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: 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 At the time, Barbra Streisand was set to play one of the female leads but she’s been replaced by Jessica Lange since then for unknown reasons.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!
OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:
[ ] PASS
[ X ] CONSIDER
[ ] RECOMMEND