’s that time again, tv fans—pilot season. Even as we speak, thousands of struggling actors and writers are descending on production offices nationwide (okay, maybe just New York and L.A.), all chasing the dream. And even as we speak, the men and women in charge of casting a veritable array of new pilots plan to crush and destroy that dream for thousands of men and women—but not before they sleep with them first. (I kid because I love.)

In the past couple of weeks, THUD has reported on many of these pilots and made too many theatre jokes about them while doing so. Thanks to The Futon Critic’s massive development database, I’ve read about many more and, from those selected twenty. I picked them for a variety of reasons – concept, actor, show runner, potential for unintentional hilarity, starring walking train wrecks.

None of these, save John from Cincinnati and The Coreys (yes, it’s on here), have been ordered to series. However, Amy After Dark, The Man, and Church of Steve are all “put pilots,” which means that if they’re not picked up for a series order, the network has to pay through the nose.

Will we be looking at the next Arrested Development or the next Lookwell? The next Desperate Housewives or the next Heat Vision and Jack? Which one of these pilots are coming to television this fall and which ones are destined to wind up on YouTube? Only time, luck, and test ratings will tell…

Aliens in America (CW)

The idea for this single-camera comedy is so simple (cliché?) that I’m surprised that it’s taken this long to get made: A sixteen-year-old Pakistani Muslim comes to live with the family of an unpopular sixteen-year-old American as an exchange student…in Wisconsin. I can just hear The Odd Couple theme playing right now.

While the danger of predictability – especially since it’s on the CW – is high on this one, I want to remain optimistic. Done right, this could be funny, topical, and dramatic at times, too. Done wrong, and we might get Larry the Cable Guy Presents Why Muslims are Weird (with Ralphie May). Memo to the creators: Save the stereotype jokes for people from Wisconsin, okay?

A.M.P.E.D. (Spike TV)

Other cities worth making fun of: Minneapolis, which is the setting for this drama pilot. (Although Vancouver is, once again, playing Minneapolis.) Lee Tergesen of Oz fame plays the sensitive, quick-thinking, and fearless Detective Brian Spicer who faces a new challenge when Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters visits the Mall of America on a field trip.

Not quite. But the Minneapolis PD has to deal with a growing segment of its population whose genetic mutations cause them to wreak havoc on the Midwestern city in this show, which comes from Frank Spotnitz and co-stars Tony “Underworld: Evolution” Curran as a cop whose personal philosophy comes into conflict with Tergesen’s Spicer.

Spotnitz was just as responsible as Chris Carter for the way The X-Files eventually self-destructed. He also helmed the remake of The Night Stalker a couple of years back, which was one of the worst tv remakes in a long line of lame-ass tv remakes. And oh yeah, this is on Spike TV.

So bad it’s good? I think yes.

Amy After Dark (FOX)

This put pilot has crapshoot written all over it. The concept’s simple enough: A young (probably hot) lawyer in New York gets bitten by a vampire and joins the ranks of the undead. Complications ensue.

Amy After Dark could go either way. Fans of Christopher Moore know that he used pretty much the exact same plot for his novel Bloodsucking Fiends, which did an excellent job of blending hilarity with horror. If the guys behind this are smart, that’s the tone they’ll take – especially if they keep the focus on the title character and not get bogged down in a bunch of bullshit mythology or back-story. The last thing we need on tv is another moody vampire drama.

Babylon Fields (CBS)

In a word: Zombies. What self-respecting internet pop culture hound doesn’t like a good zombie story? This comedy drama, though, sounds like Desperate Housewives…with zombies.

Still with me? Gerald Cuesta, who wrote L.I.E., cowrote the pilot, which is being directed by Michael Cuesta, who did the pilot for Dexter. If these guys could make pedophiles and serial killers sympathetic and funny at the same time, then we might just be in for some demented zombie-themed fun.

Chuck (NBC)

I’ve said this before, but I think Joseph McGinty “McG Is My Name!” Nichol is a better television director than he is a film director. Plus, the guy helped get Supernatural on the air (along with Veronica Mars, the best genre show you’re not watching), so points for that. And I know that The O.C. collapsed under its own reflexivity in less than two seasons, but when creator Josh Schwartz was on his game, it was very entertaining, often compelling stuff. (Except for Mischa Barton.)

Which brings us to Chuck, the latest offering from McG and Schwartz. It’s a spy comedy-drama described as being “in the vein of Grosse Pointe Blank.” That’s dangerously close to Fastlane and Charlie’s Angels territory for McG, but the concept – especially the comparisons to the dark and awesome Grosse Pointe Blank – is enough to get me excited. (I’m also amped for Schwartz’s other pilot about an expensive New York City prep school. But that’s because I’m a big girl.)

Church of Steve (FOX)

When it comes to this particular put pilot, it’s not the concept, but the pedigree. Adam McKay and Will Ferrell, two of the funniest guys in the world, are executive-producing this single camera comedy about a working-class guy from New Jersey who learns he’s a descendant of Jesus. So it’s like The DaVinci Code meets Talladega Nights.

The creator, Chris Henchy, has written for Spin City and Entourage, as well as creating the funnier and smarter than you’d expect I’m With Her. It remains to be seen just how involved McKay and Ferrell are going to be. But the promise of weekly hilarity from the men behind Anchorman? Who wouldn’t get on board for that?

The Coreys: Return of the Lost Boys (A&E)

Also always funny: washed-up child stars using reality television for one last shot at relevancy. Look what it did for Danny Bonaduce’s career!

Oh, I’m sorry, A&E—I forgot this was a “real-life drama.” How much did you have to pay Corey Haim to move in with co-star and best friend (forever) Corey Feldman again? Or did you just comp him for his room at the Red Roof Inn?

I don’t have cable, but if Kiefer Sutherland makes a guest appearance in character as David, I’ll find a way to watch.

Football Wives (ABC)

One of the many pilots cribbed from the minds of British television this season, an adaptation of the hit soap. Gabrielle Union stars as Chardonnay Lane, the wife of some guy who does something with a football (note: not a soccer ball). Oh, and Bryan Singer, director of The Usual Suspects and X-Men 2, is doing the pilot for this. Yes, you read that right.

If ABC has its way, this is going to be their next big series, following in the footsteps of Grey’s Anatomy and Desperate Housewives. So yes, it’s what Devin eloquently described as “Gay Stuff for Women”, and it might not be any good—but you should at least be aware that this potential ratings and press behemoth is on its way.

(Although, again, Supertrain.)

Fort Pit (NBC)

There’s been talk lately that cable has ruined the network crime show. You simply can’t get as gritty or as realistic on NBC as you can on FX or HBO. Which brings us to Fort Pit, the pilot from Denis Leary and Peter Tolan of Rescue Me and stealing from Bill Hicks fame. The drama looks at a NYPD precinct where bad cops are sent at the end of their careers and rookies with no influence go to start theirs. Sounds tailor-made for cable, right?

Probably. But watching the first season of Hill Street Blues recently – which was made under far tighter content restrictions and which still felt as realistic to me as The Wire did – and my lingering memories of Homicide and NYPD Blue lead me to believe you can still do a great crime show on network television. Leary’s last cop show, The Job was one of those great “brilliant but cancelled” shows, and I prefer cops to firefighters, anyway.

John from Cincinnati (HBO)

There are certain tv creators that no matter what they do, you pay attention. David Milch, the intimidating genius behind the best television western ever, is one of them. Yes, his work on John from Cincinnati may have led to Deadwood’’s sudden cancellation, but this “surf noir” series is still something to look forward to. Milch collaborated on this one with director Mark Tinker (St. Elsewhere) and Kem Nunn, who invented the “surf noir” genre.

The plot of John from Cincinnati seems simple – John, the titular rich kid from the Ohio city, comes to California to take surfing lessons from legendary Mitch Yost, the patriarch of a dysfunctional family. But anyone who’s seen more than a couple of minutes of Deadwood and who knows that Milch has an almost complete and total mastery over language and its many uses can tell that this is going to be much, much more than The O.C. on cable.

With a cast that includes Bruce Greenwood as Mitch, Brian Van Holt, Ed O’Neill, Rebecca DeMornay, Luke Perry, and the always-awesome Luis Guzman, Dayton Callie (robbed at the Emmys) and Jim Beaver, this could be the next great HBO show.

Let’s hope.

Coming up in Part 2: Fake angels, immortal cops, teenage saviors and the mothers who protect them, manchildren, husband and wife assassins, the return of The Man, and singing Hugh Jackman!