Month: April 2015

“Wicked City” (ABC) pilot preview: Another serial killer, because there are never enough!

LACRIME

Previously entitled “The LA Crime: The Sunsetstrip“. Written & produced by Steven Baigelman (Get On up, Feeling Minnesota). Co-produced by  David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman (Monk, Fighter, Warm Bodies, The Proposal) & Laurie Zaks (Castle). Directed by Tom Shankland (The Missing, The Fades, Ripper Street). For ABC, ABC Studios & Mandeville Prods. 64 pages.

Description: Anthology exploring sex, politics and popular culture across various noteworthy eras in Los Angeles history. In Season 1, two LA cops are searching for a Bonnie & Clyde-esque serial-killing team amidst the coke-infused rock ‘n’ roll, revelry of the 1980s Sunset Strip. 

With Adam Rothenberg (Ripper Street, The Divide, The Immigrant), Ed Westwick (Gossip Girl, J. Edgar), Erika Christensen (Parenthood, Six Degrees), Taissa Farmiga (American Horror Story, The Bling Ring), Gabriel Luna (True Detective, Matador), Darrell Britt-Gibson (The Wire, You’re the Worst), Holley Fain (Gossip Girl, Grey’s Anatomy), Anne Winters (Tyrant, The Fosters), Karolina Wydra (True Blood, Justified), W. Earl Brown (True Detective, American Crime)…

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Is it me or the serial killer trend never ends on television? First there were Criminal Minds & Dexter, then The InsideHannibal, The Following, True Detective, The Fall… This summer, NBC premieres Aquarius with David Duchovny, about the hunt of iconic serial killer Charles Manson in 1967, during the era of free love and drug experimentation. As interesting as The LA Crime sounds like on a paper – a good idea for an anthology- and as unsuccessful and unnoticed Aquarius may end up, it seems a little unnecessary to launch such a similar show a few weeks or months later on another network. It unfolds more than a decade later, but the ingredients are exactly the same: Los Angeles, sex, drugs, rock’n’roll and of course the killing thing! And LA Crime doesn’t have David Duchovny to help selling it.

As you can imagine with such a story, it’s dark. Dark and twisty. It takes a dangerous road for a network show because of the way the serial killer called Clark Gallagher operates. He picks up the poor girls in the trendiest bar of the Sunsetstrip, take them on the hills of Los Angeles, ask them to give him a blowjob but he can’t get it hard unless… he kills them. With a knife. And when they’re dead, he fucks them. Then he cut their head (which shows up later at strange places). Because why not? Oh and I forgot: he also calls anonymously radios to dedicate a song to the soon-to-be dead girl. Isn’t it charming and romantic? In fact, it’s a way to place more and more music in the show, and there’s a lot (the opening scene starts with a Van Halen concert). Of course, the necrophilia part of his modus operandi is not directly shown on camera. It’s just the detectives giving us the information during the investigation. We’re not on HBO.

All along, we’re following the story through different point of views: the killer’s, the investigators’, a young journalist’s teaming up with a paparazzi (Nightcrawler‘s style for those who’ve seen the great Jake Gyllenhall-starrer movie) and the next victim’s, or at least the girl he thought he would kill before he discovers a deep connection with her. Because she’s a mom first -he clearly didn’t solve his Oedipus- and most of all because she likes it rough, and dirty, and when it hurts and when it’s strange and dangerous. I think it’s her story that I liked the most. In the end, she discovers she’s a killer like him. It’s an unexpected journey, rarely told (Dexter tried in season 5 and ultimately failed making it real) and one I’d be insterest to follow if it’s picked up. Sadly, the detective characters are dull, seen a million times. There’s a rivary between the two men partenering on the investigation, a mysterious shared past we don’t really care about. Probably a woman they both wanted… Nothing engaging and original.

My biggest fear has nothing to with the script but with the cast they assembled. I totally imagine Ed Westwick in the serial killer role but I’m pretty sure he will go over the top, multiply the devious smiles and that will turn out to be very irritating very quickly. I can’t imagine Erika Christensen as his partner in crime. I really do think she will be fantastic, but I can’t imagine her in bed with him. Something doesn’t work. Maybe the age difference? (In fact, she’s only 32, younger than I thought… that’s because of Parenthood). But I may be wrong. I’m conflicted about Taissa Farmiga too. I don’t think she proves to be exceptionnal and that charismatic in American Horror Story. She really doesn’t fit with the idea of the character -the young journalist- I made up in my head while reading. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the cast didn’t make it work ultimately. That happens.

The LA Crime: The Sunsetstrip can be compared to American Crime, even though it’s clearly less smart and emotionnally charged than the John Ridley show. But they have in common the fact that they don’t belong to a network, and especially ABC, or the idea we have of a network actually. It’s great trying to change the rules of the game. And even when it fails, it’s a victory in a way. It helps changing the perception of the audience, step by step. Hannibal does that to NBC too. So, if ABC orders it, so be it! It’s an easier sell than American Crime. But I’m not sure in this crowded television landscape, already full of serial killers, this show has something more to offer…

“Second Chance” aka “The Frankenstein Code” (FOX) pilot preview: It’s alive (and a little bit dead at the same time)!

ROBK

Also known as Lookinglass. “A suitable donor” pilot written by Rand Ravich (Life, Crisis, The Astronaut’s Wife). Based on Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Co-produced by Howard Gordon (Homeland, 24, X-Files, Buffy, Angel) & Hugh Fitzpatrick (Tyrant). Directed by Michael Cuesta (Homeland, Six Feet Under, Dexter, True Blood, Elementary). For FOX, 20th Century FOX Television & Teakwood Lane Prods.

Description: Ray Pritchard, a morally corrupt retired cop, is given a second chance at life when he is brought back from the dead by rich and genius twins Mary and Otto Goodwin. Now younger, healthier and 10 times stronger, Pritchard will have to choose between his old temptations and his new sense of purpose, the family he never took care of and this job he loved so much but couldn’t do the right way…

With Rob Kazindsky (True Blood, Pacific Rim, Eastenders), Tim DeKay (White Collar, Tell Me You Love Me, Carnival), Dilshad Vadsaria (Revenge, Greek), Ciara Bravo (Red Band Society, Big Time Rush), Adhir Kalyan (Aliens in America, Nip/Tuck, Rules of Engagement)…

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As you probably know, the huge success of Empire can’t reflect on the choices FOX’s new presidents made for their pilots since it happened very late in the season when the scripts were already ordered and delivered, ready to be picked-up. So apart from Scream Queens and Studio City, they’re all in the vein of Gotham, which doesn’t really work anymore but did OK at the time. On one hand you have Lucifer, a light, funny and entertaining cop show made in DC Comics, that has a dark side (Read the preview); on the other hand you have Rosewood (Read the preview), plain boring and classical, Minority Report (Read the preview), funny at times, with a sci-fi twist, but too complex to be really entertaining, and last but not least Frankenstein. All of them are centered around a cocky and tortured hero that helps the police solving crimes. Beyond that, they all have their uniqueness, strenghths and weaknesses, even eccentricities I might add, but none of them sound like something people will go crazy about. I fear FOX has no hit in the making for now…

But let’s dive into Frankenstein‘s world, imagined by the guy that brought you well received Life and the terrible terrible Crisis. The pilot surprised me. In a good way! I thought the famous character was only used to create yet another boring procedural but that’s not what happens. At least not until the very last page of the script and in a way that doesn’t tell you clearly what the show will be about week to week. Will it really be a procedural with the character helping the police -his son, who thinks he’s a long hidden brother- solving crimes? I’m not 100% sure. The whole pilot is about showing who Ray Pritchard was -a motherfucker cop and father- how he died -killed by burglars- how he came back to life and how he helped his son solving his own murder case. It’s a lot, everything happens so fast you never get bored. The “how he came back to life” is clearly the most interesting part and the geniuses characters who are reponsible for this non-divine miracle are those who really drive the show in the right direction (plus their artificial intelligence buddy). They’re touching and fascinating, though they are not Walter Bishop. When it comes to the family and bad guys stuff, I’m less convinced.

So our new Ray Pritchard is not Frankenstein’s monster in fact (there’s almost nothing left from the novel). He’s Hulk or The Flash! He’s stronger, he’s faster, he may even be cleverer. He’s handsome, of course. He’s not a villain. Well, not yet. The cliffhanger gives us the idea that he may become one at some point, but that won’t be dealt with anytime soon I guess. At the end of the first season maybe? It could become quite boring long before that (if it’s not cancelled after 13 episodes)… Furthermore, I have a problem with the title of the show. Why is it called Frankenstein? Frankenstein is not the monster’s name. It’s a common mistake but it’s not. It’s Dr Victor Frankenstein, the monster’s creator. But here, there is no Dr Frankenstein in sight! It’s not the scientist’s names. They’re called Goodwin. So what the fuck is this title? I totally understand it talks to people, it helps selling the whole thing. But IT’S A MISTAKE. Or it’s not and I’m waiting for the explanation!

Frankenstein (or whatever it should be called) is not the worst pilot FOX has in store (this award goes to Rosewood). It’s alive! It’s watchable! But a good pilot doesn’t always become a good series and I tend to think this one is more a good pilot than a good series. It could be really cool, if it was not meant to be a procedural in the end. Hope I’m wrong because I’m pretty sure it will get picked up, bit I’m not optimistic. It’s alive, but it’s a little bit dead too.

WATCH THE TRAILER

“The Family” (ABC) pilot preview: the family soap you won’t even feel guilty about loving!

ORIGINALSIN

Previously entitled Flesh & Blood and Original Sin. Written & produced by Jenna Bans (Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, Scandal, Private Practice, Off the Map). Co-produced by David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman (Monk, Fighter, Warm Bodies, The Proposal) & Laurie Zaks (Castle). Directed by Paul McGuigan (Sherlock, Monroe, Devious Maids). For ABC, ABC Studios & Mandeville Prods. 63 pages.

Description: It’s been ten years since 9-year-old Adam Warren disappeared from Red Pines, Maine and the world has changed a lot in his absence. His mother, Claire, who was then just starting her first City Council campaign, has been elected mayor. His father, John, is now the bestselling author of “Grieving with Grace” a book series on coping with loss. Adam’s siblings, Danny and Willa, who were supposed to be watching Adam at the time, have each dealt with their guilt in their own way. So, when a young man appears in Red Pines claiming to be Adam, it throws everyone into a tailspin. The man sitting in jail for Adam’s supposed death is released as Nina Meyer, the cop responsible of the investigation, is forced to reexamine what truly happened so many years ago….

With Joan Allen (The Killing US, Luck, Face/Off, Hatchi, The Bourne Identity), Rupert Graves (Sherlock Last Tango in Hallifax, The White Queen, V for Vendetta), Margot Bingham (Boarwalk Empire, Matador), Alison Pill (The Newsroom, In Treatment, The Pillars of the Earth, Harvey Milk), Zach Gilford (Friday Night Lights, Off the Map, The Mob Doctor, The Purge: Anarchy), Liam James (The Killing US, Psych), , Andrew McCarthy (St Elmo’s Fire, Lipstick Jungle), Florianna Lima (Allegiance, The Mob Doctor), Madeleine Arthur (Big Eyes), Alex Steele (Degrassi: the next generation), Rarmian Newton

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He’s not dead! The kid’s not dead! Just realize Original Sin (aka Flesh & Blood) is the first drama in at least 2 years that doesn’t start with a dead kid. Gracepoint, Secrets & Lies, American Crime, The Missing, Bloodline… Do you need more proofs of this morbid tendency that started with the great and acclaimed Broadchurch? What was once a taboo subject matter on television fascinated the whole world in the past few months as if suddenly writers were allowed to deal with such a dark, traumatic event and jumped on the opportunity all at once. Here, on the contrary, the kid is coming back from the dead -not as in The Returned or Resurrection- figuratively! Everybody thought he died 10 years ago. They were all wrong. Well, in fact, we’re not sure yet if it’s the real Adam who’s back in Red Pines or someone who’s trying to take its place in the Warren family. But that’s one of the many hooks and chills this well-crafted pilot gives you.

From a writer who worked on all Shondaland’s series -she even created one!- it doesn’t come as a surprise. She learned from the best! But this time, Shonda is not involved. Jenna Bans did it by herself. And Shonda can be proud. Last year, she wrote the Sea Of Fire pilot script, which was in my opinion really really good and was worth a try at ABC. They didn’t order it to series, because it was too dark and too sexually charged for network television, I suspect. I see Original Sin as their way of making amends and a proof they believe she is able to bring them their next hit. It was reported on Deadline it is “getting a strong buzz heading into the home stretch“, the same way as How to Get Away With Murder last year. Nothing’s ever a sure thing, but it looks good. To be totally honest with you, I think I liked Sea Of Fire better. I’d say it was more unpredictable. Original Sin possesses a lot of twists and most of them work but once or twice I said to myself: “this is going to happen“. And it happened. But people appreciate being right, so it won’t hurt if they guess one or two things in advance. They’ll feel smart and there are still plenty of surprises to get excited about anyway.

At its core, Original Sin is a family drama, a very human one, more than a mystery or a detective show, or even a soap. It’s the story of a family which was detroyed the day the youngest child disappeared and could never recover from the pain and anger they felt and still feels. Even if most of them had no choice but to get on with their lives. Even if the culprit was found. Or so they thought. It’s essentially character driven, from every point of view, not only the family’s but also the detective’s, a journalist’s and the man who was not guilty after all but may be guilty of something else soon… You can feel their pain and their guilt, even now. It’s devastating on the page. I hope the cast can live up to it. I’m not too worried. Joan Allen, Alison Pill, Rupert Graves and Zach Gilford are brilliant. As we follow Adam’s return -the scene when they see him for the first time is upsetting- we witness the day they lost him through numerous flashbacks. Where they were. What they could have done. And then what they did. ‘Cos they all did things they’re not proud of in the wake of the tragedy. One of them did something even the Lord himself can’t forgive, and he/she won’t be able to keep the secret any longer. And you want to be there the moment it’s gonna happen. Midway through the script, I already knew I wanted Original Sin to go to series badly. Add to that the feel of a small town, the pressure of a political campaign, an affair -‘cos there’s always an affair-, this weird and mysterious child, who was abused, lonely for so long, you want to hug and tell him it’s all gonna be okay except he creeps you out at the same time… Everything’s in place to make a great show out of the already great pilot.

Original Sin could totally take the actual spot of Secrets & Lies -and precedently Resurrection– on Sundays at 9 on ABC, and would mesh well with Nashville if the musical soap were on the move to Sundays at 10 as most predict, including me. I don’t know if the show has more than one or two seasons to give, but it definitely has what it takes to offer us one or two great seasons, of 13-15 episodes preferably. And if they find the right twist, I’m sure they can go on a few more years. People can relate to this family and its members, they can feel for the detective, they can get excited by the investigation and the secrets that will be found along the way… And it won’t even feel like a sin to love it. 

Photo courtesy of YVRShoots

UPDATED: Is “Supergirl” in great danger at CBS? Here’s where we stand…

Melissa-Benoist-Supergirl-1

THIRD AND FINAL UPDATE : The show is now officially ordered to series at CBS !

SECOND UPDATE: Things are looking good for “Supergirl” now, with a series order definitely on the table. CBS president Nina Tassler reportedly “loved it”. Conflicting rumours tend to prove though CBS really doesn’t what to do with it. Some say it might end up in the summer (2016), with companion shows like “Under The Dome”, which would make sense. But others say Sunday at 8 is discussed… 

UPDATE: According to Variety Supergirl is too expensive for the CW and is seen more profitable for CBS. The show has “a good chance to go to series“. Stay tuned!

What’s happening with the Supergirl TV show? In spite of its series commitment at CBS, it may never see the light of day… 

Is it Wonder Woman all over again? Superheroins definitely have a hard time flying on their own, both on cinema and television. Some sort of curse as every project developed goes to trash at some point. This time it’s Supergirl who’s facing difficulties at CBS. As the series order seemed like a sure thing when the pilot was announced in January, backed up by a series commitment, it’s less and less a sure thing now. In their last “Primetime Pilot Panic Early Buzz“, Deadline qualifies it as appearing to be “a contender“. That doesn’t sound good actually. It means, at least, CBS is not that satisfied with it, after the extensive post-production it required. Or at best, they like it but less than other pilots. It’s a tight race and they may have to make a very tough call.

Of course, there’s always the solution to make room for it on sister network The CW (like they did with Ringer a few years ago, originally set up at CBS), especially as it seems a better fit since the beginning. But does CW really has room for it? With Arrow, The Flash and the upcoming spin-off due for midseason, plus virtually all their other shows renewed (at the exception of Hart of Dixie and probably late entry The Messengers) and 4 pilot contenders, things are complicated. The show could be abandoned, pure and simple.

So what might have happened?

Bad script. I have it on good authority that the script is firmly kept under wraps at the moment with very few people authorized to read it. There was presumably a lot of rewrites at last minute and they may even have to reshoot scenes if the show is finally ordered to series. It’s not totally uncommon for high profile projects but it can’t be a good sign either.

Bad Buzz. When CBS decided to show how the new Supergirl‘s costume looked like in a picture sent to the press, the comments from both journalists and people were not very kind, to say the least. Not only about the costume itself but also about Melissa Benoist who, it has to be said, lacks charisma. Since people were not that interested in the show in the first place, bad buzz won’t help…

Bad screenings. Even if it’s too soon to have real informations about how the pilot was received in the inside of the network -especially considering the fact that the official screenings phase has not started yet- they may not have liked what they’ve seen so far through rough cuts. That doesn’t mean the final product won’t satisfy them, even though the real test is with the panel audience…

Now, we’ll have to wait a few days to know more. CBS upfronts are on May, 13 and we should hear more rumours until then. One thing’s for sure: Supergirl is an important asset for Warner Bros. Television, it has a great appeal internationally, so if CBS really doesn’t want it and The CW can’t shelter it, they’ll probably try to shop it elsewhere. Supergirl is not deat YET!

Show’s description: Born on the planet Krypton, Kara Zor-El escaped amid its destruction years ago. Since arriving on Earth, she’s been hiding the powers she shares with her famous cousin. But now at age 24, she decides to embrace her superhuman abilities and become the hero she was destined to be.

SEE ALL CBS PILOTS ORDERED

“Limitless”: Will Bradley Cooper and Robert de Niro appear in the CBS pilot?

Limitless-DVD-Cover1

Have Bradley Cooper & Robert de Niro quietly shot scenes for the “Limitless” pilot in contention for a series order at CBS? It seems so. At least, their characters are part of the script written by Craig Sweeny…

The project is centered on Brian Sinclair (played by American Sniper‘s Jake McDorman) -a character that was not part of the 2011 movie- as he discovers the power of the mysterious drug NZT and is coerced into using his newfound drug enhanced abilities for good, helping the FBI (represented by Agent Rebecca Tate, played by Dexter‘s Jennifer Carpenter). That’s the official description of the Limitless TV series, as announced by CBS when the pilot was ordered back in January. What it doesn’t say is that Eddie Mora, Bradley Cooper’s character in the movie, is still part of the story. A huge part actually.

As soon as in the first scene of the pilot, Cooper appears via a poster. It says: “Re-Elect Senator Edward Mora. A voice for New York, a voice for the World”. Later on, he’s back again, this time on TV with a brief image of a 60 Minutes style interview he’s giving. Then, he finally makes a real entrance at the end of the fourth act, saying to Brian: “It’s time for you and me to talk.” I won’t spoil the long scene that follows right after that, but it explains with more or less clarity why he’s here and what he has to do with all of this. But it does not end here. He appears one last time in the final scene -compared to the “post credits sequence in a Marvel movie“-  and he’s not alone: he’s with Carl! Remember Carl? It’s the character played by Robert de Niro himself in the movie.

So the question is, will Cooper and De Niro reprise their respective roles in the pilot directed by Marc Webb? Why wouldn’t they? Cooper is credited as an executive producer on the pilot and let’s not forget he started his career on TV (Alias, Nip/Tuck…) while De Niro has a close relationship with CBS since he is producing one of their pilots this year (For Justice) and produced others the previous years, with one going to series: NYC 22. It gives Limitless an extra chance to be picked up to series and it will probably be a huge draw for international buyers at the screenings next June. Limitless is produced by CBS Television Studios.

FULL PILOT PREVIEW HERE.

“Limitless” (CBS) pilot preview: a high octane thriller for action junkies!

LIMITLESS

Written & produced by Craig Sweeny (Elementary, Medium, The 4400). Co-produced by Bradley Cooper, Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci (Fringe, Hawaii 5-0, Scorpion, Stark Trek, Alias), Neil Burger (Limitless, Divergente, The Illusionnist) and many others. Directed by Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer, The Amazing Spider-Man, Lone Star). For CBS, CBS Television Studios, Relativity Television, Yet To Be Named Company & K/O. 63 pages.

Description: Brian Sinclair discovers the power of the mysterious drug NZT and is coerced into using his newfound drug-enhanced abilities to solve weekly cases for the FBI, alongside FBI Agent Rebecca Tate…

With Jake McDorman (American Sniper, Greek), Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter), Hill Harper (CSI New York, Covert Affairs), Mary Elizabeth Mastrantiono (Scarface, Abyss, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves)…

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CBS has three high profile pilots this year: Rush Hour (Read the preview here), DC Comics’ top secret Supergirl and Limitless, adapted from the 2011 movie with Bradley Cooper. Probably two of them will go to series. Limitless as a TV series sounds a little… limited but hey, it’s for CBS: it’s a police procedural in the end, but with a greater mythology and a science-fiction twist that helps making it special. Yes, I think it’s special even though it reminded me a little bit of Person of Interest and another pilot in contention this year but at FOX: Minority Report. The three gives you the same high voltage of action scenes and twists and turns. You can’t fall asleep watching that and it’s hard looking the other way. But falling in love is another thing…

I didn’t fall in love with Limitless but I recognize the script has great qualities and there’s an evident potential here. It may even be a better TV show than a movie. That’s probably one of the arguments the producers gave to CBS while trying to convince them to take a look at this adaptation of a movie that didn’t really work and didn’t become the franchise it was meant to be. Another argument is the one I exposed in an article: the presence of the characters of Eddie Mora, played by Bradley Cooper himself, and Carl, played by the great Robert de Niro (Read the article here). It definitely helps and it’s not just cameos, at least for Cooper. As for the lead role, they chose Jake McDorman, just coming out of successful Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, where he shared scenes with Bradley Cooper. This man’s everywhere! Finally, Jennifer Carpenter tries to find her next adventure since the end of Dexter. It takes time. After two pilots (Sea Of Fire for ABC and Stanistan for USA Network) and right in the middle of a pregnancy, she’s back at work in a role that doesn’t seem very different from her Debra Morgan but people will be happy to see her again. So, Limitless has a lot going on for it.

The first scene and even the first act (the whole pilot ?) is action and action, again and again. And special effects everywhere, ‘cos Brian Sinclair is multiplying in his mind and on our screens thanks to the drug he takes. He can imagine what would happen if he does this or that, so he can observe, for example, that he might be hit by a bus if he chooses to turn right instead of left. Everything that happens in his brain is transcribed with images or his inner voice for us to hear. It’s a lot to take in but it works, on the page. Then it’s the director’s job -and Marc Webb is a good one- and his team to make the most of it in budget. Of course, they will have to relax for the next episodes but it’s doable I guess. What I’m less fond of is the characters’ personal stories. Saying it’s easy would be an understatement. Brian’s father is ill, that’s what motivates him to do all these crazy things and taking so many risks, while Agent Rebecca Tate’s father died of addiction so, of course, this drug and the person who dies because of it feels like her problem too. Lazy writing…

Limitless is the perfect show for CBS: not too risky -a procedural- but a little bit different than what they already have -science-fiction- that can attract the young demo they are desperately looking for. Moreover, it’s a potential companion for Scorpion (they share the same producers!), it’s in-house produced and it has a great international appeal. If the race was not that tight at the network, I’d say it’s a no-brainer…