes Show, Third Watch and Martin, among other series.