Month: July 2015

EXCLUSIVE: Showtime orders “Chiraq” pilot, where Chicago has become… Iraq!

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While Twin Peaks has been moved to 2017 and Cameron Crowe’s pilot Roadies is being rewritten after Christina Hendrick’s departure, Showtime pulls the trigger on a new pilot order for a show called Chiraq

Written by Lena Waithe, a Chicago native who previously worked on Bones as a staff writer, Chiraq is a drama project centered on the South side of a certain Midwestern megalopolis which is nicknamed Chiraq because geographically it’s in Chicago but the violence level there is straight out of Baghdad, Iraq! It follows six interralated lives, all linked by two things: the same skin color (brown) and the same omnipresence threat of deadly violence. For one young man in particular… Casting process has just started. The shooting should start on mid-October, in Chicago of course. It is produced by FOX 21 Television Studios, Aaron Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment, with Michael Pendell and actor/singer Common involved. Clark Johnson  (Homicide, The Shield, Homeland) will direct the pilot episode.

Preacher (AMC) pilot preview: AMC can praise the Lord, they found the next “True Blood”!

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Pilot written & produced by Sam Catlin (Breaking Bad). Adapted from the comics by Steve Dillon & Garth Ennis. Directed & co-produced by Seth Rogen (This is the end, The Interview). Also produced by Evan Goldberg, Vivian Cannon (The Big C)… For AMC, Sony Pictures Television, DC Comics, Original Film & Point Grey Pictures. 62 pages.

Description: Jesse Custer, a conflicted Preacher in a small Texas town, merges with a creature that has escaped from heaven and develops the ability to make anyone do anything he says. Along with his ex-girlfriend, Tulip, a violent batshit crazy woman, and an Irish vampire named Cassidy, the three embark on a journey around the United States to literally find God…

With Dominic Cooper (Agent Carter, Captain America, Need for Speed, Fleming), Joseph Gilgun (Misfits, This is England), Ruth Negga (Misfits, Criminal Justice, Agents of SHIELD), Elizabeth Perkins (Weeds), Lucy Griffiths (True Blood), Ian Colletti (Rake), W. Earl Brown (American Crime, True Detective, Deadwood), Jamie Anne Allman (The Killing US), Brian Huskey (Selfie, Veep)…

STARTS ON MAY 22TH, 2016

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There is definitely something missing on TV since True Blood went off the air last year: an adult supernatural drama that is both sexy and fun. And over the top crazy.  Also twisted as hell. While on the quest of their next big hit after Breaking Bad and Mad Men ended, with only The Walking Dead (and soon its spin-off) still standing, AMC might have stumbled across it. Preacher is full of potential, not as depraved as the HBO show was -at least for now- but whacky and offbeat nonetheless. I bet it’s gonna get a huge fanbase pretty soon if ordered to series and it seems like the comics it’s based on (from DC) makes it already a project of great interest for many people all around the world. The franchise is highly popular since it debuted on 1996. I’m not sure why AMC didn’t pull a direct-to-series order, like they did with kung-fu drama Into the Badlands, starting next november, a riskier project in my opinion. Maybe because they wanted to make sure it was true to the comics. Or maybe because, like HBO which developed its own adaptation a few years ago or the movie projects that came even before that, they’re a little bit afraid of its controversial content about religion. AMC, be brave and just go for it! You may be rewarded with huge ratings and lots of passionate social media discussions. Isn’t it the whole point nowadays?

Even though Preacher is very dark and graphic -the first scene ends with splashing blood and guts all over the place- what may be different with this adaptation from the previous ones is the emphasis on comedy. It’s a lot of fun all along and that’s why it stands out as something we’re not that used to, at least in this genre and format. With Seth Rogen producing and directing the pilot, AMC made it pretty clear: they want it entertaining and fucked up. So it is. I don’t want to go too far in comparisons but let me tell you there’s a Tarantino-esque vibe to it. It requires a great sense of humor, that’s for sure. And it doesn’t need to be taken too seriously. Secondary characters who populate the small town where Jesse Custer lives are all very strange, devious, the same way as the people of Bon Temps were. They offer great laughs and some kind of astonishment. Vampire Cassidy is well… outrageous! I totally picture Joseph Gilgun in the role. Tulip could be compared to Michonne from The Walking Dead, but crazier.

That being said, Preacher may surprise you along the way: between the lines, it’s a really deep story about faith and America. Our hero may not be the flashiest character of the pilot but he delivers some great moments on an emotional level, which I found surprising and promising. We need to care about him. We almost do in the end. And the writer makes sure -a little too hard maybe with too many details for an introduction to this mad mad world- that we understand there is a complex mythology behind it all, multiple lawyers. A lot happens. Violent things. Weird things. Ridiculous things. Like a crossbow-fighting… on a plane! I wish we’d spend a little more time with Jesse, and a little less time with the craziness. Hints of craziness and supernatural elements would have been enough. It’s one of those pilots that want to show its full potential right away… Budget-wise, AMC will have to show us the money. And we know it’s not their strongest suit…

Preacher is the biggest chance for AMC to deliver another phenomenon to TV after The Walking Dead. It has “HIT” written all over it with its crop of weird characters, its atypical tone, its graphic violence, its mythology, its controversial topic… but of course, it’s not for everyone. AMC needs it as much as fans of the property need closure for this never-ending project. So, say a little prayer and everything should be fine!

 

The Devil You Know (HBO) pilot preview: Meet Nancy Botwin & Piper Chapman’s wild ancestors

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Also known as “New World“. Pilot “One To Tear My Soul Away” written & produced by Jenji Kohan (Orange is the new black, Weeds), Bruce & Tracy Miller (The 100, Eureka, ER). Co-produced by Mark BurleyTara Herrmann (Orange is the new black, Weeds). Directed & co-produced by Gus Van Sant (Boss, The Sea of Trees, Harvey Milk, Elephant, Will Hunting). For HBO & Lionsgate Television. 66 pages.

Description: The circumstances around one of the most compelling chapters in American history in 1692 where intolerance and repression set neighbor against neighbor and led Salem, New England, one of the first towns in America, to mass hysteria…

With Eddie Izzard (Hannibal, United States Of Tara, The Riches), Karen Gillan (Doctor Who, Selfie, Guardians of the Galaxy), Ever Carradine (Once & Again), James Marsters (Buffy, Angel, Smallville), Anne Dudek (Big Love, Dr House, Mad Men), Mary Mouser (Body Of Proof, NCIS), Damien Molony (Ripper Street, Being Human), Kate Nash, Ewen Bremner, Nadia Alexander, Nigel Lindsay, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Hannah Nordberg, Will Pullen, Ismenia Mendes

NOT YET ORDERED TO SERIES

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There is something fascinating that’s happening right now on TV, something impossible to ignore any longer. Bold and provocative HBO had for a long time only one solid challenger called Showtime, that used more or less the same model for more or less the same results. It was heaven on earth. The rest of TV was just something else entirely. Like two faraway continents that could never meet. Then AMC came out of nowhere and shaked the ground a little bit, just enough to create a fracture. But HBO didn’t move or even blink. European television did some bold moves too. It impressed and it inspired, but it did just that. Then came Netflix, like a tsunami that destroyed the shore and disturbed the peace. Soon enough, Amazon and Hulu will become bigger ships, eager to invade. HBO can’t just let its throne being robbed and its kingdom fall. Revenge is coming. And there will be blood.

Jenji Kohan was HBO’s ennemy for a long time. She created Weeds for Showtime, a dark comedy that really defined the network and helped put it on the map. And she did it again for Netflix by inventing critically acclaimed dramedy Orange is the New Black. Both shows could have been on HBO. But they weren’t. Now it’s time for Jenji to use her magic and do to HBO what she did for Showtime and Netflix: pushing the boundaries even further. And hopefully, people will love that and ask for more. The thing is though, HBO has already done pretty amazing things for 15 years now. And boundaries they pushed. Oh yes, they did. Jenji Kohan’s no-so-secret weapon might be her very distinctive female voice. HBO is more of a male-oriented channel, with a few exceptions. That’s how it is. The Devil You Know is definitely a provocative drama that put women at the center of it all. Some of them take drugs. Others are in cage. Most of them FEEL caged. They don’t sell weeds and they don’t wear orange jumpsuit, but they are not that different from Nancy Botwin or Piper Chapman. They are their ancestors. They were there at the beginning of the new world and damn, they suffered.

The Devil You Know starts with a scary scene that resembles Game Of Thrones’ opening, but less gory. A young girl named Betty is walking in the snow on a frigid day, during the coldest winter of the century – the sixteenth century. She feeds the pigs while singing, when a dark man moves closer and closer to her, until she sees his head: he has the face of a crow. He spreads his huge wings, takes off and flies into the clear white sky while Betty is running away towards the village. Salem. During the whole pilot, Betty has visions of crows attacking humans, ravaging bodies, eating raw flesh. Like she’s possessed. By the devil? But she’s not the only one having troubles. Then the first few pages are boring, ‘cos the show looks like something we’ve already seen a thousand times. A history drama, not far from a documentary about American history. It’s not uninteresting but not particularly engaging either. We’re introduced to a least 20 different characters. That doesn’t help. But as the story progresses, it gets less and less conventional, and more and more fascinating. Everybody turn out to be fucked-up! Like really fucked-up. The whole city is in on the verge of hysteria: women are devious, lustful, men are perverted and greedy. Even children are dreadful. For example, a group of women (lesbians?) are rubbing and penetrating their vaginas with broomsticks by the fire; while Ann, a 15 year-old girl (who is the closest to a heroin) is giving a handjob to a young man to make him testify in favor of her father, who happens to have a conflict with the richest man of the town. And there’s also a hint of incest, raw fucking with love, a very violent rape performed by an Indian tribe… yes, there’s definitely a lot of sex. Even True Blood‘s characters would blush. Is it a fantasy show? I can’t say. We have to wait 60 pages out of 66 to be introduced to dark magic and possible witchcraft. And it’s OK.

Sadly, this pilot lacks a real plot. Jenji Kohan perfectly knows the rules of writing but she also knows that she can do whatever she wants and not follow them because we all love her for that. Like her characters, she’s unconventional. She can take all the time she needs to set-up the atmosphere -and Gus Van Sant, who directs, is not exactly known to rush things either- HBO will trust her anyway. So the pilot works more as an introduction to all the characters, so we can care about them quickly and I assure you we do, than an actual pilot that builds toward a momentum and gives us a real sense of what the show will be in subsequent episodes. We don’t really know, and we don’t really care. In Jenji we trust.

The Devil You Know is an experiment, its own beast, wild and provocative, a show about townspeople discovering a new world, through a female perspective. I don’t think there is anything like it on TV right now. It’s very different from what Jenji Kohan did before. It’s tantalazing and exciting. What is HBO waiting for to order it? It needs to be on air as soon as possible! With Game Of Thrones, True Detective, The Leftovers, Westworld and now this, HBO is definitely not giving up. 

 

American Crime Story: The People Vs. O.J. Simpson (FX) preview: Ryan Murphy’s safest work yet?

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Pilot “From the Ashes of Tragedy” & Episode two “The Run of His Life” written & produced by Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszweski (Problem Child, Ed Wood, The People Vs. Larry Flint, Big Eyes). Co-produced by Ryan Murphy (American Horror Story, Glee, Nip/Tuck), Dante DiLoreto, Brad Falchuck, Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson & John Travolta. Based on novel “The Run of His Life” by Jeffrey Toobin. Directed by Ryan Murphy. For FX, 20th Century FOX Television, Ryan Murphy Productions & Brad Falchuck Teleyvision. 61 pages & 54 pages.

Description: On June 12, 1994, Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman are found stabbed to death outside in Los Angeles. American football player O.J. Simpson is quickly considered as a person of interest in their murders. On June 17, after failing to turn himself in, he becomes the object of a low-speed car pursuit. The pursuit, arrest, and trial were among the most widely publicized events in American history…

With Cuba Gooding Jr. as O.J. Simpson, Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark, John Travolta as Robert Shapiro, David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian, Courtney B. Vance as Johnnie Cochran, Jordana Brewster as Denise Brown, Billy Magnussen as Kato Kaelin, Selma Blair as Kris Jenner, Connie Britton as Faye Resnick, Steven Pasquale as Mark Furhman, and Cheryl Ladd, Bruce Greenwood, Malcolm Jamal-Warner, Evan Handler, Sterling K. Brown, Kenneth Choi

PREMIERING IN 2016 ON FX

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Whether you like him or not, every season is Ryan Murphy’s season for the past decade and next season may be his biggest one ever! Of course, American Horror Story will be back, minus Jessica Lange but with Lady Gaga for her very first starring role; meanwhile, he’s gonna launch Scream Queens aka American Horror Story meets Glee, minus the songs, which is expected to get a lot of buzz and hopefully substantial ratings for dying FOX; and in early 2016 he’ll bring American Crime Story, that could become HUGE for FX! The anthology series promises to explore a new real-life crime every year and Murphy decided to start big with the infamous O.J. Simpson trial that kept America breathless for months right in the middle of the 90s. It was tragic, fascinating and it is considered as the beginning of the modern tabloid age, at least in America. It also brought the Kardashian family to the world. And that’s… well… a curse for humanity we never recovered from.

Based on a book that was first published a few years later, in 1997, The People Vs. OJ Simpson doesn’t take any risks. The story as it is doesn’t need to be altered in any way (and I’m pretty sure they couldn’t do it even if they wanted to). It’s gold and it shows very quickly in the pilot script. It starts with real archive footage from the L.A. riots of 1992 when furious african-americans tore the city apart after another one of their own was beaten to death by LAPD cops, apparently for no reason. Then, cut to two years later, we’re by OJ’s side for the first time, a very nervous OJ sweating in his limousine, while a dogwalker is discovering the dead bodies of his ex-wife and fiancé in front of their house in another neighborhood. We’ve got everything we need to know in three minutes or so: OJ’s obvious guiltiness for a crime he must have committed (83% of Americans think he did it) and social context of the time, which sadly still resonates in 2015 with the Ferguson scandal, the riots in Baltimore… 20 years later, things haven’t change that much. The whole season, as the first two episodes make it clear, won’t only tell the story of the investigation, that was full of twists and turns and can only transform into great TV, it will also explain how OJ’s lawyers used the race factor to exonerate their client: he was surprisingly found not guilty (sorry to spoil those who didn’t know). And that’s ambitious, especially for only 10 episodes (with the second one being a crazy car chase “The Superbowl of car case” when OJ disappeared instead of showing up to the police).

We’ve got multiple perspectives. From the cops first, with the leading investigator being a woman -played by Sarah Paulson- who has a lot on her plate: she’s in the middle of a nasty divorce, she needs to prove to the men around her that she’s as capable as they are, if not more, and she needs to show to the people of Los Angeles that even a rich person cannot get away with murder, in order to restore faith in LAPD. Then from OJ’s defense team, with Robert Shapiro (John Travolta), a lawyer specialized in criminal defense AND celebrities, who doesn’t play by the rules and who is very good at manipulating everybody, so good he’s fascinating; Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer) who is a defense attorney but OJ Simpson’ best friend first. He was used as a volunteer assistant in the case. He’s married to Kris Jenner and he’s the father of a certain Kim… (who doesn’t show up in the first two episodes and probably won’t appear later if you’re wondering). He seems very incompetent and ridiculous at times, like this moment when he has to read a suicidal note from OJ in front of the whole press. I guess HE was really ridiculous. Or the writers want to make him look bad, and that’s disturbing. OJ looks ridiculous too, but he probably was. He acts like a scared child. My only fear is that his scenes turn out to be funny. I mean… this man did so many stupid things and mistakes… Good luck to Cuba Gooding Jr.! Last but not least: Johnnie Cochran, an African-American lawyer who’s the one who used the “race card” during the trial. We’re also introduced to reporters and OJ’s family members. There are a lot of characters but the script is written so sharply with everything happening so fast that we’re never lost and completely hooked from beginning to end.

American Crime Story: The People Vs. OJ Simpson is Ryan Murphy’s safest work since forever (but he didn’t write a thing, he’s just directing and producing). You can’t do anything with a true story, but it’s sober where they could have been more scandalous and polemic. It’s documented, precise, smartly told and it will probably be very well acted with such a terrific cast. As the OJ Simpson’s case was at the time, this show is already fascinating. How come this was never adapted into TV series before?!

 

UPDATE “Sneaky Pete” (CBS/Amazon) pilot preview: Walter White & Mr. Dr. House made a skinny baby

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Story written by David Shore & Bryan Cranston. Teleplay written by David Shore (Dr House, Battle Creek, Family Law). Produced by James Degus & Erin Gunn (Battle Creek). For Sony Pictures Television, Moon Shot Entertainment & Shore Z. 60 pages.

Description: Marius, a thirty-something con man, upon leaving prison, takes cover from his past by assuming the identity of a cellmate. “Sneaky Pete” then hides out from his debtors while working for his new “family’s” bail bond business. There he uses his considerable charm and criminal prowess to take down bad guys far worse than himself, partnering with a female “cousin” who has her suspicions about his real motives…

With Giovanni Ribisi (Friends, Earl, Ted, Dads), Marin Ireland (Homeland, Masters of Sex, The Divide), Margo Martindale (The Americans, The Millers, Justified), Peter Gerety (The Wire, Homicide, Prime Suspect), Shane McRae (The Following, Still Alice), Lile Barer (Parenthood)…

UPDATE: After CBS passed on it last May, Sony Pictures Television closed a deal with streaming platform Amazon to broadcast Sneaky Pete pilot episode (after a few reshoots) as part of its semiannual pilot season event. If it gets good grades from viewers, Amazon will order a full season for 2016. Pilot will be available on the platform August 7th.

 

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What happened with Battle Creek at CBS is still a mystery to me. Sure, Scorpion, NCIS: New Orleans, Stalker, Madam Secretary & CSI:Cyber were safer bets and most of them found some kind of success, but Battle Creek was way more special -a dark-humored old school gritty buddy cop show-  and needed to be taken care of properly. “By the creators of Breaking Bad & Dr House, with Las Vegas’ Josh Duhamel” must have been a strong enough slogan to sell it to the masses. Instead, the network decided not to promote it much and sent it into the worst timeslot they had: sundays at 10 after very old-skewing The Good Wife. No new show could have survived this. The fact that it’s produced by Sony Pictures and not CBS Television Studios didn’t help, that’s for sure. It was not a priority. So, as much as I liked Sneaky Pete pilot script, I am more afraid than excited by what future may hold for it…

Like Battle Creek, this show imagined by David Shore & Breaking Bad‘s Bryan Cranston doesn’t try to be all shiny and beautiful. It’s not as dark and dirty, but it’s not your smooth cop show with sexy people investigating and/or dying. Look at the cast! Giovanni Ribisi is a great actor, perfectly at ease in both drama and comedy, and no doubt a right fit for the role of Marius/Pete, but he is no Josh Duhamel, or Shemar Moore, or Jonny Lee Miller. He’s little, skinny, not cute or even charming. He looks like a red neck, as Marin Ireland, her fake cousin and partner in the show, is not your classical female lead. They could totally have played weird and incestuous brother & sister in an X-Files episode back in the days, with beloved Margo Martindale playing their creepy mother. It certainly is a departure from what CBS offers. Most of the action takes place in Connecticut, between an old farm and a sea of fields. But fortunately, towards the end, they infiltrate a charity event with rich people all around. Oh and did I tell you? It’s not a cop show! Well, not really. They investigate and have to catch bad guys, but they are not cops (but a real one, another cousin, help them from time to time).

I let grandpa Otto (Peter Gerety) explains to you what the family business is about: “When someone gets arrested, a judge sets bail. A certain amount of money that they have to post with the court to get out until trial. Most people don’t have the money. That’s where we come in. We charge a fee and put the money up for them. When they show up for trial, we get the money back and keep our fee of course.“. Grandma Audrey (Martindale) adds: “And if they don’t show up, we have to find them or we lose our money“. So Sneaky Pete will partly be about those weekly cases when they’re looking for them. The pilot’s one is kind of funny and action-packed and sets up an efficient template that could work for years. Add to that the weird chemistry between Pete and Julia. They are clearly attracted to each other but officially, they’re cousins. That’s gross. The family scenes totally work, and I’m pretty sure Martindale’s character will be dope, as always. The fact that Pete is not who he claims to be, wanted by guys whom he owes money to, helps raising the stakes of the show and making it more serialized than it seems to be at first sight. David Shore knows how to handle appealing bad guys, Bryan Cranston played one himself for years, and it shows in the script.

Sneaky Pete is the first CBS drama pilot I read this year, so it’s hard to tell whether or not it’s a front runner in the pilot race but it certainly is a keeper and an easier sell than Battle Creek was tonally. I hope CBS won’t screw it up this time, won’t be sneaky with it, and find a way to give it a not so skinny chance to succeed.

 

WATCH THE TRAILER

EXCLUSIVE: BET orders soapy legal drama pilot “Sullivan’s Travels”

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On the heels of the successful BET Awards 2015 ceremony, musical channel BET orders soapy legal drama pilot “Sullivan’s Travels”, which has nothing to do with the Preston Sturges’1941 comedy movie. 

The show is about Gwen Sullivan, a quick-witted, impassioned and bold African-American legal aid in her thirties who works for “The Legal Aid Society” in Tribeca, New York, along with her gorgeous ex-boyfriend Charlie. Interestingly, the pilot script was written by Terri Kopp — a writer and producer on Law & Order who also worked on short-lived In Justice & Justice — on 2009! Seems like the success of Empire motivated other channels to scavenge in order to find a forgotten project that could attract a Black audience towards the legal drama genre where they don’t already have any representative. Sullivan’s Travels could join The Game and Being Mary Jane, BET’s other two scripted dramas.