Category: Script Previews

For God And Country (NBC) pilot preview: NBC’s National Anthem

Written and produced by Dean Georgaris (Paycheck, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life). Executive produced by Avi Nir (Homeland, Tyrant), Peter Traugott (Samantha Who?) and Rachel Kaplan (Manhattan Love Story, Do No Harm). Directed by Brad Anderson (Frequency, Forever, Fringe, The Call). For Universal Television & Keshet Studios. 64 pages. Revised Network Polish. 01/17/17.

Description: An heart pounding look into the complex world of our bravest military heroes who make personal sacrifices while executing the most challenging and dangerous missions behind enemy lines. The ISA-Special Operations Group, led by commander Michael Dalton, and a team of surveillance analysts who uncover and interpret threats, supervised by Deputy Director Patricia Campbell, will do whatever it takes to make sure no foreign nation gets away with harming Americans…

With Mike Vogel (Under the Dome, Pan Am, Bates Motel), Anne Heche (Dig, Men In Trees, Hung, Volcano, Six Days Seven Nights), Natacha Karam, Demetrius Grosse (Westworld, Banshee, Justified), Noah Mills, Hadi Tabbal, Sofia Pernas (Jane The Virgin, The Young and the Restless)

  

You’ll like if you already like: Homeland, The Unit, JAG…

Likely timeslot : Tuesday at 10, Midseason sundays…

For God And Country. No, it’s not a joke. That’s really the title of this NBC military drama pilot. It’s unsubtle, overly direct, the more on-the-nose title ever created. It doesn’t leave a room for any possible doubt: this is a patriotic show, specifically designed for a Post-Trump America and blue-collar audiences. But let’s be clear, it’s the huge success of Eastwood’s feature film American Sniper that triggered the ongoing push from the networks to get more programs featuring military heroes. Not the Agent Orange/Bratman/Cinnamon Hitler POTUS. While USA Network’s Shooter launched successfully and will come back next summer, 4 other pilots are sharing a military DNA this season: Behind Enemy Lines at FOX, an Untitled NAVY Seal Drama at CBS, Valor at The CW & comedy Charlie Foxtrot at ABC. Let’s just hope only 1 or 2 get a series pick-up during the upfronts. For God and Country -Man, I will never get used to it!- is already a clear favorite at NBC. And I can see why. And I’ll try to explain.

The truth is, this is an edge-of-your-seat pilot that could be compared to the most successful action-oriented episodes of Homeland. I wanted to hate this script but despite myself, I got hooked quickly and couldn’t take my eyes off of it. Unless the director screws things up, it’s gonna be epic. The 5 characters from the operations group are always in action: moving, hiding, shooting, fighting… They don’t talk a lot. And when they do, it’s not particularly impressive. It’s hard to tell who they really are deep inside. Consequently, it’ll take time to get to know them and possibly appreciate them. So far, they are just like machines. But they have potential. And SPOILER ALERT: you shouldn’t get too attached to them, because it is revealed in a flashforward at the beginning of the episode that one of them will die during one of the 23 missions they’ll complete on their nine months deployment. Smart way to help the viewers’ go through an entire season of the show, which is bound to be highly procedural by the way, with tiny serialized elements about their personal lives.

Michael Dalton (played by Mike Vogel) is your typical team leader, your perfect and stunningly beautiful war hero, meaning he’s a bit boring. Juice is the team’s computer and communications expert and all-around tech badass, “a lethal MacGyver”. I let you draw your own conclusion. Joseph J McGuire is the team’s medic who is the quickest to violence and fond of mixed martial arts and… J.K. Rowling. He’s a bit of an asshole honestly. I guess they needed one, to make it real. But he has a sense of humor. He made me think of Lost‘s Sawyer in a way. Then there’s Amir. Before joining Dalton’s team, he spent nearly six years as a lone wolf penetration agent in ISIS, which makes him the most interesting character so far an he goes through a lot during the pilot. And finally, there’s Jaz, one of the few women in the world to make it through the U.S. Army Ranger School. She’s a sniper now, which makes her the second most interesting character of the show. And as the only woman of the team, the most likely to survive the season.

The characters from the Defense Intelligence Agency are less mobile, stuck in their bureau, but they talk a lot instead. They are the ones who make difficult decisions, who strategize. Their leader Patricia Campbell has not much to do with Carrie Matheson sadly, and there’s no Saul Berenson either, but their scenes are intense nonetheless, and I’m convinced Anne Heche is capable of adding extra-life to her too calm and always in control role. There’s an overall lack of emotion, which is a shame for that kind of show who wants to go straight to the viewers’ hearts, but the rescue mission of the pilot is the most emotional thing in there. It’s about a surgeon kidnapped in Syria and her husband waiting for some reassuring news in DC. In fact, I think we get to know more about them than any other characters. And I don’t see it as a good thing. But we’re invested in their story at least.

So is it this patriotic? Yes. But it’s easy to go with the flow and enjoy the show for what it is first and foremost: a military thriller. If you’re not fond of arms, you might get irritated from time to time. They loooove their weapons. And the writer makes sure we get it. But different point of views about war are represented, especially through Juice, who’s a muslim, and McGuire, who’s clearly a Trump soldier. They talk about it. It’s furtive and not really deep, but at least it means the show tries to lauch a conversation. It doesn’t change the fact that I’m still laughing from the ridiculous opening sequence. Dalton yells to a bomb maker: “It doesn’t matter where you hide. If you hurt us, we will find you“. Cut to black and the title appears on the screen. TOO MUCH.

For God and Country is an intense military series that has every chance to resonate with americans right now by playing an ambiguous game that consists of pleasing the republicans without infuriating democrats. Unless people want something more radical. It seems to belong more to CBS than to NBC but there’s definitely an audience looking for this and they’ll find it wherever. There’s a real potential to make something powerful out of it. I wouldn’t be surprised if NBC puts it behind This Is Us next year, though they’re very different tonally. 

The Gospel of Kevin (ABC) pilot preview: Oh Lord, that’s a weird show!

Written and produced by Michelle Fazekas & Tara Butters (Agent Carter, Resurrection, Dollhouse). Also executive produced by Robert Atwood. Directed by Paul McGuigan (Victor Frankenstein, Designated Survivor, The Family, Devious Maids). For ABC Studios and Fazekas & Butters Productions. 69 pages. Studio Draft. 01/12/17.

Description: After a failed suicide attempt, Kevin, a cluelessly self-serving jerk on a dangerous path to despair, is going home to stay with his widowed twin sister and niece for a time, only to be met with a crisis that presents itself very real in the person of Yvette, a warrior for God, whose job is to guide Kevin back to the road of righteousness, and make him understand his mission in this life: saving the world…

With Jason Ritter (Girls, Parenthood, The Event, Grafity Falls, Joan of Arcadia), JoAnna Garcia (Once Upon A Time, Privileged, Reba), Cristela Alonzo (Cristela), J. August Richards (Agents of SHIELD, Raising the Bar, Angel), Dustin Ybarra

  

You’ll like it if you already like: The 4400, Eli Stone, Joan of Arcadia, The Event

Likely timeslot: Tuesday at 10, summer spot…

 

This year, ABC is all about DRAMEDIES. 7 pilots out of 11 are to various degrees. There’s the action one (Unit Zero), the medical one (The Good Doctor), the crime procedural one (Deception)… and there’s the fantasy one : The Gospel of Kevin. President Channing Dungey stated she wanted new shows that both reflect Middle America and entertain like Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty or Brothers & Sisters did. Those were successes for the network and it makes sense wanting to go back to it, even more if you consider the fact that they have a really strong comedy brand right now and that it’s easier to mix comedies with dramedies than with heavy dark dramas. But I feel like with The Gospel of Kevin, we’re sadly more on the Men in Trees / Eli Stone territory : dramedies that showed up around the same time but didn’t get the same traction for some reason. Some would say that they were not as good. I don’t agree with that. I had a soft spot for them I confess. I’d say they were a little too original and quirky to be appreciated by a larger crowd. Especially Eli Stone, that was ahead of its time with its flashforwards and ambition.

Like Eli, Kevin, played by Jason Ritter -I have a soft spot for him too, let’s call it like that and move on- is a strange man who seems to be on the verge of getting crazy. On one hand, there was Eli, who had visions of George Michael -his “personal Jesus”- singing for him, as well as of his coworkers who burst into songs for no reason. It was about a divine mission he had to accomplish, which had something to with well… saving the world. It was supposed to be because of a brain tumor, though the show ended before we got to know the whole truth. On the other hand, here comes our Kevin, who has visions of a black woman who tells him she has been sent by God to help him accomplish his mission, which also is saving the world. She’s like a guardian angel to him but not in a preachy Touched by an Angel way, thank God. She’s a funny woman. He’s an awkard boyish man. They are both a little crazy and making a mess wherever they go. It’s a pleasure to spend time with this duet. The dynamics between Kevin and his difficult teenager niece Reese, who hates him initially, also works a lot. Plus it’s sweet to watch them getting closer. Those are the perks of the show and the parts that make me hopeful it can be good.

But there are the fantasy elements and the conspiracy behind that puzzle me and make me less hopeful. The pilot starts in Iceland, where a huge impact crater has been found, “the size of a foobtall field and as deep as a lake”. We never go back to it during the rest of the script, which leaves it as a mistery for now. And then there’s this night when Kevin is at his sister’s with Reese and a rock, that is supposed to be a meteor, fall from the sky on a field nearby. Insane as he is, he decides to touch the damn thing and take it back with him. That’s when his visions start. A whole part of the rest of the night has disappeared from his memory, though Reese and surveillance cameras have witnessed his disturbed behavior. The morning after, the meteor has disappeared too. Those scenes could turn out very silly if not executed well.

So what’s happening exactly? We don’t know yet. Is it aliens? Is it God? Is it the beginning of the apocalypse? We’re not left with many clues honestly, though we get some answers along the way thanks to Yvette. Are we supposed to care? I’d say yes, since the characters are pretty interesting. But do we feel like there’s an incredible plan and a fascinating story behind? Not really. Oh and you know what? Kevin’s sister Amy is a “civilian weapons analyst”, who worked with the Pentagon and the CIA before. OF COURSE. It brings the story towards another direction, more serious and real, that I’m not fond of. It’s like there are two different shows there. A funny one and an almost boring one. It seems impossible to make them match naturally. It probably wants to be too many things at the same time. It wants to be thrilling, and funny, and quirky, and touching, and it also wants to be taken seriously.

The Gospel of Kevin is a leap of faith for ABC. It’s exciting on paper but it will require a lot of work, and talent and creativity from all the parts involved to end up on the schedule; and a miracle and lots of prayers not to become a flop. It’s a perfect vehicle for Jason Ritter though, and I wish him all the best, but a heavy serialized fantasy dramedy? I’m not sure it’s even a thing. It’s weird and people don’t like weird.

Dynasty (The CW) pilot preview: Another Lazy Reboot No One Asked For

Written and produced by Josh Schwartz (The OC, Gossip Girl, Chuck, Hart of Dixie), Stephanie Savage (Fastlane, Gossip Girl, The OC, The Carrie Diaries) & Sallie Patrick (Revenge, Limitless, Life Unexpected). Based on the show created by Richard & Esther Shapiro. Directed by Brad Silberling (Jane The Virgin, No Tomorrow). For CBS Television Studios & Fake Empire. 59 pages. Studio Draft. 12/18/16.

Description: Two of America’s wealthiest families, the Carringtons and the Colbys, feud for control over their fortune and their children, starting with Fallon Carrington, daughter of billionaire Blake Carrington, and her soon-to-be stepmother, Cristal, a Hispanic woman marrying into this WASP family, exposing the dark underbelly that is a corrupt world built on backroom deals, betrayal, and, in some cases, murder…

With Nathalie Kelley (The Vampire Diaries, UnReal, Body of Proof), Elizabeth Gillies (Victorious, Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll), Grant Show (Melrose Place, Devious Maids), Sam Adegoke (Switched at Birth, Murder in the first), Alan Dale (Ugly Betty, Lost, Once Upon a Time), Rafael de la Fuente (Empire, When We Rise), Robert Christopher Riley (Hit the Floor)…

 

You’ll like if you already like: Revenge, Gossip Girl, Empire

Likely timeslot: Monday at 9 or Friday at 8 or 9

 

When Dynasty started in 1981 I wasn’t born yet, not even conceived. Maybe my parents haven’t even met yet. Growing up, I watched a lot of television and a lot of soap operas in particular, but never this one despite the multiple reruns. I came across some of Dallas –and was a fan of the recent follow-up- have fond memories of Knots Landing and loved Melrose Place more than anything. Why am I telling you this about my life? To make a point. I feel like we, millenials, couldn’t care less about Dynasty, even though it was a huge hit in the 80s and is considered as cult. It’s too old. Really. For us, it’s just shiny earrings, sparkly outfits, incredible haircuts and crazy catfight scenes. But not something that we’re really curious about and certainly not a show we would watch in a heartbeat. Unless I missed something, The CW isn’t targeting people over 40. So I don’t understand why this pilot has been picked-up…

Okay, I’m not stupid. Deep down I know. It’s about milking CBS Television Studios’ library at all costs (same reason why Hawaii Five-0MacGyver came back to life and why Charmed is poised to be next on the list). But seriously? No one asked for this and no one will watch it. Even if you promote it like crazy. If Dallas didn’t last long on TNT, then Dynasty is doomed on The CW. It doesn’t fit. It’s as simple as that. Plus, I feel like it’s coming at the worst time possible. Most networks decided it was time to make more shows that reflect the “real” America, the middle-America that voted for Trump. The people who watch This Is UsDynasty is the opposite of that. It’s about the 1% of American who are rich. There was a time -especially in the 80s, “The Reagan Era”- when it was all people cared about. They were fascinated by wealth. Today? Not so much anymore. Dynasties still appear everywhere, from reality TV -hello dear Kardashians!- to the polling booths. But they don’t fascinate anymore. Not in the same way at least. And straight soap operas like Dynasty, without anything that makes them special like Empire, are just dead.

It’s not that Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage didn’t try to modernize Dynasty. They just didn’t try hard enough. What they did was adding diversity to the exact same concept and script. Or should I say: adding colours. Sorry but it is what it is. So our heroine is no longer called Krystle but Cristal and she’s hispanic, something that is not even vaguely adressed in the pilot. She just is. Which is defensible. The Carringtons are still white but the Colbys are black now. Finally, to spice things up, Steven Carrington is still gay but he’s totally out of the closet and it doesn’t seem to be a problem -he’s still a trainwreck though, the black sheep of the family, but it’s not because of his sexuality apparently- while his principal love interest Sammy Jo is no longer a woman (played by Heather Locklear at the time) but a young gay man, who’s still looking for easy money and troubles. Don’t get me wrong: it’s all okay! It makes sense, those are good moves and not making them would have been heavily criticized. BUT it’s all there is. That’s where the modernization begins and ends.

On the plus side, it’s mostly efficient, like the original pilot was. Except the beginning of the opening sequence. It’s just two minutes long tops but two minutes that are really not engaging, with people talking about the solar system, green energies… Please cut this. Many viewers will change the channel immediately! You can’t just start with this. Most of the plots are tired, cliché. That’s what happens when you decide to copy/paste a 35 years-old pilot script. We know the tricks. Dynasty must have been one of the first soap operas to perform them, but time has past and other shows that came and went used them in the meantime. So it’s predictable. Even if the end has been changed. There’s a death. Won’t say who. But damn, adding a murder mystery is not what I would call a wild and original idea…

About the tone, it can be funny sometimes. Especially with Joseph Anders, the estate manager of the Carrington family, who’s a really amusing guy who clearly hates Cristal and isn’t afraid to show her everytime he has the chance. And the catfights between Fallon and Cristal are quite enjoyable on paper, as they should be. I wouldn’t say there’s anything really daring in this version of the show, unless if you still consider that showing two men kissing and making love is daring, as well as suggesting that Fallon’s pussy is being eaten out by her african-american chauffeur in one scene. How shocking!

This Dynasty reboot feels lazy. It’s like putting makeup on a tired old lady. She looks better with the makeup on but it doesn’t really hide the fact that she’s old and tired. It doesn’t have the freshness, the cleverness and the relevance of a Jane the Virgin, neither the nostalgic vibe of a Riverdale. it’s more like Revenge, without much of a concept and new ideas. A hot and charismatic cast would certainly help but it’d still be a mistake for The CW to bet on it next year, unless they really have nothing better to offer…

Good Girls (NBC) pilot preview: The Real Desperate Housewives of Detroit

Written and produced by Jenna Bans (The Family, Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives). Directed by Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest, Red 2, Justified, Monk). For Universal Television. 5th network draft 12/01/16. 60 pages.

Description: what happens when Beth, Annie and Ruby, three “good girl” suburban wives and mothers from the suburbs of Detroit suddenly find themselves in desperate circumstances: they decide to stop playing it safe and risk everything to take their power back, descending together into a life of crime, starting by robbing a grocery store…

With Kathleen Rose Perkins (Episodes, Colony), Mae Whitman (Parenthood, Arrested Development), Retta (Parks and Recreation, Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce), Matthew Lillard (Scooby-Doo, Scream, The Bridge US), Manny Montana (Graceland, Conviction), Reno Wilson (Mike & Molly)…

  

You’ll like it if you already like: Desperate Housewives, The Family

Likely timeslot: Tuesday at 10

 

For the third year in a row, writer Jenna Bans has a pilot in contention and for the very first time it’s not at ABC, where she was schooled by Shonda Rhimes through Grey’s Anatomy & Scandal, but at NBC. She signed an overall deal with Universal Television last summer -where her husband Justin Spitzer, creator of Superstore, already was- after the failure of The Family, which was worth better by the way, one of the few good network shows from last year. Sometimes, ratings work in mysterious ways. I was eager to read Good Girls‘ pilot script. Sea of Fire‘s in 2014 was incredibly strong. But I’m sad to report this one is not her best (unless if you go way way back to Off The Map, that she created)…

Here’s the thing with Jenna Bans: her writing is fearless, she always dives in darkness, she flirts with the limits -dealing with pedophilia on a broadcast network was not exactly taking the easiest road- and she makes it entertaining at the same time, full of surprises and compelling troubled characters. Mixing soap with gloom is rare and difficult. She learned her Shonda lessons right while crafting her own style. But with Good Girls, something’s off. It took time for me to understand what was bothering me but after reflecting on it and reading again some portions of the script it became clear: the whole story is just not believable and it feels like she knows it. As if she was determined to convince the audience as well as herself that such a thing could happen in real life. Subsequently, subtlety is nowhere to be found. It’s just not working. Not with these characters and in this context. Whether or not it actually happened someday, somewhere in the world.

I’m very surprised by the cast they assembled. Positively. I love these actresses and they didn’t choose them because they were popular. ‘cos they’re not. They choose them because they were right for the parts, I guess. Like they did with This Is Us actually. And they probably tested them as a group, since many scenes are about the girls together, talking. It’d be a shame if they didn’t have chemistry. A good move anyway, that gives me hope they’ll add what’s missing in the script by their natural talent, especially comedy-wise. Good Girls is more in the drama side, depressing sometimes, definitely heavy, supposedly emotional if they don’t push it too much, but there are a few scenes that could be funny. Calling it a dramedy would be a stretch though.

The hilarious Kathleen Rose Perkins (if you never saw her in Episodes then you don’t know what funny is) will play Beth, the ringleader of the trio, a frazzled mother who discovers her husband has an affair. Fed up with her life and angry, she’s the one who decides to rob a supermarket. She struggles with guilt and fear in the aftermath. She’s the most interesting, multi-dimensional character on paper. Then there’s her younger sister Annie, played by the excellent Mae Whitman, a single mom terrified of losing her son in a custody battle. Who’s a bit boring and whining person for now. And finally her best friend Ruby, a waitress who worries about her 11-year-old daughter who has kidney disease and isn’t getting the treatment she needs at the local clinic. Retta is the most surprising casting. I didn’t picture her like this at all. And that’s good news. She’ll probably add layers to the role. The men of Good Girls are mostly bad uninteresting guys. There’s work to do to make them more than those tired clichés.

Then there’s the question of being able to sustain the premise over multiple seasons. Even with shortened orders, I don’t see it. Those girls won’t be able to escape prison at some point. Not without huge inconsistencies in the stories. That worries me a lot to be honest. If they start by robbing a supermarket, what happens next? They rob a bank, deal drugs and kill people? It’s gonna get ugly and possibly ridiculous.

Good Girls has an average pilot script that has really good moments as well as mediocre ones, and that can be elevate to a superior level by only two things: a great cast (which it has) with a real chemistry (has yet to be proven) and a director that has a vision and who’s not just a performer (I’m not sure). NBC is clearly envisioning it as a companion for This Is Us and though it would suffer from the comparison, it’s a valid option.

Deception (ABC) pilot preview: A Spectacular Show that Works like Magic!

Written and produced by Chris Fedak (Chuck, Forever, Legends of Tomorrow). Executive produced by Greg Berlanti (Blindspot, The Flash, Supergirl, Arrow…), Martin Gero (Blindspot, The LA Complex, Stargate Atlantis), Sarah Schechter (Riverdale, The Flash, Arrow) & David Kwong (Blindspot, Now You See Me). Directed by David Nutter (Game of Thrones, Shameless US, The Mentalist, The Flash, Arrow). For Warner Bros. Television & Berlanti Productions. 6 pages. Draft 1/08/2017.

Description: When the career of superstar magician Cameron Black is ruined by scandal, he has only one place to turn to practice his art of deception, illusion, and influence — the FBI. He’ll become the world’s first consulting illusionist, helping the government solve crimes that defy explanation, and trap criminals and spies by using deception, even if it means breaking the rules and pissing off everyone around him, including his partner Kay Daniels, a take-charge, hard-working special agent you don’t fool easily…

With Jack Cutmore-Scott (Kingsman, Cooper Barrett’s Guide to Surviving Life), Hilfenesh Hadera (Show Me a Hero, Billions, Baywatch), Amaury Nolasco (Prison Break, Telenovela, Chase), Lenora Crichlow (Being Human, Sugar Rush), Vinnie Jones (Arrow, Galavant), Justin Chon

 

   

You’ll like it if you already like: Castle, Chuck, Forever, Lucifer, Blindspot

Likely timeslot: Monday at 10.

Ladies and gentlemen, Greg Berlanti did it again! Deception was one of the two drama projects he sold to ABC this year as a producer and I have to admit I rooted for the other one (Criminal about an hedonistic con man and his ragtag team of criminals who must complete an ongoing series of missions to clear their names and steal an unknown number of long-forgotten relics that could change the fate of the world). Imagine my disappointment. I can see yours. There’s 80% chance you rolled your eyes while reading Deception‘s description and I honestly did the same. So believe me or not, the pilot script is impressive and now I totally understand why ABC fell for it. I’ll try to explain and convince you it’s not the same type of crime/consultant show we’ve been served for years. Except, it kinda is. But better, faster, stronger.

The biggest difficulty with Deception was to make it believable. And they do somehow. I’m the first to be surprised but it is what it is. In what world would the FBI need a magician to help them? Of course, it would never happen in ours. Can you imagine David Copperfield stopping terrorists thanks to a magic trick? Laughable. The real magician here must be the writer Chris Fedak then. He did a really good job from start to finish, not only by making it believable but also by making it incredibly fresh and enjoyable. The opening sequence is a spectacular and dangerous magic trick inspired by Harry Houdini, of the great magicians, that starts in a giant Las Vegas theather and end up… in Time Square, New York! He has to free himself from chains while blindfolded in a cage two hundred feets above the stage. How is that even possible? There’s an explanation. And I intend to keep it a secret. But you’ll know and it may blow your mind and disappoint you at the same time.

There’s a note at the beginning of the script explaining that all the tricks and deceptions on the show are actually possible. A real magician could perform those illusions. And it has to be noted that David Kwong, puzzle creator and magician consultant for the movie Now You See Me, serves as an executive producer. They are not taking it lightly. So yeah, magic is a big big part of the show and those scenes look incredible on paper. With Warner Bros. Television behind, I’m not worried: it will look great on screen too. Budget-wise, they won’t be able to perform such things every week. The pilot set the bar high -especially with the disappearance of a plane into thin air- but I’m pretty sure they can also do great with less money. Plus, there’s all sorts of magic and of course, Cameron Black knows it all.

It’s that kind of character. He’s pretentious, borderline but he’s damn funny, handsome and charming (look at Jack Cutmore-Scott’s face!). Nobody can resist him. Like Lucifer, for example. They could be twin. You’re not gonna be surprised if I tell you his partner is a woman and that she hates him as much as she likes him. They’re poised to fall in love sooner or later. That’s how those procedural crime shows work. People need romance. But there’s more. Cameron has a backstory, involving his father and his brother, as well as a nenemis who wants to kill him. A mysterious woman illusionist that is apparently even greater than he is and who’s ready to play a cat and mouse game. Strong serialized elements are always welcome. By the way, Cameron doesn’t do it all by himself. He has a team. And all of them add flavours to the show, especially Dina, his witty producer and makeup genius, and Gunter, his Viking-type technician. The ensemble really works. Dialogues are great. Chris Fedak worked on Chuck. They’re similar tonally.

ABC needed a new Castle badly. They may have found it. And for real this time. It’s not produced in-house but it’s everything they could hope for. It may look like a by-the-book procedural cop show sometimes, it certainly is familiar, structured like many others that came before, but it’s irresistibly fun and inventive, impressive even, and never boring. Magic happened on paper. Let’s hope it will make it out alive from pilot season!

Reverie (NBC) pilot preview: a future success for Sarah Shahi… but in a virtual reality

Pilot “Apertus” written and produced  by Mickey Fisher (Extant, Mars). Executive produced by Brooklyn Weaver (Extant, The Number 23, Run All Night), Darryl Frank & Justin Falvey (Extant, Under the Dome, Falling Skies, Las Vegas, The Americans). Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows, Orphan, The River). For Universal Television & Amblin Television. 61 pages. Draft 01/22/2017.

Description: Mara Kint, a former detective turned professor specialized in human behavior, is brought in when the launch of an advanced virtual reality program called “Reverie”, designed by a young woman seen as “the next Einstein”, has dangerous and unintended consequences. “Reverie” puts people inside a waking dream of their own design, but some of them don’t ever want to come back, which put them into a coma and treathens their lives. Mara’s mission is to bring them back, one by one, before it’s too late…

With Sarah Shahi (Person of Interest, Fairly Legal, Life, The L Word), Kathryn Morris (Cold Case, Pensacola), Jessica Lu (Awkward), Sendhil Ramamurthy (Heroes, Lucky Man, Covert Affairs), Dennis Haysbert (24, The Unit)…

  

You’ll like it if you already like: Extant, Person of Interest, Minority Report, Falling Water

Likely timeslot: Monday at 10.

Reverie was one of those rare spec pilots that garnered interest from multiple networks and ultimately landed at NBC. Same thing happened with Mickey Fisher’s first project, Extant, that he wrote when he was an unknown writer, which sparked a bidding war before landing at CBS with a straight-to-series order with Halle Berry signing on to star. This is the proof miracles can happen… twice! I remember how much I loved Extant on paper and how much the show was a disappointment overall (and a snoozefest most of the time). So forgive me if I’m being cautious with this one. I can see why people loved it -and I liked it- but I can’t help being pessimistic for its future if it’s picked-up to series. Mainly because NBC (and other networks for instance) doesn’t have a good track-record with sci-fi and fantasy recently. Revolution, Timeless and Emerald City weren’t exactly earth-shattering.

In the meantime, Sarah Shahi was one of the most sought-after actresses of this pilot season and she ultimately chose Reverie. Which is not that surprising. She’s staying in her comfort zone. She apparently loves procedural shows -or she loves shows that can potentially air for multiple years, can’t blame her- and she’s best known for Person Of Interest, which was already a grounded thriller drama with sci-fi elements. Again, I get it. She loved the script, bla bla bla. And her character can be both badass and emotional. Mara is smart, she can kick ass if needed and of course she’s tortured because of a terrible thing that happened to her family in the past, a thing that she feels responsible for. It’s certainly appealing for an actress. But I feel like she may be doing a mistake (again). But not as huge as Nancy Drew for CBS last year, rest assured…

The concept of Reverie is cool -a procedural without a crime !- but narrow. Once Mara will have rescued ten or twelve people from their dreams, we’re gonna get bored. Inevitably. Even if the settings change in every dream (it’s a hotel in the pilot), as well as the characters involved and their personal story we’re told (a romantic one this time). So narrow I don’t see how it could last for long, except if they turn it into a more serialized show at some point. Like Person of Interest did in fact. There’s the potential to do so, especially with the puzzling creator of the virtual reality program and the mysterious private company behind. But will they be able to get there?

Reverie is exactly the type of show that is stuck between two ambitions: being network-y, knowing exactly what it means in terms of pace and structure; and being more than that, looking towards what they’re doing on cable. But in the end, it’s too much for procedural lovers -and well, there’s no crime in there you know- and not enough for HBO, Showtime or Netflix users. The premice could sound like a Black Mirror episode (and I wouldn’t be surprised if Fisher was partly inspired by it actually) but turned into a basic procedural. Raising the standart of the procedural shows is a beautiful ambition to have and a brave thing to do. But it rarely pays off sadly.

Reverie is a modern and ambitious sci-fi thriller series, the kind that rarely works on network television, that also happens to be a procedural, which is a shame. It could easily land on Minority Report territory, unless it miraculously finds an audience as Person of Interest did. It’s a fine vehicle for Sarah Shahi, but it probably belongs to SyFy, not NBC. Except it would be too pricey. In another world or in a virtual reality, it would be a success.