Month: January 2019

The Politician (Netflix) pilot preview: Do you miss Glee? Ryan Murphy does apparently…

SERIES TITLE: The Politician
NETWORK: Netflix
GENRE: Political One-Hour Dramedy

LOGLINE:  The political aspirations of Payton, a wealthy Santa Barbarian who’s ultimate goal is to become the President of the United States, one step at a time. And for now, he needs to a/ become the student body president of his college b/ be accepted to Harvard. To achieve that, he’s ready for anything. Literally.

Pilot Cast: Ben Platt, Zoey Deutch, Lucy Boynton, Jessica Lange, Gwyneth Paltrow, January Jones, Dylan McDermott, Laura Dreyfuss, Rhane Jones…
Series Creators: Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuck & Ian Brennan (American Horror Story, Pose, 9-1-1, Glee).
Pilot Director: Ryan Murphy.
Producers: Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Platt, Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuck & Ian Brennan.
Studios: Fox 21 Television Studios

Ever wonder how TV executives wade through the dozens of pilot scripts they’re pitched each year? They have staff script readers, who provide what’s called “Script Coverage,” an executive summary and a recommendation for each script. Now you too can preview some of the season’s most buzzed about pilots and find out whether we’d recommend them for pickup. Note that all opinions are our own, and all plot, casting and other creative details described here are subject to change.



 Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuck & Ian Brennan.

PAGECOUNT: 68 pages

BACKGROUND: A few months before mega TV producer Ryan Murphy left 20th Century FOX Television for Netflix in what is believed to be the biggest TV pact ever, he managed to get from them a rare two-season straight-to-series order for The Politician, one of the biggest TV package sale of 2018, after a weeklong bidding war among top streaming players including Amazon and Hulu. Eveything’s BIG when it comes to Murphy, it seems. At the time, Barbra Streisand was set to play one of the female leads but she’s been replaced by Jessica Lange since then for unknown reasons. Described as “a one-hour long comedy with social commentary”, The Politican will tell every season a different political race the central character Payton is involved in. Ben Platt, a Broadway breakout star, is supposed to have musical numbers in several episodes of the show. Other details are being kept under wraps. But let’s unwrap them a little!

SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: In an upscale house in Santa Barbara, California, two great looking 17-year-olds are making out. Meet River and his girlfriend Astrid. Even though it’s hot between them, something doesn’t seem quite right. Turns out Astrid is faking it. And when River asks her why, since he clearly got that part right, she explains that she’s madly in love with him but she also doesn’t expect him to be perfect in bed because of his young age and his lack of experience. It doesn’t sit well with River, a bit upset. When she’s gone a little while later, he goes to his father’s office, dives under the desk and opens a safe where there’s cash, jewelry and more importantly what he’s looking for: a gun. Then he goes back to his bedroom, looks around, almost cries and… puts the gun in his mouth!

But at this very moment, he hears a car screeching in and someone banging on the front door. There comes Payton, our leading man, filled with rage, tears streaking on his face. After calling River a traitor and a son of a bitch, he reveals the reason why he’s there: he just learned River is competing against him in the race to become the student body president of their college. He warns him that this HIS dream, that he is A WINNER and that he will win this at all costs. And he storms out. River is mortified. So are we.

COMMENTS: So that’s the project streaming platforms were fighting for. I can’t say I’m surprised they did. They all wanted a Ryan Murphy show, no matter what the subject was. And I guess Netfix was pleased when they got the script. It’s exactly what they paid for: a Ryan Murphy show in all its splendor. Alongside frequent collaborators Brad Falchuck & Ian Brennan, he recreated Glee. Something in the same vein at least. A bit more adult-oriented, since the characters are not in high-school anymore, but what happens in that Santa Barbara college is exactly the same as in McKinley High. It’s about an ambitious and opiniated central character -Payton is our new Rachel- who’s as irritating as he’s fascinating, though is goal his not to become the best singer in the whole world but the President of the United States, no less. And if I had to make another comparison, I’d say he’s not that different from American Crime Story Versace‘s serial killer Andrew Cunanan, who was craving for recognition and celebrity as well, with a giant ego. Though he doesn’t kill anyone. At least in the pilot. But he’s probably ready to, if that’s what it takes. And that’s an horror story, let me tell you. When you think about it, it makes so much sense: it’s coming from the mind of someone who became TV’s biggest producer! And Murphy must have a few skeletons in his own closet, right?

This Glee feeling doesn’t stop there. It becomes even more vivid and real when Payton starts to look for the perfect Vice-President to accompany him for the race among the disabled and the minorities. He know exactly how to please a crowd. Oh and by the way, he knows how to sing too! He makes a musical number at a funeral and apparently it’s the best thing ever. In the script, he sings Joni Mitchell’s River. We’ll see if it sticks. Anyway, most of the other characters are not fully fletched for the moment. They are caricatures, like the witty best friend and the bitchy one. You can find the same kind of lines and jokes as in Scream Queens and all those other Murphy shows. Astrid, who’s Payton’s nemesis, is an interesting character though, and she should become even more important in later episodes since she’s not just River’s girlfriend but much more than that. I won’t spoil you her move but she makes a big one. Finally, there’s Infinity Rose -yeah, that’s her name- a colorfurl girl who has cancer, all different kinds to be precise. Payton wants her as VP. She’s not interered. For now. But she clearly has some tricks up her sleeves.

The problem with The Politician is that it has some things to say about politics, ambition and young people nowadays, but it doesn’t say them in a way that’s innovative or smart, and it’s hard to take it seriously when most of what happens is ripped from previous Murphy’s shows. I’m pretty sure the subsequent seasons could be more interesting, with an older Payton, racing for more important positions but as of now, it’s just one more iteration of something’s Murphy is too good at. And what’s the point of going to Netflix if it’s to do exactly the same thing than he did on FOX and FX. I mean.. The Politician is occasionally irreverent and raunchy (there’s a threesome you guys!) but nothing that he couldn’t have achieved on network television.

FINAL RECOMMENDATION: The Politician is both efficient and lazy. On FOX, I’m pretty sure viewers would have swiched off their TV like they did with Scream Queens, while FX wouldn’t have wanted it, not this way. But on Netflix… With all those algorithms and this binge-watching trend that sometimes consists of keeping on watching something that is not even really good just because it’s easy, I’d say it’s there for at least three seasons! It’s buzz-worthy. You will want to know what it is, how it plays out and how it ends. You’re screwed. We all are! 


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Untitled M. Night Shyamalan’s Apple Series preview: Of course, there’s a twist! And another one!

SERIES TITLE: Servant (Working Title)
GENRE: Mystery Horror Drama / Psychological Thriller

LOGLINE: Young married couple Dorothy and Sean Turner has hired inexperienced nanny Leanne Grayson to help care for their newborn baby. But there’s an unspoken secret surrounding this child…

Pilot Cast: Lauren Ambrose, Toby Kebbell, Nell Tiger Free, Rupert Grint.
Series Creator: Tony Basgallop.
Pilot Director: M. Night Shyamalan.
Producers: M. Night Shyamalan, Jason Blumenthal, Todd Black, Taylor Latham, Steve Tish, Ashwin Rajan.
Studios: Blinding Edge Pictures, Escape Artists.

Ever wonder how TV executives wade through the dozens of pilot scripts they’re pitched each year? They have staff script readers, who provide what’s called “Script Coverage,” an executive summary and a recommendation for each script. Now you too can preview some of the season’s most buzzed about pilots and find out whether we’d recommend them for pickup. Note that all opinions are our own, and all plot, casting and other creative details described here are subject to change.


WRITTEN BY: Tony Basgallop (Berlin Station, Inside Men, Hotel Babylon)

PAGECOUNT: 31 pages

BACKGROUND: M. Night Shyamalan’s Servant is part of the slate of ambitious originals for Apple’s upcoming streaming service that should be launched sometime in the first quarter of 2019. It will debut alongside several other shows, including a morning show drama led by Jennifer Aniston & Reese Witherspoon, a space drama from Ronald D. Moore, world-building drama series See from Steven Knight and Francis Lawrence, and Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories reboot. The half-hour psychological thriller which received a 10-episode straight-to-series order back in February 2018 may not be the splashiest of the bunch, but it does have M. Night Shyamalan as both executive producer and director of the first episode. So, did Apple make the right bet? Our pilot script review follows:

SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: It’s raining in present-day New York. In a four story Brownstone house near Park Slope, young married couple Dorothy and Sean Turner -she’s a TV reporter, he’s professional chef- are preparing for the arrival of Leanne Grayson, an eighteen year-old girl from Wisconsin that they;ve hired as a nanny for Jericho, their 3 month-old baby boy. We meet Leanne as she’s getting out of a cab. After a polite and warm welcome, she’s given a tour and discovers the cold, small bedroom they’ve re-arranged for her at the top of the house. On her dressing table: a key and a folder with the words “Duties and responsibilities”. She doesn’t open it yet.

Later that evening, in the kitchen, the couple shoots questions at her about her family while giving her a little something to eat. She has not met the baby yet. Sean offers her champagne, she declines because of her young age. Dorothy is a bit embarrassed. Then she gives her the opportunity to call her family back home. She accepts. Once she’s alone, she hangs up the phone without even dialing. During the night, while both Dorothy and Leanne are sleeping, a wide-awake Sean leaves the bed and enters the nursery. There, he takes his very silent baby on his lap. And…

COMMENTS: This first episode is not very fast-paced — it’s all about creating the atmosphere and introducing the show’s four principal characters, who are all mysterious in their own ways. It’s all happening behind closed doors, in this stylish house which is as beautiful as it is frightening, especially when night comes. If it weren’t for the tablet that Sean uses at one point, you’d almost think the show was set in the 50s or the 60s. Shyamalan should compensate for the lack of action with his directing, and the actors with their performances. They have the material for it. And of course, there’s a twist! (And, as you might expect from M. Night Shyamalan, another one, too!) The difficulty here is writing about the show without spoiling them. Let’s just say the twists help the shhow enter the world of fantasy and even horror. And they give it instant depth.

While the story senters about the baby, every character seems to be hiding something. Dorothy & Sean are clearly tormented, and their relationship seems fragile. They love each other, but they’re struggling and it shows. There’s denial and bitterness here. Grief too, perhaps? Meanwhile, Leanne is a strange girl who seems too polite, calm and discreet on the surface to be totally honest… We don’t know much about them by the end of the script but we want to know more. Who are they? What have they done? Who should be fearing whom? Many questions come up along the way, including perhaps most importantly: why Leanne? Why did they choose her? Why isn’t she asking more questions? Why isn’t she surprised by some discoveries when we, as viewers?… Is there something she knows that we don’t? Does she have a secret agenda? It’s definitely intriguing and weird. It doesn’t stand out as extraordinarily original, but it doesn’t feel like déjà vu all over again either. It’s sort of comfortable in its uncomfortable ways.

FINAL RECOMMENDATION: Servant is an M. Night Shyamalan production through and through, and it’s the kind of show that could help Apple make some noise in a subtler way than big expensive machines starring huge stars, marking points with both critics and horror fans (more the thrill seekers than the hard core horror lifers). It should resonate with people who loved The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix with a format resembling Amazon’s Homecoming that makes it very binge-worthy.

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