Month: February 2015

“Warrior” (NBC) pilot preview: Kung-Fu “Revenge”, a dish best NOT served

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Original Title: American Ronin. Pilot “Humility” Written & produced by David DiGilio (Traveler, Crossbones). Executive produced by husband & wife Walter F. Parkes (The Slap US) & Laurie MacDonald (Crossbones). Directed by Phillip Noyce (Revenge, Salt, Bone Collector, The Giver). For NBC & Universal Television. 60 pages.

Description: Kai Forrester, a damaged young woman is given a chance to go out of jail in exchange for working undercover for a mysterious martial arts master who trains her to bring down an international crime lord who’s responsible for the death of her twin brother…

With Natalie Martinez (Under The Dome, Secrets & Lies US), Holt McCallany (Lights Out), Lance Gross (Crisis, House Of Payne), Will Yun Lee (True Blood, Strike Back, Hawaii 5-0), Rila Fukushima (Arrow), Andy Allo

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Two pilot seasons ago, NBC developed a drama project entitled Bloodlines, about an 18-year old girl discovering she’s coming from a powerful family of mercenaries with skills in martial-arts and some kind of magical power. I think I never read something more dated than that (for example, the writer I won’t name wanted I saw a sign from Ace Of Base, some AC/DC and Stuck On You from Lionel Richie for the soundtrack…). It was dumb and thank God, NBC didn’t go further with it. Sadly, they’re trying something not that different this year with Warrior. It’s not as bad. But it’s not good either. Just think about those boooring scenes in this booooring show that is Revenge, where Emily Thorne learns martial arts. Well, now you have an idea of what Warrior looks like.

I’ll be honest: the opening scene is visually ambitious on paper and if they get the right budget for it, it could look gorgeous and be impressive. David DiGilio doesn’t hesitate to refer to Inception & Matrix, with important choreographic fighting scenes defying gravity. And it takes place in Dubaï, in a luxurious building between the desert and the sea, Mission: Impossible-style. But then… then you have other kung-fu fighting scenes, more traditional and grounded, but way too many. If I remember correctly, there are six in the pilot. You can’t deepen the characters while doing all this stuff. And because the writer wants his show to be taken seriously -I can’t blame him for that- he can’t crack too many jokes either. Bloodlines had many many flaws but at least, dialogues were amusing.

So it’s not fun, most of the time. It’s not emotional, except towards the end because we finally get some rest with the fighting for more character and relationship stuff. We learn some secret, but they are way too easy and obvious to make us care a little bit more about Kai. She’s a bad ass and that’s cool. Life hasn’t been easy for her and that’s sad. But it’s not enough to make a show out of it. It’s already hard to go through one episode, I can’t imagine what it would be like to watch a full season. The mythology doesn’t look solid enough at this point and it’s already hard to follow. Who are the enemies? What do they want? We need some sort of answers from the get go, just to be sure we’re not completely wasting our time here. The only thing I quite liked is the use of magic. There’s a hint of supernatural occurences and we pay a visit to the afterlife world called here “Shadowland” where our heroine is experiencing a near-death moment. The rest is so cliché about Chinese people doing their rites and being wicked and bloodthirsty and… well, it’s depressing.

In my opinion, Warrior is the perfect example of those projects not worth a pilot order that get it anyway for whatever mysterious reasons, and there are a few of them every year. It has no potential to become a hit, even a modest one. The cast is not even attracting, even if I’m pretty sure Natalie Martinez is capable of doing the job nicely. I hope NBC will come its senses and won’t order it to series. If they do, it can only be a mid-season entry cancelled after a few airings. And it’s not me being pessimistic. It’s me being realistic. 

“Life in Pieces” (CBS) pilot preview: The stories of a not so Modern Family

LIFEIN

Created and procuded by Justin Adler (Better Off Ted, Less Than Perfect). Executive Produced and directed by Jason Winer (Modern Family, The Crazy Ones). Co-produced by Aaron Kaplan (The Neighbors, Friends With Better Lives). For CBS, 20th Century FOX Television, Kapital Entertainment & Smalldog Picture Co. 36 pages.

Description: One family is told through the separate stories of its different family members, from feshly divorced Matt and his new girlfriend Colleen to young parents Greg & Jen, helped by long married couple with teenage kids Tim & Heather and Grandpa John & Grandma Joan…

With Thomas Sadoski (The Newsroom, The Slap US), Betsy Brandt (Breaking Bad, Parenthood, The Michael J. Fox Show), Colin Hanks (Roswell, Dexter, Fargo), Dianne Wiest (In Treatment, Law & Order), James Brolin (Pensacola, Hotel), Zoe Lister Jones (Whitney, Friends With Better Lives), Angelique Cabral (Enlisted), Dan Bakkedahl

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One Big Family. Fourt short stories. Every Week“. That’s the promise made by writer Justin Adler at the very beginning of the script, right after the title. He wants to make it pretty clear: this family comedy won’t be like any other. Except he forgot just one tiny thing: Modern Family is already on the air for 6 years! And if every little story of the Pritchett/Dunphy family is not totally separated from each other by commercial breaks as it is the case here, moving forward, Life In Pieces will undoubtedly have to mix the stories a little, inviting one or two characters into the short stories of the others, and then we’ll have something looking an awful lot like ABC hit show! Plus, they are using the same trick as in Modern Family‘s pilot: the fact that the characters are all part of the same family is only revealed at the end. Of course, you have to be really dumb not to understand it before (if you haven’t read it somewhere yet) ! That being said, Life In Pieces‘ script is good. It’s just sad the only so called original thing here is the concept (and choosing not very funny actors to play funny characters – look at their faces in the picture)…

Sorry to break it  to you like that but Life In Pieces is not very diversity-friendly! It’s an all-white, quite rich family. In the script, the character of Jen is said to be asian. CBS chose Zoe Lister-Jones to play her. And she’s not asian. But she’s hilarious, which is better. But it was the only touch of exoticism! I don’t want to start any debate about this whole diversity thing right now, but I think the show would have been much more modern than Modern Family is with an all-black or all-latino or all-asian or all-mixed cast.There is no trace of homosexuality either. A lesbian couple would have been nice. So we have the same set of characters that we are used to. And it feels outdated.

In the first segment (not the best one), we meet a freshly divorced man (Thomas Sadoski) at his first date with his new (an younger) potential girlfriend. It gets complicated when he meets her very annoying ex-boyfriend who still lives with her. I would have prefered a freshly divorced woman at her first date with her new (AND YOUNGER) potential boyfriend (or girlfriend !) for a change. Anyway. Then we have the young married couple who are expecting their first child. It’s the best segment (tied with the last one). Not because it feels new, but because the lines are really bold and funny as hell. Jen is about to give birth and all she is scared of is pooping during the delivery. And then there’s a huge problem regarding her vagina. I laughed hard. Third segment is about an older couple (Betsy Brandt…), married for a longtime, visiting colleges for and with their teenage boy. The thing is he gets drunk at night and everything goes out of control. It’s more sweet than funny to be honest. But it’s OK. Last segment reunites the whole family for a very special occasion: the patriarch’s funeral… except he’s not dead! He just wanted to hear a lot of nice things about him while alive. The idea is just great and the lines are once again hilarious. And we’re starting to like them.

I recognize I may be a little hard on this one. Life In Pieces is an uneven but quite good script… but for a show launched 6 years ago, before Modern Family arrives. CBS has definitely found something that looks like a hit, with a terrific cast, but in my opinion, they missed an opportunity to be relevant about diversity. It was the perfect vehicle for it. And CBS is not the right place for this single-camera comedy, by the way. We’ll see if the network goes for it or smashes it to pieces…

Saddest news ever in pilot season history: Calista Flockhart joins “Supergirl”!

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Look at that face. How could Calista Flockhart betray us like that? I mean… We loved her so so much on Ally McBeal. She was just perfect in this crazy and beautiful role where she had to be fun and touching, delirious most of the time, serious when needed, where she had to sing and dance -with a fake baby- and be sexy wearing the littlest skirts ever. After it ended, we waited for 4 years to have her back on our TVs on a weekly basis. An eternity.

And then she wisely chose Brothers & Sisters. She couldn’t have found a better show in fact. She was the heart and soul of this wonderful family dramedy, facing the great Sally Field and also very capable Rachel Griffiths. She made the impossible with Kitty Walker: she manages to make us forget Ally. And we cried a lot because of her/thanks to her. I’m not sure how to phrase it.

And what do we learn today? She has just decided to join… Supergirl pilot for CBS. Supergirl! I have nothing against this show.. Well maybe I do. But why, o why? She refused a ton of pilots these past 4 years, waiting for the perfect vehicle for her… She would have been great in one of those new medical dramas, or in a cable show, or even in a nice single-camera comedy. The one to blame may be Greg Berlanti, producer of Brothers & Sisters and now of Supergirl (and almost all things DC Comics like Arrow & The Flash). She’s a loyal friend and I’m happy to learn that about her but it’s not reason enough. I mean, thank God she didn’t go for The Mysteries Of Laura last year (also Greg Berlanti-produced)!

So she will play Cat Grant, Kara aka Supergirl’s boss. She’s described as “a self-made media magnate and founder of CatCo who started her career as a reporter and has built her company into a global powerhouse”. It doesn’t sound like the role of a lifetime, but it may be not that bad… The worst thing is the show is very likely to be picked up to series. And if it works… well then she’ll be stuck in this for at least the next 4 or 5 years, and I’m being optimistic…

Calista, what have you done with yourself? 🙁

“Blindspot” (NBC) pilot preview: the Blacktattoolist!

BLINDS

Written & produced by Martin Gero (Stargate SG1, Atlantis, Universe, The LA Complex). Executive produced by Greg Berlanti (Arrow, The Flash, Brothers & Sisters) & Sarah Schechter (The Flash, The Mysteries Of Laura). Directed by Mark Pellington (Cold Case). For NBC, Warner Bros. Television & Berlanti Prods. 62 pages.

Description: a beautiful woman with no memories of her past is found naked in Times Square with her body fully covered in intricate tattoos. Her discovery sets off a vast and complex mystery that immediately ignites the attention of the FBI who begin to follow the road map on her body to reveal a larger conspiracy of crime while bringing her closer to discovering the truth about her identity…

With Jaimie Alexander (Thor, Agents of SHIELD), Sullivan Stapleton (Strike Back, 300 Rise of an Empire, Satisfaction), Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Without a Trace, Broadchurch), Rob Brown (Treme), Audrey Esparza (Black Box), Ukweli Roach (Grantchester)…

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You may not be familiar with Martin Gero yet but I bet his name is gonna count in the future of TV, whatever happens with Blinspot. After writing many episodes of sci-fi saga Stargate, some of HBO’s irresistible dark comedy Bored To Death, the interesting movie -let’s put it like that- Young People Fucking and the nice little show The LA Complex, which was worth a longer life in my opinion, here he is, entering pilot season with a script that shows the potential of a hit in the making. It’s no surprise if two of the most sought after actors, Thor‘s Jaimie Alexander and Strike Back‘s Sullivan Stappleton, chose to star in it. Two years ago, The Blacklist was THE show everybody in the business was talking about. And it became a hit of some sort. Blindspot might become this years’. And with genius Greg Berlanti as a producer, I don’t see how it could turn into something else than a series order, with NBC giving it a big promotional push (and a spot behind The Voice). You’re gonna hear about it a lot. You’ve been warned!

In its DNA, Blindspot shares a lot with The Blacklist (and a certain John Doe, for those who remember it). It’s the same kind of “go big or go home” pilot where nothing sounds realistic in any way but somehow it manages not to turn into a ridiculous disaster because it’s highly entertaining, fast-paced -doesn’t really give you time to think- and ambitious. It starts with a very intense and visual scene that is definitely gonna be remembered. When I say “Go big” I mean: a NAKED woman who goes out of a BAG in the middle of TIMES SQUARE in NEW YORK, covered with TATTOOS. Of course, everybody think it’s a human bomb ready to explode. Can you imagine something bigger than that to start a show? In comparison, the first scene of The Blacklist was just a walk in the park. Because it was probably not enough, there’s another story in parallel where our hero is saving a group of kidnaped women stuck in the attic of a house. Just for the sake of showing how great he is at his job. So you have in one hand a beautiful amnesiac woman, who is looking for answers about her past, and on the other hand a brilliant man of action, who needs to take care of her if he wants to catch the bad guys until there is none anymore in the surface of the Earth. And now you have a show to toy with in your hands.

I can’t definitely tell you how Blindspot will look like after the pilot but my guess is it will be like The Blacklist, a mix of procedural and serialized elements, thanks to the hundreds of tattoos on her body and their meanings. One bad guy will be caught every episode, with a bigger story told from time to time because there’s clearly a great conspiracy behind all this. A flashback is here to prove that, and a mysterious face in the shadows too. Classical elements, efficient. There are two main differences with The Blacklist though. Let’s start with the bad one: there is no Reddington in Blindspot. We’re missing a mastermind of that sort that cracks funny and cruel jokes while fascinates the audience and eveybody around him. But he could arrive later in the season… The good one is our Jane Doe is not the same as pretty boring and inexpressive Elizabeth Keen. She’s the fascinating one in fact. She has a lot of stories from her past to tell. A lot of secrets also. And so many skills. It’s already too much. Plus, she may not be the victim here… I don’t want to spoil anything but I’ll just say there is a connection between our two heroes, an obvious one after a few minutes. And the writer doesn’t wait for an entire season to tell us the truth about it. Many thanks for that!

Blindspot is an high octane thriller with two kick-ass characters at the center of it, that will please those who like action scenes as much as those who are more into suspense and mysteries (and you’re allowed to like both). It’s a no-brainer pick-up for NBC and truthfully, I’d watch it blindly.

“Delores & Jermaine” (ABC) pilot preview: Grandma Whoopi hates you already!

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Written by Danny Chun (The Office, The Simpsons, Happy Endings) & Jermaine Fowler. Produced by Jermaine Fowler, Whoopi Goldberg, Tom Leonardis, Danny Chun, Michael Rotenberg (Philadelphia, Silicon Valley) & Avi Gilbert. For ABC, ABC Studios & 3 Arts Entertainment. 51 pages.

Description: Jermaine is a millennial with big ideas, but very little drive. When he has no other choice but to move in with his estranged grandmother Delores, a strict, football-loving, former DC cop, he brings his youthful enthusiasm into her life as much as she helps him grow up thanks to her old-school parenting methods. Soon enough they’ll become inseparable…

With Jermaine Fowler, Whoopi Goldberg

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You know what? This shit is good. Better than expected, better than you think and even better than it should have been. I mean: a young man living with his grandma, it’s quite exciting on paper I think -I love grandmas on TV shows and I love mine too but that’s not the point here- but it’s paper thin at the same time. Somehow, the magic happens and at the end of the pilot, nothing about it seems thin anymore. Lightning strikes because of Danny Chun & Jermaine Fowler’s writing first -didn’t know anything about Jermaine before, now I’m interested- because it has a heart and also because imagining Whoopi Goldberg saying those lines made me laughed out loud very often while reading. Like every time she opens her mouth in fact. If she’s as good as she used to be -her last sitcom is not a proof of that, neither her pretty lazy presentation of talk show The View– then it’s gonna be hilarious, funny-every-two-seconds hilarious, you know. Of course, if you don’t like multicamera sitcoms in general, you won’t like this one either. But you already know that and that’s probably never gonna change.

The pilot starts with Jermaine telling his story straight to the camera from a confessionnal, the one of a brilliant boy, the first member of his family going to college, who drops out after a few months because he’s fucking lazy. And months later of doing nothing, his father kicks him out to teach him a lesson. His mother can’t welcome him in her home ‘cos she’s a newlywed and she needs to spend some quality/sexy time with her wife, so he ends up with the grandma he didn’t even remember he had. That is when the fun begins, only after a few pages. I’m not sure about the confessions scenes honestly, they don’t seem necessary and it’s the kind of narrative tool that is left out from the second episode. We’ll see if it works. At this point, they are not embarrassing or bad. They’re just superfluous and don’t add much.

But everything else is working. Jermaine could have been dumb and irritating. He’s a smart ass instead, but doesn’t show it too often. He’s cute when he smiles, he brings energy and enthusiasm in his grandma’s life and it really feels good spending time with him. Every time he makes a mistake -every 5 minute- he is instantly forgiven. Delores is extraordinary. She’s mean. She’s obssessed with sports. She’s angry all the time but you fall in love with her the second she appears. Most of the pilot consists of convincing her that Jermaine is a good kid and can be her roommate, he even finds her a date -sort of- at some point, and shit happens of course. Note that Jermaine has a drug-dealer twin brother, Jerome, who’s just coming out of prison and will certainly stirr up trouble in the future.

I’m not sure what ABC can do with Delores & Jermaine since multicameras are not their thing and, sadly, Cristela is not what we can call a hit right now -even if it’s awesome- and could be cancelled at the end of the season, but if the network wants to prove to the world they can do multicamera comedies as efficiently as CBS does (or did), then this one is the right vehicle to do so! We could have a lot of fun with those two. And we want Whoopi back!

Pilot Season By The Numbers [2015 Edition]

While casting phase has just started (slowly) and first shootings will begin in about a month, here’s the full 2015 Pilot Season in all its glory: BY THE NUMBERS. And the lessons we can learn from them.

Many many thanks to @_Piair for the charts (you should follow the guy, seriously!).

 

ALL ORDERS BY NETWORKS (2015)                ALL ORDERS BY YEAR

All Orders - Graph    All orders by year - Graph

In those troubled times when viewers have a tendency to part from them to go to cable and streaming services, networks order a little bit less than they used to. ABC & NBC are on par with the previous years, needing more new shows than CBS & The CW (because their schedule is already packed with most of their series renewed), while FOX is in great danger but only has 2 hours to fill every night, a lot of unscripted… and a thing for renewing shows that don’t deserve it, ratings wise (The Mindy Project, Glee, The Following… I’m especially looking at you). That being said, the numbers of shows ordered to pilot that won’t be ordered to series could be bigger than ever in the end: ABC don’t need that many new comedies, with very few spots available; and NBC won’t order as many comedies as they did last year if their learned their lesson well.

TOTAL OF COMEDY AND DRAMA ORDERS BY YEAR

Total comedy and drama orders by year - Graph

 

PILOT ORDERS (2015)                                        DIRECT-TO-SERIES ORDERS (BY YEAR)

Ordered to Pilot - Graph     Series commitment and direct-to-series orders by year - Graph

Last year, FOX Entertainment President Kevin Reilly wanted to re-invent the way pilot season works… by cancelling it! It meant for him: ordering shows all along the year, using mostly the direct-to-series model, which was never very popular by the way, for obvious reasons. He hoped the other networks would follow. In the end, he was let go (or fired, you can call it the way you want) because of his very bad results. This year, very few direct-to-series have been ordered, except at NBC with shows like Telenovela (the only way to get Eva Longoria) and Jennifer Lopez-starrer Shades Of Blue. ABC didn’t order any after cancelling one last season, Members Only, more for production issues it seems.

 

DRAMA ORDERS BY YEAR                          DRAMA ORDERS BY GENRE

Drama orders by year - Graph       Genre - Graph

First, know it’s hard to put some of the pilots in only one genre because something like Rosewood for FOX is both a medical and a detective drama, but one genre prevails in general, and that’s the one that counts here. Also keep in mind that the “soap” part -especially on ABC- can appear in every category. For example, Kingmakers at ABC is a detective soap, the way How To Get Away With Murder is (or more of detective legal soap to be precise). And I guess that’s the beauty of shows nowadays. They can be whatever they want to be.

Maybe for the first time in years, detective dramas are not THE thing anymore. They’re still there, but less and less straigthforward. Even CBS is slowly going away from the genre to try new things with shows like Supergirl (even if, of course, she’s a detective). But mostly, they badly want a new legal drama before The Good Wife says her goodbyes and a medical one because Grey’s Anatomy is still the only one that survives. On the contrary, the “thriller” genre was never really a thing before Scandal or The Blacklist really put it on the map. We can talk about 24 or Prison Break, but they were on FOX. Other networks didn’t try that hard to find their own at the time. Maybe because thrillers were seen as targeting males first, and TV is more of a women thing you know… It is changing, partly because of the “soap” element I just mentioned earlier.

Supernatural shows always find a way in the orders, but rarely get the approval of the audience. It’s tough to attract widely with it, even more if it’s Sci-Fi. Family or couple dramas are extinct, but it’s not new. The recent end of Parenthood marks the end of an era… before the next big family drama comes in (I’m not talking about soapy ones like Empire, but the warming ones, based on emotions only). Finally, please note horror shows and biblical dramas have entered pilot race. We’ll see if they stick around.

 

COMEDY TYPES BY NETWORKS (2015)            COMEDY TYPES BY YEAR

Comedy types by network for 2015 - Graph  Comedy types by year - Graph

For the first time, ABC & CBS can’t decide whether they want some of their projects to be single-camera or multicamera and the difference is big in the writing process. Some of them are being converted one way or the other. The word is networks want to bet big on multicameras, a subgenre left mostly to CBS for years, when CBS is desperately trying to find at least one single-camera that works (after The Crazy Ones, Bad Teacher & We Are Men were tried two years ago). Finally, the hybrid subgenre -which only famous and successful example was How I Met Your Mother– is trying to find a way at FOX & NBC. What’s clear is single-cameras are losing ground year after year, especially because none of them worked at NBC for the past 5 years…

 

MAIN STUDIOS ORDERS BY YEAR

Main studios by year - Graph

The three biggest studios have almost the same amount of pilots ordered, with ABC Studios & Universal Television leading the pack, and 20th Century FOX Television not far behind. Warner Bros. Television  is down slightly. CBS Television Studios & Sony Pictures Television are on par with last years. Do remember most of them also provide for cable.


NETWORKS & OFF NETWORKS ORDERS (2015)

Off-network or network - Graph

As always, 20th Century FOX Television is the studio that sells pilots to other networks the most, especially on the comedy side. Warner Bros. Television, which only possesses The CW with CBS, also have a good record this year. But what’s to be underlined is networks rely more and more on their own projects, the best way for them to make profits.


MEN VS. WOMEN CREATORS

Created by - Graph

This chart is pretty clear and only here to prove that once again women creators are very few on television and nothing changes year after year. It’s also true for women directors : only 7 pilots out of 40 have a woman at the helm (three of them going to the same woman : Pam Fryman). In the same way, the word “diversity” is everywhere in the casting process but things are much more different from the production perspective with white people mostly at every job…