30 highly-anticipated television projects in development that were announced in 2017
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Development , Television

30 highly-anticipated television projects in development that were announced in 2017

As 2017 comes to a close, we've compiled an exhaustive list of all the new projects that were announced to be in development this year.

Note that this isn't a list of all planned shows that were announced with black talent behind or in front of the camera, but a collection of the announcements that made a lot of buzz. For those that weren't included, be sure to comment below and let us know which ones you are anticipating as well, because we haven't forgotten about them!

Also, the projects listed are in early development stages. This means no extensive details are available past their initial announcements, and no major talent is attached other than a few actors/actresses who have signed on to topline a respective show. So shows that have not premiered yet, but are currently set at their particular networks (like Marvel's Cloak and Dagger at Freeform, Seven Seconds at Netflix or Heathers adaptation at Paramount Network) which we know a lot about and have seen first-looks for, are not listed.

Additionally, all of these announcements broke in 2017 unless otherwise stated. Projects announced in 2016 or before which are still in development are not listed, unless a major development happened, such as a new network or a major casting announcement.

Before you dive into the list, here are some things you need to know about pilot season and pilot orders — You can read a full analysis/report here, but one statistic you should definitely know, is that 5 percent of shows that are announced don't even air! 

Typically, once a pilot is shot and edited, the network must decide which shows to run with, which to shelve for possible later use, and which to dump altogether. The percentage of shows that get picked up for the fall lineup varies from network to network. For example, a broadcast network that buys 25 comedy scripts, will shoot 12 of them as pilots, and, eventually, only 2 of the 12 make it to series. Cable TV networks are less active, developing far fewer pilots, most of which do eventually make it to series. So the percentages a pilot gets picked up to series are higher with cable TV networks, if only because they develop a lot fewer than their broadcast network counterparts.

In May 2015, Shadow and Act founder Tambay Obenson compiled a list of the 73 pilots starring black actors and actresses, which was a record.

Now, without further ado, dive into the list below. They are listed below in no particular order of importance:


Raising Dion

From executive producer Michael B. Jordan

Network: Netflix

Status: 10-episode, straight-to-series order. 

The Netflix series will follow a woman named Nicole Reese, who raises her son Dion after the death of her husband Mark (Jordan). The normal dramas of raising a son as a single mom are amplified when Dion starts to manifest several magical, superhero-like abilities. Nicole must now keep her son’s gifts secret with the help of Mark’s best friend Pat, and protect Dion from antagonists out to exploit him while figuring out the origin of his abilities.

 

The Underground Railroad

From Barry Jenkins and Plan B

Network: Amazon

Status: First announced in December 2016, Amazon landed it in March 2017.

The novel's official summary reads: Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom. Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey—hers is an odyssey through time as well as space.

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Lovecraft Country

From Misha Green (writer), Jordan Peele

Network: HBO

Status: Straight-to-series order. 

From a description of the 1954 book: When his father Montrose goes missing, 22-year-old Army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his Uncle George—publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide—and his childhood friend Letitia. On their journey to the manor of Mr. Braithwhite—heir to the estate that owned one of Atticus’s ancestors—they encounter both mundane terrors of white America and malevolent spirits that seem straight out of the weird tales George devours. At the manor, Atticus discovers his father in chains, held prisoner by a secret cabal named the Order of the Ancient Dawn—led by Samuel Braithwhite and his son Caleb—which has gathered to orchestrate a ritual that shockingly centers on Atticus. And his one hope of salvation may be the seed of his, and the whole Turner clan’s destruction.

 

Black Don't Crack

From executive producers Viola Davis, Larry Wilmore, Regina Hicks (writer)

Network: ABC

Status: Development announcement in October 2017.

The show "centers around three former sorority sisters who lost touch after college reunite during a pivotal point in each of their lives and realize that now that they are of a certain age sometimes it’s okay to crack and no one will be there for you like your sisters."

 

Black America

From Aaron McGruder, Will Packer

Network: Amazon

Status: Series ordered in February 2017 with vague details, plot revealed in August 2017. 

In the mold of The Man in the High Castle, the show envisions an alternate history where newly freed African Americans have secured the Southern states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama post-Reconstruction as reparations for slavery, and with that land, the freedom to shape their own destiny. The sovereign nation they formed, New Colonia, has had a tumultuous and sometimes violent relationship with its looming “Big Neighbor,” both ally and foe, the United States. The past 150 years have been witness to military incursions, assassinations, regime change, coups, etc. Today, after two decades of peace with the U.S. and unprecedented growth, an ascendant New Colonia joins the ranks of major industrialized nations on the world stage as America slides into rapid decline. Inexorably tied together, the fate of two nations, indivisible, hangs in the balance."

 

Untitled scripted limited series on the Central Park Five

From Ava DuVernay, executive produced by Oprah Winfrey

Network: Netflix

Status: Ordered straight-to-series in 2017 for a 2019 debut.

The 5-episode limited series (created, written and produced by DuVernay) will chronicle the true story of the 1989 case in which five teens &mdash Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise — were wrongfully convicted of raping a woman, Trisha Melli, in Central Park. It will tell their story from their questioning in 1989 to 2014 when they were exonerated and a settlement was reached.

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Untitled Jessica Williams comedy series

Co-written and co-exec produced by Williams

Network: Showtime

Status: Showtime landed the series in September 2017.

The series will tell the story of an African-American, aspiring science fiction writer (Williams) who comes of age in Brooklyn.

 

Untitled family legal drama from Maya Dunbar

Written and produced by Dunbar

Network: NBC

Status: Script was bought by NBC in October 2017.

The untitled drama "centers around the country’s most successful African American civil rights attorney and his family-run law firm. When tragedy strikes they’re forced to dive into their own dark pasts, walking the murky line between the law and self-preservation to save their future and the legacy of their powerful family."

 

Untitled drama from Tarell Alvin McCraney and Michael B. Jordan

Created by McCraney, who exec produces with Jordan

Network: OWN

Status: Straight-to-series order.

The series will center around a 14-year-old prodigy, who while "haunted by the death of his closest friend, and relying on by his hardworking mother to find a way out of poverty, he must choose between the streets that raised him or the higher education that may offer him a way out." It is set in South Florida "at the end of the Obama legacy," and inspired by events in McCraney's life.

 

Series adaptation of Our Kind of People: Inside America's Black Upper Class

Written and executive produced by Wendy Calhoun

Network: FOX

Status: Script ordered in September 2017.

The series is described as a multi-generational family drama uncovering the lives of America’s black upper class by chronicling a dazzling Chicago dynasty with a dark secret threatening to rip it apart. Description of the book: "Debutante cotillions. Million-dollar homes. Summers in Martha's Vineyard. Membership in the Links, Jack & Jill, Deltas, Boule, and AKAs. An obsession with the right schools, families, social clubs, and skin complexion. This is the world of the black upper class and the focus of the first book written about the black elite by a member of this hard-to-penetrate group."

 

Spirited

Starring Laverne Cox

Network: ABC

Status: Put pilot order from ABC in September 2017.

The show, a one-hour drama currently titled, Spirited, "would follow a fake psychic (Cox) who realizes she can really communicate with the dead. She decides to put her con-woman past behind her and actually start helping people." Elizabeth Banks is a producer.

 

Untitled Bad Boys TV spinoff starring Gabrielle Union

Network: NBC

Status: Pilot production commitment in October 2017.

Union is reprising her character, Special Agent Sydney "Syd" Burnett from the second Bad Boys film. Burnett was an undercover DEA operative and sister of Martin Lawrence's Marcus Burnett and love interest for Will Smith's Mike Lowrey. Her status in the show: "Syd Burnett, last seen in Miami taking down a drug cartel, now is an LAPD detective and can pursue all the pleasures Los Angeles has to offer and leave her past behind. But things will get complicated when her new partner, Nancy McKenna, learns that Syd’s unapologetic lifestyle might be masking a greater personal secret."

 

The Hunt

From Jordan Peele

Network: TBA

Status: Early development; was drawing interest from bidders upon September 2017 announcement.

Inspired by true events, it follows a diverse band of Nazi Hunters in 1970s America as they set out on a quest for revenge and justice — tracking and killing hundreds of Nazis who, with the unconscionable help of the U.S. government, escaped justice and embedded themselves in American society."

 

Him or Her

From Issa Rae, Travon Free and Deniese Davis

Network: HBO

Status: Picked up by HBO in December 2017 as a part of Rae's first-look deal.

The single-camera half-hour chronicles the dating life of a bisexual black man and the distinctly different worlds and relationships he finds himself in. If we're correct, this very well may be the first television show to center the focus on a black, LGBT male since Noah's Arc (Andra Fuller and Benjamin Charles Watson were both a part of the main cast for The L.A. Complex (2012) and there is a forthcoming Hulu series based on the life of RuPaul Charles)

 

Sweet Life

From Issa Rae and Raamla Mohamed

Network: HBO

Status: Picked up by HBO in December 2017 as a part of Rae's first-look deal.

A coming of age tale of the well-heeled teens growing up in the "Black Beverly Hills" neighborhood of Windsor Hills.  If you remember correctly, this logline has a striking resemblance to the 'black 90210' concept she pitched in a video series with The New Yorker. 

 

Libby and Malcolm

From Kenya Barris; starring Courtney B. Vance, Felicity Huffman, Sayeed Shahidi and Jahi Winston

Network: TBA

Status: Pilot ordered by ABC in December 2016, network passed in early 2017, was being shopped around as of May 2017.

Described as "a blended family show about two polar opposite political pundits who fall in love despite all odds and form an insta-family as well as a work partnership." The polar opposite political pundits who fall in love (Libby & Malcolm) will be played by Huffman and Vance. Vance's Malcolm is described as "a smooth, confident Liberal pundit and father of three kids who arms himself with cold hard facts and an irresistible easy charm that wins over everyone he meets." He is married to Libby (Huffman), "a strong, brilliant, white Republican who won his heart by knocking him off his feet." The couple also works together as hosts of a fiery political talk show.

 

Series adaptation of Octavia Butler's Dawn 

From Ava DuVernay, MACRO Ventures, Victoria Mahoney

Network: TBA

Status: Early development, with DuVernay, MACRO and Mahoney coming aboard the project (first announced in 2015) in August 2017.

Book description: In Dawn, after war has culminated in a nuclear apocalypse and the near extermination of the human race, the survivors are rescued by an alien species and kept in suspended animation on an Earth-like spaceship. Lilith Iyapo, a black woman, is the first to be awakened and is chosen to lead her people into an uncertain future. She is faced with a choice: adapt or die. But, what good is survival if it comes at the cost of humanity?

 

Brothered Up

Starring D.L. Hughley (replacing Romany Malco), Adir Kalyan, Merrin Dungey

Network: CBS

Status: Pilot ordered February 2017, casting change announced in April 2017.

An emotionally guarded African American cop gets partnered with an emotionally available Pakistani cop and are forced to find a way to connect as they patrol a Detroit neighborhood.

 

No Place Safe

From John Ridley, starring Regina King. Wendy Calhoun and Reina King among producers.

Network: FX

Status: First optioned in 2015 for ABC Studios. Picked up by FX, King cast in April 2017

Based on the 2007 book by Kim Reid. Book description: Part mystery thriller, part coming-of-age story, and part civil-rights history, this gripping memoir is set at the time of the horrific Atlanta child murders and told through the eyes of a young African American teen whose mom is a cop on the task force searching for the serial killer. Just after the first two bodies are found in 1979, Kim, 13, enters a white private school in the suburbs, far from her inner-city neighborhood. Over the next two years, a total of 29 black boys are found dead. Is the killer a Klansman type? Could he be a black man? The racism at school is ugly. No one there cares about the murdered inner-city kids. So why does Kim stay in the fancy school? Is she playing white? Is she running for safety? As the climax builds, and her mom brings home more and more details of the murder investigation, Kim's personal conflicts are as intense for her as the terror outside."

 

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Five Points

From Kerry Washington, starring Madison Pettis

Network: Facebook Watch

Status: Ordered by Facebook in October 2017

Five Points is set on the South Side of Chicago and takes a look at high school students from five unique points of view. When a life-changing event occurs, all of these different perspectives will be necessary to understand the truth.

 

White Dave 

From David E. Talbert, LeBron James' Springhill Entertainment and Gabrielle Union

Network: ABC

Status: Was stated to be "in development" in October 2017

Written by Talbert (who was behind Almost Christmas and First Sunday) based on his real-life experiences, “White Dave is about a young African-American teenager, who has grown up in an all-white suburb, suddenly moves to an all-black neighborhood when his mom remarries."

 

Get Christie Love 

From Courtney Kemp, Debra Martin Chase and Vin Diesel; starring Kylie Bunbury

Network: ABC

Status: Pilot commitment landed at ABC in September 2017, following Bunbury's casting in December. If ordered, could be seen in the second-half of 2018.

Based on the 1974  blaxploitation film, the action-packed, music-driven drama centers on Christie Love, an African American female CIA agent who leads an elite ops unit. She transforms into whomever she needs to be to get the job done, especially when it’s down to the wire and the stakes are life and death. The high-adrenaline missions of the series are anchored by an emotional mystery about Christie’s first love — unearthing the truth about this relationship will be the biggest mission impossible of her life.

 

Tomorrow Today

From 50 Cent

Network: Starz

Status: First announced in 2016 as a part of 50 Cent's first-look deal with Starz. Still in development as of December 2017 as his first-look has been extended once again.

Black "superhero series" that 50 Cent has said he'd like Wood Harris to star in. Description: After being falsely imprisoned, a veteran from the south side of Chicago becomes the personal experiment of a prison doctor who genetically engineers him to have heightened abilities. Set free, but on the run, the veteran must reconcile with the world that has turned against him, and use his newfound abilities for good.

 

Series adaptation of Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death

Written by Selwyn Seyfu Hinds

Network: HBO

Status: HBO closed a deal to develop in September 2017.

Description: "Who Fears Death tells the coming of age tale of Onyesowu in post-apocalyptic North Africa where her story makes her an outcast. She must go on a journey from self-reproach to love, but to do so she’ll have to overcome untold obstacles — defeating her hated sorcerer father and becoming the instrument of prophetic deliverance for a land of oppressed people, all the while fighting to master the terrifying powers growing inside her."

 

Highway 59

Based on Attica Locke's Bluebird, Bluebird. She'll write and EP.

Network: FX

Status: Pitch bought by FX in November 2017.

It "centers on Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger who knows too well that when it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules. Deeply ambivalent about growing up black in the lone star state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home. When his allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he travels up Highway 59 to the small town of Lark, where two murders–a black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman–have stirred up a hornet’s nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes–and save himself in the process–before Lark’s long-simmering racial fault lines erupt."

 

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Untitled comedy series produced by Jerrod Carmichael, starring Lil Rel Howery

Howery will also write the script

Network: TBA, but it is from 20th Century Fox TV

Status: Put pilot commitment as of October 2017.

It will center on Lil Rel's character, who is "a prideful, self-made success who lives by the code to 'always believe in yourself and great things will come.' However, he finds that attitude put to the test when he learns his wife is having an affair with his own barber. He tries to rebuild his life post-divorce as a long-distance single father on the West Side of Chicago on a quest for love, respect, and a new barber."

 

Black Samurai 

Starring Common, exec produced by RZA

Network: Starz

Status: First announced in 2016, Starz landed a deal to develop it in August 2017.

Based on the Black Samurai novels written by Marc Olden, the series will follow the character of Robert Sand (Common), a highly-trained American Army Ranger whose life is transformed when he meets a legendary Japanese master who invites him to train as a samurai. After his beloved sensei and samurai brothers are killed by mercenaries, Sand is thrust on a worldwide journey of both revenge and self-discovery.

 

8 Count

Mary J. Blige is among the producers

Network: Fox

Status: Fox was developing with a script order and significant penalty attached in November 2017.

The project, titled 8 Count, is a "music-fueled drama (based on the life of Laurieann Gibson) that follows a young choreographer who, in order to redeem her damaged reputation in the cutthroat music/dance world, must invest in an up-and-coming singer, who also has one last shot at stardom."

 

The Fifth Season

Based on N.K. Jemisin's novel

Network: TNT

Status: Was in "early development" in August 2017.

The First Season is "an epic drama set in a world where civilization-destroying earthquakes occur with deadly regularity. A small minority of inhabitants has the ability to quiet these earthquakes, but they also can cause them. The series follows three women, each of whom possesses these special, Earth-controlling abilities: Damaya, a young girl training to serve the Empire; Syenite, an ambitious young woman ordered to breed with her bitter and frighteningly powerful mentor; and Essun, a mother searching for the husband who murdered her young son and kidnapped her daughter mere hours after a Season tore a fiery rift across the land."

 

Black woman mayor drama

Exec produced by Penny Johnson Jerald

Network: NBC

Status: Put into development in July 2017

The series will be set in Baltimore and follows a newly-elected African-American female mayor, her female chief of police, and district attorney as they work for the good of one of America’s most dangerous cities."

 

Any that got left off that you're waiting to hear more about? Comment below!

 

Trey Mangum is the lead editor of Shadow & Act. You can email him at trey@blavity.com & follow him on Twitter @TreyMangum