Month: January 2019

Riverdale: Meet musical spin-off Katy Keene’s characters [EXCLUSIVE]

EXCLUSIVE. Picked-up by The CW a few days ago with a bunch of other pilots, Riverdale’s second spin-off Katy Keene is a musical drama way different from the mothership and The Chilliing Adventures of Sabrina, but still based on Archie Comics. Here’s a list of the main characters involved.

The offshoot is written by Riverdale creator Robert Aguirre-Sacasa and executive producer Michael Grassi with Greg Berlanti producing for Warner Bros. Television and Berlanti Productions. It follows the lives and loves of four iconic Archie Comics characters as they chase their twenty-something dreams in New York City. This musical dramedy chronicles the origins and struggles of four aspiring artists trying to make it on Broadway, on the runway and in the recording studio, reminiscent of Glee‘s fourth season or such shows as The Carrie Diaries and The Bold Type.

Mostly female-driven, it’s centered around fashion legend-to-be KATY KEENE, a friend of Veronica Lodge, who got her own comics in 1949 during 12 years before a revival in the 80s. She’s a young woman in her 20s, ambitious and talented. She has a boyfriend, KO KELLY, a semi-pro boxer with an incredible body in his 20s too. She works at Lacy’s Department Store with her arch-rival AMANDA and her boss GLORIA GRANDBILT, an impeccable and glamourous diva in her 40s, a world-class Personal Shopper. One of their clients is ALEXANDRA CABOT, heiress to the Media Cabot Empire, a powerful twentysomething with a white streak in her air, like in the comics.

Katy lives in an apartment with two roomates, one of which is the direct link between the show and Riverdale. It’s JOSIE MCCOY, the Pussycat singer who’s leaving her hometown to pursue a solo career in New York City. Her fellow friends Melody & Valerie are not in the pilot, but they’ll probably pop up at some point. She’s played by Ashleigh Murray, who should be back in the iconic role. She meets Katie through their common friendship with Veronica. The other roomate is JORGE LOPEZ aka GINGER LOPEZ. His parents own the building. He’s 20, cute, gay and performs as a drag queen in a ballroom (think Ryan Murphy’s Pose) . Finally, there’s PEPPER SMITH, a young journalist and a feminist, who’s well connected: she knows everyone in the biz.

Casting for the roles is underway. The pilot will shoot in New York this march.

 

Snowpiercer (TNT/Netflix) pilot preview: Welcome aboard, voyagers!

SERIES TITLE: Snowpiercer, “All That Remains
NETWORK: TNT/Netflix
GENRE: Futuristic Thriller Drama

LOGLINE: Seven years after the world has become a frozen wasteland, the remnants of humanity inhabit a gigantic, perpetually moving train that circles the globe. The show questions class warfare, social injustice and the politics of survival…

Pilot Cast: Jennifer Connelly, Daveed Diggs, Susan Park, Mickey Sumner, Iddo Goldberg, Timothy V. Murphy, Sasha Frolova, Katie McGuinness, Alison Wright, Annalise Basso, Sam Otto, Sheila Vand…
Series Creators: Josh Friedman (The Sarah Connor Chronicles, War of the Worlds, Emerald City, Avatar 2).
Pilot Director: Scott Derrickson (Doctor StrangeThe Day The Earth Stood Still), reshoots by James Hawes (The Alienist, Black Mirror).
Producers: Josh Friedman, Marty Adelstein, Becky Clements, Bong Joon-ho, Park Chan-wook, Lee Tae-hun & Dooho Choi.
Studios: Tomorrow Studios, ITV Studios, Studio T. &  CJ Entertainment

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: Josh Friedman

PAGECOUNT: 72 pages

DRAFT: 7/7/16

BACKGROUND: Based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette (which was previously adapted by Bong Joon-ho for his acclaimed 2013 movie starring Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton & Octavia Spencer), Snowpiercer the TV series has a bit of a tortured history. Having been in development for almost four years, the show has faced a number of delays arising from creative differences between the series’ creative teams and the network. Not a good sign if you see the glass half-empty, but you could also see it half-full: it may just mean they’re taking great care with the property.

About that tortured history: Original writer and showrunner Josh Friedman was fired in January 2018, and replaced a month later by Graeme Manson (Orphan Black). Reshoots of the pilot were ordered, but the original director Scott Derrickson refused to proceed, saying: “The 72-page Snowpiercer TV pilot script by [Josh Friedman] is the best I’ve ever read. The feature-length pilot I made from that script may be my best work. The new showrunner has a radically different vision for the show. I am forgoing my option to direct the extreme reshoots.” James Hawes joined the series in July 2018 as an executive producer and a director to oversee the reshoots. A few days later, Netflix picked up the rights to stream the series outside of the United States and China. The show is currently slated to start airing on TNT in the summer 2019.

Please note that this review is based on the original version of the pilot script, before the rewriting and the reshoots. I don’t know what’s been changed, although I do have my ideas.

SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: We open on the image of a snowstorm and text on the screen explaining what happened on planet earth before it became frozen. We quickly see the massive snowpiercer train, which is leaving a frozen city in the midst of the storm. Then we look into the eye of a cow, which has the number 18 written on its forehead. She’s with a dozen of other cows. Welcome now to the tail section of the train, a place of starvation and hopelessness. We follow a little boy named Fergus, who’s playing with rats, and a man named Layton, who may or may not be his father. A woman’s voice is heard over the loudspeaker, wishing the passengers good morning on behalf of Wilford Industries and Transport.

We’re introduced to five workers who are stripping off their filthy work clothes under the supervision of security guards known as “The Brakemen.” Their skin is covered with industrial waste. They enter the tail section, where they’re reunited with their families. Fergus hugs one of them: it’s his father, Ian. We then meet the Anderson family: Jack, Lilah and their teenage daughter LJ. They’re eating breakfast peacefully, in a pod that looks nicer than the tail section. Once he’s done eating, Jack joins the agricultural supply car, through a railed transportation tunnel. Turns out he’s a farm worker, soon to feed our cow number 18. Meanwhile, Lilah goes to her job at a high-end nail salon. A client is waiting for her, and it’s Melanie Cavill, the voice of the train announcements. She’s a member of the train’s First Class and she’s fascinated with the other half.

It’s naptime in the Brakemen’s car, but two of them, Bess Till and John Osweiler, are awake. They’re partners and they seem close. They move toward the prison car where Pixi Aariak has lived for 3 years. She’s screaming, agitated. Till and Osweiler help her on her way out. After a much-needed shower, Pixi is sent to the Nightcar where’s she welcomed by Miss Audrey with warmth and kindness. A few minutes later, the passengers are warned to brace for impact. A large iceslide is blocking the track, and the train will have to smash its way through.

COMMENTS: So does Snowpiercer live up to the hype? Is it in fact the best pilot script I’ve ever read? While I wouldn’t go that far, one can’t help but marvel at this new world and each section of the train as its revealed. The wide shots of the ice-covered landscape should be magnificient, and I can’t wait to see what the Aquarium Car looks like (complete with a sushi bar!). It’s a rich universe, and writer Josh Friedman makes the best of it at a good pace. You get enough time to enjoy the different atmospheres you’re brought into — to really feel them — but it’s never boring. There’s a good balance between the every day life of the train and the extraordinary events that occur. Spoiler alert: at one point, someone is murdered and one of the first ongoing stories will be about the investigation that ensues. That may not sound particularly original, but in this context, with these characters, it’s interesting.

The characters themselves are also introduced in a compelling way, with enough time given that we learn in a nutshell who they are, and what their role is in this giant puzzle. Some of them are instantly appealing, while others will need a little a more time, but they all have something going for them, whether they’re coming from the tail section or first class. A few of them are mysterious and others are not who you think they are. Like the movie, Snowpiercer the TV series is about conflicting human impulses, social organization, disparities and power. It’s not a highly political show at the outset, but it’s poised to become one.

You can tell a lot of effort has been made to honor the source material. The series format gives more time to explore areas that were only hinted at in the movie, and it’s pretty captivating. It also answers a few questions, like: how do they make love in the tail section? Can they? (Answer: they do it quietly in a dark corner.) The show clearly wants to be smart entertainment, but it’s also dark, and at times very adult. I suspect that’s the part TNT tried to soften, to ensure it can reach a wider audience. At one point we’re introduced to a group called “the hand”, which is a “family” of adults engaged in one big polyamourous relationship. We meet them in a scene that’s described as “pastoral, like Monet’s Le déjeuner sur l’herbe“. How great does that sound? But unless those characters are supposed to stay in the background, I wouldn’t get too attached to them. I can’t find their names in the list of the regular characters, so they may not have made the cut.

FINAL RECOMMENDATION: Ambitious, smart and at times dark, Snowpiercer is the type of show that runs the risk of being lost in the endless shuffle of Peak TV. And if it were only TNT airing it, I’d be genuinely worried, but with Netflix in the loop, there’s a good chance it will reach the wide audience it deserves. The pilot script is everything you want from a futuristic, post-apocalyptic thriller. Is it in the right hands? Will this train go in the right direction? Only time will tell, but here’s hoping it’s not just the pilot… and that the budget is as ambitious as the storytelling!

 

OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:

[  ] PASS
  ] CONSIDER
X ] RECOMMEND

The Society (Netflix) pilot preview: Lord of the whys???

SERIES TITLE: The Society (aka Hamelins)
NETWORK: Netflix
GENRE: Teen Adventure Drama

LOGLINE: A group of teenagers are mysteriously transported to a facsimile of their wealthy New England town, left without any trace of their parents. As they struggle to figure out what has happened to them and how to get home, they must establish order and form alliances if they want to survive.

Pilot Cast: Kathryn Newton (Big Little Lies, Lady Bird, Ben is Back), Rachel Keller (Legion, Fargo), Gideon Adlon (Blockers, Mustang), Kristine Froseth (Sierra Burgess Is A Loser, The Truth About Harry Quebert), Jose Julian (A Better Life, Shameless), Olivia DeJonge (The Visit), Jacques Colimon (Duat), Grace Victoria Cox (Heathers, Under The Dome), Sean Berdy (Switched at Birth), Alex MacNicoll (Transparent), Alex Fitzalan (Slenderman), Toby Wallace
Series Creators: Chris Keyser (The Last Tycoon, Tyrant, Party of Five
Pilot Director: Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer, The Amazing Spider-Man, Limitless
Producers: Chris Keyser & Marc Webb.
Studios: Unknown

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: Chris Keyser

PAGECOUNT: 62 pages.

BACKGROUND: The Society is one of many originals aimed at teenagers/young-adults that Netflix will release in 2019/2020, alongside The Umbrella Academy, Sex EducationI Am Not Okay With This, Jinn… and returning series Stranger Things13 Reasons WhyElite, and The Rain. These are some of the streamer’s biggest and most talked about series, and you can add to them Riverdale, a Netflix original in countries outside of the US, and their latest hit, the saved-from-Lifetime-obscurity You. While the younger demo is barely watching network television anymore, there seems to be plenty of demand online; so much so that streaming rival Amazon is also making a big push for programming in this space under new exec Jennifer Salke. So, does The Society have the stuff to be Netflix’s next big hit? Read on…

SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: We’re in a cornfield in rural Connecticut. It’s 1966. Young men and women are working under the sun. There’s a river over there, and an ancient burial ground here. A female narrator tells us about the town, the houses, the suburban streets, the school, the gas station, and the mountains all around… Now we’re in 1684. Same place. One day, the hills begin to move. We’re told one hundred and nine children were buried while they sat at their school desks, by 200,000 cubic yards of waste.

But let’s go back to nowadays, and the privileged West Ham high school. In the auditorium, parents, family and friends are hugging their children at the end of a performance of the school’s play. Meet Cassandra, the lead actress, a crowd around her. She’s popular, a natural born leader. Nearby, Harry, her longtime rival, also has a crowd around him. He’s handsome, wealthy and ambitious. Allie, Cassandra’s sister, a little less confident, is there too, watching. She’s lived her entire life in the shadow of her sister, but they love each other deeply. Backstage, we’re introduced to most of the other principal characters.

The next morning, it’s the great departure for our high schoolers. Luke, the quarterback, is passing along the side of the town’s church when something catches his eye. It’s a bible quote, spray-painted on the wall: “You’ve been weighed in the balance and found wanting.” Not far from here, six buses are lined up. It’s time for goodbyes between the children and their parents, at least those who came. Soon, they’re out of town. An hour later or so, a bibilical storm is in full force. There’s a blinding crack of lightning and a boom of thunder. On the inside of the buses, the kids are groggy and disoriented. The bus driver, whose face is hidden from camera, tells them there’s been a change of plan: they’re back home. It’s night, the town is dark and empty. The children return to their respective homes, to find them empty as well. Where are the adults?

COMMENTS: Described as a modern take on Lord of the FliesThe Society definitely has a compelling hook, but the pilot script is all over the place. There must be 15 principal characters, each a cliché, and virtually all unlikable. As a consequence, we want them to die. Quickly. Atrociously. But they won’t, and we’re as stuck with them as they are to each other.

I can’t say I’m not interesed in the mystery that surrounds this town but I’m not convinced the show’s answers will be satisfying. There aren’t a lot options: the origin of the event is either mystical or natural. Or both. Religious references are thrown at us without any kind of subtlety, and the premise that the kids being sent out of town without their parents is confounding.

The rest of the script is no better. Once they’re back in town, all the kids want to do is party, drink, and cruise in cars. They don’t seem scared or taken aback that their parents are missing, which is hard to swallow. Okay, they’re teenagers, and we know they can be frivolous and reckless, but could they be just a little less stupid? The pilot’s most important goal seems to be surfacing potential couples, and as much as I understand that’s inevitable in a teen drama, as written, the mystery takes backseat. Most of the end of the pilot is about rivalries and leadership with Cassandra, who’s inspired by her sister Allie to take charge of the group. There are a lot of similarities with The 100 in this area and that doesn’t help the show feel any fresher.

FINAL RECOMMENDATION: A good pitch doesn’t always make a good show, and from the looks of it, The Society is not as ambitious or as good as it should be. It’s one of those shows that would likely never survive on broadcast or cable, but may just find an audience online, especially if Netflix decides to push it hard. And I have a feeling they will.

 

OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:

[ X ] PASS
  ] CONSIDER
  ] RECOMMEND

 

Euphoria (HBO) pilot preview: A provocative and addictive new teen drama like no other

SERIES TITLE: Euphoria.
NETWORK: HBO
GENRE: Teen Drama

LOGLINE: A group of high school students attempt to cope through drugs, sex and violence in an effort to make sense of an uncertain future, one year after one of their own was found dead in a cornfield off a road. Lost and hurt, vulnerable and thrill-seeking, they become a community in a town of lonely individuals. Their story is told by a lying, drug-addicted, fucked-up 17-year-old girl named Rue…

Pilot Cast: Zendaya, Eric Dane, Storm Reid, Maude Apatow, Nina King, Barbie Feirrera, Hunter Schafer, Austin Abrams, Alexa Demie, Jacob Elordi, Algee Smith……
Series Creators: Sam Levinson (Wizard of Lie, Another Happy Day, Assassination Nation).
Pilot Director: Augustine Frizzel (Sweetbitter, Never Goin’ Back). 
Producers: Drake, Future the Prince, Sam Levinson, Ron Leshem, Daphna Levin, Tmira Yardeni, Hadas Mozes Lichtenstein, Mirit Toovi, Yoram Mokadi & Gary Lennon.
Studios: A24.

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: Sam Levinson

PAGECOUNT: 64 pages.

DRAFT: April 27th, 2017

BACKGROUND: Euphoria is the very first HBO teen drama, based on an Israeli format of the same name. When the Israeli version premiered in 2012, it was compared to movies like Gus Van Sant’s Elephant and Larry Clark’s Kids. Those are big shoes to fill, and as I’ve not seen the Israeli show, I can’t say whether or not it met those expectations. Still, from a PR perspective alone, the show seems like a smart bet on HBO’s part. As the network vies for attention in this era of Peak TV, it makes sense that it would pick up a show with the potential to generate the kind of attention that 13 Reasons Why did for Netflix.

SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: We’re in the maternity ward of a New York hospital three days after 9/11. There’s a bright, fluorescent light. The camera goes down between the legs of a woman about to give birth, right into her vagina, and then inside her womb. It’s here that we meet Rue, our heroine and narrator, a baby not yet ready to be torn from the comfort of her home. She puts up a fight, but loses. There she is, bloody and in the arms of her mother, Leslie. On a TV set, there are images of George W. Bush standing atop Ground Zero, facing the world saying “I can hear you! The people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.” People are chanting “USA! USA! USA!.” A nipple is shoved into Rue’s mouth.

Through a series of shots, we’re introduced to Rue’s childhood in a white suburban middle-class neighborhood. At 4 years old, a therapist diagnoses her with Attention Deficit Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder and possible Bipolar Disorder. As a 10 year-old, Rue is chubby and so heavily medicated as to appear catatonic. We see a montage of famous people including Vincent Van Gogh, Sylvia Plath, Fiona Apple and Britney Spears, reminding us that those with mental disorders can still achieve great things. Cut to Rue at 17, as she snorts fine powder. She tells us about her teenage years: the first dick pic she received at the age of 9, her first kiss at 12, the hand jobs and blow jobs, some of which she was emotionally coerced into…

Now she’s laying naked on the tile of the laundry room of a rando fuckboi’s parents. He’s asking her if she came. She says yes, but she’s clearly lying… and she’s clearly high. Then, finally a moment of sweetness: an old home video of her trying to hula hoop in the backyard with her father. He’s encouraging her, telling her not to give up. Back to today, where she’s clearly given up. She introduces us to Nate Jacobs, the star quaterback of the football team, only to confess that he was found dead in a cornfield off Route 38… and that she’s the one who killed him.

COMMENTS: The definition of Euphoria is “a feeling or state of intense excitement and happiness,” but there’s nothing about Rue, her “friends” or the show itself that seems to come from a happy place. Instead, this is a really, really sad and lonely place, perhaps the darkest version of a teen drama we’ve ever seen. In comparison, Skins and 13 Reasons Why seem like walks in the park. And it’s exactly what you’d expect from the network that brought you True DetectiveThe Night Of and Sharp Objects. But its representation of troubled and highly intoxicated teenagers won’t be for everyone. This is clearly an adult show, and that’s where it’s likely to be controversial — teenagers and young adults will find it, whether it’s on HBO or somewhere else. And the more it will be talked about, the more they’ll want to watch it.

In the context of the pilot episode, drug use may be seen as glorified or glamourized (the directing will play an important role). Or at least as an inevitable rite of passage for a “normal” teenager. I imagine the show will be smarter than that, and will want to send a message of prevention and awareness. But in a country where there’s an rampant opioid epidemic, where drug overdoses have become the leading cause of death of Americans under 50, one can’t afford to be too ambiguous on this subject and/or be seen as taking your time getting to its point. To be sure, Rue is never shown as someone who’s living her best life because of what she’s taking. It’s clear that she can’t be trusted: you never know if she’s telling lies or telling the raw, disturbing truth. She’s also very smart, and — depending on how she’s played by the likable young star Zendaya — may be seen as an attractive example for those already in a vulnerable state. And that’s worrying. At the same time, done right, the show has the potential to be a game-changer… one that actually helps people.

Going back to the storytelling itself, this is a very well-crafted pilot script that’s as addictive as a designer drug. It effectively jumps back and forth in time, thanks to a voice-over that even those who are allergic to the practice will appreciate. Rue’s voice creates further intimacy in an already intimate tale and a certain comfort in the discomfort, until we realize that perhaps we shouldn’t believe everyting that we’re told. (Our narrator is bipolar, after all.) The mess in her head becomes more and more clear to us, as we ourselves are thrown from euphoria to paranoia. That’s quite an feat. Writer Sam Levinson clearly knows how to maintain suspense through his protagonist’s voice. By the pilot’s end, there are multiple mysteries to be solved. And probably more to come in future episodes.

The characters are numerous, and most of them are properly introduced, but the pilot is mostly about Rue and her friendship with Jules, a 17 year-old trans who’s new in town after her parents’ divorce and who’s starting hormone replacement therapy, making her daily life even more difficult than it already is. There are quite a few disturbing and horrifying scenes involving her and her quest for affection. (Transgender activist and runway model Hunter Schafer has been cast in the role.) And there’s Nate. Think 13 Reasons Why‘s Bryce, but even darker. You can’t escape the classic party sequence that seems to appear in every teen drama, but here too, it’s ambitious — striving to be “the druggy equivalent of the Fred Astaire dance sequence in Royal Wedding in a single take.”

FINAL RECOMMENDATION: Suspenseful and provocative, Euphoria portrays a troubled group of rageful teens who traffic in internet fantasies, narcissistic dreams, drug-induced hallucinations and traumatic disorders. Done right, it promises to be more than just a TV show. In any case, it will almost certainly make headlines for HBO when it premieres.

 

OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:

[   ] PASS
  ] CONSIDER
[ X ] RECOMMEND

 

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.

 

  

 

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, the streaming giant granted him a rare two-season straight-to-series order for The Politician, one of the biggest TV package sales of 2018. Everything’s BIG when it comes to Murphy, it seems. At the time, Barbra Streisand was set to play one of the female leads but Murphy stalwart Jessica Lange has since stepped into her role for unknown reasons. Described as “a one-hour long comedy with social commentary”, The Politicanwill focus on a different political race each season. Word has it that straight-from-Broadway series star Ben Platt will have musical numbers in several episodes of the show, but other details have been kept tightly under wraps. With a copy of the pilot script in hand, let’s see if we can’t unwrap them a little…

SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: Two great looking 17-year-olds are making out in an upscale house in Santa Barbara, California. Meet River and his girlfriend Astrid. While on the surface, things may seem hot between them, something doesn’t seem quite right. Turns out Astrid is faking it. When River asks her why, she explains that she’s madly in love with him and doesn’t expect him to be perfect in bed because of his young age and lack of experience. After she leaves, a clearly upset River goes to his father’s office and opens a safe where there’s cash, jewelry and a gun. Then he goes back to his bedroom, looks around, and puts the gun in his mouth.

At that very moment he hears a car screech, followed by someone banging on his front door. In comes Payton, our leading man, filled with rage, tears streaking down his face. After calling River a traitor, he reveals the reason he’s there: he’s just learned that River is competing against him to become the student body president of their college. He warns him that this is HIS dream, that he is A WINNER and that he will win this at all costs. River is mortified, and so are we.

COMMENTS: So this is the project that Netfix won in a high stakes bidding war against Amazon and Hulu. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised — they all wanted a Ryan Murphy show. The problem is, while this is indeed a Ryan Murphy show, it isn’t American Horror StoryAmerican Crime Story, or Feud. Instead, alongside frequent collaborators Brad Falchuck & Ian Brennan, Murphy has returned to the mileu of one of his earlier series: Glee. To be fair, The Politician is bit more adult-oriented than Glee — after all, the characters are not in high-school. But what happens in their Santa Barbara college could just as well have happened at McKinley High. In fact, many of it did. Payton, the central character, is our new Rachel Berry: ambitious and opinionated, his goal isn’t to become the best singer in the world, but instead the President of the United States.

The Glee feeling doesn’t end there. It becomes even more pronounced when Payton starts looking for the perfect Vice-President from a shortlist of disabled and the minority classmates. Oh, and did I mention he sings, too? He performs a musical number at a funeral and it’s apparently the best thing ever. (In the script, he sings Joni Mitchell’s River. We’ll see if that one sticks.) Most of the other characters are caricatures: the witty best friend, the bitchy one, etc. Astrid, who’s Payton’s nemesis, is a bit more fleshed out, and should become even more important in later episodes since she’s not just River’s girlfriend (no spoilers here). Finally, there’s Infinity Rose — yep, that’s her name — a colorfurl girl who has cancer…. all different kinds of cancer, to be precise. Payton wants her as his VP, but she’s not interested, at least not for now. But she clearly has some tricks up her sleeve.

The Politician does have some things to say about politics, ambition and young people, but it doesn’t say them in a way that’s innovative or smart, and it’s hard to take it very seriously when so much of what happens is ripped from earlier Murphy shows. (There are some parallels with Murphy’s Scream Queens here, too.) What’s the point of going to Netflix if it’s to do exactly the same thing he did on FOX? I mean.. The Politician is occasionally irreverent and raunchy (there’s a threesome, you guys!) but there’s nothing here that Murphy and team couldn’t have achieved on network television.

FINAL RECOMMENDATION: It’s not the most imaginative or well-crafted of pilot scripts, and if it aired on FOX or FX I’m guessing The Politician would be dead on arrival. But with a two-season commitment from Netflix, with all of its algorithms and a binge-ready audience, it might just work. In fact, despite all of my own misgivings with the project, I can still see myself tuning in to see how it all plays out.

 

OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:

[   ] PASS
] CONSIDER
[   ] RECOMMEND

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

SERIES TITLE: Servant (Working Title)
NETWORK: Apple
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.

   

PILOT SCRIPT TITLE: Reborn
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.

OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:
[   ] PASS
[   ] CONSIDER
[X] RECOMMEND