Month: April 2018

Manifest (NBC) pilot preview: “We have to go back”… and they did!

Written and executive produced by Jeff Rake (The Mysteries Of Laura, The Tomorrow People, The Practice). Also produced by Robert Zemeckis (Flight, Cast Away, Back to The Future, Forrest Gump, Tales From The Crypt), Jack Rapke (The Borgias, Allied) & Jackie Levine (Wonder Woman, Justice League). Directed by David Frankel (Collateral Beauty, The Devil Wears Prada, Marley & Me, Sex & The City). For NBCWarner Bros. Television & Compari Entertainment. 61 pages. 1/03/18 Draft.

Description: a plane disappears from radar and returns five years later after being untraceable and presumed lost at sea. No time has passed for those on the plane but, for their loved ones at home, a long five years have gone by. The series follows their personal lives as well as the larger mystery and purpose that is their destiny…

With Josh Dallas (Once Upon A Time, Zootopia, Thor), Melissa Roxburgh (Valor), J.R. Ramirez (Jessica Jones, Power, Arrow), Athena Karkanis (Zoo, The Expanse), Parveen Kaur (Beyond, Saving Hope), Luna Blaise (Fresh Off The Boat)…

  

You’ll like if you already like: The Event, FlashForward, The Crossing…

Likely timeslot: Monday at 10 or midseason

 

Manifest is the perfect example of a waste of a good concept and coming from Robert Zemeckis as an executive producer, it’s even more disappointing. I can’t say I’m surprised, there’s literally no buzz for this pilot since it’s been ordered and the cast they assembled is very weak. I mean no disrespect but when you choose Josh Dallas as your leading man, it means you have a problem somewhere. Even worse: he’s the most famous one here! “Network + High-concept” is probably seen as a recipee for disaster by actors and their agents nowadays and for good reasons. So when your script is not even convincing, you can’t expect much. My theory is simple: Warner Bros. made a strong pitch for Manifest, every network wanted it, NBC won it for a large chunk of money and had to go with a put pilot commitment, and then they had no choice but to order it no matter what. They probably regret it… But hey, maybe I’m totally wrong. Maybe they love it and will give it the best slot they have next year! Who knows at this point?

First, remember ABC also had a similar concept in the works this pitch season, that resonated better with the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 over the South China Sea more than three years ago. Because that’s probably where those ideas came from. Flight 410, that’s how it was called, was described like this: “after a commercial flight vanishes over the Atlantic Ocean, a disgraced journalist whose wife was on the plane is driven to solve the mystery as he leads an unconventional group with other family members left behind”. It’s a simpler version of Manifest, with the same “Lost in reverse” vibe. And sometimes, simpler is better. Because the problem here is not the plane disappearing or the search for the truth but the fantasy part. The problem is right here, in this precise line: “No time has passed for those on the plane but, for their loved ones at home, a long five years have gone by.” We’re suddenly in Lost meets Resurrection and it’s not a territory we want to explore.

I don’t know if the writer, Jeff Rake, already knows the answer about this mystery -It’d be better if he does- but that simply can’t be answered with a reasonable, scientific or pseudo-scientific explanation. And it creates awkward and predictable and useless moments between the characters. What if they aged too? What if 5 years have gone by for them too? There’d still be the mystery of the sudden departure and it’d be just enough. And oh so you know, the script suggests that the characters are now connected by an invisible force that has a voice that speaks in their heads telling them to do things that help saving other people. Like Michaela warning a bus driver to slow down before hitting a child. It’s uninteresting and already too much! And there’s more! While Michaela visits her old boyfriend, a now married cop, she learns of two children who were abducted. Eventually the voice leads her to rescue the children… Damn. So we’re gonna get a rescue every damn week on top of that?

Also they worked hard to make it a family fare, which is quite an odd fit with the initial thriller concept. I don’t see parents watching this show with their children honestly. So yeah, it’s mostly about a family, the Stark family –Game of Thrones‘ fans are shook- who just wrapped up their family vacation to Jamaica in April 2013. It’s composed of a suburbanite couple in their thirties Ben & Grace and their 10 year-old twins Call, a leukemia patient, and Olive, a rambunctious young girl. They’re accompanied by Ben’s sister Michaela, a dissatisfied clerk at the police station who’s haunted by a past car accident where her best friend died while she was driving. Now she’s an alcoholic and her dream of being a policewoman has been derailed. Ben & Michaela’s parents, Steve & Karen, are also in the plane. Due to an oversold flight, Grace, Olive, Steve and Karen all board the early flight home, leaving Ben, Michaela and Cal to take the later flight. On the second flight, they experience turbulence and when they land, it’s October 2018. Of course things have changed a bit since then like Grace now being a teenage nightmare, Grace “having an affair” with a neighbour and Karen being dead. But apart from Michaela, most of the characters here sound like pains in the ass. Reminded me a lot of FlashForward, which had a better concept but with terrible characters mostly.

The best thing that could happen to Manifest is if it suddenly disappeared from pilot season. Come back in 5 years with a better script and a concept tweaked and we’ll see what we can do with you! There’s certainly something to do around this story, with a conspiracy behind and all, but make it realistic and simpler. Until then, please don’t board this plane NBC!

A Million Little Things (ABC) pilot preview: So Many Feelings

Written and executive produced by  DJ Nash (Growing Up Fisher, ’til Death). Also produced by Aaron Kaplan (The Chi, Life In Pieces, American Housewife, Secrets & Lies) & Dana Honor (9JKL, Me Myself And I). Directed by James Griffiths (The Mayor, Blackish, Episodes). For ABC, ABC Studios & Kapital Entertainment. 58 pages. 10/01/2018 Draft.

Description: ”Friendship isn’t a big thing – it’s a million little things,”. A group of friends, for different reasons and in different ways, are all stuck in their lives, but when one of them dies unexpectedly from suicide, it’s just the wake-up call the others need to finally start living. The group comes together to mourn the loss of their friend and in the process are reminded of how their lives used to be before their secrets…

With David Giuntoli (Grimm, Priviliged), James Roday (Psych, Miss Match), Romany Malco (Weeds, Think Like a Man), Stephanie Szostak (Satisfaction), Allison Miller (13 Reasons Why, Go On, Terra Nova), Anne Son (My Generation), Christina Moses (The Originals, Containment), Christina Ochoa (Valor, Blood Drive, Animal Kingdom), Lizzy Greene… Also Ron Livingston as guest star.

    

You’ll Like It If You Already Like: This Is Us, Thirtysomething, Brothers & Sisters, Parenthood

Likely timeslot: Wednesday at 10 or Thursday at 9

 

There’s simply no words to tell you how enthusiastic I am about A Million Little Things. I’ll try to find some, though. First, we need to go back a year ago when ABC decided not to pick-up to series DJ Nash’s previous project, a comedy pilot called Losing It, about “three misfit adult siblings and their parents who — between divorce, new parenthood, early-onset dementia and let’s just say life — are all losing it in different ways“. An heartbreaking decision but understandable: though the script was good, it was definitely not your typical ABC family comedy, since it was pretty dark, with a cable-feel. Not a good fit. It was hard not to think of This Is Us, especially with Gerald McRaney playing the father and some sort of surprising twist towards the end (spoiler alert: the mother died). But ABC loved it and gave DJ Nash a second chance. It’s this “failure” that gave him the idea and the courage to work on A Million Little Things, based on a personal experience. “Sometimes in comedy, you have to apologize for adding drama, which is why I was so thrilled to see ABC’s passion for a drama that has comedy” he declared when the pilot got picked-up. Since then, it’s a clear frontrunner in the 2018 pilot race. And the script does live up to the expectations!

Again, I will quote DJ Nash, he’s the one who describes it the best way since he’s the brilliant mind behind it and I assure you it’s not just PR, it’s true, it’s what I felt too: “It’s an optimistic look at how the loss of a friend is the impetus for the other seven to finally start living, to make a promise to him and to themselves to finally be honest about what’s really going on (…) I know in my own life, my friend’s passing is a constant reminder to keep things in perspective“. There’s something really emotional and profound on the page that I hope will translate on the screen and with the cast they managed to assemble, I have a feeling it will. A Million Little Things could be summed up as “This Is Us with friends”, though it would be unfair to compare them too much. They come from the same place -a little something called heart- and they march to the beat of the same drum but they’re different enough so there’s a place for both in our lives. AMLT is about the power of friendship, the power of belonging to a group in a world where it’s easy to get lonely, to be left alone. People are not talking anymore, they don’t even look at each other on the bus, on the train, on the streets… Those seven realize they need to take care of each other a little bit better, tighter. They simply need to change, which is also the name of the song from Tracy Chapman we’re supposed to hear in the pilot if they got the rights for it.

At first, I was a bit taken aback when I discovered it was mostly about a male friendship. Not that it’s not interesting, but experience proved that shows centered around those rarely work (Men of a certain age, Big Shots, We Are Men…) for some reason. My guess is women are not that fascinated by this type of look behind the curtain -what do men do when we’re not around?- and men are not into soapy character-driven dramas as much as women are. What’s different with A Million Little Things is that those men are not stereotypes, they are modern and self-conscious -though they spend too much time at hockey games if you ask me- they’re multi-dimensional and they don’t avoid their emotions; while the women are not just on the background, they’re not just girlfriends or wives, they have their own stories to tell and their own journeys to live. It’s a bunch of promising characters and we’ll all fall in love with them I’m sure. Even when they’re not nice, even when they’re difficult. But don’t be afraid, they can also be a lot of fun. Let me introduce you to them.

Eddie (David Giuntoli) is the former front man of a local band turned music teacher and stay-at-home dad. His marriage is in trouble, and although he loves being a dad, he wonders what his life would have been like had he made different choices. He may be ready to take a big risk and leave his wife… for another woman he’s having an affair with. There’s a Netflix’s Friends From College vibe here, but it’s less cynical and more importantly: they didn’t meet at college! Then there’s Gary (James Roday), who is known for his deflective humor, a habit of sleeping with everyone, and complete control over his emotions. He’s in remission after battling a breast cancer and may want to take a chance at love. He’s both irritating and cute. Rome (Romany Malco) is a depressed but very successful commercial director. Not quite the gig he went to film school for, he longs to be doing something more important than making stupid commercials. He’s in a happy marriage but his wife knows nothing about his darker side. Also, he’s black. And it’s important because depression in the black comunity is even more taboo. Finally, there’s Jon (Ron Livingston), who appears to have it all: good looks, a beautiful family, and a successful career. But he takes his own life in the opening by jumping out of a window for reasons everyone has a hard time to understand. Don’t expect a Desperate Housewives‘ kind of mystery, but there’s certainly soapy elements in the DNA of the show, with a big reveals at the end of the pilot to make sure you’ll come back, including one shocker. And Jon’s suicide is still very much a question mark.

It’s the women’s turn now. Delilah (Stephanie Szostak) is Jon’s wife, who pushes through after his death for the sake of her children. She’s admirable and I love her already.  Katherine (Anne Son) is Eddie’s wife, who was once the fun one in the group but now is the boring mom to a son she loves while juggling being the parent she wants to be with her very successful law career. She’ll be harder to love but it’s the type of character that could become fascinating after a while if she’s not labeled as “the bitchy one”. Regina (Christina Moses) is a talented chef with dreams of opening her own restaurant one day. She is living proof that there’s nothing stronger in this world than a determined woman. She’s married to Rome and he’ll need her more than ever. Finally, there’s Maggie (Allison Miller) who is amazing and comfortable in her own skin. She’s a therapist and her career and her life are focused on the emotional. She might be the one for Gary. But there’s something about her he doesn’t know yet… The scenes between the guys are cool but the scenes between the girls are even cooler. Most of the pilot is happening during Jon’s funeral, or right before and after, and there are flashbacks to tell us how they met. And a great speech. And much more.

A Million Little Things may or may not become the next This Is Us ratings-wise. It may or may not become the next best thing. But let me tell you it’s a good medecine, a great therapy a lot of us need and to which we could become addicted. It’s the kind of show that makes you realize you should be living your life at the fullest while you can. It’s the kind of show that makes your heart jumps a little, your eyes cry a little… Ultimately, it gives you a million different feelings. I don’t know about you but that’s exactly what I’m looking for in a television show. So please be part of our lives, AMLT

 

The Village (NBC) pilot preview: This Is All Of Them

Written and executive produced by Mike Daniels (Shades Of Blue, Taken, Sons of Anarchy, The Vampire Diaries). Directed by Minkle Spiro (Downton Abbey, Call The Midwife, Genius). For NBCUniversal Television. 63 pages. Second Network Draft. 12/19/17.

Description: Despite a difference in age, race, culture and lifestyle, the residents of a Manhattan apartment building find that the more their lives intertwine, the more complex and compelling their connections become, thus proving life’s challenges are better faced alongside family, even if it’s the one you make wherever you find it. All under one roof, we will meet a recovering war vet, a pregnant teenage girl and her single mom, a cop with an unexpected love interest, a woman hiding a terrifying secret from her husband and a millennial lawyer who might find his grandfather is the best and worst roommate he ever could have hoped for…

With Warren Christie (The Resident, Alphas, October Road), Michaela McManus (SEAL Team, Aquarius, The Vampire Diaries), Lorraine Toussaint (Orange is the New Black, Selma, Saving Grace, Any Day Now), Dominic Chianese (Damages, The Sopranos, The Goldfather II), Grace Van Dien (Greenhouse Academy), Moran Atias (24: Legacy, Tyrant, Crash), Jerod Haynes (Empire, Sense8), Frankie Faison (Grey’s Anatomy, Banshee, The Wire), Daren Kagasoff (Red Band Society, The Secret Life of the American Teenager), Amber Skye Noyes (Quantico, The Deuce), Will Chase (Nashville, Smash), Luke Slattery

   

You’ll Like It If You Already Like: This Is Us, Parenthood

Likely timeslot: Right behind This Is Us, whether it stays on tuesdays or it moves

 

Remember Melrose Place? At least the first version of Melrose Place before Amanda Woodward/Heather Locklear came in, which was more a relationship drama with young people living in the same residence than a super crazy soap? It was not very good and it didn’t work, that’s why it changed so much, but we can say The Village is more in this vein, with a similar concept, though the characters are from different age, race, culture and lifestyle. For this reason, you can’t mistake it with a show from the 90s! It’s diverse and very rooted in our modern world. I don’t think it’s plausible in any way. I don’t think there are buildings where neighbours are so friendly with each other. That’s certainly not what I’m experiencing. I don’t live in New York but I went there and as in every big city in the world, neighbours don’t interact that much. The Village plays more like an utopia. That’s how things should work. People should talk, and help each other, and be kind and patient and open and generous. In a way, The Village wants to send the same message as This Is Us: we’re stronger when we’re all together, as a family, as a team. It’s a bit naïve and cliché, and so what? Cynicism is gone for good.

This sprawling ensemble drama has more serialized storylines going on in this pilot than in an entire season of a procedural. There are like 12 main characters and as many secondary ones. And yet, you’re never lost, probably because the writing is good enough to make them all distinctive. Plus, they’re all smartly connected so you never feel like it’s a compilation of stories. They all have their own apartment in this Brooklyn residence, but not all of the action is happening inside. There’s also a nursing home nearby, where they deal with troublemaking elders, for example. Plus, they have places where they can all be together: the iconic basement bar “The Crook and Croney” and the rooftop where they make parties and stare at the stars while confessing secrets. Two of our central characters, Ron and Patricia, a cute and loving couple in their sixties, own the building and make it their mission to create a family out of their residents, many of whom are longtime tenants. They truly are the glue that holds this place together. But Patricia has a secret that could threaten it all… She’s dying. She doesn’t want to tell anyone, including her husband. Of course, when you make such a show, you know the strenghth of the concept can also be its weakness: some stories will work better than others, some characters will be fan favorites, some others will live in their shadows, but hopefully everyone will find what they’re looking for in the show. I can’t say I loved it all, I can’t say everything is working but the pilot gave me enough reasons to stay.

One of the most emotional story is Katie’s & her mom Sarah. The sixteen year-old girl is a budding street artist and she’s forced to tell her mom she is pregnant after getting in trouble at school. Sarah is a young and single mother herself who works hard as a nurse and who wanted another life for her daughter. There’s a twist about the father but I’m not gonna tell anything. It’s one of those soapy moments that makes the show even more exciting. And then there’s Gabe, a busy and broke law student who has very little time to deal with his pill-pushing grandpa, who resides at the nursing home where Sarah works. So they’re gonna have to live together now and Gabe is less enthusiastic than his grandfather about it. Plus, Gabe will have to add something else to his plate: when Edda, an Irani woman, is detained by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), he’s asked to help her win her case so she can stay in America. Her cop boyfriend and downstairs neighbor Ben is left looking after her son, Sami, who’s only eight and absolutely not Ben’s biggest fan! While all of this is going on, Ron welcomes Nick, a discharged war vet, into the building, who’s a bit tired of the “Thank you for you service” sentence he’s being told at every moment. That’s just a glimpse of the stories I’m giving you here but I guess you have a better picture of what it’s all about. And again, it may seem messy and too rich but it’s working mostly. And it says a lot about today’s America.

The Village is a high-concept yet simple relationship drama like no other right now, that’s totally in sync with the “feel good” trend television is experiencing with shows such as This Is Us & The Good Doctor. The residents of this Brooklyn building are the epitome of a chosen family and I have a feeling viewers will choose to be a part of it as well. This is all of them and this is us, all together now.

Roswell (The CW) pilot preview: Back In Town

Written and executive produced by Carina Adly MacKenzie (The Originals). Based on 90s hit series & Roswell High book series by Melinda Metz. Also produced by Kevin Kelly Brown (Roswell, Flesh and bone, Seven Seconds), Lawrence Bender (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, Inglourious Basterds) Justin Falvey & Darryl Frank (Bull, The Americans, Falling Skies, Extant, Under The Dome). Directed by Julie Plec (The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, Kyle XY). For The CWWarner Bros. Television, Amblin Television & Bender Brown Productions. 60 pages. Network Revisions Draft. 1/12/18.

Description: After reluctantly returning to her tourist-trap hometown of Roswell, NM, Liz Ortecho, the daughter of undocumented immigrants, discovers a shocking truth about her teenage crush who is now a police officer: he’s an alien who has kept his unearthly abilities hidden his entire life. She protects his secret as the two reconnect and begin to investigate his origins, but when a violent attack and long-standing government cover-up point to a greater alien presence on Earth, the politics of fear and hatred threaten to expose him and destroy their deepening romance…

With Jeanine Mason (Grey’s Anatomy, Bunheads), Nathan Parsons (Once Upon A Time, The Originals, True Blood), Michael Vlamis, Lily Cowles (Braindead), Michael Trevino (The Vampire Diaries, Cane), Tyler Blackburn (Pretty Little Liars, Ravenswood), Heather Hemmens (If Loving You is Wrong, Hellcats), Trevor St John (Containment), Karan Oberoi (Notorious)…

   

As much as I despise this trend of rebooting everything for no good creative reason, some of them make sense and Roswell falls exactly in this category. We don’t NEED a Roswell reboot, per say. Even The CW doesn’t really need it. They’ll already have the Charmed one and we could argue one new reboot a year is already enough. BUT the thing is: Roswell was a good show 15 years ago, that never found the success it deserved. It only lasted 3 seasons and it never became a cult favorite like Dawson’s Creek, Buffy or other contemporaries. Giving the concept a second chance somehow is a desirable idea. And what this script is doing is kinda miraculous: it improves the original show. By making the characters slightly older, they transformed the fantasy teen drama into a more adult property that’s still relevant today. Yeah, we’re not into aliens today like we were in the 90s but among all those vampires and zombies, they’re almost like a breath of fresh air (from space)! And the subject of society feeding on the politics of fear and hatred obviously resonates with post-Trump America.

Kevin Kelly Brown, who was an executive producer on the original series, is the link that connects the two Roswell incarnations. Besides him, it’s a whole new producing team. Meaning no Jason Katims no more. He was the creator of the show and he did Friday Night Lights, Parenthood & Rise since then. It’s sad he’s not part of it, I’m pretty sure he would have been precious there. Even though the show is still based on the “Roswell High” book series, our characters are in their late twenties and don’t go to school anymore, except for the traditional 10 year high school reunion that happens the week-end Liz returns to her Roswell hometown. You want to know the reason why she left? It’s something that’s revealed step by step in the script but I’ll tell you the whole truth anyway since they drag the revelations for too long in my opinion: her sister Rosa died, killing two others in a drunken car accident while she was in high school. And Max was involved in her death -the details are kept under wraps for now- though he never told Liz about it. Pretty quickly after her arrival, people shoot up her father’s diner, fatally hitting her, and that’s when Max uses his alien powers to resurrect her. Now she knows the truth about him, their romance is back full force! When the reboot was ordered, the articles insisted a lot on “the immigration twist” of this version but the fact that Liz has had undocumented parents doesn’t play any role in the pilot. It’s just something that’s said. We’ll see if they plan on delving into it later. The parallel with the aliens’ own trajectory could be illuminating. By the way, I love the scenes between Liz and her father. They’re very emotional.

So Liz is not very different than the one we knew in the 90s, except she became a jaded biomedical researcher. Max is now a dedicated Roswell police officer and a natural born leader. His sister Isobel is married to a man she doesn’t love anymore; she wasn’t meant for small-town life, but she lives it with all the grace and enthusiasm she can muster. Michael is a troubled but brilliant young man, who survived a violent childhood and now is secretly driven to find a way to escape Earth and the humans who have failed him to return to a mysterious home he’s never known. Meanwhile, Maria, Liz’s fun, free-spirited former best friend and social media maven is oblivious to the realities of Roswell. And in this version, she’s not romantically involved with Michael and probably never will be for a very good reason! Michael is gay. And it’s not the only twist… He’s a man of many secrets: he’s in a hidden relationship with… Alex! Yeah, more precisely Sgt. Alex Manes, who returned home from the Middle East after experiencing his fair share of psychological and physical trauma. He aims to adhere to his father’s expectations, abandoning his dreams and the possibility of a future with the man he loves… Well, that’s how you make once a bit weak characters relevant! And let’s not forget Kyle Valentin, Liz’s other ex, the popular son of the town sheriff -a woman this time!- who questions his carefree outlook on life after learning the terrifying truth of his family’s legacy. Those are strong characters all around. They’re all in this period of life when you’re starting to understand who you really are but you’re not accomplished yet and it can be painful. Young adults will relate. And there’s this cliffhanger with a new UFO crashing in the desert, that’s exciting!

The new Roswell is actually a better Roswell; a promising pilot that manages to introduce strong characters while setting an atmosphere and launching multiple storylines without getting messy in the process. It’s probably one of the best things, if not THE best, that The CW will offer us next year. 

Grand Hotel (ABC) pilot preview: One More Lazy Soap

Written and executive produced by Brian Tanen (Atypical, Devious Maids, Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty). Based on spanish series Gran Hotel. Also produced by Eva Longoria (Devious Maids, Telenovela, John Wick), Ben Spector (Telenovela, Wedding Band), Oliver Bachert & Christian Gockel (Velvet). Directed by  Ken Olin (This Is Us, Brothers & Sisters, Alias, Thirtysomething). For ABC, ABC Studios, UnveliEVAble Entertainment & Beta Film. 64 pages. Draft 1/17/2018.

Description: The Riviera Grand hotel is a famed Miami Beach establishment, filled with beautiful people masking dark and explosive family secrets. The hotel’s façade of perfection begins to crumble on the night of a fateful hurricane when a woman mysteriously disappears after a heated dispute with the charming hotel owner…

With Roselyn Sanchez (Devious Maids, Without a Trace, Rush Hour 2), Demian Bichir (Weeds, The Bridge US, The Hateful Eight, Machete Kills), Chris Warren (The Fosters), Wendy Raquel Robinson (The Game The Steve Harvey Show), Shalim Ortiz (Magic City, Heroes), Bryan Craig (Valor, General Hospital), Denyse Tontz (The Fosters, Incorporated), Justina Adorno (Seven Seconds), Lincoln Younes (Love Child, Home And Away), Anne Winters (13 Reasons Why, The Fosters), Feliz Ramirez

 

You’ll Like It If You Already Like: Devious Maids, Ugly Betty, Revenge…

Likely timeslot: sunday at 8 or 9, or wednesday at 10

 

I got excited by this Grand Hotel project, based on the spanish hit series, like 10 minutes when Roselyn Sanchez and then Demian Bichir were cast in the two most prominent roles of the ensemble. Roselyn Sanchez was just hilarious in Devious Maids & Demian Bichir is a really good actor with a wide range of acting. That was reassuring. And then they kept on casting young actors and actresses mostly based on their looks, I suppose. Which is fine if you’re doing a daytime soap, I guess. But not when you want to make a great primetime soap, with a strong comedic aspect, which will obviously be compared to Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty or Devious Maids. And those became iconic thanks to their solid writing and their skilled cast, not just because the women were sexy in their dresses and the men hot with their abs out. So maybe they’re really beautiful AND talented, BUT this script is weak and I don’t think they will be able to save it.

Look, I’m a sucker for good soaps. I was raised by Amanda Woodward on Melrose Place! So what I’m gonna tell you is not coming from someone who doesn’t like the genre and doesn’t unsterdand it. I really do. But ABC just can’t put this on their schedule and hope for a miracle. It’s just not gonna work. If they didn’t keep Devious Maids for themselves back in the days and sent it to Lifetime, it was for a (good) reason. There was like zero chance it worked for them. I was frustrated at the time but ultimately I got it. And actually, we can’t even say it really worked for Lifetime either, as great as it was. Ratings for the first season were okay but then it fell quickly. Grand Hotel is really lazy, rarely funny and it lacks so many things to make it appealing, starting by characters you can care about, that I don’t see how ABC could even consider a series order. But hey, maybe it’s just me… Of course, there’s the international appeal because Gran Hotel was a success all over the world but I suspect it was for the most part because it was a period soap set in 1906. Like a lighter Downton Abbey of some sort. But here, and I get why ABC did it, it’s set in the present days. The upstairs/downstairs aspect has disappeared and it’s mostly about the family that owns the hotel, the people who work for them and the guests are not that important overall. Making it more like a traditional family soap kinda makes sense so the american audience will feel more comfortable with it, but it looses its charm along the way and nothing really makes it distinctive. I didn’t like the new Dynasty‘s pilot either. But then it got better. So who knows? But it doesn’t work for The CW. Why would this for ABC?

Gonzalo Cardena, the owner of the hotel -who decided to sell it- is decribed as “one of those people who can talk to anyone and make them feel like fast friends; he has built himself up from nothing and will do anything to keep what he has”. Well, that’s a waste of Demian Bichir. Of course, he’s worth better than that but most of all, his character doesn’t come out as charming to me; it’s just an uninteresting and coward man. It would have been fun if he were a really bad guy, even a cliché of a bad guy, but so far in this pilot he’s just nothing much. Then there’s Gigi Cardena, his second wife “impossibly stylish with a flair for excess, unapologetically fabulous but never frivolous, smart, cunning and fiercely loyal to her twin daughters”. Well, this is a dreamy description but the reality is far less exciting. I’m pretty sure Roselyn Sanchez can improve the writing by her comic genius, but the problem is: Gigi’s not a fun bitch; she’s not even a very bad bitch. She’s just a bitch. Like a bitch in a bad ABC Family/Freeform drama. A WASTE! The only character that I like is Mrs P., the no-nonsense staff manager, tough on the outside -with great lines- and lovely on the inside. That’s a character you want to follow. All the others are just bland. Not nasty enough to be fun, not nice enough to be loveable. They’re just right in the middle of nowhere.

Are the twists good at least? Nope! You just go from one cliché story to another, and you know exactly how it’s gonna end the moment one of the character appears. Not gonna spoil it just in case ABC picks it up, but let’s just say Danny, the gorgeous new waiter at The Riviera, can’t hide very long why he’s really here, what are his ulterior motives. Devious Maids did similar stories not that long ago with more flavour and cleverness. There’s a wedding happening during this pilot. They had what they needed to make it explosive, crazy… It just falls flat. We had so many weddings in soaps, some very epic, they had to top that at least. They didn’t even try. It’s just one disappointment after another. And I can’t wait to watch the opening sequence happening during a hurricane! I’m pretty sure ABC Studios special effects team will do it justice…

You really need to be a virgin in the soap opera/telenovela world to appreciate Grand Hotel. When you’ve already seen really great ones, it’s just one bad more, and we had many through the years, oh boy! And if you’ve watched something like Jane The Virgin, that plays with the genre to make it more unique and fresher, you can only find this pilot very pale in comparison. If ABC has to choose between Grand Hotel and False Profits, there’s no doubt the latter is a far more interesting option! It has depth and a feel-good vibe, something Grand Hotel lacks among many other things.

Mixtape (FOX) pilot preview: Life Bursting Into Songs

“Track I : Sam & Nellie” written and executive produced by Josh Safran (Quantico, Smash, Gossip Girl). Also produced by Megan Ellison (Her, Zero Dark Thirty, Foxcatcher, American Bluff) & Sue Naegle (Outcast). Directed by Jesse Peretz (Girls, GLOW, Divorce, Nurse Jackie, Juliet Naked). For FOX,  20th Century FOX Television & Annapurna Television. 66 pages. Third Network Draft. 1/09/2018.

Description: a romantic musical drama that looks at a disparate group of interconnected people in contemporary Los Angeles through the lens of the music that defines who they are. Mixtape captures the different stages of love, exploring if time can heal a broken heart and if love can withstand life’s tragedies…

With Raul Castillo (Looking, Seven Seconds, Atypical), Callie Hernandez (La La Land, Too Old To Die Young, Graves), Madeleine Stowe (Revenge, 12 Monkeys, The Last of the Mohicans), Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Without a Trace, Broadchurch, Blindspot), Jenna Dewan Tatum (Step Up, Witches of East End, American Horror Story), Jahmil French (Degrassi: The Next Generation), Megan Ferguson (Bad Moms, Heart of Dixie), Campbell Scott (House of Cards, Royal Pains, Damages, The Amazing Spider-Man), Evan Whitten & Christina Milian (Grandfathered)…

    

You’ll Like It If You Already Like: Smash, Rise, La La Land, This Is Us…

Likely timeslot: Somewhere midseason with a limited run

 

Every Song Is A Love Song“. That’s with those words that Mixtape starts… and ends. And a very beautiful and emotional demonstration ensues from our hero Sam. I’m not gonna lie and there’s no suspense anyway if you’ve seen those 5 stars up there: I fell in love with this script as you fall in love with a song. So everything in this review will only be displays of affection. I will keep it short, by the way. I hate it when songs are too long. But also, I’ll be walking -or more like dancing- on eggs here. There are things that has to be kept secret and I don’t want to spoil any surprise to anybody. That’s part of the reason why it’s so good. You never know where it’s going, like you never know what life is bringing upon you, good or bad. And when you finally get a sense of what’s really going on, you’re just happy to see it play before your eyes. Mixtape is not just another musical drama. At the core, it’s a love letter to music where life burst into songs.

Let me tell you first about the structure of this very unique pilot (and future show). It is broken up into five parts (acts), with every one of them containing one song: Nellie’s Side A, Sam Side A, Nellie Side B, Sam Side B, and finally their mashup; this development illuminates the overarching metaphor that weaves throughout the pilot: music is life, life is music. And there’s a lot of love and loss in between. It’s quite simple and very clever at the same time. I don’t remember anything like it before. Of course, every song expresses the feelings of the character who sings. That’s how we get to know them better, their profound fears, and desires, and pains, and sometimes joys. That’s how every musical works. Every song is a big number, with or without dancers, while life happens. The reference is obviously La La Land. They’re aiming at something as modern and somehow timeless too. Those songs are not originals and not even hits but more like the perfect song for the situation, even if it has to be a lesser known one from a famous or not so famous artist. If the directing is as good as the writing, we’re gonna have a lot of fun my friends, music lovers and others.

The characters happen to be very well-written too and their stories are both intimate and universal, as they should be. Nellie seems to be living the American Dream: she’s beautiful and her hot boyfriend’s band is catapulting into massive stardom. Nothing can get to her, until, on the eve of her third anniversary, fantasizing about being proposed to, her life explodes as her punk boyfriend dumps her. Her own dreams of becoming an artist have derailed along the way. Now, her life turns completely upside down. Meanwhile, Sam, a scrupulous and shattered widower, aspiring songwriter and secret romantic, who has been forced to move into low income housing with his son after his wife’s death, spends his time balancing jobs and fathering his bright-eyed son. He’s helped by his aunt and now neighbour, a warm, pragmatic woman in her fifties that loves him like her own daughter. There’s other women in there: Joanna, a young professional with everything always under control, the most rational person ever, and yet she’s a little guarded, as if always prepared for the worst; and Margot, an actress who carefully controls how she presents herself to the world, but is secretly exhausted by having to do it. All those characters are very human, attractive and appealing, fragile, sometimes shattered, simply beautiful. And that’s all I can say. Just know there’s a twist. It’s also this kind of show.

Again, Mixtape is a love letter to music where life burst into songs. I don’t know if it can be successful, it’s probably too ambitious to become a huge instant hit, but it doesn’t look like a one-hit wonder either. This script is pure beauty and artistry. Those characters need to be heard. Between La La Land & This Is Us, it may be the best thing network television will bring us next year. Prepare your eyes, your ears and your hearts to it!