Month: March 2015

“Code Black” Vs “LFE” (CBS) pilot previews: is one of them the next great medical drama we’re all waiting for?

CODE

CODE BLACK

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Written & produced by Michael Seitzman (Intelligence). Co-produced by Ryan McGarry, Marti Noxon (Buffy, Angel, Grey’s Anatomy, Glee) & Linda Goldstein Knowlton. Directed by David Semel (Madam Secretary, Dr House, Heroes, Person of Interest). For CBS, ABC Studios & CBS Television Studios. 66 pages.

Description: In the busiest and most notorious ER in the nation – LA County Hospital – the extraordinary staff confronts a broken system in order to protect their ideals and the patients who need them the most. Leanne Royer, a force of nature and a force to be reckoned with, is in charge of four residents who are getting their first taste of ER medicine. She’s here to mentor, teach and… terrify them, while the hospital is in code black almost every day…

With Marcia Gay Harden (Into the Wild, The Newsroom, Damages, How to Get Away With Murder, 50 Shades of Grey), Bonnie Somerville (The OC, Friends, NYPD Blue, Cashmere Mafia), Ben Hollingsworth (The Joneses, Cult), Raza Jaffrey (Smash, Homeland, Sex & The City 2), Luis Guzman (Oz, How to Make it In America), Melanie Kannokada (The Brink)…

LFE

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Written & produced by Paul Downs Colaizzo. Co-produced by David Marshall Grant (Nashville, Brothers & Sisters, Smash) & Dan Jinks (Pushing Daisies, Big Fish, American Beauty). Directed by David Slade (Twilight, Hannibal, Powers, 30 Days of Night). For CBS, CBS Television Studios & Dan Jinks Co.

Description: Joe, Ryan, Chelsi, Trevor Mae & Anj are New York City’s wildest, brilliant and most promising doctors. As they start their second year of residency in the city’s most prestigious hospital, they attempt to balance their god complexes with their humanity. Julie, their den mother, give them guidance in their lives and share with them the relationship she wishes she had with her own children…

With Melissa Leo (Fighter, Prisoners, Frozen River, Treme, Wayward Pines), Daniel Sharman (Teen Wolf, The Originals), Andy Mientus (Smash, The Flash), Luke Slattery, Ana Kayne (Another Earth), Reed Birney (House of Cards, The Blacklist), Annie Funk (A Most Violent Year)…

 

CBS President Nina Tassler made it clear a few months ago at the TCAs: she is determined to add a medical drama to her fall line-up, a genre she never had a success with since she got the job. Nobody can or want to remember her previous attempts, but let me refresh your memory: there were Three Rivers & Miami Medical in 2009, A Gifted Man in 2011 and countless pilots that didn’t make it to series, like Only Human last year. To be fair, they were not that bad. But they failed to resonate with an audience. To make sure they find the right one this time, she and her drama team developed a ton of them: two made it to pilot stage, Code Black & LFE, while other two -an untitled project by Parenthood‘s Sarah Watson & Jason Katims and Austen’s Razor– were close but ultimately didn’t make it. It’s safe to say one of them will be on the schedule, but it’s hard to predict which. They are both strong contenders, with their own strengths and weaknesses. I have my favorite, but I’m not sure it’s the perfect one for CBS…

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I’ll start with Code Black which, I predict, is the most likely to get the chance to shine. The ABC Studios co-produced drama comes from Michael Seitzman, a man who, over the years, wrote several pilots that never aired like Empire State, House Rules or Americana, all of them being very different – family soaps, political drama- and efficient but too close to home, too classical. Then came police procedural Intelligence, which was kind of original -for those haven’t seen Chuck– but painfully bad. With Code Black, he seems at ease. Honestly, the script is a page-turner, I was hooked! But it also felt a lot like an high-octane episode of Grey’s Anatomy. You know, one of those when there is a minor catastrophe that makes every doctor rushing around the hospital because there are too many patients to treat at the same time. And I looove Grey’s Anatomy from the bottom of my heart, for 10 years now. And the show is still good, but it’s another subject. The thing is, I totally understand why ABC didn’t keep it for themselves: they already have Grey’s Anatomy, they surely don’t need Code Black. And I’m not sure CBS needs it either because the audience doesn’t. Of course, the Shonda Rhimes drama will die, sooner or later, but the next great medical drama can’t be a copy of it, as Grey’s found success exactly because it was not a copy of ER. They took the best part of it to create something new and modern. Code Black is not new, and not particularly modern either.

For those who wonder what a “code black” is, here is the answer, explained during the first scene: “it’s in an emergency room an influx of patients so great that there aren’t enough personnel or resources to treat them all. The average urban ER is in code black 5 times per year. LA County Hospital is in code black 300 times per year“. It means there will be one in almost every episode, that’s the promise they implicitly make. And it’s one the writers will be able to keep but not without the same damages as in the pilot: every character gets a very short time to connect with the audience at a personnal level. We don’t know much about the residents at the end of the pilot and I’m afraid it will be hard to explore all of them equally with all the action going on (they can’t even find time to hook up somewhere). However, for now, Leanne (played by the GREAT Marcia Gay Harden) and Christa (Bonnie Somerville) are the one getting all the attention. They’re interesting, they are great characters in theory, but you cannot think about anyone else than Miranda Bailey for the first one and a mix of several female characters from Grey’s Anatomy for the latter. The interactions between Leanne and the residents work the same way as with Bailey and her residents in the ABC pilot (or Annalise Keating and her students in How To Get Away With Murder). It’s disturbing. And Code Black lacks a sense of humor. There are failed attempts then no attempts at all at some point. The medical cases are moving, but it feels like we’ve already seen them a thousand times.

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LFE also shares some DNA with Grey’s Anatomy but just the right amount. The resident characters are fresh and a lot of fun: they drink, they dance, they partyyy; they joke, they poke fun at each other; they seduce; they pee on the sidewalk at night and are sent to prison for that; and of course, they are very good job at their job. Most of them are cocky, something that can be upsetting sometimes, but they are flawed characters and we’re instantly and quite subtly exposed to their own personal demons. Joe has a family to take care of since his mom died: his father is seriously sick and his brother does a huge load of nothing. Honestly, he seems a little boring but he does something very disturbing at the end of the pilot that could change that. Anj is a party girl, sexually open minded, who hides who she really is to her very traditional Indian parents who are looking for a husband for her to marry. Chelsi is the baby of the group, she’s kind of genius, she’s only 24, and she’s socially awkward, obsessed by her cases and probably still a virgin. Ryan is the hot bad boy and Mae, the Jennifer Lawrence kind of girl, fun and messy. Finally, Trevor is the nice guy that tries to look cool but almost always fail. All of them already know each other since it’s their second year of residency, and some of them even met at medical school a few years ago. We could have felt excluded from these guys that are already friends but we don’t. That’s where the writer does a brilliant job: we quicky feel like part of the team!

What makes the show different from Code Black and closer to ER is the fact that we spend a lot of time outside of the hospital’s walls: especially in New York’s finest night clubs, in the streets -I already talked about the peeing scene- and in their apartments. With the pilot being shot in Big Apple, and probably the rest of the series if it’s picked up, it really makes a difference in terms of settings and atmosphere. It’s cooler and lighter but, at the same time, there is a lot of darkness coming out of the characters -I’m also thinking about Melissa Leo’s Julie, who looks depressed- and from the situations. Drugs and alcohol are involved in the opening scene. Then there’s an arm roberry that ends up in a bloodbath. The surgery scenes are graphic. Take a look at how the writer describes the show at the beginning: “this is a stylized series. It’s badass. It’s heightened“. And he goes far then saying, and I quote: “Imagine Quentin Tarantino’s name on the title page somewhere“. It’s a little too much, dear newcomer Paul Downs Colaizzo. But you already know how to sell your script! And apparently, it worked! Instead of Tarantino, he got David Slade as a director. And it’s not bad. This man’s behind Hannibal. “Stylized”, he knows to handle it. But can CBS handle it? That’s the real question here. It feels cable-y, not network-y. That’s why I don’t think CBS will go for it. And that’s sad, ‘cos it’s the best.

While Code Black can go anywhere in CBS’s schedule, after NCIS, Scorpion or Criminal MindsLFE seems to be bound to Sundays, the “prestige night” of the network, alongside soon-to-conclude The Good Wife and Madam Secretary. Anywhere else, it will probably bomb. That doesn’t mean Code Black WILL work, but it’s fast-paced, action-packed and sweet at times. Both of them can attract the young demo, but LFE has the edge over Code Black thanks to younger (and cuter) characters and a more modern feel, but its stylized look can also scare people and that makes it a dark horse for a pick-up to series. My heart is saying yes to LFE. But my crystal ball is all about Code Black. We’ll see in a few weeks how things turn out… And to answer loud and clear the question asked in the title of the article: none of them will be the next great medical drama in my opinion. But you never know…

“Mix” (ABC) pilot preview: A half-baked family soap that still makes you hungry for more!

Mix

Created by Jennifer Cecil (Private Practice, Brothers & Sisters, 92010, Hostages). Produced by Rashida Jones (A To Z), Will McCormack (A To Z) & Jeff Grosvenor. Directed by Daniel Barnz (Cake, Won’t Back Down, Beastly). For ABC, Warner Bros. Television & Le Train Train Productions. 58 pages.

Description: Welcome to Mix, a family-owned restaurant in Austin, Texas. It’s a special day… or perhaps the eye of the storm for the Castillos, a multicultural and multigenerational family. Owner and larger-than-life chef Ray Castillo is doing what he does best: cooking. He’s juggling running the restaurant, catering his son Mateo’s commitment ceremony to his boyfriend Finn and preparing the kitchen for the return of his daughter Remy, home from a three year stint in prison for drug possession. His ex-wife but best friend, Stella Knox, is always around, running an offshoot of Mix called Mix Plus. The food, family, and frenzy makes Ray long for the days when the clan was one big happy family…

With Sharon Lawrence (NYPD Blue, Ladies Man, Hidden Palms), Joaquim de Almeida (24, Desperado, Clear and Present Danger), Britne Oldford (American Horror Story, Ravenswood, Skins US), Walter Perez (Fame 2009, Friday Night Lights), Camille Guaty (Prison Break, The Nine, Las Vegas), Sam Page (Desperate Housewives, Mad Men, House of Cards), Blake Lee (Parks and Recreation, Mixology), Yodbee

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Family drama lovers like me feel abandoned and desperate since Parenthood went off the air a few weeks ago, leaving us with our tears of joy and damaged hearts (and some Empire and Shameless to cope with). And we’re still not over the Brothers & Sisters‘ Walkers yet even if they were cancelled 4 years ago! So, a project like Mix -the only family drama ordered to pilot this cycle- is a blessing as much as a curse. All our expectations and frustations are focused towards it. As a result, disappointment is likely. And disappointed I feel. But hopeful too. Mix is just not as good as Parenthood and Brothers & Sisters used to be. But hey, it’s a pilot! These family shows grow on us as time goes by, if time they get. Maybe it will turn into something great…

What makes Mix different is, of course, its multicultural take on family, spot on with the diversity fueled transformation networks are living right now. The father is latino, the mother is white, their children are biracial, among them one is gay, another one just adopted an African kid of 9 years old and the third one is the sister from another (black) mother. We’re just missing an asian character and the mix would have been complete. It doesn’t feel very natural to pile up minorities like this, yes it’s kind of opportunistic, but once you’re past that, it just feels good to live in a time when such a family can exist on television. I can’t say I’m fond of the whole set of characters for now, ‘cos we have met them before countless times, and I can’t say I’m crazy about the cast either since Sharon Lawrence, Joaquim de Almeida, Camille Guaty and so on are not Sally Field, Calista Flockart, Peter Krause or Lauren Graham. But I can assure you it didn’t cloud my judgement about the script. It’s just that Mix would have had a better chance to succeed with a stronger cast. I would have loved Rashida Jones, who’s producing the show, playing in it too, for example.

Mix finds the right balance between the prime time family soap like Dallas and the more emotion-based family drama like Parenthood, the same way Brothers & Sisters did in fact. Let’s call it a family dramedy, with a lot of heart, a bit of laughs and the inevitable dirty little secrets we’re exposed to throughout the pilot. Nothing new here: a father with debts, a family business on the verge of bankruptsy, a soon-to-be cancelled marriage and a black sheep who’s returning and creates chaos but not intentionally (this is a story of redemption, not revenge). Nothing really surprised me, except maybe the relationship between the parents, which is fascinating the way it is desribed: they’re three times divorcees but they still love each other and they still believe they can start over. It could have been ridiculous, but it’s sweet. That being said, Mix really needs a good villain and a pretty bitch to step up its game and get spicier, pepperier. The restaurant setting really helps getting in the mood, it gives some kind of authenticity to the show, a rhythm too. And there’s food everywhere all the time. It makes you hungry for more.

I certainly have… mixed feelings about Mix. It’s almost too simple and too sweet to be really good. It could the CW’s version of family dramedy (they had one, Life Unexpected, which was cool). But it’s heartwraming and promising, they just have to “soap” it up a bit. I don’t see it being the next Brothers & Sisters or Parenthood but it’s a nice little show we could be happy to return to every week. However, if ABC doesn’t order it to series, no need to cry over it. 

“Unveiled” (NBC) pilot preview: “Touched by an Angel” all over again

unveiled

Written & produced by John Sakmar & Kerry Lenhart (Boston Public, Make it or Break it). Co-produced by Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel, The Bible, A.D. The Bible Continues,The Dovekeepers) & Mark Burnett (Survivor, The Voice, The Shark Tank, The Apprentice, The Bible). For NBC, Universal Television & Lightworks Media. 65 pages.

Description: An ensemble of flawed guardian angels intervene in the lives of those who find themselves facing crisis in an attempt to restore their faith and, often, save their lives. Beyond the veil, a space between Heaven and Earth, two brother angels, Hunter and Lucas, good and evil, are waging war against each other…

With Liam McIntyre (Spartacus: Blood and Sand, The Flash), Connie Nielsen (Boss, The Following, The Good Wife), Will Kemp (Van Helsing, The Great Fire), Dana Davis (Heroes, The Nine, Franklin & Bash), Stephan James (Selma, Degrassi, The LA Complex), Mouzam Makkar

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Dear readers, don’t be fooled by the stunning lady (Connie Nielsen) and the beautiful men (Liam McIntyre & Will Kemp) in the picture up above. They may play angels and they may be very good at it -let’s just hope time won’t tell- but they’re working for very dark forces that need to be stopped as soon as possible. I’m talking about Roma Downey & Mark Burnett, husband & wife, who are trying to turn TV into a giant church. They produced The Bible for History, which was a tremendous success, then the follow-up entitled A.D. The Bible Continues which is coming to NBC in a couple of weeks (we’ll see if it works as much), plus another religious mini-series for CBS called The Dovekeepers, and they’re now responsible for this drama pilot which, in my opinion, should never be revealed to the public. I don’t deny there is a big audience for something like Unveiled, but my problem with it is not the message that it’s carrying -that I don’t approve but have nothing but respect for- it’s the show in itself. You just can’t do something like this in 2015. You just can’t, for Christ’s sake!

Let’s go back to the year 1994. Then started on CBS a show called Touched by an Angel, starring… oh oh… a certain Roma Downey as Monica, a guardian angel who is tasked with bringing guidance and messages from God to various people who are at a crossroads in their lives. Basically, the same story as Unveiled, except here it’s an ensemble show with multiple angels who may not be as joyous and positive as Monica and her friends. The thing is, Touched by an Angel was huge: it lasted 9 seasons, 211 episodes; it even gave birth to a spin-off called Promised Land. It peaked during season 4 as the 5th most watched shows of 1997, behind Friends, ER, Veronica’s Closet and the Sunday Night Football! So it totally makes sense that NBC and Roma Downey thought it might be a good idea to revive the show, but without using the same name or the exact same story. One sure thing: if it’s ordered to series, whenever NBC put it on the schedule (Sundays in spring?), it will skew old, very old. TV has changed and nobody wants to see that anymore. The Bible is epic and you learn things while watching it. Unveiled is just dumb and you learn nothing.

During the opening, a girl in a wedding dress cries her eyes out on a beach, praying for her “Adam” to be safe. Which is a ridiculous image. And then the whole episode tells you the story of poor Adam, through the eyes of our guardian angels, especially one for whom it’s the first day on duty. There’s a second story, with an old man who’s about to commit suicide in front of his wife. In the end, you discover the stories are connected and that’s about the only surprise of the pilot. The rest is exactly what you expect from this kind of show: cliché dialogues, uninspired declarations of love, smooth characters you want to slap in the face… And the perspective of meeting new ones every week made me wanna cry my eyes out like a girl in a wedding dress on a beach. Or drown myself into the ocean directly. About the guardian angels, let’s just say they’re all very kind and mysterious, not funny one second, too buzzy doing good to give anything that could make us care about them. And there’s a lot of sky. A lot of light. A lot of sun. A lot of water. A lot of “ethereal” music. It’s heaven on earth, mostly Los Angeles, California. But the pilot is shot in Vancouver in March, meaning there won’t be that much of light and sun. In the very end, there’s an hint of Spartacus/Game Of Thrones with a sword fight, but no blood. It comes out of nowhere but I guess it’s their way of saying: look how modern we are! Well it’s an epic fail, guys.

Sorry Father. Forgive me for I have sinned. But these awful things needed to be said loud and clear. Unveiled should never ever see the light of day. Not on a network. Not in 2015. Not in real life! And I can assure I will pray for it everyday until the Upfronts week. Hear me out.

“Nerd Herd” (ABC) pilot preview: a smart ass comedy for all kind of viewers

BRAINYBUNCH

Previously entitled The Brainy Bunch. Written & produced by Wendy & Lizzie Molyneux (Bob’s Burger). Co-produced by Brian Grazer (Empire, 24, Arrested Development) & Francie Calfo (Empire, How to live with your parents…). Directed by Jamie Travis (Faking It, Finding Carter). For FOX,  20th Century FOX Television & Imagine Television. 33 pages.

Description:  Through a combination of genetics and dynamic home schooling, Kip and Mona Lisa Mitchell find themselves raising extraordinarily intelligent kids. When Kip returns home from the military to be a stay-at-home dad, he experiences firsthand the challenges of parenting kids who have genius IQs but limited life and social skills, especially in the Orange County, where looks is the only religion…

With James Roday (Psych), Majandra Delfino (Roswell, Friends With Better Lives), Melanie Griffith (Working Girl, Lolita, Pacific Heights), Raphael Alejandro (Once Upon a Time), Katherine Reis (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Zoe Colletti (Annie, Rubicon), Spencer Tomich, Harrison Holzer (Sex Tape)…

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It’s my third ABC comedy pilot script this year (after multicam Delores & Jermaine and single-cam Chevy) and third more than pleasant surprise: I laughed out loud while reading it, which doesn’t happen very often to me, and makes it automatically the strongest contender of them all, so far. I have some reservations of course -I kinda always do- but I am convinced that it is a no-brainer series order for the network, unless there is no chemistry between the leads then all of those jokes will go to waste. I don’t think it’s even possible honestly when the material is that strong but eh, you never know…

Just picture all of the smart ass kids of TV -like Manny from Modern Family or the adorable Brick from The Middle– and make them brothers and sisters, living in the same house. It could look like a version of hell, yes. But it’s not. The cool thing about those little brats it’s that they are not even conscious of how intelligent they are. They’re still innocent. They just do what they do -inventing things, like an app to match boys and girls at their school, based on the pupils’ Facebook accounts they previously hacked- or doing the psychotherapy of their own parents… Okay, one of them is using his gifts to earn money, but why the hell not? They’re really cute and also very awkward. They lived on an army base for most of their life, they never went to school, they never really met other kids. They’re aliens for their friends, and their friends are aliens for them. In that sense, The Brainy Bunch looks like the excellent and gone too soon The Neighbors or even Suburgatory‘s first season when Tessa arrives in Chatswin and discover the people living there are the weirdest.

Even if the stars of the show are the kids -and therefore, the children playing them- the parents are very important too, plus the grandmother (Melanie Griffith), an ancien beauty pageant obsessed with suntan. She’s hilarious. Love her already. Psych‘s James Roday will probably do great in the stay-at-home dad role. I’m not so sure about Majandra Delfino, it’s still Maria from Roswell to me. I didn’t pay a lot of attention about what she did since, but she was clearly not the breakout in Friends With Better Lives. The jury’s still out for now. Anyway, their characters form a really cute people, who looks healthy, kinky, vigorous… They are as smart and funny as their kids. It’s impossible not to love everyone in the show in fact. Even the school’s principal is great! Last good news: you don’t have to be smart youself to enjoy the show. And if you’re dumb, you might even learn a thing or two!

I totally picture The Brainy Bunch in ABC’s schedule this fall or later in the season. I’m taking the risk to look like an idiot when the upfronts come but I don’t care. I believe in this family comedy because it’s close to home but different at the same time. Even more than Chevy, it’s the perfect companion for The Middle, The Goldbergs and all the others. Hey Paul Lee, don’t be stupid, okay?

“Studio City” (FOX) pilot preview: when “The O.C.” & “Shameless” are making music together

STUDIOCITY

Written & produced by Krista Vernoff (Shameless US, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Charmed). Co-produced by John Wells (Shameless US, ER, The West Wing, Third Watch) & Andrew Stearn (Shameless US, The West Wing, SouthLAnd, Third Watch). Directed by Sanaa Hamri (Shameless US, Empire, Nashville, Elementary). For FOX, Warner Bros. Television & John Wells Prods. 61 pages.

Description: After her alcoholic mother totally lost it, Catalina Evans, 17, is sent to L.A to live with her songwriter father and her stepfamily. What she thought would be an easier life doesn’t turn out exactly the way it should when she discovers her dad is a drug dealer to the stars and haven’t sell a single song for years. With her own dreams of stardom in mind, she starts her new life full of hope and songs to give…

With Florence PughEric McCormack (Will & Grace, Perception, Trust Me), Heather Graham (Austin Powers, Boogie Nights, Scrubs, Californication), Riley Smith (True Blood, 90210), Jeanine Mason (Bunheads), Samantha Logan (666 Park Avenue, The Fosters), Jordan Calloway (ER, Allie Singer), Timothy Granaderos

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The whole time I was reading Studio City‘s pilot script I was thinking about whether or not it would be a good fit with Empire. The musical show’s surprise and incredible success didn’t allow FOX to develop any soap opera of the same kind to pair it with, on time for pilot season. But honestly, I don’t think FOX should even try to do that. Other networks, yes, they will have to. Even if ABC always did and NBC tried many times the past few years but failed to offer one on the schedule except the horrible Deception. Some of you may also remember Cane on CBS. There probably won’t be another Empire anytime soon. FOX better should find shows that are not straight soap-operas but which could work with Empire. Ryan Murphy’s Scream Queens is a very strong contender (already picked-up to series). Studio City is another one. I’m always suspicious when a show is officially described as a little bit of this mixed with a little it of that. But this time, they’re not playing with us: Studio City really is The OC meets Shameless. With a bit of Nashville too. But this, they couldn’t say.

The OC (and Nashville) part of Studio City is pretty obvious from the get go : a smalltown girl with a violent and batshit crazy mother comes to L.A. to live with her songwriter father and his family in a nice house with a pool. But a little pool. Studio City is not Orange County. It’s not a poor neighborhood either. And since we’re talking about Los Angeles, know the big city is pretty much a character in the show. I’m just a little disappointed the writer made very cliché and uninspired choices such as Malibu beach or Universal Studios’ Jurassic Park Ride to locate some scenes. The OC comparison also works with the tone that is used: there’s a lot of humor and characters who don’t take themselves too seriously, like Rob, the father -it’s a good thing he’s played by such a funny guy like Eric McCormack- or the mother-in-law, Stevie (Heather Graham), who’s not Cookie but a pretty insane woman we can only love. They’re just the right amount of funny and craziness. More would make them unbelievable. Most of the cast consists of young adults characters because Rob has another daughter from a previous marriage, Emma, who acts like a bitch, and Stevie has a son, Mateo, and a daughter, Zoe. And they are all beautiful, of course. Two of them may even fall in love… Oh, shocking!

And that’s when Shameless US more than comes to mind, which is not so surprising since the creator, as well as the producers -especially the great John Wells who never disappoints- work for the show. You can find the same kind of lightness even when terrible things happen and this very special family liberates the same sort of energy and warmth. There are a few quite daring storylines, like this love story I won’t talk about, or the central conflict of having a drug dealer as a father. Note this is inspired by the real story of Krista Vernoff, the creator. In case you thought it was not credible. That being said, Studio City don’t (and can’t) go as far as Shameless and stays very much in a network comfort zone. Proof: the script starts with the mention “Curse words will be silenced or bleeped“. We hate that.

Even if I liked what I’ve read, I was not totally hooked and I’m not sure why. Maybe because the promise of what’s to come is not clear enough. I don’t know what we will see every week. The different members of the family doing bad things, mostly? How long can it stay relevant, then? The coming of age story of Cat is what interests me the most. At the very beginning of the pilot, we’re exposed to what she will become in 4 years: a superstar. Taylor Swift-like, it is said. I’m curious to see how we get there. You have to wait for 30 pages to hear a song, by the way. For now, the show can’t be labelled as a musical drama. Good: we already have enough of that!

Studio City‘s pilot script is very decent and a pleasure to read but I don’t think there is an unmissable TV show in there. An enjoyable one, that’s for sure. But nothing we haven’t already been told a million times. After Glee, Smash, Nashville, Power, Violetta (!) and Empire, what’s left to say about the musical industry? Probably a ton of things, but I can’t imagine Studio City saying them differently or at all. BUT I also think FOX really should favor this one to the dark drama pilots they ordered so… I’m in!

“Superstore” (NBC) pilot preview: America Ferrera found love in a hopeless place!

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Written & Produced by Justin Spitzer (The Office US). Co-produced by David Bernad (Enlightened), Sean Veder (Community) & Patrick Kienlen (That ’70s Show). Directed by Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland). For NBC & Universal Television. 36 pages.

Description: Amy works for 10 years at a big box store, called Cloud 9, as a floor supervisor. Her boring and depressing days come to an end when she starts to fall for newbie Jonah, after they had a rocky start. Along with their fellow colleagues, they try to capture the beauty of every day moments in a hopeless place…

With America Ferrera (Ugly Betty, The Good Wife, How to train your dragon), Ben Feldman (A to Z, Mad Men, Drop Dead Diva), Lauren Ash (Super Fun Night), Colton Dunn (Parks And Recreation), Mark McKinney (Studio 60, Saturday Night Live), Nico Santos, Nichole Bloom (Shameless US, Project X) & Christopher Lloyd as guest star…

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Superstore is this kind of project you don’t really care about until there is a great talent cast in it. America Ferrera was the last one to join Superstore, she’s playing the lead and that quicky turned it into a hot piece, something we really want to watch. Not only because we miss Ugly Betty sometimes -but it would be ignoring the fact that the show was pretty bad for half its run- but also because she’s a very capable actress that: A. Should have stayed longer in The Good Wife or become a regular indeed B. Is better doing television in lead roles than little independent movies that may be great but never seen by anybody anywhere. America has been very picky the last few years, being one of the most sought-after actresses every pilot season and refusing all of the roles she was offered, so it’s safe to assume Superstore is very special and spoke to her. Or she just came to her senses and needed to work for real.

I don’t think Superstore is special. Not yet. But it could become. For that, it will need one thing, just one: stay out of the love story business for a while! We all know how the romantic comedies launched this year on the networks did: Selfie was underrated, A to Z was too sweet to be really good, Manhattan Love Story was a wreck and the three of them were cancelled. People love when the characters find love in a hopeless place. Oops, sorry. The Rihanna inside me wanted to show you what she got. No, people love when their characters unexpectedly fall in love, slowly and finally kiss -and make sweet love- in the right place at the right time. Love takes time. Look at Parks And Recreation! Or even The Office! It was not about love at first. It was -almost- all about love at the end. They fell in love with each other along the way, and we fell in love with them as a consequence. Superstore makes the big mistake of having a very obvious soon-or-not-so-soon-to-be future couple right at the center of it. And that is not what we are looking for. It’s a workplace comedy. We want to have fun while watching those silly people having a better day than we had. But rest assured, Superstore is also a little bit of that too.

America Ferrera will probably be perfect as Amy. It’s a simpler version of Betty, without the braces, the poncho and the humiliations. She’s her own woman. She’s cool, but not too cool. She’s fun, but not crazy fun. She’s good at her job but she knows how to crack some joke. We kinda love her at first sight. Jonah looks dumb, but he’s not. He’s gentle and sweet and fun. We kinda love him too but it takes a little more time. The people around them are crazy. Crazy fun. There’s Garrett, whose gimmick is to shout absurd things on the mic so the whole store can hear him, also he’s in a wheelchair; Mateo, a very competitive newbie who’s ready to do anything to prove that he’s better than Jonah; Dina, the frightening assistant manager who has very poor social skills and mistakes Jonah’s kindness for love at first sight; Cheyenne, a six-months pregnant teenage girl; and Glenn, the fatherly manager, a not very bright man. It’s a promising set of characters, representative of middle class America. And since it is set in a big superstore, they can add as many employees as they want, play with the customers, make some of them return regularly, have guest stars playing them…There is a lot to do!

I’ll add there are funny intermediate scenes showing employees actually doing their job, cos the rest of the time they just do everything but work. It’s nice. Plus, Christopher Lloyd appears as a guest through corporate videos where he is the expert manager teaching how to be the best employee. Most of the jokes there are references to Back to the Future, which is starting to get annoying. Don’t ge me wrong, I love the movies, but enough is enough! Too many TV shows refer to it now. More generally, cinema is very present in the script with multiple references to movies like Jurassic Park. I’m okay with it as long as it does not keep too many viewers at bay.

NBC desperately needs a broad comedy that can please low and middle class America as much as well-educated viewers, young and old people, blacks and whites and latinos… Superstore can be this one. The superstore is this place where all kind of people meet because they have no other choice: they have to eat (and Americans especially love to do just that). In real life, no magic happens there. But on TV, it can turn into a magical place we’d enjoy to make a stop by every week. Superstore’s pilot script is promising. Now, it’s the director and the actors’ turn to make it greater. If they succeed, then a hit is not unimaginable.