Month: December 2015

American Gothic (CBS) pilot preview: Brothers & Sisters & Murders

"Middle Of Nowhere" - Portrait Session - TIFF 2008

Created by Corinne Brinkerhoff (The Good Wife, Jane The Virgin, Elementary, Boston Justice). Produced by James Frey (I Am Number Four), Justin Falvey & Darryl Frank (Under The Dome, Extant, The Whispers, Falling Skies, Terra Nova). For CBS, CBS Television Studios & Amblin Television. 62 pages.

Description: The Hawthornes, a prominent Boston family, are attempting to redefine themselves in the wake of a chilling discovery that links their recently deceased patriarch to a string of murders spanning decades, amid the mounting suspicions that one of them may have been his accomplice…

With Justin Chatwin (Shameless US, Dragonball Evolution, War of the Worlds), Megan Ketch (Blue Bloods, The Good Wife, Under The Dome), Antony Starr (Banshee)…

STARTS JUNE 22th ON CBS

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It has now become some sort of tradition: every year, CBS picks-up genre series with promising premises for a summer run, they assemble an OK cast with good looking leads, they promote them heavily at the end of the season making us excited for it and we end up with boring, dumb, tedious products that quickly become dreadful to watch until noboby cares anymore and it gets cancelled with no proper send off. That’s what happened with Under The Dome, Extant, Zoo -which will be cancelled next summer, no doubt- and soon enough, we’ll probably add American Gothic to the list. Knowing all that, I read the pilot script with great suspicion and it may have altered my judgement for a while but my eyes rolled way too many times to ignore it. And trust me: I’m a sucker for family dramas, especially if a murder is involved. But it’s a no, disguised as a “yes, we’ll see”, cos’ I’m still cautiously optimistic about that one. It could be a decent guilty pleasure, as long as the mystery is solved at the end of the season and it becomes an anthology if it’s renewed.

Like in the other CBS summer series Braindead (Read the preview here), there’s a political context to the story, since one of the character, Alison, is running to become Boston’s new mayor. But unlike Braindead, it is not properly taken care of. It’s a parody of an election, with a cliché campaign manager, Renee, and very tired low blows from the opponent, mostly based on rumors. We have seen too many great political shows or plots recently (House of Cards, Boss, Borgen, The Good Wife) to be satisfied by such a ridiculous attempt at it. Even Scandal is smarter than that. Of course, it’s not all there is but it’s not like it’s a good thriller either…

I’m not sure why it’s even called American Gothic. It’s not scary and it doesn’t even try to be. There’s a malediction that seems to be running in the family: every generation has their own serial killer. There’s the patriarch, it’s the discovery of the pilot. Then there may be one of his kid, the black sheep, who seems to have helped him. But there is no proof yet of his guilt. I guess we’ll discover later he is not involved at all but one of his sister or brother is. Or they are all serial killers and it’s the worst show ever. That’s a real possibility. And finally there’s a young child, a very strange boy who happens to cut the neighbor’s cat’s tail during the pilot. Yes. No subtlety AT ALL. He’s gonna be a killer because he is cruel to animals. Period. We can also imagine Tessa, our main character, will discover later that some of their ancestors had a lot of blood on their hands and it’s all because of them. Honestly, I’m not quite sure what this show is about and what will happen next. I’m definitely curious about it, though.

At its core, American Gothic is a family drama. But the family dynamic is not engaging at all. None of them seem to be close or even caring about each others. It’s not Brothers & Sisters with serial killers: they are not even funny in their mediocrity. It’s not Netflix’s Bloodline, though it’s impossible not to think about it if you’ve seen it. I think it’s simply a poorly written soap with dull characters, which wants to give us the creeps but only manages to keep us entertained. But for how long? They can only do two things now to make it better: strenghten up the characters by focusing on who they really are and what they mean to each other; and surprising us as much as they can by choosing not to go where we think they’re going. Taking the How to get away with murder route, in fact. And as a bonus: hiring a director that can set up a scary atmosphere that is totally absent from the script.

American Gothic has zero chance to become a hit and every chance to be forgotten quickly. But it’s so bad it could be good! Prepare yourself for the possible perfect hate-watching guilty-pleasure of summer 2016!

 

NEXT PREVIEW: THIRTY SIX (NBC)

Braindead (CBS) pilot preview: When The Good Wife’s creators go full zombies!

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Created by Robert & Michelle King (The Good Wife, Vertical Limit, Red Corner). Produced by Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Alien, Prometheus), Judy Smith (Scandal) & David W. Zucker (Police Squad!, Naked Gun). For CBS Television Studios, King Size Productions & Scott Free Productions. 67 pages.

Description: Laurel, the daughter of a Democratic political dynasty who left Washington, D.C. to become a documentary filmmaker, is pulled back into the family business when her brother, the senate majority whip, needs her help running his senate office. Now a young, fresh-faced Hill staffer, Laurel discovers two things: The government has stopped working, and alien spawn have come to Earth and eaten the brains of a growing number of congressmen and Hill staffers…

With Mary Elizabeth Winstead (10 Cloverfield LaneThe Returned US, A Good Day to Die Hard, Final Destination 3) , Aaron Tveit (Graceland, Gossip Girl), Danny Pino (Cold Case, Law & Order SVU), Johnny Ray Gill (Rectify, Harry’s Law), Nikki M. James (The Good Wife)…

STARTS JUNE 13th ON CBS

 

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Whether The Good Wife leaves the air next May or stays at least one more year remains a mystery, as CBS has not decided on its fate yet (or so they say). In my opinion, they should wrap it up before it gets too embarrasing. A show that once was so brilliant can’t keep on offering such meh episodes (and such bad ratings). It’s just not acceptable. Creators Robert & Michelle King are already looking ahead while working on their next projects: there’s the ambitious Vatican City for Amazon, about the first female Papal spokesperson, which sounds exciting and new, and there’s Braindead, ordered to series for a summer run, described as a horror dramedy, which sounds a bit weird, especially on CBS but summer is this time of the year when the network allows itself to be real dumb and plain boring, as Under The Dome & Zoo proved to be (Extant was “just” boring and nothing else much). Braindead isn’t dumb and boring on the page. But is it any good? After scratching my head til it bleeds a little, here’s what I can say about the King’s next move.

Braindead is as funny as the Kings can be in The Good Wife sometimes, and it certainly doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is a good thing since we already have that kind of “why so serious?” zombie show. It’s called The Walking Dead and everybody saw at least a glimpse of it. There are even a few fans out there, I’ve been told. The tone of the show is much more looking towards Ash Vs. Evil Dead but it wouldn’t be fair to compare it to anything else on TV right now. Braindead is its own thing, familiar in a way but different. Highly entertaining but with substance – and not only raw meat. Laurel, our heroin, has a good sense of humor and it makes her instantly engaging. It certainly is a meaty role for Mary-Elizabeth Winstead, who deserves it. Laurel is not as cold as Alicia Florrick can look at first sight. She’s fresh, cheerful, a bit of a nerd. She’s described by the writers as “eclectic and lively“. Not sure what they mean, but yeah she’s all of that and probably much more as we get to know her.

The characters that surround her are for the most part politicians, whether they’re from her family or working against her family, and they already show their real faces behind the mask. That’s where it’s a good thing the show is written by the Kings and not some random writer. They know what they’re talking about. They know political strategies. They proved it on The Good Wife multiple times. It’s not a zombie show that happens to be set at Washington DC. It’s both a zombie and a political show, and both aspects are treated with the same care. You got the thrills and the violence of The Walking Dead, or let’s say The Strain; and also the excitement of a smart TV show like The Good Wife that doesn’t take you for a dummy. Juggling with both is much more difficult than it seems and they do it very smoothly. I’d like to add The Good Wife fans won’t be lost: they’ll have a good amount of walk and talk scenes, dialogues on the phones and the pilot starts the same way as a lot of the legal series’ episodes do, by showing an internet video, here it’s car crash in Russia directly followed by the fall of a meteorite.

When it comes to raising the stakes and giving us a good idea of what the show will look like on a weekly basis, the Kings kind of fail. They made a choice: not showing all their cards in the pilot. They don’t use flashbacks or flashfowards or any other writing tricks. I respect that. Totally. That’s the way most of cable shows work. And they treated Braindead as such. For a network, even during summertime, it’s dangerous but courageous. Hope they’ll be rewarded for it. And I also hope they have a plan but you can’t seriously throw yourself into that kind of story without a plan!

Something really good can come out of that pilot script and that idea of a television show, but Braindead isn’t there yet. For now, it’s total exposure. Getting to know the characters, understanding the political situation -which is never that easy- and attending the first few days of the epidemy. Will it become a survival show at some point? We don’t know, but we sure hope so. There’s exciting stuff ahead and there’s exciting stuff right now. We just have to accept Braindead isn’t a flashy show that makes your head spinning from the get go and leaves you breathless after an hour. It’s a more traditional writing but a very good one thrown into a mix of genres that makes it everything but traditional. It won’t make your brain hurts… yet.

 

NEXT REVIEW: AMERICAN GOTHIC (CBS)

UPDATE: ABC orders “When We Rise” LGBT rights miniseries from “Harvey Milk”‘s Dustin Lance Black

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2ND UPDATE: After “Milk”, Gus Van Sant reteams with Lance Black as director and executive producer of the miniseries.

UPDATE: Shooting is now scheduled for January 2016. 

Originally published in March 2015

ABC adds a late entry to its drama pilots slate for 2015/2016 pilot season : “When We Rise”, from Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black.

With already 12 pilots ordered, all filming right now, ABC is still hungry for more with a late entry that may not be ready in time for the upfronts race but which is eyeing a mini-series order for about 8-10 episodes. Casting has just started. When We Rise, written by Dustin Lance Black, an Oscar Winner for his Harvey Milk script, also responsible for Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar and a few episodes of HBO’s Big Love, is a period piece that tells the history of the gay rights movement that started with the Stonewall Riots in 1969. It’s a passion project for Black, who was raised in a Mormon house in Texas and has worked tirelessly for marriage equality and gay rights since his carreer in Hollywood started to rise. The show will focus on the personal and political struggles, set-backs and triumphs of a diverse group of men and women from the LGBT community. It’s an ABC Studios production. Laurence Mark (Julie & Julia, Dreamgirls, iRobot, Last Vegas) is co-producing.

SEE ALL PILOTS ORDERED BY ABC

EXCLUSIVE: Netflix orders “Mindhunter” series from David Fincher & Charlize Theron

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Previously set up at HBO,  the “Mindhunter” drama series produced by David Fincher & Charlize Theron is ordered straight to series by Netflix for a possible late 2016 launch…

Back in 2010, actress Charlize Theron & director David Fincher developed together a show for HBO adapted from the book Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker that never came to fruition. The serial killer drama recounts Douglas’ experiences as a top FBI investigator of serial killers and rapists and the profiling techniques he developed. He became a legendary figure in law enforcement, pursuing some of the most notorious and sadistic killers of our time like the man who hunted prostitutes for sports in the woods of Alaska, the Atlanta child murderer or Seattle’s Green River killer, a case that nearly cost Douglas his life. Every shortened season may follow a different case.

The pilot script was written by Scott Buck, who worked on Six Feet Under & Dexter and who was recently chosen by Netflix to run Marvel’s Iron Fist series. It’s produced through Theron’s Denver and Delilah banner & Jennifer Orme Erwin’s Jen X Productions. Shooting is expected to start in May 2016 in Pittsburgh. They are now looking for the perfect big name who will star as Douglas.

DISCOVER EVERY NETFLIX SHOW ORDERED

EXCLUSIVE: The CW orders epic tale drama “Incarnate” direct to series

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The CW picks up to series supernatural drama “Incarnate” from Alloy Entertainment, avoiding the classical pilot stage…

After Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, The Vampire Diaries & The 100,  Alloy Entertainment, specialized in young adult literature, has sold to The CW a new show called Incarnate, based on the recent Incarnation series of books. The epic tale spans centuries. For 600 years, Seraphina Ames roamed the world with her controlling boyfriend, Cyrus, and their clan of immortal Incarnates. True love is the one thing that’s always alluded her–but when she escapes Cyrus and stumbles into a new and romantic life as sixteen-year-old Kailey Morgan, Seraphina is determined to keep Cyrus at bay, and live like it’s her very last chance.

It’s not clear yet if the network is considering Incarnate for a summer run but the shooting should start on late March in Vancouver and/or New Orleans. The pilot is written by Josh Stolberg (Piranha 3D) and directed by Tripp Reed, who already work on comedy Significant Mother last summer.

“The Notebook” TV adaptation picked up to pilot at The CW

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UPDATE: After not being able to find the right cast, The Notebook’s pilot is not going forward (THR).

For once, The CW starts pilot season early with an order (not yet official) for The Notebook TV adaptation, a romantic period drama that deviates from the recent additions of the network, mostly based on comics. 

Set in 1946 in North Carolina, the show follows the romantic journey of the two beloved central characters from the 2004 movie -based on Nicholas Sparks’ bestelling novel- Noah and Allie, at the outset of their blossoming relationship as they build their lives and their future together against the backdrop of the racial politics, economic inequities, and social mores of post-World War II. It will basically cover the unexplored life of the couple.

The script is penned by Todd Graff, who wrote movies you probably never head of like Camp, Bandslam or The Vanishing, and is supervised by Nicholas Sparks and his agent Theresa Park, for Warner Bros. Television. The early order can be explained by the time needed to find the perfect actors to follow Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams…

The CW also quietly ordered Riverdale to pilot