Month: January 2016

Designated Survivor (ABC) preview: Kiefer Sutherland is the new US president in a brainier 24

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Created by David Guggenheim (Safe House, Stolen, Bad Boys 3). Produced by Mark Gordon (Quantico, Grey’s Anatomy, Criminal Minds), Simon Kinberg (X-Men, Deadpool, The Martian), David Guggenheim, Kiefer Sutherland & Suzan Bymel (Touch). For The Mark Gordon Company, ABC Studios, Entertainment One, Entertainment 360 & Genre Films. 60 pages.

Description: Tom Kirkman, a family man and lower level United States Cabinet member, is suddenly appointed President after a catastrophic terrorist attack during the State of the Union kills everyone above him in the Presidential line of succession. Unprepared, over one night, he moves in the White House with his wife and kids and starts his new job, the most important and scrutinized in the free world…

With Kiefer Sutherland (24, Touch), Kal Penn (Dr House, 24), Nathasha McElhone (Californication), Maggie Q (Nikita, Stalker), Italia Ricci (Supergirl, Chasing Life), Adan Canto (The Following)…

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Protecting the US presidents, fighting against terrorism and saving the country, as well as the whole world, was not enough for Kiefer Sutherland anymore. He doesn’t want to be a part of 24: Legacy -except by keeping his executive producing credit to get some more money out of the lucrative franchise, fair enough- but he surely wants to be on television again. And this time, HE will be the president. And he will fight against terrorism and save the country and the whole world again. Designated Survivor was designed for the actor, or so it seems, and could be a new game-changer in his career. It’s better than Touch, the last series he did for FOX with Heroes‘ creator Tim Kring, which was a trainwreck after a promising start. The show could also be better than The Blacklist, where he was asked to play the lead but turned it down ultimately (then it was given to James Spader), which would be a way better show if it was less of a procedural and more serialized. But is it such a good idea for Kiefer Sutherland to come back in a conspiracy thriller drama? Can we forget Jack Bauer while watching him as Tom Kirkman? That’s definitely a challenge. One he’s up for.

The Designated Survivor project sparked a bidding war among the networks, before landing at ABC. Which is unexpected. FOX, NBC or even CBS looked like safer homes. But it’s an interesting twist and we can already envision it as a companion series for Quantico on sundays, if it’s renewed for a second season. They tackle the same current issues, but one through the FBI lens, the other through the White House. They could even make a crossover. Especially since both are produced by Mark Gordon. And if Quantico is cancelled, just make Alex Parrish (Priyanka Chopra) Tom Kirkman’s personal bodyguard! They’re not written the same way though, Designated Survivor being a more traditional drama with less jumps back and forth in time and no multiple twists, and it suits it well. But don’t expect as much action as in 24.

As you can imagine, the US president does not carry a gun and doesn’t run everywhere everytime. There are people who do that for him and we don’t meet them, at least for now. Even the explosion that kills everyone is not directly shown. Good for the budget. A bit disappointing for the audience. There’s smoke afar. Images of chaos on television. But since our hero is not in the heart of the attack -that’s the whole idea, that’s why he’s the only government member who survives- the writer does his best to make us feel the urgency of the situation from a distant point of view. And everything goes really fast. It only takes 9 pages before Kirkman realizes he might become the new president and the point of view suddenly changes. It works, it’s exciting. You don’t necessarily need huge explosions to satisfy an audience. And then, it’s a “15 hours earlier” act. Time to breathe a little. And we’re right in the middle of a family drama. In fact, it works the same way as Madam Secretary‘s pilot two years ago, but with higher stakes. We meet Jessica, his wife; his two kids, Leo and Penny; his chief of staff and longtime friend Emily; and we discover Tom was about to be fired from his job as the head of the housing and urban development department. Little by little, step by step, the thrilling family drama gets more and more intense and… political. And that’s where it really differs from 24 and Quantico.

Of course, there will be an investigation on the Capitol bombing, lead by Hannah Watts, the FBI agent in charge. And we can imagine it won’t be the last terrostist attack in the country. That’s for the thrill and the action. But the real story here, the one that’s the most interesting in my opinion, is about what’s happening inside the White House in the midst of this never seen before crisis; the political game between the new appointed president -Kirkman was supposed to be neutral, neither a Republican or a Democrat, but he will have to choose a side now- and the opposition, but also between the people who worked with Tom before and the new ones he has no choice but to work with now. There’s a diverse and eclectic team around him: Aaron Shore, the former White House Deputy Chief; Harry Cochrane, a five star general in his sixties; Seth Wheeler, a genius speechwriter in his twenties; and of course Emily. Their interactions with Tom are energetic, sometimes funny, especially with Seth -they meet in the bathroom and there’s vomite involved- and makes the show entertaining as well as riveting. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. Is Kiefer able to do that?

The whole concept of Designated Survivor is so strong it could only turn into an exciting first hour of television (with the right persons involved). The real challenge now is to maintain this level of ambition and efficiency moving forward, while giving to the secondary characters the space they need and deserve to grow. It can’t be “the Kiefer Sutherland as president of the United States show”. It has to be an ensemble show with Kiefer Sutherland as Tom Kirkman at the center. Not the same thing. It has to be more The West Wing than 24, to be clearer. Not that it could ever compare to The West Wing though. A brainier 24

“PRISON BREAK” EXCLUSIVE: Here’s the list of who will be back in the sequel!

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It’s official now: Prison Break limited revival sequel is a go at FOX with a straight-to-series order. The 10-hour installment -that might be only 9- will air sometimes in 2016, as announced by FOX’s chiefs during the TCAs. We don’t know much about the story yet, except it picks up several years after the end of the first series and will largely ignore the straight-to-video finale, which saw the demise of Michael Scofield, though they will provide “a logical and believable explanation to why the characters are alive and still moving around the world”. But here at Season-Zero, we have a little bit more informations to provide…

Based on the first episode only, written by original creator Paul T. Scheuring, here’s an exclusive list of the characters who are coming back, even though at this point only Wentworth Miller & Lincoln Burrows as brothers Michael Scofield & Lincoln Burrows have signed on for the sequel. Both will be series regular, of course. But don’t expect too much screentime for Miller initially. Michael is virtually nowhere to be found until the very last minutes. Don’t forget he’s supposed to be dead. Like really dead. But in Prison Break, no one’s ever really dead.

Sara Tancredi, played by Sarah Wayne Callies, will be returning -with her head still on her shoulders!- alongside Mike, her 7 year-old son. The one she had with Michael before he “died”. She now lives in New York and has another man in her life for quite some time named Scott.

Our dear Theodore ‘T-Bag’ Bagwell (Robert Knepper) will also return, with his sadistic smile, his very own sense of humor and his prosthetic hand. The show starts the day of his release from Fox River and he’s in very good shape…

Benjamin Miles ‘C-Note’ Franklin (Rockmond Dunbar) is expected to help Lincoln in his new quest. He now lives in New York too, and he is the respected leader of an islamic center next to a Mosque. He serves God and fights against radicalization.

Finally, Fernando Sucre (Amaury Nolasco) aka Michael’s dumb bestfriend also joins the team. He’s now working on a freelance cargo ship that travels the world (and transports illegal things, obviously).

New characters include Cate, a woman in her 30s who may be Lincoln’s girlfriend, they work together at a dive shop in Florida; and Sheba, a beautiful 20 year-old Middle Eastern smuggler.

One last info -at least for now- most of the action of the first episode happens in the United States -the shooting will take place in Atlanta- but we’re in Yemen towards the end, during civil war.

 

STAY TUNED FOR MORE

EXCLUSIVE: Hulu prepping pilot “Citizen” from “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” director

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After Our Man on the Moon & Crushed, streaming platform Hulu is working on an order for another pilot, this time a drama from Alfonso Gomez-Rejon called Citizen

The Me and Earl and the Girl dying helmer who worked on television for American Horror Story and Red Band Society co-wrote the project with Nick Schutt (staff writer on Blood and oil) and will direct the pilot. The potential series tells the story of a former soldier from a brutal Latin America dictatorship who, after being trained by the CIA, finds his way to America and begins a one-man crusade to bring justice to the poor, the disenfranchised and those with nowhere else to run.

Anonymous Content (Mr Robot, True Detective) is co-producing with Paramount Television, through CEO and founder Steve Golin in association with Matt Kanter (The Revenant) & Matt DeRoss (The Loft).

 

Shots Fired (FOX) pilot preview: A lesser American Crime

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Also known as Indictment. Created & directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Beyond the Lights, The Secret Life of Bees, Love & Basketball). Co-created by Reggie Rock-Bythewood (Notorious BIG, Players, New York Undercover). Produced by Francie Calfo (Empire) & Brian Grazer (24, Friday Night Lights, Gang Related, Arrested Development). For FOX, 20th Century FOX Television, Imagine Television & Undisputed Cinema. 63 pages.

Description: A black officer shoots a white teen in a racially charged Tennessee town. Considering the unusual circumstances of this case, two out-of-town black prosecutors are brought in to sort through the evidence and find out what really happened. As the community grows anxious and the country is buzzing, Preston Terry and Ashe Bell must keep personal bias and suspicions to themselves to seek the truth…

With Sanaa Lathan (Nip/Tuck, Boss, Family Guy, Alien Vs Predator, Out of Time), Stephan James (Selma), Helen Hunt (Mad About You, As Good As It Gets, Twister), Richard Dreyfuss (Weeds, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind), Stephen Moyer (True Blood), Conor Leslie (Klondike, Other Space), Aisha Hinds (Under The Dome, True Blood), Tristan Wilds (The Wire, 90210DeWanda Wise

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I’ve just finished my American Crime season 1 binge-watching when I’m writing this article. So, sorry if this brilliant show comes up a lot during the following review but the truth is they share a lot and even though Shots Fired is a decent pilot script, it can’t compare to American Crime‘s. In any way. That’s said. The FOX “event series” as they call it -meaning it’s written as a miniseries but it could get a second one with a new story if it works- is described by the proud network as a “mystery-thriller drama”, but I don’t think it really fits with what I’ve read. It’s a cop show, mostly. Yeah, it doesn’t sound as exciting but it’s closer to the truth. And a few very serialized cop shows like The Killing are great so it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad and generic. Mystery implicates surprising plot twists and twisted characters. Not that kind of show. Thriller means suspense and action. Not that kind of show either.

At its core, Shots Fired tells the story of a detective investigation led by two very different people, whose main common thread is to be… highly desirable. And it doesn’t take long before they start being flirtatious. Yeah, it was obvious from the pitch it was going to happen. At least, they don’t try to hide it. Just a few pages and we’re right in the middle of it. Well… It took 9 seasons for Mulder & Scully. Why do I talk about those two beloved characters? Because they’re back and because when you look closely at the pitch of Shots Fired, it’s like The X-Files, without the monsters or any supernatural events. Except, maybe, the monsters are humans hiding in this town.

American Crime is an anomaly on ABC. It’s a cable show from start to finish. Shots Fired is very networky. It means it gets a better chance to work, especially if FOX decides to pair it with Empire, since they share a producer and most of all a potential afro-american audience with two black leads and a racially-charged topic. And I’m okay with it, don’t get me wrong. It’s cool to have a fair entertaining show that treats a subject which is resonating with the news, with America. Especially when the next presidential election is coming. Oh but.. FOX means… FOX News. And FOX News means Republican propaganda. Means Donald Trump! Means misinformation and guns for all. And suddenly I’m afraid the show could be instrumental for the campaign. And that’s a scary thought… But NOTHING in the pilot script resembled any sort of propaganda. And the writers are black themselves. It’s safe to assume it’s all gonna be OK.

Shots Fired tries to be realistic mostly, and that’s where I have a little disapointment: the script is not detailed to the point where you can really feel the atmosphere of this little town in Tennessee smothering you, like Modesto did in American Crime. There’s not the same raw emotion either. They want us to be comfortable in front of our TV. And when you decide to talk about such a sensitive subject, making people comfortable is not the best way to make your point, in my opinion. It should be a punch in the face. It should make you feel pain, you should be able to sense the despair of the population. Let’s take an example: there’s the mother of the victim. We briefly met her during one of those classical interrogation scenes we’ve seen a thousand times before in every cop show. There’s no emotion coming out of it. At least on the page. It’s lazy. And that’s a real problem to me. Then you think about Felicity Huffman’s character in American Crime, also the mother of the victim, and it’s definitely another level… But it’s not fair to compare words with acting. That being said, as a network show, it works. It’s efficient. You want to see more. It’s a good place to start and you can only hope it’s gonna get more ambitious along the way, more complex, more subtle. One can dream, hum?

With Shots Fired, the real question is not “Is it any good?” but “Is it up to the challenge?”. And I really fear it’s not. It needs to be ‘cos it’s serious stuff here, it’s politics. You can’t fuck this up. It would be a shame. It’s too important these days. This love story they’re forcing between the leads doesn’t reassure me at all, honestly. So okay, you understood me: Shots Fired is not American Crime. Never will be. It’s not great but it’s not bad either. Let the writers call the shots. We’ll see what they’re capable of.

 

NEXT: DESIGNATED SURVIVOR (ABC)

PILOT WHISPERER: FOX prepping pilot order for megachurch project

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While pilot season started earlier than last year with orders for comedies at ABC & NBC, most of the heavy-lifting has yet to come in the next few weeks. Our PILOT WHISPERER column is here to give you some inside scoops for what’s to expect…

 

NBC

Atlanta-set soap Buckhead, produced by Will Packer (Uncle Buck, Truth Be Told, Roots) for Universal Television, is seen by the network as what could become the next Empire and should be offically picked-up to pilot at any moment. The drama written by David McMillan is about ambition, sex, and revenge in the extravagant, high-stakes world of Atlanta politics, entertainment, churches and strip clubs.

Legal drama Miranda’s Rights is heating up. It’s about 28-year-old Miranda Coale, who six years after a sex scandal upended her life, gets a shot at redemption when she’s hired by a group of millennials living and lawyering together in a start-up law firm…(Update: PICKED-UP)

Among hot properties with a pilot production commitment, NBC could give greenlights to Amy Poehler-produced comedy Dumb Prince (Update: PICKED-UP), spoof of crime documentaries The Trail (Update: PICKED-UP) & Greg Berlanti-produced dark family soap Brides.

 

CBS

Iconic Nancy Drew could be back on the air with a contemporary take from longtime Grey’s Anatomy producers Joan Rater & Tony Phelan, produced by Oscar-winning producer Dan Jinks (American Beauty) for CBS Television where the writers have an overall deal (they also wrote legal drama Doubt, whose second pilot with Katherine Heigl is awaiting a series order). The show, about a Nancy Drew in her thirties who is a detective for the NYPD where she investigates and solves crimes using her uncanny observational skills, could be the right companion series for Supergirl, if the superheroin gets a second season. (Update: PICKED-UP)

Bunker Hill from Jason Katim’s True Jack Productions is close to an order. Written by Sarah Watson, the medical drama is set at a high-tech Silicon Valley hospital with a cutting-edge approach to medicine. (Update: PICKED-UP)

Also hot at CBS with pilot production commitment are Training Day reboot from Jerry Bruckheimer & Antoine Fuqua (Update: PICKED-UP); and another project from Jerry Bruckheimer: multicamera comedy Talk Nerdy To Me about four smart, ambitious, twenty-something women living together.

 

ABC

The Alphabet network has already picked-up The Jury to pilot; and among the next orders is expected Monstropolis from ABC Studios, in which drama in which monsters are real, living amongst the humans in the city of New Manhattan; legal drama Please don’t go produced by Reese Witherspoon about a ruthless divorce attorney in Texas (Update: PICKED-UP); Kevin Williamson’s travel drama Time after Time (Update: PICKED-UP); and comedy Damage Control about the overworked, underpaid, clean up crew of the Marvel Universe specializing in dealing with the aftermath of the unique fallout from superhero conflicts.

Shonda Rhimes should get her first comedy pilot order for Toast, written by Scandal‘s Scott Foley and based on an idea by Foley & Greg Grunberg. It tells the story of an engaged couple who, over their wedding rehearsal dinner, have their eclectic family and friends give toasts recalling anecdotes about them (Update: PICKED-UP). Another very likely pick-up is for Hail Mary, based on Austrian comedy Braunschlag about a young small-town mayor named Emma Wolf and her dysfunctional siblings (Update: PICKED-UP).

 

FOX

On the heels of Lethal Weapon reboot order (announced right here), FOX is high on Dan Fogelman/Rick Singer’s Pitch pilot about a young female pitcher who defies the odds to become the first woman to compete in professional baseball (Update: PICKED-UP); an Untitled Megachurch family soap project from Julian Breece; and The Greatest American Hero comedy reboot from Chris Miller & Phil Lord. Other comedies soon to be ordered to pilot are I Like You from actress/writer Alex Bornstein & multicamera The Enforcers from ex-Friends writers Sherry Bilsing-Graham & Ellen Kreamer (Update: PICKED-UP).

 

STAY TUNED FOR MORE…

The CW’s 7 most exciting projects for 2016/2017 pilot season

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The following article is based on descriptions mixed wih talents attached ONLY. None of the scripts have been read at this point. 

What are The CW’s needs for next season?

  • Not much, quite frankly. I would have said comedies, but they didn’t develop any. They didn’t cancel a lot last year and they probably won’t cancel much this year either. Meaning no space for new shows.
  • A new show able to keep the “ancient” CW viewers happy when The Vampire Diaries will be gone, sooner or later.

NUMBERS

Drama Scripts ordered: around 20

Drama pilots ordered last year: 6


OBSERVATIONS

The CW is healthier than ever with its combination of old shows that still deliver (Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries), recent hits (Arrow, The Flash), critical acclaim (The 100, Jane The Virgin, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) and new promising shows (Legends of Tomorrow, Containment). They have the right balance of CBS Television Studios-produced series and Warner Bros. Television-produced series. They’re happy, but you can always be happier. That’s what they’re gonna aim with their new shows, some of them are really ambitious. Here are the most promising:

 

THE BEAUTIFUL BUREAUCRAT (CBS Television Studios)

What? when a young woman gets a data entry job at a mysterious corporation, she discovers that the information she is logging is building a database that has the power to affect fate – including her own

Why? Talking about ambition… It’s based on a recently published book and it seems to be a different offer from what they already have. Science-fiction, but not the same kind as The 100.

 

CRY (CBS Television Studios)

What? the story of a doctor who makes the astonishing medical breakthrough to bring cryogenically preserved people back to life, starting with the unfreezing of his own father – but he never expects that restoring life will have both glorious and devastating consequences…

Why? I doubt this one goes to pilot stage. Too ambitious and really not CW-esque. But one can hope for a miracle!

 

LITTLE WOMEN (CBS Television Studios)

What? hyper-stylized, gritty adaptation of the 1868 novel by Louisa May Alcott, in which disparate half-sisters Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy band together in order to survive the dystopic streets of Philadelphia and unravel a conspiracy that stretches far beyond anything they have ever imagined – all while trying not to kill each other in the process

Why? There is one Little Women adaptation project every year. ABC had their own in 2015. It’s CW’s turn (and it’s not their first attempt). I’m deeply in love with this book since I’m a child so I’m not sure a Hunger-Gamesque version is the most respectful idea they could come up with. But it’s exciting at the same time. A dystopy about four sisters fighting evil together? I’m genuinely intruigued. Michal Weatherly is producing. Not that it matters…

 

NO TOMORROW (CBS Television Studios)

What? about Sarah, a risk-averse quality-control assessor who falls for free-spirited thrill seeker Xavier only to find out he lives his life that way because he believes the apocalypse is coming…

Why? This show is based on Brazilian series How to Enjoy the End of the World and is envisioned as a good companion for Jane The Virgin. It’s a romantic dramedy with an apocalypse twist. Resembles a bit NBC’s You, Me and the Apocalypse though.

 

THE DROP (CBS Television Studios)

What? about a Miami DJ teetering on the edge of ruin who finds hope (and more) in a gifted protégé who is female and African-American, both rarities in the EDM world…

Why? Here’s what The CW doesn’t have: a musical show! And in terms of revenues, it would be a very good operation for them to finally have one. Even if it’s not a big hit. The world of DJs have not been explored on television yet. But the huge flop at the box office of Zac Efron’s movie We are your friends about a young DJ last summer doesn’t bode well and may have an impact on their pilot pick-up decision. Is there an audience for it?

 

RIVERDALE (Warner Bros. Television)

What? a bold, subversive take on Archie, Betty, Veronica and their friends from the comics, exploring the surreality of small-town life – the darkness and weirdness bubbling beneath Riverdale’s wholesome façade.

Why? First developed at FOX in 2015, this show based on the Archie comics series seem to be a way better fit with The CW. Especially if it’s as “bold” and “subversise” as they say. And it needs to be! Greg Berlanti is producing, meaning it has almost zero chance no to go to series.

 

TEMPEST (Warner Bros. Television)

What? about a young woman living in a utopian spaceship; when she finds out the ship is secretly powered by slaves, she becomes enmeshed romantically and politically in the dangerous rebellion brewing below the decks

Why? Too close to The 100? Maybe. But The 100 is so good I wouldn’t mind having another one in the same spirit… Give it a chance, please!

 

What projects are you the most interested in among these? Take your picks!