Month: April 2016

Bull (CBS) pilot preview: This is NOT The Good Wife’s successor

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Created and executive produced by Paul Attanasio (Dr House, Homicide, Donnie Brasco, Disclosure) & Phil McGraw (Dr Phil, The Doctors). Directed by Rodrigo Garcia (In Treatment, Big Love, Six Feet Under). Also executive produced by Jay McGrawJustin Falvey & Darryl Frank (The Americans, Under The Dome, Extant, Terra Nova). For CBS, CBS Television Studios, Stage 29 Prods & Amblin Television. 65 pages.

Description: Based on Dr Phil McGraw’s early days. Dr Jason Bull, a psychologist on top of his game, head of Trial Sciences, Inc., one of the most prolific trial consulting services of all time, provide with his team of experts the best help you need to prove your innocence or defend your case… 

With Michael Weatherly (NCIS, Dark Angel), Freddy Rodriguez (The Night Shift, Ugly Betty, Six Feet Under), Christopher Jackson, Geneva Carr, Jaime Lee Kirchner (Mercy, The Mob Doctor)…

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This year, CBS has apparently decided to put a drama pilot against one another and pick-up the best (or the easiest one to market). For their police procedural needs, it’s probably Nancy Drew against MacGyver; on the action side, it’s Training Day against Four Stars; in the medical genre, it was supposed to be Bunker Hill against Sensory, but the latter has been pushed to a fall shooting, so now it’s more of Bunker Hill against a possible Code Black season 2; and in the legal department, to succeed to The Good Wife, it’s Doubt –rolled from last year with a new pilot– against Bull. It’s writers from Grey’s Anatomy against the so famous and beloved Dr Phil. It’s Katherine Heigl against Michael Weatherly, who’s just departing from hit NCIS. There’s still a chance CBS orders both, especially since both are said to be well regarded, but if they have to choose just one… I’d say Bull has the upper hand. One thing’s for sure: none of them is the next The Good Wife. None of them is that good. They are both very different and they both bring something to the table. But not something new. And not something people are craving for.

Bull is kind of a nightmare to me, as a reader. It’s one thing to watch a procedural, it’s another one to read a procedural script, especially when it’s a pilot. Trust me. It can get very boring very fast. You’re thrown into this world where you have a hundred of characters, most of them already know each other, there are the lawyers, the consultants, the clients… Their personnality is described in one sentence. You don’t get to learn much more about them as the episode progresses since they are not here to talk about their problems and fears and god knows what else but to solve a case, help other people. So you tend to confound them. You even have a hard time remembering their names. And there’s this hero you are forced to like by the writers, because he has a sense of humor and because whatever he says or does he’s a good person inside. And the show is co-wrote by the person who inspired him so it means the grey areas of the character are not that grey. And the whole thing is just not pleasant to read. Bull‘s script is certainly not a page turner, but as the case evolves, with some twists and turns on the way, it becomes interesting. The closing argument part is really strong, for example. Too late probably. But it’s better later than never, I guess.

Bull is not your typical legal drama though, and for one good reason: the heroes are not the lawyers but the people helping the lawyers decide which strategy is the best, based on complex psychological analysis and mock trials. The TSI headquarters are a giant place with fake courtrooms, focus-group rooms with a one-way glass, a graphic design studio, a computer reasearch room… And all they do all day is analyse the jurors. Imagine the outcomes. And of course, sometimes, they are the ones who investigate and discover the truth. Because the show has to resemble to a police procedural at some point, whether it’s accurate about this job or not. Come on, we’re on CBS! I thought it was all very exhausting in the end. It’d be great for a special episode of a legal show. Or if it was just one department inside a firm with a larger story. But following these people doing this load of work every week? Nope. Then again, maybe it’s just me…

And you know what else I didn’t appreciate? The overwhelming writing. It overflows with details and ideas. People are too often talking at the same time, in front of the camera for “interviews”. Too many split screens. Too many montages, of Instagram photos for example. One montage in particular I hated: Bull having “moments” with his team. Bull laughing with someone. Bull hugging this other someone. Bull lunching with her and her. Bull smoking with him… The writers may have thought this montage was enough to show us how close Bull is with his team members, how cool a person he is. But no. It’s so lazy and so fake! We don’t really care about him, except if you’re a huge fan of Dr Phil, maybe. That’s where casting Weatherly is a brilliant idea. Not that he is an exceptional actor, but people love him, presumably, so the character suddenly sounds more interesting than he is on the page. The other characters are all the same for now.

Is CBS capable of rejecting a pilot with Michael Weatherly as the lead? I don’t think so. To bank on NCIS success, they will order it no matter what. Does it make sense? Do NCIS fans can be interested in Bull? I don’t have the answer since I don’t get why they watch NCIS in the first place, for 14 years! But I’m pretty sure Bull is not that a solid legal drama and shouldn’t move further in a better world. But it will. So all bets are off!

Recon (FOX) pilot preview: here’s how Quantico season 2 should look like…

RECON

Created and executive procuced by Caroline Dries (The Vampire Diaries, Smallville, Melrose Place 2009). Directed by Adam Davidson (Community, Parenthood, Big Love, Grey’s Anatomy). Also executive produced by Julie Plec (The Originals, The Vampire Diaries, Kyle XY) & Kevin Williamson (The Vampire Diaries, The Following, Dawson’s Creek, Scream). For FOX & Warner Bros. Television. 63 pages.

Description: Alexa Reikowski, a rookie FBI agent, embeds herself in a suspected terrorist family, the Mazaris, four months after a terrible attack on the american soil killed the Vice President and a dozen other people. Hired as an assistant to Farrah, the mother, she’s warmly welcomed and gets attached to them but she quickly discovers that they are not who they seem to be on the surface…

With Tracy Spiridakos (Revolution, Bates Motel), Nick Weschler (Revenge, Roswell), Alexander Siddig (Game Of Thrones, 24, Star Trek Deep Space Nine), Sarita Choudhury (Homeland, Kings, Hunger Games: Mockingjay), Amanda Warren (The Leftovers), Yasmin Kaur BarnKaran Oberoi (NCIS), Leonidas Castrounis

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O-M-G! Finally something 100% original at FOX! I’m exaggerating, okay. There’s also Pitch & Star, which are. But Prison Break, Lethal Weapon, The Exorcist, 24:Legacy, The X-Files… it’s a lot. Needless to say, Recon has lesser chance to get picked up, especially since it’s about terrorism: Homeland is still a thing; 24:Legacy will be a thing –of course, they will order it whether it’s good or not– & Quantico is… something –not the hit it was supposed to become, partly because of bad scheduling, but not a flop either. So I’m very confused about this pilot. I definitely enjoyed the ride but in the end I’m not sure the show it’s supposed to be is needed right here right now. I totally get why FOX ordered it to pilot though: it’s efficient and it has potential over the course of 3-4 13-episode seasons. In fact I think it would have been a formidable idea for Quantico, season 2: Alex Parrish sent undercover inside a suspected terrorist family. Hey Quantico team, if Recon is not ordered, just steal the idea and it’ll be perfect!

Kevin Williamson is producing. This man knows how to make hits and entertaining television. Or knew. His last attempt, Stalker, was more of a disaster. But weaker shows worked at CBS. Ordering it made sense. Creating it too. Sometimes, you just need to eat! This year, he’s on two other pilots: Time After Time for ABC & Ghost for The CW. Did you know every pilot he did got ordered to series since the beginning of his career? So either he will have three new shows on the air next year (+ The Vampire Diaries & The Originals) or he will fail at this stage for the first time. Does Recon look like a loser? Not on the page at least. But I agree: The Vampire Diaries‘ team dealing with terrorism is a frightening thought. And choosing Tracy Spiridakos & Nick Weschler as leads is kind of a stupid idea. I guess they had no other choice. I’m not saying they’re not good –they are good-looking– but… charisma, anyone? I fear they won’t be able to do justice to this smart script and bring it to another level.

I loved the opening sequence of Recon and I will spoil it to you like crazy. Anyway, the trailer will, sooner or later… So we’re inside a funeral home, following an embalmer working on the dead body of a 70 year-old-woman. There’s flesh and blood. A scalpel. A drain tube. Ankles twisted. Bones cracking. It’s precise. It’s gore. It’s like one of those disgusting scenes in Nip/Tuck when you’re about to vomit just by watching it. And soon we discover he’s… hiding a ticking bomb inside of the body! And it’s not anyone’s body. It’s the Vice President’s wife’s body! A few hours later, it explodes inside Washington National Cathedral, killing the Vice President and sixteen other souls. Cut to black! That’s what I call an opening sequence, my friends. And good news: it’s not a “6 six months before” just right after. But a much more enoyable and original these days “Four months later”.

The rest of the pilot is less exciting but it’s a job well done anyway. Mostly. There’s action and suspense, and this family is a mistery we’re amazed to delve into. They are so ambiguous… And yes, it’s way too easy and cliché sometimes, like those flashbacks showing that the heroine’s dad was killed during 9/11 and that explains why she entered the FBI, so it never happens again. But Alexa is no Carrie Mathison. Not even a tiny Carrie. And the whole set up is just not realistic and doesn’t always take the right direction in my opinion. Making our heroine probably falling in love with one of the terrorist is 1/ already done 2/ kind of ridiculous in this context. But that’s what happens when you create young and beautiful characters and cast models to play them: you want them to fuck with each other at some point. But we’re not in Grey’s Anatomy! Or in Mystic Falls. It’s pretty serious stuff. Come on!

Because of the cast and the inevitable comparisons that will be drawn between the show and Homeland, Recon seems to be doomed from the get go. And honestly, people want to have fun. They don’t want another show about terrorism. They already have plenty to choose from. If FOX can attract people with the pilot -which I doubt of- they won’t be able to keep them interested much longer, unless they assume to make something completely dumb, only based on twists, but it’s not exactly what we’re promised here and we can’t blame them for that. Not smart enough, not dumb enough…

Notorious (ABC) pilot preview: How To Get Away With Scandal

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Created and executive produced by Josh Berman (Drop Dead Diva, The Mob Doctor, Bones, CSI) & Allie Hagan. Directed by Michael Engler (Downton Abbey, The Big C, 30 Rock, Party of Five). Also executive produced by Josh Barry (Salem), Mark Geragos, Wendy Walker & Kenny Meiselas. For ABC, Sony Pictures Television, ABC Studios, The Firm & Osprey Productions. 63 pages.

Description: The professional and personal relationship between Jake Gregorian, a charismatic attorney and Julia George, a powerhouse television producer, as they attempt to control the media, the justice system, and ultimately – each other. Julia decides what our country cares about. She creates heroes and monsters, victims and villains. Jack boasts a roaster of celebrity clients and will win at any cost…

With Piper Perabo (Covert Affairs, Looper, Coyote Ugly), Daniel Sunjata (Graceland, Grey’s Anatomy, Rescue Me), Aimee Teegarden (Star-Crossed, Friday Night Lights), Kate Jennings Grant (Frost/Nixon, Love & Other Drugs), J. August Richards (Angel, Agents of SHIELD, Raising The Bar), Ryan Guzman (Heroes Reborn, Pretty Little Liars, Step Up All In), Kevin Zegers (Gracepoint, Gossip Girl, Transamerica), Sepideh Moafi (Blackbox)…

 

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Notorious is the most ABC-like project I’ve read this year so far. Totally what they used us to those past few years. Good news: it’s not CBS or NBC wanting to be ABC but ABC doing what they know how to do best. It’s right where it belongs. Bad news: it’s almost a cliché of a Shondaland show, not produced by Shondaland. It may miss what makes Shonda Rhimes’ shows so special and ultimately successful. But it’s not bad. Not bad at all. As long as you do like soaps. And it’s the promise of something that can run for years, highly serialized but with new scandalous cases every week. Is it what ABC’s new bosses are looking for? Is it the missing piece that could help the TGIT thrives again in the ratings? Is it a show worth fighting for? So many questions. I do think ABC has to give it a chance anyway.

First things first: like Scandal, which was inspired by a real-life crisis expert, Notorious is based on the relationship between famed criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos –who defended Michael Jackson, Winona Ryder or Chris Brown, among others, and who also represents Kesha in her lawsuit against Dr Luke– and long-time Larry King Live executive producer Wendy Walker, both co-produce. So we are led to believe that there is truth in the way those two act and in the stories they are telling us. Which is not easy. There’s something that doesn’t feel real, or at least that is highly exaggerated. It’s TV. We are not naive. We know they need to spice things up a little bit. Reality is often boring and doesn’t make entertaining television. But still. We need to believe in what we’re watching, so we can connect with the characters. And it’s hard for now. It may take time. But they probably won’t have that much time to convince so…

You know what I like about Julia & Jack? They’re cynical. So cynical. It’s refreshing. Not that this is that provocative or anything. We’ve seen UnREAL (if you haven’t, you should!). There’s a lot of Quinn King in Julia when she is working behind-the-scenes of the Louise Herrick Live show. She’s manipulative. Those scenes are definitely exciting and sometimes jaw-dropping. They reminded me of The Newsroom too. But I won’t compare both shows. That would be an insult to Aaron Sorkin. Regarding the atmosphere, the cases that are tackled, the rhythm, we’re totally in Scandal territory. Julia’s fiancée is a recently appointed Federal Judge, who has been cheating on her with high priced escorts. We’re not that far from politics. We’ll come to it at some point. They could even do crossovers if it was produced by Shonda Rhimes. That would fit perfectly. Olivia Pope helping Jake, who is in love with a client’s wife who may be a murderer… And when you think Scandal, you’re one step away from How To Get Away With Murder. The legal part of the show, especially Jack’s and his brother’s firm, works the same way as the Viola Davis show. Same kind of stories and one character, Ella, Jake’s protégée, an ambitious and not that naive young lawyer, could easily be one of the “Keating Five”.

But what makes this show different? Not that much and that’s the whole problem in my opinion. “The unique, sexy, and dangerous interplay of criminal law and the media” is how the show is sold. In Scandal & HTGAWM, the media is part of the story without being explored thoroughfully. Notorious is complementary in that way, but I’m not sure the audience will want another show in the same vein, especially when the others are still on the air, alive and quite well. Plus, Notorious doesn’t offer in this pilot that many efficient cliffhangers and OMG moments. Or it’s just that we are so prepared and used to this type of storytelling that nothing can surprise us anymore. Anyway, if writers Josh Berman and Allie Hagan were on a mission to create a Shondaland-like show, they succeeded. But if they were supposed to add their own touch and find a new angle, they kinda failed, with dignity though.

Notorious possesses a sexy, crazy attractive cast, especially with those mouth-watering actors. The script is a little bit more than okay. The options for the future of the show are countless. There is a ton of potential. It shouldn’t be hard to sell. But it’s so ABC, so Shondaland, that it’s predictable most of the time and it doesn’t offer anything new. I’d say it would be a good companion for Scandal when the third season of How To Get Away With Murder will end. But that’s only if they keep the TGIT intact next year. And it’s not a done deal yet. 

Riverdale (The CW) pilot preview: THE teen soap of the late 2010s?

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Pilot “Chapter One: The River’s Edge” written and executive produced by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Looking, Glee, Big Love). Based on characters appearing in Archie Comics publications. Directed by Lee Toland Krieger (The Age of Adaline, Celeste & Jesse Forever). Also executive produced by Greg Berlanti (Blindspot, Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, Brothers & Sisters, Everwood, Dawson’s Creek), Jon Goldwater (Sabrina: secrets of a teenage witch) & Sarah Schechter (Blindspot, Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow). For The CW, Warner Bros. Television & Berlanti Productions. 60 pages.

Description: Archie, Betty, Veronica and their friends and enemies and parents, explore the surreality of small-town life – the darkness and weirdness bubbling beneath Riverdale’s wholesome façade. The whole town is shaken when the mysterious disappearance of a teenager turns into a murder case…

With KJ Apa as Archie, Lili Reinhart (Surviving Jack, The Kings of Summer) as Betty, Camila Mendes as Veronica, Cole Sprouse (The Suite Life of Zach & Cody) as Jughead Jones, Casey Cott as Kevin Keller, Madelaine Petsch as Cherry, Ashleigh Murray as Josy, Luke Perry (90210, Oz, Jeremiah) as Fred, Madchen Amick (Twin Peaks, Damages, Witches of East End) as Alice, Marisol Nichols (Teen Wolf, GCB, 24, Resurrection Blvd.) as Hermione, Sarah Habel (Rush, Underemployed) as Geraldine, Ross Butler as Reggie…

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The early 90s had Beverly Hills, 90210, the first teen soap, the late 90s had Dawson’s Creek, the early 2000s had One Tree HillThe OC, the late 2000s had Gossip Girl. The early 2010s had Pretty Little Liars & Glee. And what about the late 2010s? Where is THE teen soap for the new generation? If everything goes as planned, it will be Riverdale and if there is one project this pilot season that is a 100% sure thing, this is it. Because it’s a very popular, really powerful, beloved property (I know a lot of you were waiting for this preview in particular for a long time). Archie Comics exist since 1941. It never went out of style and a new version is published since 2015. 2016 is the 75th anniversary of the series! Because it’s produced by Greg Berlanti and he has an incredible track record at The CW. Because they did an extensive search to find the right incarnations for the characters. Because the promotion has already started with sexy pictures of KJ Apa playing Archie Andrews on the set flooding the internet. So now the whole process has been set into motion. Riverdale, 8pm on Mondays starting next fall?

The first thing that came to my mind while reading the pilot script was: gosh, it looks an awful lot like Dawson’s Creek. Apart from the fact that this is my reference, the teen soap of my teenage years, the love triangle at the center of the story -‘cos of course there is one- is exactly the same. The only difference is Dawson was not popular at all. Archie is. He’s a football player and an artist, he writes music. Sweet and smart Betty is in love with him for a longtime and he doesn’t want to see it even though it’s obvious for everyone else. Dawson & Joey all over again. Confident and silver-tongued Veronica, determined to become a good person, arrives in Riverdale from New York, like Jen, and shakes things up a little bit. But let’s be honest: Kevin Williamson, Dawson’s Creek‘s creator, probably read Archie comics and it inspired him the idea of the show, mixed with his own life story. And I’m discovering it almost 20 years later…

The other show that I thought of instantly is Desperate Housewives. Because of the atmosphere, the use of the voice-over (performed by the character of philosophically bent heartthrob Jughead Jones), this idea of a town where nothing is like what it seems on the surface, and the murder mystery that starts in the opening sequence and that will probably be used as the common thread of the season. The Blossom Twins, Jason and Cheryl, hated by the whole town because of their manipulative and pretentious attitude, had a boat accident on the 4th of July. Except it was not an accident. And weeks later, while Cherry is alive and well, Jason’s decomposed corpse is found on the edge of the river. There is a ton of possible culprits. And Archie knows some things. He was there when it all happened… The tone of the show is very similar to Marc Cherry’s. It’s fun, colorful, full of twists and turns, punchlines, bigger than life characters, but also dark and twisted stories, involving the teenagers but also their parents and teachers, who went to school together many years ago and share their own secrets and rancors.

Riverdale is said to be “subversive”, that’s how The CW presents it, and I don’t really agree with that. And they should not insist on it or people will get disappointed. The pilot is really efficient, exciting, promising, but subsersive? I mean… It would have been in the 90s and it certainly was when it came out in the 1940s! But in the 2010s? Okay, Archie fucks his teacher. Sorry but Pacey already did in Dawson’s Creek. Kevin Keller is a popular openly gay student. He meets boys/men on Grindr. It’s very modern, but not revolutionnary. Plus, at least in the pilot, he says he does but we don’t see him doing it. So that doesn’t really count for me. Sorry. Honestly, I don’t see what else can be billed as “subversive” in there. Riverdale is full of references (to Hunger Games, Beyoncé…) and can be irreverent sometimes but that’s all and it’s okay. Glee amateurs should be happy to know that there is music in the show, thanks to Archie, who sings, but also Josie and the Pussycats, the girls band of the school. You’ll also find the usual codes and clichés of teen soaps with the cheerleaders (Betty & Veronica are on the team), the giant bitch who’s the captain (Cheryl), the football team and their testosteroned locker room…

Riverdale is timeless. This modernized, energized, darkened and respectful version has everything it needs to become another success for The CW & Greg Berlanti, hoping it won’t just be critical. The absence of vampires, zombies or superheroes is a real breath of fresh air. Teen soaps are not dead after all, and coming back to the roots of the genre is the right way to go. Teens and millenials should be hooked. Welcome to Riverdale, bitches!

ABC 2016/2017 Comedy Pilots ranked

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ABC has a lot to do in the drama department to improve from this terrible year, but comedy-wise they are more than okay. Modern Family is not the hit it once was, but its performances are still pretty solid. The Goldbergs is strong enough now to anchor the 8pm slot on wednesdays. Blackish is doing okay, but could/should do better. And The Middle is aging –on the demo– but aging well. It should live at least two more years. Fresh Off The Boat is doing okay-ish on tuesdays and on a dead night for ABC helps keeping the lights on. The Real O’Neals has a good retention behind Fresh Off The Boat and is worth a renewal based on the quality of the first episodes. Plus, it’s produced in-house. They should give it a chance to grow. Last Man Standing is fine on fridays while Dr Ken is, as expected, a perfect match and should continue. The Muppets is DEAD. There’s no way this once promising show gets renewed. And Uncle Buck is still waiting for an airdate… About Galavant, it’s pretty much dead. And it’s a pity. But ABC has been patient with this one. It will never become something, let’s be real.

If ABC renews Modern Family, The Middle, The Goldbergs, Blackish, Fresh Off The Boat, The Real O’Neals, Last Man Standing & Dr Ken, there’s litteraly no slot for any new comedy next year. Which is unaceptable. They need fresh blood. And they won’t wait for midseason to launch something new. It means there’s only three solutions: 1/ The Real O’Neals is cancelled after all. One slot will be available then. 2/ They bench one of those shows for a midseason premiere. But none of them deserve such a treatment. 3/ They open a new hour of comedy, either on Tuesdays or somewhere else on the schedule. And this last solution is my favorite honestly. I’d like something like this:

TUESDAY – The Middle / NEW / Fresh Off The Boat / The Real O’Neals

WEDNESDAY – The Goldbergs / NEW / Modern Family / Blackish

Let’s see what they have in store! And contrary to last pilot season, they have a handful of solid projects… The choice will be hard to make!

 

 

  1. DREAM TEAM (Warner Bros. Television)

rate rate rate rate  Marty Schumacher coached his last Club soccer team for ten years, ultimately taking them to the National Championships. While his longtime girlfriend just dumped him, he now has to start from scratch with a new diverse group of eight-year-olds and their disparate parents, who are not all happy to be there every damn weekend… With Justin Long, Wanda Sykes, Wynn Everett, Michael Mosley…

Dream Team has success written all over its pilot script. It could score BIG. ABC couldn’t pass on the opportunity to finally have what looks like the next Modern Family (sports edition).

Read the full preview

 


2. SPEECHLESS (20th Century FOX Television & ABC Studios)

rate rate rate rate  The story of the DiMeo family, a gang who’s pretty good at dealing with the challenges it faces, and absolutely fantastic at creating new ones. At the heart of the action are Maya, a mom on a mission who will do anything for her family, and JJ, her whip-smart teen son with special needs… With Minnie Driver, John Ross Bowie, Mason Cook…

GREAT comedy pilot script! It’s exactly in ABC’s wheelhouse. It’s a mix between Malcolm & TheMiddle, where the adult and the children characters are treated the exact same way. Very funny. Tender. And talking about handicapped persons feels important. It’s about time. I really really want ABC to give it a chance.

 

3. THE SECOND FATTEST HOUSEWIFE IN WESTPORT (ABC Studios)

rate rate rate rate Until recently, opinionated, confident, unapologetic, plump Katie Otto has been the third fattest housewife in Westport, Connecticut. This is exactly where she wants to be. So when her chubbier neighbor moves away and she becomes the second fattest housewife, Katie becomes determined to regain her title. On a mission, she tries to orchestrate a suitable buyer for her neighbor’s house. But things don’t go according to her plans... With Katy Mixon, Diedrich Bader, Carly Hughes, Ali Wong…

A lot of people are already furious with the title of this show. Not because it’s too long –but it’s too long– because they find it offensive. Which I can understand. BUT the show is not offensive. It’s irreverent, yes. And we need that. It’s kinda cool too. Not saying that I loved it but I kinda did. There’s a little girl with PTSD in there and it’s a beautiful, moving, adorable character.

 


4. PEARL (ABC Studios)

rate rate rate rate  After she finds out she has cancer, Pearl Foxton, a larger-than-life family matriarch becomes intent on controlling and orchestrating every aspect of her family’s life before she dies. After all, she knows what’s best for them way better than they know themselves, and good luck convincing her otherwise… With Candice Bergen, Zachary Knighton, Kathleen Rose Perkins, Richard Mazur…

WANT. Anything with Episodes‘ Kathleen Rose Perkins is a winner for me. But still. Candice Bergen will kill in this. Zachary Knighton too. It’s a really funny pilot script with heart. If they can manage to take the Mom route, it’ll be perfect. But is ABC ready to bet on a family comedy with a 70 year-old heroine –who’s not very nice– and mostly adult characters, with cancer involved? I’m not sure, and that makes me sad a little bit.

 

5.  CHUNK & BEAN (ABC Studios)

rate rate rate rate  The unlikely friendship of two misfits, Chunk and Bean, who benefit from having two very different sets of parents living next door to each other. Connie, Chunk’s controlling mother, and Jim, Bean’s single father, instantly butt heads over their conflicting styles of parenting. While Connie believes in structure and discipline, Jim believes in high fives and cake for breakfast. With Simon Belz, Adam Rodriguez, Anna Gunn, Andy Daly…

And it’s another comedy script winner for ABC! Smart, funny & cute. Solid cast. Kids are very important in it, the way Eddie is in Fresh Off The Boat. I’m curious to see Anna Gunn in a comedy and I’d be happy to watch Adam Rodriguez with no shirt-on once again. Make it happen, ABC!

 

6. DOWNWARD DOG (Legendary Television & ABC Studios)

rate rate rate rate Suddenly Martin, Nan’s loyal mutt has begun acting out -and she’s confused, frazzled and angry. So Nan hauls herself off to a canine academy, initially hoping for a quick fix, but finding out, eventually, that training a dog might be work but the payoff is priceless, proving once again that a dog is a woman’s bestfriend… With Allison Tolman, Lucas Neff, Samm Hodges…

A TV show with a talking dog… in 2015? My initial reaction to Downward Dog‘s pitch was “What the fuck are they thinking?“. But this is a brilliant piece of writing, actually. I totally get why there was a bidding war among multiples networks to acquire the project. It’s bold and different. But it’s not an easy sell and the talking dog could quickly has nothing interesting to say.

Read the full preview

 

7. IMAGINARY MARY (Sony Pictures Television & ABC Studios)

rate rate rate  A fortysomething bachelorette’s life is turned upside-down when she finally meets the love of her life — a divorced dad with three kids. This triggers even more upheaval when the slightly unhinged imaginary friend she created as an only child suddenly reappears in her life to help her navigate the transition from single lady to family woman… With Jenna ElfmanStephen Schneider, Erica Tremblay, Nicholas Coombe…

Really funny & original script, sweet & sour. Jenna Elfman can thrive in this. Not sure about the longtime perspective though, or even making 22-24 episodes a year. It’s something worth trying at midseason, like a Galavant, but it’s probably too risky and adult to slot on wednesday nights.

 

8. SQUARE ROOTS (ABC Studios)

rate rate rate Meet the Desais, a family who sees the world from a unique point of view. While others look to comic book superheroes to save the world, the Desais know who the real superheroes are: engineers. From creating Pyramids to iPads, they’ll tell you the world would be nothing without them. Coincidentally, all the Desais are engineers, so they have some pretty big brains… which they may occasionally remind you of… With Adhir Kalyan, Katie Walder, Noureen DeWulf, Bernard White…

It’s like The Big Bang Theory as a family comedy. It got on my nerves more than it should have and gave me a headache at some point. But honestly, it’s fine. ABC misses an Indian comedy –and it would be the first one ever.

 

9. TOAST (ABC Studios)

rate rate rate Over their wedding rehearsal dinner, engaged couple Max and Paige have their eclectic family and friends give toasts recalling anecdotes about the couple — but flashbacks reveal that the toasts don’t always get it right, as we watch the true story of their complicated, funny and relatable road to marriage… With Jerrika Hinton, Jono Kenyon, Tessa Ferrer, Punam Patel…

Toast is not the funniest thing I’ve read this year (…) But if ABC wants something different than the regular family comedies they’re renown for on their schedule next year, maybe it’s the right way to go. The concept looks stronger than expected and branding it as “the first Shondaland comedy” –which it is– already makes half the work for the marketing department.

Read the full preview

 

10. RANDALL & HILDA ARE NOT A COUPLE (ABC Studios)

rate rate rate   Hilda, an unapologetic lesbian and Randall, her best friend, a neurotic straight male, navigate their enviable, yet dysfunctional, co-dependent friendship, growing up and the world of dating. With Andy Ridings, Tattiawna Jones, Julie Goldman, Christine Horn

This title has to change. Badly. But well, as cool as this pilot script is, it’s totally off-brand for ABC. No family in there. And we remember what happened with Selfie, Manhattan Love Story, Mixology… But it’s modern and fresh. It speaks the truth. Or a truth. Both heroes are different from what we are used to see. It’s something I probably would have watched and loved. So long, Randall & Hilda. So long.

 

11. HAIL MARY (ABC Studios)

rate rate rate   a young small-town mayor named Mary Wolf has dysfunctional siblings, a dying father, disgruntled citizens, a nearly bankrupt town and the mafia breathing down her neck. Only a miracle can help her. So … she fakes one… With Casey Wilson, Sarah Baker, Retta, Gareth Reynolds…

This is a disappointment. It’s not bad at all, the script is pretty good overall but it’s a bit too hysterical for my taste and it misses something. FOX already tried to remake the Austrian series Braunschlag last year but it was not ordered. I have a feeling it’s not on-brand enough for ABC. It’s a pass for me. But if they pick it up, I’ll definitely check it out, just in case.

 

12. THE FLUFFY SHOP (ABC Studios)

rate rate Gabe, a touring standup comic, a stepfather and boss to his family and friends navigates his home life during the few days he spends off the road each week… With Gabriel Iglesias, Richard Gant, Gloria Garayua, Tommy Savas…

This is the only multicamera comedy pilot ABC ordered this yes, maybe just in case Dr Ken suddenly collapsed, so they have a solution to replace it next year. But Dr Ken is fine and The Fuffly Shop really is not! It’s just funny. It’s not appealing. It’s a definitive “No”.

 

SEE ALSO CBS 2016/2017 PILOTS RANKED

Training Day (CBS) pilot preview: The better than expected sequel of the year

TRAININGDAY

Pilot “Apocalypse Now” written and executive produced by Will Beall (Castle, Gangster Squad). Directed by Danny Cannon (Gotham, Nikita, CSI, Judge Dredd). Also executive produced by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Southpaw, Brooklyn’s Finest, Shooter, Equalizer), Jerry Bruckheimer (CSI, Cold Case, Without a Trace, Lucifer, Pirates of Caribbean), Jonathan Littman, KristieAnne Reed Barry Schindel (Law & Order, Castle, Numb3rs, Unforgettable). For CBS, Warner Bros. Television, Jerry Bruckheimer Television & Fuqua Films. 65 pages.

Description: Kyle Craig, an idealistic young African-American police officer who lost his father who was also a cop, is appointed by Chief Deputy Hoyt to an elite squad of the LAPD where he is partnered with a seasoned, morally ambiguous Caucasian veteran detective, Frank Rourke. They’ll soon understand they’re looking for the exact same thing, but they don’t operate the same way…

With Justin Cornwell, Bill Paxton (Big Love, Agents of SHIELD, Apollo 13, Titanic, Aliens), Katrina Law (Arrow, Spartacus: Blood and sand, Legend of the seeker), Drew Van Acker (Devious Maids, Pretty Little Liar), Lex Cox Davis (Unbreak My Heart), Julie Benz (Defiance, Dexter, Desperate Housewives, Angel, Buffy)…

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After Beverly Hills Cop –that didn’t make it to series– Limitless, which started okay before becoming one more disappointment –it was supposed to skew younger than most of their shows, it skews older– and Rush Hour, which is the disaster it was always supposed to be, CBS is trying to turn one more movie into a TV series. When director Antoine Fuqua & original producer Jerry Bruckheimer pitched the idea of a Training Day series to the networks, FOX seemed to be a natural fit. But CBS won it, not without a fight. It’s hard to imagine what they could do with such a beloved and gritty property –for which Denzel Washington won an Oscar– except destroying it and making it as bland as they can. Remember the definition of gritty for them is Criminal Minds. While Fuqua was supposed to direct the pilot, he had to quit because of scheduling issues with his next movie The Magnificient Seven. One bad news leading to another: Ethan Hakwe, who was offered to reprise his role as Hoyt, declined for reasons unknown. However, does it stand a chance to get a series order? I’d say yes. Because it’s not that bad.

In fact, it’s pretty good overall, if you just forget about the movie. Those who haven’t seen it may even really like the show, as long as they are into action detective dramas. It’s not as gritty as the movie was, considering the fact that we’re not on cable and that CBS likes to keep things light, but it’s not as tepid and generic as most of their shows were or still are. It’s a good compromise, or so it seems on paper. There’s even ambition directing-wise. Hoping Danny Cannon has the same vision and talent as Fuqua. He is responsible for the CSI pilot, which was something new at the time. More recently, he directed the pilot of Gotham. It should be okay.

The teaser scene pretty much sums up what they want the show to be. It’s a mix between Kyle’s voiceover telling his story and his dad’s –the message being: it’s a character driven series, not a simple procedural– slow motion images of Kyle exploding through a window to catch a baby who’s falling from a balcony after the son of a bitch he’s pursuing dangled the baby off –the message being: you’ll get a lot of stylized action in our show– and documentary footage of actual Los Angeles like the Walk of Fame, girls in bikinis on rooftops, plus iconic images from its past like OJ and the famous gloves, Phil Spector’s courtroom hairdo, the North Hollywood shootout, earthquakes –the message being: we also want to tell the story of a city, how it was before and how it is now, from the post-card places everybody dream of all around the world to the dangerous districts where the police itself doesn’t want to go. So they have a lot to say. But…

… their goal number one is to entertain the audience. And to do so, there’s the character of Frank Rourke, played by the excellent Bill Paxton, who’s the only real good and charismatic actor in there. I don’t know about newcomer Justin Cornwell as Kyle, but Drew Van Acker, Katrina Law, Lex Cox Davis and Julie Benz –who appears just for one scene– are mostly good-looking. No nonsense, grumpy and cynical Frank is a lot of fun. Every time he opens his mouth, it’s to say something hurtful and/or funny. My favorite pick-up line is : “Snitching is like looking at porn or listening to ABBA: everybody does it behind close doors, but nobody admits to it.” Or “Police work is like sex : it’s a lot more efficient when it’s not pretty.” The dialogues are great and Paxton will deliver them just the perfect way. That’s for sure. In comparison, the secondary characters –who all have a dark side of course, and every cliché are used– come out as a bit weak. They need to be strengthened up as the show goes on. There’s a serialized story in there, very classical, very CBS-like, about the mystery behind Kyle’s dad and his suspicious and unexplained death. Of course, Frank knew him… I wish they had come up with something more original but at least it’s not just a case of the week.

The CBS version of Training Day is better than expected. It’s not bold and it’s not new, it’s not as realistic, raw and thorough as the movie was 15 years ago, but it’s punchy, pretty intense, quite funny and grittier than the other network’s shows. There’s nothing to be ashamed of here. I’m concerned though about its chances of success. It won’t be easy to impose it whether it’s behind the NCIS franchise or their comedies…