SERIES TITLE: The Hypnotist’s Love Story
GENRE: Soap Drama
LOGLINE: After a string of failed romances, Ellen, a successful hypnotherapist, is optimistic about her current boyfriend, a charming widower… until he reveals a disturbing truth: a stalker ex-girlfriend Sasha who has been following him and his son for years. Ellen finds herself intrigued, and oddly thrilled by the stalker, entirely unaware that they’ve already met…
Pilot Cast: Juliet Rylance (McMafia, The Knick), Heather Graham (Austin Powers, Boogie Nights, Californication), Adan Canto (Designated Survivor, The Following), Jane Seymour (Dr. Quinn, Jane The Virgin), Liza Lapira (9JKL, Don’t Trust The Bitch, Dollhouse), Skye P. Marshall (Black Lightning)…
Series Creator: Katie Wech (Star, The Secret Circle, Rizolli & Isles, Once Upon A Time In Wonderland).
Pilot Director: Francesca Gregorini (Humans, Electric Dreams).
Producers: Katie Wech, Heather Graham, David Hoberman (Monk), Todd Lieberman & Laurie Zaks (Castle, The Family, Wicked City).
Studios: ABC Studios & Mandeville Television.
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.
You’ll Like It If You Already Like: You, Dirty John, Lifetime and Hallmark Channel movies…
Likely Timeslot: Paired with The Bachelor in midseason or with The Bachelorette in the summer. Or sent to Lifetime or Hallmark Channel.
WRITTEN BY: Katie Welch
PAGECOUNT: 61 pages
DRAFT: 3rd Revised Network Draft. 1/11/19
BACKGROUND: The Hypnotist’s Love Story was the first pilot season order for ABC (NYPD Blue‘s happened off-cycle) and the first pilot order for the network’s new entertainment president Karey Burke, who comes from Disney’s cable channel Freeform. She wants to target women to lure them back at ABC and take back that number one crown they lost to NBC. The pilot is based on australian writer Liane Moriarty’s book published in 2011. It’s one of the seven international bestselling novels she wrote, with Big Little Lies, The Husband’s Secret and Truly Madly Guilty, each claiming the No. 1 spot on The New York Times Best Seller list. As you all know, Big Little Lies‘ HBO adaptation became a hit and won multiple Emmy Awards, while a second installment is on its way. If The Hypnotist’s Love Story were to be ordered to series, it would become the second adaptation to come to our TV screens, which is an indeniable strong selling argument for ABC.
Heather Graham, who plays the stalker character, has been the driving force behind the project from the get-go. She brought the book to Mandeville Television and ABC Studios after meeting with several producers. The pitch led to a buy, then a script and now a pilot.
SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: ELLEN (38) is a hypnotherapist who excels at helping others with their relationships, but can’t seem to find one of her own. Four dates in with PATRICK SCOTT (38), a handsome widower and single dad, Ellen finally thinks she may have found her soulmate. She remains undeterred after Patrick is forced to reveal that he has a stalker, an ex–girlfriend named SASHA (40s), when she suddenly appears at their dinner date, but Ellen’s best friend JULIA (38) is immediately concerned. Back at work, Ellen convinces her client ROSIE (28) to break off her engagement with media mogul IAN ROMAN (40s), who in turn publishes disparaging articles about Ellen and threatens her. Ellen eventually meets Patrick’s son JACK (10), which enrages Sasha, who had a very close relationship with him. Sasha breaks into Ellen’s house after seeing where she leaves the spare key, bakes banana bread in her kitchen, and then gives it to Jack. Ellen ends up in need of new clients after Ian’s articles scare off her old ones, and she ends up unknowingly in a session with Sasha.
COMMENTS: I guess sometimes you can’t resist to a strong selling argument and it feels like that’s what happened here with ABC’s top execs when they greenlighted the pilot, based on a weak script but coming from a name. Also, they made their decision while You became a hit on Netflix and Dirty John started to get some traction over there too. They probably saw an opportunity to tell a similar stalker-could-be-a-serial-killer story but more focused on women this time. By the way, I have a suggestion for a better title: Crazy In Love. It’s more attractive and it fits better with what’s at stake honestly. It’s two women madly in love and slighlty deranged. And I don’t think a network that launched so many female empowering shows should ruin it with such a dull thing. Of course, women can be stalkers, and they can go crazy, and they can make mistakes and love too much, and badly, but then you have the responsibility to portray them with subtlety and dignity, tell how they got there in the first place. And pitting them against each others is not very 2019… unless you’re doing Killing Eve and have Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s talent and intelligence.
I don’t know if the book it’s adapted from was any good -reviews seem to mixed overall- but there’s always such an efficiency and a great deal of suspense and twists in Liane Moriarty’s work that you can’t really hate it. It’s definitely chick lit but with an edge and the surprising depth that comes with it. The Hypnotist’s Love Story may be the outlier though. There’s no such thing as edge and depth here, I’m not even sure there’s a story. Probably more of a lack of story. I don’t think it’s a good pilot and I don’t think it could become a good TV series either. The foundations and the characters are simply not solid enough and it’s overall very predictable. I even felt kind of insulted sometimes. The writer sets some straps for us -why not? let’s play!- but gosh, they are so obvious. How could she think we would jump in? And in terms of twists and craziness I’m very disappointed too. The craziest thing the stalker Sasha does is… baking banada bread in her rival’s kitchen. I mean, WTF??! If it’s supposed to give us an idea of how far she’s able to go, please stop right there! Which leads me to a reflexion I had during the whole reading: those characters don’t act like functionning adults. There is teenage angst and obsessive behavior that just doesn’t feel appropriate for the age group they’re supposed to be in. And it’s mostly painful to watch. It’s not fun. It’s probably not supposed to be but at least we would enjoy it more if it was. What it is supposed to be though it’s thrilling. And it’s not that either. It’s too cheesy to be.
In the end, can something be saved from this mess? Certainly not Patrick’s character, who’s one-dimensional and too good to be true. You have a hard time understanding why both Ellen and Sasha desire him so much, he’s so boring… It all rests on the actor’s shoulders now to make him at least charming and damn hot. Adan Canto should be able to. Fans of Big Little Lies, you’ll get a good amount of normal (and uninteresting?) chit-chat with friends and family, around coffees, cup of teas or glasses of wine. But most of it sounds fake sadly. And Ellen’s best friend is one more flat protagonist. One character I liked though is Ellen’s extravagant mother, played by Jane Seymour. She’s actually funny, that’s a breath of fresh air. So no, not much can be saved from this mess. But it’s watchable if you have time to spare and a fondness for these things.
FINAL RECOMMENDATION: Since both You and Dirty John are uniformly dull shows that worked anyway, there’s hope for The Hypnotist’s Love Story. But maybe this one would have a better chance on Netflix thanks to the system of recommendations or on Disney+ to stay in the family. Coming back week after week would suppose a need of better writing, more appealing characters and stronger hooks. I want to believe ABC wants to win women back with shows that are more empowering and less insulting.
OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:
[ X ] PASS
[ ] CONSIDER
[ ] RECOMMEND