Month: August 2015

The Path / The Way (Hulu) pilot preview: A family drama you won’t be able to escape from

THEWAY

Written & produced by Jessica Goldberg (Parenthood, Camp, Deception). Co-produced by Jason Katims (Parenthood, Friday Night Lights, Roswell, My so-called Life), Michelle Lee (About a Boy) & Aaron Paul. For Hulu, Universal Television & True Jack Productions. 67 pages.

Description: What does it mean to choose between the life we live and the life we want? The Way examines a family at the center of a controversial cult movement struggling with relationships, marriage, power and this dilemma everyday…

With Hugh Dancy (Hannibal, The Big C, King Arthur), Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad, Big Love, Need for Speed), Michelle Monaghan (True Detective, Boston Public, Gone Baby Gone), Rockmond Dunbar (Prison Break, Sons of Anarchy, The Mentalist), Sarah Jones (Alcatraz, Vegas), Kathleen Turner, Minka Kelly (Parenthood, Friday Night Lights) Rob Morrow (Northern Exposure, Numb3rs),, Kyle Allen…

PREMIERING THIS WINTER ON HULU

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A lot of people will compare The Way to The Leftovers. And I’m OK with the comparison (as a die hard fan of the Damon -God- Linfelof’s show that is coming back soon). But I want to come up with another one. The Way made me think about Big Love, which I loved passionnately when it was on, on HBO, and which I still miss dearly. Not a lot of people watched it, sadly. I hope more people will give The Way a try. It’s on Hulu, so we shouldn’t witness a miracle here. But it’s a really great show to start their new original drama revolution with. I mean… It comes from Mr Friday Night Lights-Parenthood Jason Katims, and it’s a family show! A very unusual one, indeed. It’s no surprise if such talented guys as Hugh Dancy & Aaron Paul signed on for it! They know what they’re doing, they know where they’re going…But do we?

The pilot starts with an intriguing scene featuring a post-tornado destroyed village somewhere in rural New Hampshire and an heavenly figure who’s helping the needing families, even before the authorities are there. But don’t be naive: Cal Roberts is here to recruit. He needs new members for “The Way”, the cult he works for (but he’s not the boss). He’s charismatic, strong, convicing, charming… Well, he’s Hugh -innocent pretty face- Dancy. Who woulnd’t follow him wherever? (The man’s gonna be great in the role) And he’s using people’s weaknesses, fragilities to get what he wants from them (which is total devotion). Classic technique. There’s a lot to say about this man, most of it is left unanswered at the end of the pilot but he can be brutal and one thing’s for sure: whatever his reasons are to do what he’s doing he’s not one of the good guys. In fact, who is in this organization? They all do things they can’t be proud of. But Cal is not part of the Cleary family. His nemesis is.

Aaron Paul plays Eddie Cleary, a convert to the controversial movement with a wayward past. He’s a husband to Sarah Cleary, and a father of two, and he suffers a crisis of faith when all that he’s come to accept as truth, for love mostly, is fundamentally challenged. But from The Way, you can’t escape and he’s gonna learn it the hard way. Cal Roberts won’t let him go that easily, even if Sarah was meant to be his wife, not Eddie’s. They were a couple a long time ago but Sarah chose Eddie over Cal. There’s history here. A promising adult love triangle that is… I’m puzzled about Aaron Paul in this role. It’s SO different from Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad. It’s a good thing for him, he will be able to show another side of this talent, but still, is he the right choice? He seems too young for the part in fact, and I have a hard time picturing him married to Michelle Monaghan, with two kids. But we’ll see. Aaron Paul Vs. Hugh Dancy is an exciting perspective, though.

The Way is a very well-crafted pilot that moves forward at the right pace, with a sense of mystery and sobriety that makes it really immersive. It’s not as lyrical and poetic as The Leftovers, it’s not as cheery as Big Love sometimes was. The Way is its own thing, part family drama with soap elements, part religious-themed documentary, part thriller, part investigation, since the FBI is watching The Way. It’s easy to get fascinated by The Way, the people in it, the Cleary family, the compound life… and it’s exciting to think about all the things we don’t know about yet, from the way the cult works to the characters’s pasts, secrets… How did they end up here? We don’t know yet and maybe that’s why this pilot makes us wanna stay.

 

WATCH THE EXCITING TRAILER

EXCLUSIVE: MTV orders comedy pilots “Little Darlings” & Nicole Byer Project

LITTLE

 

MTV is betting on young unproven sensations for their next comedy series : one from newcomer Jennifer Kaytin Robinson called “Little Darlings” and one untitled by Nicole Byer.

The Little Darlings project from Jennifer Kaytin Robinson is a music fueled comedy centering on two girls on a campus, Ophelia & Jules, one of them being… a masked vigilante, whose pathes cross when they not so accidentally kill a rapist together. It delves into the world of fraternities and sororities with dark humor. Update with official logline: College student Ophelia is an edgy, hip young trouble magnet: she works in a vintage record store, sells weed on the side, and is on a first-name basis with Campus Security. Jules is a sweet, small town girl and a member of one of the best sororities on campus, but she has a secret identity as a masked superheroine who dishes out rough justice to those getting away with sexual assault and bullying on campus. When Ophelia learns all about Jules and her clandestine operation, she insists on playing Batgirl to- well, to Batgirl!

Already co-starring in MTV series “Girl Code” since 2013 (where female artists discuss sisterhood that women share), Nicole Byer just got a pilot order for her untitled scripted comedy written by Christian Lander, who already worked on MTV underrated dramedy Underemployed and MTV animated comedy Good Vibes. The single-camera project tells the typical story of an out of money, luck and options, myopically self-serving (!) Nicole who is forced to move in with her sister and her four kids. It is produced by 3 Arts Entertainment.

Comedy 2015 #PilotWatch : the full recap

It’s this time of the year when we get all judgy and mean, happy because we enjoy a show we didn’t think we would, sad because our expectations were too high for some others… It’s time to make tough choices (some are really easy though) and decide whose are the characters, the families, the places, the writers we want to spend the rest of the year with! Game ON.

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First, on the comedy side, let me summarize it simply by saying almost nothing that has been picked up really stink but nothing really stand out either. That’s the ugly truth. In my opinion, The MuppetsThe Real O’Neals at ABC and Life In Pieces at CBS are the safer bets. NBC can do something with the duet Hot & Bothered/Superstore with a good lead in and a heavily marketed night. Sadly, I don’t see Grandfathered & The Grinder staying very long on FOX because of the channel’s recent track record… The rest is DOA. Dead on arrival.

 

abc   MARTHA PLIMPTON, JAY R. FERGUSON, NOAH GALVIN, MATT SHIVELY, BEBE WOOD

  1. THE REAL O’NEALS   rate rate rate rate

Already in love with this family. They put a huge smile on my face. Kudos to always great Martha Plimpton and very talented newcomer Noah Gavin, who nails it as the narrator. There’s no reason it wouldn’t work, except a bad timeslot. ABC, give it at least a Fresh Off The Boat treatment!

2. THE MUPPETS  rate rate rate rate

I’m not a fan of the original The Muppets. Not my thing. But this pilot presentation took me by surprise. Love the idea of the mockumentary twist. Could be a great deal of fun. But still not for me. It could become a huge hit for ABC, though.

3. DR KEN  rate rate rate

Dr Ken is so far the best match with Last Man Standing ABC found. Ken Jeong will divise the audience: some will love his performance, others will hate it. Liked it (and him) way more than I expected. Good for diversity, good for laughs, but not especially great regarding originality.

4. UNCLE BUCK  rate

Not funny in any way. The title character is plain stupid & irritating. The cast never clicks. The kids are meh but the adults are way worst. It’s fixable, the set up is not that bad, but no thanks. Not sure ABC would have ordered it if the cast was not black, in fact.

 

CBS-Logo  life-in-pieces

  1. LIFE IN PIECES  rate rate rate rate

Could have turned into a huge hit… if Modern Family never existed! Writing’s good, people can relate, a bit raunchy. The cast is great on paper but… except Josh Brolin & Zoe Lister Jones, where are the funny people?! BTW the concept is just cosmetics. That being said, wanna watch more. It’s really fun at times, potential is here.

2. ANGEL FROM HELL  rate rate rate

Not an amazing pilot but it’s kinda cool. Jane Lynch & Maggie Lawson have a real chemistry. There’s potential. It’s not CBS-y at all though. Probably won’t work. They could have made a great multicamera with it, that’s too bad.

 

nbc  2015-0507-Upfront2015-Superstore-KeyArt-1920x1080-ml

  1. SUPERSTORE  rate rate rate

Glad to have America Ferrera back on TV! Fun & sweet but a little too focus on a potential love story. Could turn great.

2. HOT & BOTHERED  rate rate

Eva Longoria is stunning, but something’s a little off… The other castmembers? The whole concept? Not sure. Didn’t laugh much, not “30 Rock” clever… It doesn’t have much going for it in the end, except Longoria (who has been better). And surprise! Zachary Levi (Chuck, Heroes Reborn) appears in a very Susan Mayer kinda scene. He’s playing the new network president.

3. CROWDED  rate rate

Loving Carrie Preston is not reason enough to get excited about this. It’s really old-school -which is not a problem for me- and a waste of her talent. She can do better. She’s worth better. Next!

4. TRUTH BE TOLD  rate

Not as raunchy as NBC wants us to believe. Ordering 13 comedy pilots for ending with such a generic Rules Of Engagement-y sitcom… Really NBC? The cast is meh, with the exception of Tone Bell.

 

fox   Grandfathered-John-Stamos-as-Jimmy-and-Josh-Peck-as-Gerald

  1. GRANDFATHERED  rate rate rate

Far from hilarious but John Stamos’ charm is in full force & Josh Peck’s a good surprise. Really sweet & has potential. It’s actually nice to see a pilot that improves the script and not the other way!

2. THE GRINDER  rate rate rate

Rob Lowe & Fred Savage make an interesting duet but as much as I liked the script, the concept has a hard time coming together on screen. It’s not as funny as it should have been. Episode 2 will be decisive. It needs to loosen up a bit.

3. THE GUIDE TO SURVIVING LIFE  rate rate rate

Cool concept, cool pilot and cool & cute lead (Jack Cutmore-Scott). Hope FOX won’t give it their usual midseason bad treatment…

 

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THE REAL O’NEALS > LIFE IN PIECES > SUPERSTORE > GRANDFATHERED > ANGEL FROM HELL > THE GRINDER > THE GUIDE TO SURVIVING LIFE > HOT &  BOTHERED >  DR KEN > CROWDED > TRUTH BE TOLD  > UNCLE BUCK 

 

The Bastard Executioner (FX) preview: Kurt Sutter is one son of a bitch! Here’s another proof…

bastardexec

Written & produced by Kurt Sutter (Sons of Anarchy, The Shield, Southpaw). Co-produced by Paris Barclay, Francie Calfo & Brian Grazer (24, Parenthood, Friday Night Lights, Arrested Development). Directed by Paris Barclay (Sons of Anarchy, In Treatment, NYPD Blue, Cold Case). For FX, FX Productions, Fox 21, Imagine Television & Sutter Ink. 65 pages.

Description: In the 14th century in England, the story of Wilkin Brattle, a warrior knight in King Edward I’s charge, who is broken by the ravages of war and vows to lay down his sword. But when that violence finds him again killing his wife and unborn child, he is forced to pick up the bloodiest sword of all. He infiltrates his old kingdom that betrayed him, determined to destroy it from the inside…

With Lee Jones, Stephen Moyer (True Blood), Flora-Spencer Longhurst, Katey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy, Married With Children, 8 Simple Rules…), Kurt Sutter, Elen Rhys, Timothy V. Murphy (True Detective, Sons of Anarchy), Sarah Sweeney, Darren Evans (Galavant, My Mad Fat Diary), Sarah White, Danny Sapani (Penny Dreadful, Misfits), Sam Spruell (The Last Ship) & Matthew Rhys (Brothers & Sisters, The Americans) as guest…

PREMIERING SEPTEMBER 15TH ON FX

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Kurt Sutter is one son of a bitch. Ahem. It’s a little scary writing an article about a show penned by Kurt Sutter, I must admit. Because I know he might end up reading it. He’s out there. I mean: he tweets. And when he’s angry, he can become some sort of… bastard executioner. Heads roll. Not that he’s mean or anything. It’s just that he says exactly what he thinks, and we all admire him for that but it can be violent, you know. Since I feel pretty safe hiding behind my computer screen, it’s my turn to say what I really think about this pilot script he wrote. Honesty is more valuable to him than anything else, right? Everything’s gonna be okay. And it’s not gonna hurt. I guess. So where was I? Oh yeah: Kurt Sutter is one son of a bitch!

First things first: I have to confess that I was not a fan of Sons of Anarchy. I watched a few episodes and I abandoned it. Not my thing. No hard feelings though. But somehow I happened to know everything about the show’s every twist and turn over the course of its entire run -sometimes I was impressed- and from what I understood almost everybody died at some point in atrocious circumstances! Which is interesting since in The Bastard Executioner‘s pilot at least three characters we think are important die. Just like that. And the cruel but smart strategy is: here are those characters, this one you will adore, this one you will love to hate and boom they are dead, you will never seem them again. Deal with it! This is a son of a bitch move and it’s brilliant. We’re instantly amazed, sad and intrigued. But, ‘cos there’s a “but” (and many butts but we’ll get to that later), I’m puzzled about one death in particular. Without spoiling too much, let’s just say the one who can be considered as the main antagonist of the show is killed. Meaning, our hero’s quest for revenge is done in the end of the pilot. So what’s next? Other villains can be introduced and some characters already there can become villain (one is on the verge of being one) but it feels like what could have been the main focus of season one has disappeared into thin air for the sake of being original. It also questions Wilkin Brattle’s intentions. Are we moving towards a Breaking Bad-like story, where a simple man slowly turns into a very bad guy? Seems like it. Not sure I want to see that again even if the context is totally different. On the other hand, I don’t want to see Revenge in the middle ages either. God no!

So, about the butts. It’s not what you think. Well, there’s a scene that will certainly be very talked about and remembered whatever happens with the show: while the Baron character is talking about strategy with his right-hand man, he takes a shit in his chair and then a servant comes to wipe his shitty ass. It’s gross but it’s Middle-Age tradition. No more no less. But it’s something most historical movies and series quietly ignore. Not Kurt Sutter. He clearly has a hard on writing it. And we can’t blame him, especially since it’s a detail that strongly tells the audience: forget what you saw of this period, I will tell you the true story without poetry. That’s how he’s making history! The rest of the pilot is less surprising, with an inevitable rape, some Braveheart feels, a LOT OF violent fights… what you can expect from this type of story. Two female characters are really interesting: Lady Love -all is in the name obviously- who’s sexy and bored, a little lesbian maybe, a woman of paradox and mystery, I could watch the show only for her; and Annora, Katey Sagal’s character, some sort of witch who helps our hero but has her own agenda… She’s secretly in love with a disfigured beast, who happens to be played by her own husband… Kurt Sutter himself! That’s exciting in a weird way.

After using Shakespeare’s Hamlet to structure Sons of Anarchy, Kurt Sutter bets on The count of Monte Cristo to build his new show around, meaning it’s another soap hidden behind an historical background, great violence and those WTF? moments he loves so deeply. And it’s working, mostly. The Bastard Executioner can and will be considered as FX’s answer to HBO’s Game of Thrones, probably hoping it gets more attention than The Strain, FX’s answer to AMC’s The Walking Dead.

The Shannara Chronicles (MTV) preview: Will TV finally have its own “Lord of the Rings”?

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Pilot “Chosen” written & produced by Al Gough & Milles Millar (Smallville, I Am Number 4, Spiderman II). Adapted from Terry Brooks‘ novels. Co-produced by Jonathan Liebesman, Al Gough, Milles Millar, Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Avengers, Revolution) & Dan Farah. Directed by Jonathan Liebesman (Wrath of the Titans, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). For MTV & Sonar Entertainment. 62 pages.

Description: The descendants of the Shannara family are empowered with ancient magic and their adventures continuously reshape the future of the world while they’re running into the beautiful but dangerous wilderness of the Four Lands, full of monsters…

With Austin Butler (Life Unexpected, The Carrie Diaries, Arrow), Manu Bennett (Spartacus: Blood and sand, Arrow), Ivana Baquero (Pan’s Labyrinth), Poppy Drayton, John Rhys-Davies (Indiana Jones, Sliders), James Remar (Dexter, Sex & The City), Emilia Burns (Terra Nova), Aaron Jakubenko, Brooke Williams, Marcus Vanco, Daniel MacPherson

PREMIERING JANUARY 2016 ON MTV

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While some may argue Game of Thrones IS the equivalent of Lord of the Rings for TV, others would strongly defend there can’t be any. MTV is boldly trying to make their own with The Shannara Chronicles. But most importantly, they’re still looking for THE HIT scripted show that will help the channel going to the next level. Teen Wolf & Awkward did quite a good job, but since then MTV had a hard time finding something that sticks and generates buzz across social medias, which is a shame when you’re targeting mostly younger viewers. Their last shot, Scream, is not rock solid in that department (or in any other actually). Will The Shannara Chronicles can make that leap? I’m not saying no, but I’m not sure there is so much to crave for. At least at the beginning.

Creating a world from scratch can be excrutiating for a writer, especially when you also have to set up stories for numerous characters at the same time, especially when most of them are… elves. This pilot doesn’t really take the time to do so and have to speed everything up all the time, cos time is running out, with a fair amount of inevitable scenes, the same as in Hunger Games or Divergent movies, like the empowered female heroin passing a test to prove she’s worth whatever destiny has in store for her. Of course, she succeeds. We don’t doubt about it even a second. She’s the only woman standing in the race and in the end she’s even the only human elf standing! That can be boring if you’ve already seen the previous titles. And if you give a chance to Shannara, it means there’s a fair chance you had. When the pilot ends it’s not clear how subsequent episodes will look like. Maybe that’s why epic teen fantasy / dystopian stories are still tough to crack on TV, with the exception of remarkable The 100 after a shacky start creatively. And let’s not forget The CW’s two attempts to adapt The Selection saga that never came to fruition. It’s big and it takes time. A premiere structured as a two-hour episode would have helped. So my best guess is the show will be a weekly adventure to find something or someone in the wilderness while pieces of a big mythology will be put together, with a hint of soapy elements like love triangles, treasons, family secrets… Nothing really new here. But… they’re elves for god’s sake!

I have a question tough: is The Shannara books series the success MTV wants us to think it is? “International best-selling novels” they tout. Well, noboby in my “international entourage” knew about it. Anyway, I guess it doesn’t really matter as long as young people find in it what they’re looking for: beautiful teenagers doing magical things with whatever powers they have, without being too dumb. All of that with a budget that doesn’t stink too much for TV. Choosing breathtaking New Zealand to shoot will certainly help it look like something. The trailer (watch below) proves to be quite convincing but it’s too soon to draw any conclusion. A lot of SFX are required. And we know how bad they can be(come) sometimes, Once Upon a Time-style. If MTV wants to be taken seriously with this, they have to show the money. And they also have not to be too teen-oriented. Adult viewers who are looking for fantasy shows might give it a try. Maybe that’s why adult characters are not just adult characters living in a world of teenagers like let’s say… The Vampire Diaries. Maybe that’s also why there is a little bit of eroticism and not that much of storylines about love stories. Or maybe the authors learned from their Smallville days that teenagers are to be treated with a little more respect for what their aspirations and tastes in life are. It’s not just about finding love, getting married and getting knocked-up.

The Shannara Chronicles is a very important asset for MTV that could turn the network upside down if people tune it and stay. It has the potential to go big but sadly, it doesn’t always show on the page yet. The pilot is meh, very predictable, but the series it can become seems pretty okay. Now it’s time for MTV’s marketing team to play their cards right. Showing a trailer at Comic-Con was just the first of many steps.