Month: February 2018

The Greatest American Hero (ABC) pilot preview: Who run the world? Girls!

Written and executive produced by Rachna Fruchbom (Fresh Off The Boat, Parks And Recreation). Also produced by Nahnatchka Khan (Fresh Off The Boat, Don’t Trust the B****, American Dad!), Tawnia McKiernan (Supergirl, Criminal Minds) & Mandy Summers. Directed by Christine Gernon (Speechless, Gavin & Stacey, The Kennedys). Based on the Stephen J. Cannell show from the 80s. For ABC20th Century FOX TelevisionABC Studios & Fierce Baby. 37 pages. Revised Network Draft 01/22/18.

Desciption: around Meera, a 30-year-old woman from Cleveland who loves tequila and karaoke and has spent her life searching and failing to find meaning, much to the chagrin of her traditional Indian-American family. An inexplicable event occurs that will change the course of Meera’s life forever: she is entrusted with a super suit to protect the planet. Meera may have finally found purpose, but the world has never been in more unreliable hands…

With Hannah Simone (New Girl), Humphrey Ker, George Wendt (Cheers), Gia Sandhu (The Indian Detective), Zenobia Shroff (The Affair, The Big Sick), Shoniqua Shandai (Nobodies), Ellie Reed (Girlboss)

  

I’m not very familiar with the original series The Greatest American Hero from the 80s, but I know it only lasted 3 seasons and 45 episodes on ABC from 1981 to 1983, that it was a 45-minute dramedy, that the theme song “Believe it or not” was very popular -and they intend to keep it in the new version- and that it was about Ralph Hinkley (played by William Katt), a Los Angeles public school substitute teacher suddenly granted superhuman abilities in order to save the world. Before ABC ordered a pilot for this female-centric reboot turned into a 22-minute single-cam comedy, FOX developed a more straight-forward and faithful version last year with Phil Lord and Chris Miller, both of whom wrote and directed The Lego Movie, that didn’t make it. And now that I’ve read this script from the Fresh Off The Boat team, I can’t help thinking it was more on brand with FOX than it is with ABC. But FOX already has a similar-themed okay performer in Ghosted. Maybe that’s why they didn’t keep it for themselves.

The Greatest American Hero has all the best intentions, it’s modern and exactly what we need right now in a world where women are getting their power back, and that’s partly why I liked it despite an overall lack of laughing-out-loud moments (contrary to other hilarious scripts they have in store –Steps & Single Parents to name a few- and that I’ll talk to you about later). It’s definitely feminist, not only because the superhero is a woman, though there are not so many out there right now (Supergirl, Jessica Jones and that’s pretty much it), also because Meera’s close family only consists of her mother Leena and her rival and younger sister Mona since the father died quite a long time ago; there’s a particular bond here, quite emotional. And just in case you didn’t realize it: the show is powered by an all-female team of writer, director and producers. It’s rare, even maybe unprecedented! Also very important: it’s about an indian-american family, which is trendy this year -CBS also has sitcom Pandas In New York for example- a community we don’t get to explore a lot on television compared to african-americans or latinos. Still, they exist and they should be represented too. It’s a cool thing this show didn’t stop at having a female superhero and went for more diversity. ABC has always been good at it and proves it again with this promising project.

There’s a “but” though. The mix between comedy and fantasy is always hard to achieve. I’m not a big fan of Ghosted but we can say they succeeded. On the page, I was not convinced. It depends a lot on the directing and on the quality of the special effects. Reading this script, there were moments when I thought “this won’t translate on screen, it will look ugly and ridiculous” and other moments when I thought “this might look fun and credible”. To be more precise, when in the first scene Meera is confronted to an UFO with only voices of aliens talking to her, it’s hard not to find that cheap and outdated. Whether they can pull that off anyway is a question mark for now. But when Meera talks to Ralph -yes, they’d like William Katt to voice this character- which is an artificial intelligence that helps her in her missions -think Janet in The Good Place– it works on the page and it adds a little something that makes it cooler. But maybe it won’t translate. Who knows at this point? So it’s always risky but it’s not a reason not to give it a chance. They are brave enough to try.

So what about Meera? She’s the black sheep of the family, she’s a hot mess, still single at 30 -which is a huge problem in an indian-american family- she drinks too much, and she’s done nothing especially significant in her career while her younger sister is already a successful doctor. In a few words: she’s a loser. Or so she thinks. Of course, that’s the type of character you can only side with, even when she keeps on taking the wrong decisions. Her trajectory is already quite predictable as the whole pilot is to be honest, but there’s a comfort in it that works most of the time. It’s a superhero show at the core and it always works the same way, man or woman, WASP or indian. That’s the ugly truth.

Other characters in the show kinda work, whether it’s her mother and sister who are funny on occasions, or her colleagues at work, especially her boss Bob Rice (there’s a bit of workplace comedy in there). But what works the most is the association between Meera and Max, a newly hired manager at Meera’s marketing company who helps her make the transition into her superhero life, undercover of course. He’s also in his thirties and he’s gay (so no love story between them, which is a relief). The way he comes out to her is quite funny. Meera’s first mission is not particularly interesting and it does not give a real idea of what subsequent episodes will look like and most importantly, we don’t know why the aliens chose her to save the world and what does it mean exactly. We’ll have to wait to get answers, which is fair game. Part of the fun will be about discovering her new abilities and powers, which should go from super strength to super speed and eveything in between like X-ray vision and telekinesis. Oh yeah, I didn’t tell you but she lost the manual!

The Greatest American Hero is probably ABC’s riskier comedy pilot script this season, also the most ambitious and unusual. It’s off-brand, though they tried to make it more about family than the original show was so it fits better. Part-superhero show, part-workplace comedy, part-family comedy, it wants to be everything and it fails at being convincing on every aspect. But it’s promising nonetheless and may be worth a shot.

God Friended Me (CBS) pilot preview: God Whisperer

Written and executive produced by Steven Lilien & Bryan Wynbrandt (Gotham, Hawaii 5-0, Gotham). Also produced by Greg Berlanti (Eli Stone, The Flash, Supergirl, Brothers & Sisters), Sarah Schechter (Blindspot, Riverdale, Black LIghtning) & Marcos Siega. Directed by Marcos Siega (The Following, The Vampire Diaries, Time After Time). For CBS, Warner Bros. Television & Berlanti Productions. 60 pages. Revised Network Draft. 1/8/2018

Description: an outspoken atheist’s life is turned upside down when he is “friended” by God on Facebook. Unwittingly, he becomes an agent of change in the lives and destinies of others around him…

With Brandon Michael Hall (The Mayor, Search Party), Javicia Leslie, Suraj Sharma (Homeland), Joe Morton (Scandal, Eureka, Speed, Paycheck), Violett Beane (The Flash, The Resident, The Leftovers)…

  

Gosh. Does anyone know at CBS that ABC carried a show called Kevin (Probably) Saves The World (also known as The Gospel of Kevin) that flopped hard all season long? Because God Friended Me is pretty similar to it, in a more traditional CBS fashion, and there’s very little chance it works either, unless a miracle happens. Kudos to CBS for having at least one pilot that is not a cop/detective drama, though. The “funny” thing is the lead role has been given to Brandon Michael Hall, who just comes off another ABC flop, the comedy The Mayor (which is not officially canceled by the way, wink wink). It’s weird. I thought Greg Berlanti, who’s producing, knew better. It’s not a bad pilot, and it’s not a bad actor, it’s just a bad omen in every way possible.

God Friended Me sounds like a good concept that shouldn’t have become an actual TV show. Yeah, the very idea that an outspoken atheist gets “friended” by God on Facebook is fun and original, and oh so ironic. But where do you go from there? The writers chose the boring, easy path: they made it a procedural -CBS likes to call it a light one-hour moral procedural- where our hero helps people by becoming some kind of God whisperer. And yeah, sometimes you think of Ghost Whisperer. They kinda work the same way, though police is not involved here. There’s no investigation, per say. “God” instantly sends Miles a friend suggestion for a complete stranger named John Dove (you got it? John Doe/John Dove – so fun!) Miles immediately bumps in to John, who is chasing after his ex-girlfriend who just broke up with him. Devastated by the break up, John tries to kill himself, but Miles saves him. Then Miles gets a new friend suggestion for another stranger named Cara Weiss… Long story short: the purpose was to reunite and reconcile a daughter -Cara- with her long-lost mother, who abandoned her when she was little. And when Cara is hit by a car, it’s John Dove who saves her, he happens to be a doctor. It’s all about coincidences, which are not because you know: God.

I get how they can create new stories every week but I doubt there’s a big enough audience that will eagerly wait for the next episode. The cliffhanger is a bit weak, though it points toward a more serialized storyline involving a successful high school friend of Miles’ that is working on a top secret project called “Faith Initiative”. He may or may not be behind the God account. There are also some romantic comedy vibes with Miles and Cara probably having a love relationship sooner or later. She’s determined to stay by his sides and help him in his adventures. She’s not just the case of the week, she’s also the leading lady of God Friended Me. And there’s the family side of things, since Miles is the son of an accomplished reverend who hates that he’s an atheist and that he has a podcast to talk about it every damn week. So their relationship is dead, despite his sister’s best efforts to patch things up between them. Ali is a bright, compassionate and opinionated young woman who’s working on her PhD in psychology. She’s always in Miles’ corner to provide encouragement and honest insight. Miles also has a best pal, Rakesh, who’s also his co-worker and video game enthusiast, coder and sometimes hacker. Because every CBS shows requires a hacker now!

God Friended Me is quite a funny show, crazy but not too crazy and a bit cheesy; but it’s mostly predictable, which makes it boring sometimes though it always finds a way to become interesting again. It’s uplifting, or at least it wants me, and that’s certainly the reason why CBS ordered it in the first place since that’s the trend these days. Sadly for them, it’s not gonna be their Good Doctor. But their Kevin Probably, for sure!

History Of Them (CBS) pilot preview: How My Parents Met

Written and executive produced by Gloria Calderon Kellett (One Day at a Time, How I Met Your Mother, Devious Maids). Also produced by Marc Provissiero. Directed by Pamela Fryman (One Day at a Time, How I Met Your Mother, Frasier). For Sony Pictures Television, CBS Television Studios, Glo Nation & Odenkirk Provissiero Entertainment. 56 pages. Network Draft 12/29/17.

Description: how two friends, Luna and Adam, fell in love, narrated by their future daughter, using the couple’s social media from present-day (Instagram/Twitter/Facebook) as a guide. Smart and spunky Luna runs a successful Latinx food truck business with her parents. Despite this, she struggles with what she wants and doesn’t feel like a fully-fledged grown up yet. She wants to find love and figure out who she is separate from her very tight-knit family, and her journey will be full of bumps and bruises as she navigates the rest of her twenties…

With Ana Villafañe (South Beach), Brett Dier (Jane The Virgin, The LA Complex), Caitlin McGee, Lisa Vidal (Being Mary Jane, Rosewood, The Event), Felix Solis (Ten Days in the Valley), Amit Shah (Crashing UK, The Smoke), Christopher Powell (Empire)…

 

   

You’ll like it if you already like: How I Met Your Mother, One Day at a Time, Jane The Virgin

Likely timeslot: monday or thursday paired with The Big Bang Theory or Young Sheldon at 8.30.

Just in case you didn’t notice, there’s still no How I Met Your Dad/Father series in sight, on CBS or anywhere else. Last time we heard of the project -August ’17- a new writer was hired by 20th Century FOX Television for a brand-new take after the first two failed stabs and apparently nothing good came out of it since no pilot pick up happened. Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing is debatable but Sony & CBS found a solution: they cooked their own unofficial HIMYM spin-off! It wouldn’t be fair to reduce History Of Them to this though, but we’re clearly in the same romcom-with-a-twist territory, and both the writer and the director worked on the show. It’s no coincidence. CBS seems to be very high on it. I’ll be damned if it doesn’t find a sweet spot on next fall schedule!

So yeah, it’s once again a complicated and often thwarted love story except it’s not narrated by one of the protagonists but by their daughter from the future. To whom? Maybe to her own children, who knows? Or maybe it doesn’t even matter. For what? Maybe because the grand parents died and it’s her way to tell them who they were? But then again, maybe it doesn’t even matter. Maybe it’s just about telling the story to us, viewers, for no particular reason but to entertain and move us. Television, you know. I feel like -but it’s too soon to tell- that the plan with History Of Them is to keep it simpler than How I Met Your Mother, with less detours and twists and turns. Unless it’s a huge success and they need to find a way to make it last 9 years. Probably because of the backlash the series finale had to endure. Also because things have changed and people are looking for straightforward tales, so it seems. Also, it’s very diverse which is, on CBS, a revolution!

In this first episode, it’s more about meeting the group than planting seeds for the future storylines. We’re just told it was not easy for those two to make it happen and we get a good picture why: friends and family got in the way; also our damn connected world where everything is always more complicated than it should be (the use of social media is probably less gadgety than it looks). The biggest difference with HIMYM is that the heroine’s family -and maybe the others’ later on- is a big part of the show. By the way, the title “History of Them” refers to the couple, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it referred to latin immigrants too. From the co-creator of the excellent One Day At A Time, it wouldn’t come as a shock. It’s a story of love and integration, and it’s universal. You can find here the same kindness, the same benevolence as in the Netflix sitcom. The parents are incredibly cute and nice. But don’t worry, it’s also very funny, especially thanks to the friends’ characters, like Luna’s nerdy male best friend Vikram or her crazy female best friend Skylar. Also, there’s Isaac, the Barney of the show, described as an “impossibly handsome millionaire with confidente to match”. Not the best part, if you ask me. But you need a character like that, I guess. He makes the others go out of their comfort zone. We all need a friend like that.

History Of Them definitely has a How I Met Your Mother vibe, but it brings something more to the table -authenticity? simplicity?- and hopefully people will go beyond the initial rejection reaction to give it a chance. Plus, it’s exactly the type of comedy CBS needs right now, that will appeal to the millenials. They can’t avoid the fact that The Big Bang Theory is gone soon…

The Rookie (ABC) pilot preview: Richard Castle is dead, give a warm welcome to John Nolan!

Written and executive produced by Alexi Hawley (Castle, Body Of Proof, The Unusuals). Also produced by Mark Gordon (Grey’s Anatomy, Criminal Minds, Quantico, Designated Survivor), Nathan Fillion, Michelle Chapman & Jon Steinberg. Directed by Liz Friedlander (The Following, Stalker, Conviction). For ABC Studios & The Mark Gordon Company. 61 pages. Revised Network Draft 1/21/18.

Description: John Nolan is the oldest rookie in the LAPD.  At an age where most are at the peak of their career, Nolan cast aside his comfortable, small town life and moved to L.A. to pursue his dream of being a cop. Now, surrounded by rookies twenty years his junior and ruthless training officers , Nolan must navigate the dangerous, humorous and unpredictable world of a “young” cop, determined to make his second shot at life count…

With Nathan Fillion (Castle, Desperate Housewives, Buffy, Firefly), Afton Williamson (The Night Of, Banshee, The Breaks), Melissa O’Neil (Dark Matter, Rogue), Eric Winter (Witches of East End, Brothers & Sisters, The Mentalist), Richard T. Jones (Amy, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Criminal Minds), Alyssa Diaz (Ray Donovan, Zoo, Army Wives), Mercedes Mason (Fear The Walking Dead)…

   

You’ll like it if you already like: Castle, Rookie Blue, The Good Doctor, 9-1-1…

Likely timeslot: Monday at 10, Tuesday at 10, Wednesday at 10 – wherever

 

This pilot season, ABC has one big obsession: their next crime drama hit! It’s been almost two years now that Castle is gone and no replacement has been found yet. (#RIPConviction) What better way to do so than hiring back Castle last showrunner Alexi Hawley & ex-Castle star Nathan Fillion? Seems almost too easy, right? They ordered The Rookie straight-to-series in a competitive situation with no script ready yet, just those names and a big producer attached they’re used to work with: Mark Gordon. It happened the same way for Designated Survivor not so long ago, with mixed results. It’s always a risky move but they got lucky this time: it’s a convincing one, totally on brand with the Alphabet network, as a light fare they’re craving for right now. And it’s the kind of show that they could put in any slot, it’d have a real chance to find its audience. From where we are now -far from the may upfronts- it already looks like a winner to me.

The Rookie works a bit like The Good Doctor initially -which can’t be a bad thing- since John Nolan is put in a similar situation than Shaun Murphy: he’s the odd man out in a place he’s not familiar with where a lot of people don’t want him there for various reasons… so they treat him like shit. Nolan is not autistic and doesn’t have any syndrome that makes him brilliant. He’s just “old”. Old means he may be wiser than his new colleagues twenty years younger than him thanks to his “life experience”, as they say politely. But his age doesn’t prevent him from being fearless and having a bit of fun when needed. His secret weapon? He’s more interested in the people he’s helping than the other rookies who are very much focused on themselves and how they perform. They certainly have to teach him a few things though, and not just about what music he should listen to. The personal story of Nolan is a bit emotional since he’s just been through a divorce while his son has gone to college. He needed to reinvent itself, to pursue his dream and he’s basically telling us that it’s never too late. That’s inspiring and it will strike a chord with the viewers I guess. He’s exactly doing what few people dare in real life. How could you not root for him?

Even though Nolan is at the center of the show, it works mostly as an ensemble -very diverse by the way- with scenes without him. His fellow rookies have their own set of stories and challenges. Lucy Benitez is trying to prove that she can do the job despite people looking down on her for being a woman and Latina, while Jackson West is the son of a high ranking officer following in his family’s footsteps who doesn’t seem to be ready for the high-pressure he’s exposed to. They’re all assigned to a training officer and it’s always a pair of a woman and a man, which is interesting since we don’t get to see very often women teaching men on television. It creates different dynamics. Talia Bishop is a newly promoted training officer whose first assignment is Nolan; Tim Bradford is an overbearing and not nice one paired with Lucy; and Angela is a no nonsense korean american who’s hard on Jackson but it’s just what he needs. They all have tough first days: Nolan sees someone getting killed; Jackson unnecessarily tase a homeless person, Lucy is being tested at every turn by Tim like she can’t be trusted. But don’t worry: it’s mostly a lot of fun. They tease each other all the time, there’s always someone to crack a joke here and there. ABC labels it as “comedic” and they’re not lying.

The Rookie shares some DNA with another hit of this season: FOX’s 9-1-1. Forget Ryan Murphy’s extravaganza, they’re trying to be more realistic and true to what’s really happening in the streets of L.A, though some cases are more spectacular or emotional than others. I don’t know about their exact action perimeter but they can be visiting a poor neighborhood in one scene and Hollywood Boulevard in another. But don’t expect any investigation here. They’re not detectives. They’re cops. And not cops who investigate. They get a call, they drive, they run, they catch the bad guys. It’s a lot of action and adrelanine, it’s fast paced and you never have time to get bored (Fillion will need to get in shape or he’ll look ridiculous). You go from one mission to another, from one team to another; and the last mission of the pilot reunites them all in a grand finale. You get to know the characters through their missions, but also with what’s happening before and after, and when they’re not working. That’s how a few soapy elements are introduced. For example, they avoid the traditional and very Castle-like “partners who are falling in love” since we discover late in the episode that Nolan & Lucy are sleeping together, not Nolan & Talia. We can call it a secret relationship, even if it’s mostly about sex for now. There’s just one thing that I don’t like about this: it’s once again about an older man being with a younger woman. That trope is tiring… But I’m confident they’ll play with it more than just using it since they seem to be determined to make something modern.

Why did ABC pick up so many crime drama pilots when they already have straight-to-series The Rookie? Of course, you can never be 100% sure a promising script will turn into a good pilot and then become a hit, they know better than that, but it’s not that hard to see that the Nathan Fillion-starrer has all it takes to become one. It’s fresh, funny and actiony, with characters you instantly care about. So I’ll start my new series of “pilot preview” articles with a bold prediction: The Rookie is ABC’s next international hit!