Author: Lulla

The Hypnotist’s Love Story (ABC) pilot preview: You, female stalker edition

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 exgirlfriend 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. 



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Nana, Hannah, Happy Accident… ABC 2019 comedy pilots ranked from best to worst

It was bound to happen sooner or later and this time is now: the “ABC Funny” brand of single-camera family-oriented comedies is going through a rough patch after years of success and may be heading towards a slow death. It took form back in 2009, when both critically-acclaimed Modern Family and dearly beloved The Middle started. They were joined over the years by other strong and more modest performers such as The Goldbergs, Fresh Off The Boat, Blackish and American Housewife. Every single time they tried to deviate from the formula (Trophy Wife, The Real O’Neals) or totally go into other directions (Happy Endings, Don’t Trust the Bitch, Selfie, The Mayor), they got slapped in the face with terrible ratings. Most of those shows were pretty good by the way, with the exception of some iconic failures like Work It and Super Fun Night.

Now that everything has been made, from 70s, 80s and 90s settings to big pushes on diversity, the audience seems to be tired of them. The Middle is gone, Modern Family is about to go. New entries Single Parents and The Kids are Alright started well before settling down at disappoiting levels, while the sophomore season of unowned Splitting Up Together is nothing to rave about. It leaves the network with a huge comedy problem and one decent hit, The Conners, even though it lost steam compared to mothership Roseanne. ABC may think the answer is in the multicamera genre, that they tried to revive occasionnally, with Last Man Standing (cancelled and now on FOX) and Cristela among others. From the nine pilots ordered, one has already been passed on –The Middle spin-off Sue Sue In The City, which was probably not on-brand- one is a second spin-off from modest performer Blackish, similar to Young Sheldon centered around Young Bow, 4 are single cams and 3 are multicams. The number of comedy ordered in may will depend on ABC’s decision about reducing or not their comedy slots. They may very well only take one of each. But one thing’s for sure: they had a weak development season in that department… Which leads to our ranking based on the scripts.





  1. HAPPY ACCIDENT (20th Century FOX Television & ABC Studios)

Around two Pittsburgh families — a father (Matt Walsh) with three adult daughters (JoAnna Garcia Swisher, Kether Donohue, Jessie Pinnick), and a hotel lounge singer (Vanessa Williams) with her med student son (Elliot Knight) — who are forced together after a decades-old secret is revealed… 

Ordered off-cycle, Happy Accident might very well be ABC’s last chance to capitalize on Modern Family‘s lead-in to launch a new family comedy with potential. I wouldn’t consider this script as a no-brainer -the whole story is very predictable and it’s not laugh-out-loud funny- but it’s actually not bad at all with a few sweet moments and good dialogues. It’s more adult-oriented -there’s only one kid in there- than ABC’s usual fare and it may be a good thing though it makes it a harder fit with the last comedies standing. It’s very diverse, blending a white traditional family with a more excentric black one, and it includes a gay son and a tomboy daughter. The cast is really great and that’s what could save it from being mediocre. Vanessa Williams will go back to what she does best: being a queen diva. Veep‘s Matt Walsh is a nice get for ABC. Joanna Garcia is a show killer but a nice gal we’re always happy to watch. And You’re The Worst‘s revelation Kether Donohue -that I consider as the new Megan Mullally- could become the main attraction. So unless Happy Accident tests poorly, I can totally see it on the schedule next year. Becoming a hit though is a whole other story…


2. UNTITLED JESSICA GAO PROJECT (ABC Studios, CBS Television Studios & Imagine Television)

about Janet Zhao (Holly Chou), a first generation Chinese-American woman who struggles to set healthy boundaries with her crazy, exhausting family. When her wealthy grandmother dies and names Janet the sole inheritor, she suddenly finds herself the unwilling new matriarch of the family she’s spent her life trying to keep at arm’s length…

Originally known as “Lazy Rich Asians'”, this comedy pilot written by Jessica Gao, who worked on Silicon Valley and who won an Emmy for writing “Pickle Rick,” a standout episode of Rick and Morty that aired in 2017, totally and confidently surf on summer 2018 box-office smash Crazy Rich Asians. The plot is very similar though the genre is different since it’s more of a family comedy than a romcom. It’s fresh, funny, sometimes moving, and it sounds like something that comes from a place of respect and love for a community without being cheesy. Fresh Off the Boat became the first Asian family comedy in the U.S. in more that two decades. It would be nice to get a second one now, not in two more decades…


3. HANNAH (ABC Studios)

The story of Hannah (Hannah Simone) and her Indian-American immigrant father. They always have been close, but after she admits to herself that she’s in a dead-end job and he reveals his marriage is over, they’re starting over together and each finding a new path. This new chapter will either make them crazy close — or just crazy…

I have nothing against Hannah Simone, really, but I’m not sure why ABC is so eager to give her a starring vehicle. Last year’s The Greatest American Hero female reboot she was on was definitely not a good fit with the network and it made total sense to pass on itn whatever the result may have been. This one is said to be semi-autobiographical and ABC loves that. It’s a weird and not entirely effective mix between a family single-cam and a romantic/girly comedy that is not designed for a large audience. The daughter/father relationship dynamics is cute, but the rest is weak. It would be great to have a nontraditional Indian family at the center of a show, it has not been made yet, but this one is not THE one, sorry.


4. WOMAN UP (20th Century FOX Television)

about two former teen moms (Mary-Elizabeth Ellis & Tawny Newsome) who have worked their asses off to see their daughters all the way through high school graduation; and now, at 35, they’re ready to make up for the youth they never had…

Damn ABC. You’re supposed to do better than this! First, why is this a single-cam? It would have worked better as a multicam in the vein of 2 Broke Girls and Mom. Okay, ABC is not CBS and they probably couldn’t have found the right slot for it but why ordering it in the first placee? It barely works as a single-cam, but it has its moments. This is not a straight family comedy, though there are strong family elements, and those single mothers-teenage daughters relationships are not as innovative as they want to be. Nobody remembers FOX’s one-season-and-done I Hate my Teenage Daughter, but it’s the same concept. They had other very similar pilots in the past and with better scripts, like last year Most Likely To. Maybe it would have had a chance with a better cast but it’s a really weak one, with no recognizable faces. They have better options!




  1. NANA (20th Century FOX Television & ABC Studios)

After the death of his wife, an obsessive, overprotective dad (Josh Lawson) is forced to invite his brash and bawdy mother-in-law (Katey Sagal) into his home to help raise the two granddaughters she barely knows…

Loved Nana! Made me think a bit of One Day At A Time, shamelessly cancelled by Netflix just a few days ago. It’s both (very) funny and emotional, though it’s less diverse. It’s set in Minneapolis and it’s not about a wealthy family but about midwestern americans having real problems. It’s easy to imagine it paired with The Conners. It’s the best option they have in that regard, with a central character that is different from Roseanne but who still could be compared to her because she’s an irreverent and noisy woman with lots of love to give… but in her own way. It’s so easy to close your eyes and imagine Katey Sagal knocking the part out of the park. She’s perfect for this. It would be a nice addition to ABC’s line up and it could help them expand the multicam genre. It’s not original or anything, it’s just good. And sometimes that’s just what we ask for.


2. UNITED WE FALL (Sony Pictures Television)

Based on writer Julius Sharpe’s life, the parents (Will Sasso & Christina Vidal) of two young kids struggle to achieve the ordinary. When two people with young children and overzealous extended families truly love each other, barely anything is possible, even with an extremely judgmental mother (Jane Curtin) at home….

The writing here is strong. Some lines and situations really made me laugh out loud, it’s a bit more racy than ABC’s usual comedies, more realistic too, and with the right chemistry it could be a really enjoyable sitcom. The problem with United We Fall is that there’s no hook. What’s different? Seems like a sitcom from 15 years ago, except it’s multicultural! It might do the trick behind The Conners, but Nana has a slight advantage because of Katey Sagal and a more modern feel. Then again, the writing is top-notch.


Leslie and Hope (Leslie Odom Jr & Kelly Jenrette) are joint pastors at a young, hip, diverse church in Los Angeles. Through their services, online streams and books they are experts at uniting people across different races, genders, orientations and opinions. But when it comes to uniting the people in their blended family, they are way out of their comfort zone and as a result, the teachers often find themselves the pupils…

This one is a clear disappointment. The concept seemed cool and modern based on the pitch, and in some ways it is. But the jokes will only make you smile, best case scenario. There’s a B story with the kids that is really uninteresting and too weak for a pilot. And well, it doesn’t fit with The Conners. It would have been great for TV Land, when the channel still had original sitcoms on its roster. On ABC, it’s a huge pass.



Evil (CBS) pilot preview: The good mother, the good priest and the DEVIL

GENRE: Supernatural Thriller Drama

LOGLINE: The battle between science and religion is in full force when Kristen, a skeptical female clinical psychologist, joins David, a priest-in-training and Ben, a blue-collar contractor as they investigate supposed miracles, demonic possessions, and other extraordinary occurrences to see if there’s a scientific explanation or if something truly supernatural is at work…

Pilot Cast: Katja Herbers (Westworld,The Leftovers, Divorce), Mike Colter (Luke Cage, The Good Wife, Ringer), Aasif Mandvi (Shut Eye, Jericho, Blue Bloods), Michael Emerson (Lost, Person Of Interest, Saw), Skylar Gray

Series Creators: Michelle & Robert King (The Good Wife, The Good Fight, Braindead). 
Pilot Director: Robert King.
Producers: Liz Glotzer (Castle Rock, The Good Fight), Michelle & Robert King.

Studios: CBS Television Studios & King Size Productions.

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: X-Files, MINDHUNTER, The Exorcist, Person Of Interest, The Following

Likely Timeslot: A 10pm slot is mandatory! But a sweet spot on CBS All Access would be something to think about…


WRITTEN BY: Michelle & Robert King.

PAGECOUNT: 63 pages.

DRAFT: Network draft 1/4/19


BACKGROUND: If you’re not familiar with Michelle & Robert King’s work, first be ashamed, second go to your room and binge watch popular and critically praised The Good Wife and then its incredible spin-off The Good Fight. Then we can talk. The Kings, as we fans like to call them, have been creative collaborators for 20 years and married for over 30 years. Impressive. So far, they were mostly into legal dramas. They created the 2006 ABC drama series In Justice, starring Kyle MacLachlan, which only lasted a short season, and the two brilliant shows I already recommended you just three seconds ago. In the summer of 2016, they launched on CBS something different, both for the network and for them, a little show called Braindead starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead. It was a quirky and funny horror dramedy. Pure genius. But the ratings were horrendous. It was cancelled.

Last fall, they inked a new overall deal with CBS Television Studios. Now, they are busy with multiple shows at different stages of development. There is an upcoming Showtime legal thriller series Your Honor, which they are executive producing alongside writer Peter Moffat, based on an israeli format and starring Bryan Cranston. There’s also Girls with Guns at the script stage, produced with Scott Free Productions for CBS All Access. And Evil, which would mark their return on CBS with a show that is not a legal drama, though it’s one of its component. It could be summarized as a religious-themed supernatural thriller. It’s intriguing and worrying at the same time. Is another Braindead-like ratings disaster is coming?


SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: New Orleans. KRISTEN BOUCHARD (34), a criminal psychologist and mother of four, interviews ORSON LEROUX (38), who is accused of murdering seven people. Kristen testifies in court that Orson is sane but the prosecution blindsides her on the stand their expert witness claims Orson is possessed by a demon named Roy. After she is fired by the DA’s office, Kristen investigates with DAVID DACOSTA (37), an assessor for the Catholic church. Kristen is skeptical at first, but after she meets with EMILY LEROUX, Orson’s wife, who plays Kristen, David, and BEN SCHWEIGER (30), a recording of whispers in her home, she starts to question if Orson is possessed. As Kristen dives deeper into Orson’s case, she begins to see GEORGE, probably a night terror but possibly a ghost, at night. When Kristen interviews “Roy”, and he tells her details about her encounters with George, she realizes someone has stolen her therapist’s notes and feed the information to Orson. LELAND TOWNSEND, the prosecution’s clinical psychologist, may have played a part in the devilish scheme…


COMMENTS:  It wouldn’t be far-fetched to bill Evil as a cross between cult series X-Files and David Fincher’s Netflix show MINDHUNTER. I don’t know if that’s the way it’s been conceived by the Kings, if those are references they had in mind, but once you’ve seen it you can’t unsee it. You have the thrills of the investigations on mysteries combined with the psychological depth. Reading this pilot script gave me the same conflicting feeling I had when I read Braindead‘s. You’re so happy and excited to read something that has been written by those two geniuses that you expect every line to splatter your brain with brilliance. And even though brilliance there is in there, and splatterring too (!), it’s not everywhere on every page. The best compliment I can make about Evil is that’s it’s a boiling, riveting, bedazzling show hidden behind a stark, unimpressive, already seen concept. 

It’s not saying though that the formula is ill-conceived. It’s well-crafted and smart, but it’s also very traditional and a bit mechanical at the start. Which might be a requirement if you want to survive on CBS. The Good Wife was like that in the beginning. Same with Person Of Interest. You need to give CBS’ viewers what they want before surprising them and choosing a more deviant path. The predictable thing is that it can only end up one way: with Kristen accepting to continue working with David and Ben after their first investigation together. This pilot script is never boring despite all that. It has to do with the fast pace the Kings always get right and the interactions between the characters that always work so greatly on paper. And then on film since they always get the best actors for the parts. I’m really not afraid of the finished product. I’m more scared of how the audience will react to the graphic scenes, if they’re filmed and edited the way they’re described. The cold open is a blood bath. It’s spilling through fingers and on the polished floor. It’s a nightmare. There are also flashes of severed flesh and exposed brain. Can network television allow that?

But it doesn’t stop there because later on, our heroine Kristen has to deal with a dark figure that haunts her at night. And we’re in full horror movie mode, believe me. It’s scary and appalling because of what the ghost that calls himself George says and does to her. He’s obsessed with the hot and sexy connection between Kristen and the soon-to-become priest David. As we all are. He wants to know if she’s all wet between the legs when she sees David. And so he takes off her underwear to make sure he’s right. It definitely makes you uncomfortable… especially because you can’t repress a laugh at the same time since this ghost is funny too! It’s weird and it can’t leave you indifferent, that’s for sure. You know what else is damn creepy? The whole Michael Emerson’s Leland Townsend character. Remember his Ben in Lost? Same kind of ambiguous man. He’s the best incarnation possible for the role. Townsend is a seemingly kind and trustworthy man with a twinkle in his eye and an appealing manner. But outward appearances couldn’t be more deceiving: he’s an agent of evil who spurs his followers to acts of unspeakable violence and murder. It’s called “a connector”. He’s reminiscent of James Purefoy’s serial killer character in The Following. He’s like a guru, and he tells Kristen that there are 60 people online who could come to her house and cut her heart out right now, if he asks them to. Guys, you’ll get a thrill up your spine at this very moment!

Let’s talk about those three central characters now. Kristen is young but she’s already the (single) mother of four girls, and her own mother lives with them in the house that is both her home and her workplace. She works in her basement, her female version of a man cave, cold and messy. Kristen herself is not cold, and she’s not messy though her life is starting to become messier than she has expected to. She’s desbribed as a walking contradiction. She’s friendly, pretty and sunny on the outside, but probably darker in the inside. She’s a woman of science, while David is a man of faith. It’s Scully and Mulder all-over again, though David does not believe in aliens, but in God, and angels, and devils. He’s rugged and handsome, the kind of sexy priest you only see on television. We don’t learn much of anything about his past in the pilot but there’s probably a lot to say. Ben, our third main character, is a carpenter who was recruited for David’s team early on. He has a deep skepticism about all things supernatural and he is a genius at uncovering the organic reasons behind reported “hauntings,” but there may be things outside his understanding that will rattle his belief system sooner or later… He finds his place in the pilot right away, as the side-kick, but I don’t know what could be his role in the future, other than the light presence and the problem solver. Anyway, all three form a team you want to spend more time with, especially if the show becomes heavily-serialized and batshit crazy later on. They could if they would.


FINAL RECOMMENDATION: Only the Kings can elevate such a traditional concept in the supernatural arena to the next level. And they did, quite brilliantly. Evil is not your typical CBS show and it’s not something you find these days on the other networks either. It’s a leap of faith that should be taken, but with a back-up plan in case it gets rejected. There should be a spot waiting for it on CBS All Access. With those writers, this cast and this strong potential, nothing can really go wrong. 



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Council Of Dads (NBC) pilot preview: This Is Us (Again)

SERIES TITLE: Council Of Dads
GENRE: Family Drama

LOGLINE: The story of Scott Perry and his family, whose lives are thrown into upheaval when he gets a potentially terminal diagnosis. Facing his mortality, he and his wife, Robin, assemble a unique group of carefully chosen male friends to support his family and guide them through the ups and downs of life’s many challenges…

Pilot Cast: Sarah Wayne Callies (The Walking Dead, Prison Break, Colony), Clive Standen (Vikings, Taken, Camelot), J. August Richards (Agents of SHIELD, Angel, Raising The Bar), Michael O’Neill (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, Rectify), Tom Everett Scott (13 Reasons Why, SouthLAnd), Michele Weaver (Love Is…), Emjay Anthony (Bad Mom 2, Rake), Blue Chapman, Steven Silver (13 Reasons Why), Thalia Tran…

Series Creators: Joan Rater & Tony Phelan (Grey’s Anatomy, Doubt, Madam Secretary).
Pilot Director: James Strong (Liar, Broadchurch, Doctor Who).
Producers: Jerry Bruckheimer (Lucifer, CSI, Cold Case, Without a Trace), Jonathan Littman, KristieAnne Reed, James Oh, Joan Rater & Tony Phelan.

Studios: Universal Television, Jerry Bruckheimer Television & Midwest Livestock Productions.

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: This Is Us, Parenthood, A Million Little Things

Likely Timeslot: Behind This Is Us is such the most obvious option that NBC will never choose this one… It’ll be This Us‘ replacement come midseason, probably.


WRITTEN BY: Joan Rater & Tony Phelan.

PAGECOUNT: 63 pages.

DRAFT: Third network draft 1/7/19


BACKGROUND: Council of Dads is based upon a true story that inspired Bruce Feiler’s bestselling memoir The Council of Dads: My Daughters, My Illness and the Men Who Could Be Me published in 2010 by William Morrow & Company. In 2008, Felier was diagnosed with a life-threatening cancer. Fearing what the absence of a father figure would do to the lives of his young twin daughters, he had the genius idea to form a Council of Dads, which consisted of six of his closest friends who agreed to help him raise his daughters. Each had his area of expertise such as homework dad or outdoors dad so the girls knew who to turn to for a specific issue when their mother was not available. The happy twist is that he made a full recovery after all. As a consequence, the Council was never fully activated. In the show, it will need to be!

The book was first adapted for TV eight years ago as a half-hour comedy written by Peter Tolan (Rescue Me, The Larry Sanders Show), and was sold to FOX network with a big commitment. Then it went to pilot starring Kyle Bornheimer, Ken Howard and Diane Farr, directed by Joe & Anthony Russo, but it didn’t make in on the schedule. The big comeback of family dramas following the success of This Is Us is probably the reason why the concept is revisited now as a one-hour drama.


SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: SCOTT PERRY (40), a father of four, lives a seemingly healthy life until DR. OLIVER POST (40), Scott’s best friend and also his doctor, diagnoses him with a rare form of cancer, requiring him to spend time in the hospital and in chemo. During Scott’s leave, his friend and AA’s sponsee, LARRY MALVERN (60), drops by to help Scott’s wife, ROBIN (40), with the kids and general errands. Scott returns from the hospital, but another unexpected visit from old friend ANTHONY LAVELLE (40) consequently leads into a conversation about the childhood CrabShack that Scott bought the previous year. Another surprise hits Scott: Robin is pregnant. This profound revelation leads him to doubt the remaining time he has left with his four children -JJ (7), CHARLOTTE (13), THEO (15), LULY (21)- who are all growing up too fast. His chemo and upcoming lab test have sparked some doubts regarding his time left and it pushes him to assemble a council of men (evidently being his best friends) to look out for his children, his wife and the CrabShack for one year. During the day of Scott’s final test, Robin’s water breaks…


COMMENTS: When it comes to family dramas, NBC’s critically-acclaimed This Is Us became such a phenomenon on broadcast television that it must have been hard for any other network to launch a new one since then. In fact, none have risked it the past two years. Even ABC’s A Million Little Things, which is not technically a family drama, probably suffered a bit from the comparison, at least initially. Even so, this pilot season marks a big return of the genre. They’re all looking for the next This Is Us, and NBC itself wants another one apparently. Council Of Dads is very much in the same vein and will give you the same exact feeling of sweet melancholy and nostalgia. They come from the same place -the heart- and they march to the beat of the same drum. The question is not “will you cry?” but “when will you cry?”.  But are they different enough so there’s a place for both in our lives?

As a fan of the genre, I’d be tempted to answer that there is a place for both, of course. But as a TV observer, I’m not so sure. The similarities are not only about the tone, it’s also about the stories that are being told and the characters we’re introduced to. Which is worse. Viewers might feel like they have already watched this show. Not only 10 or 15 years ago. Also yesterday. And probably tomorrow. Let’s take the dad character as an example. His story is different from Jack Pearson’s but he’s cut from the same cloth. He’s handsome, and so nice, and open, and generous, great with the kids, great with the wife, great with the friends. The perfect guy. And he has a darker side. Just like Jack, he struggled with addiction in the past. He works as a heroic, almost divine figure, soon to become a haunting ghost for his family. Because yeah, he dies at the end. Don”t consider it as a spoiler. It’s part of the concept. There’s no concept if he survives. What’s great though is even if you see it coming from miles away, it tears your heart out the same when it happens. It must have to do with the way it’s announced, with a sobriety that’s almost surprising for a show that could have been more manipulative if they wanted to. If you haven’t cried before -it’s unlikely- that’s the moment when you’ll let it all out.

Robin, like Rebecca, is a courageous woman who’s a bit overshadowed by her husband in the pilot but still, she’s an appealing character from the get-go and as a OB/GYN and mother/stepmother to four children -soon five- you can only admire her. Then you have Luly, the eldest child. The story is told from her point of view and voiceover. Scott had her before he met Robin but the birth mother was never really in the picture and Luly feels ready to have a little bit more of her in her life. Also, she’s a talented writer, she is focused on her future and waiting to hear if she’ll get an important internship at a prominent New York publication. But her priorities change dramatically when her father gets sick. That’s when she meets Evan, a smart, caring young man with a great sense of humor who has been taking care of his sick mother. Their relationship is reminiscent of Kate and Toby’s. They’re going through the same hell at the moment and that’s what brings them together. The difference is they’re younger and more reckless. Luly is probably the best character in there. She has a lot of potential.

Can’t say the same about Theo, who’s some younger version of Kevin Pearson, before the alcholol, the drugs and celebrity. He thinks the world is against him and that he can’t do anything. Most of his storyline in the pilot is about his driving test. Even though it’s quite revealing about his difficulties and weaknesses, it’s not as gripping as the other stories. Charlotte’s is way more exciting, but it’s the biggest déjà vu at the same time. She’s an adopted child who wants to know more about her origins. Yep, same as Randall. With her best friend Tess, she decides to go meet her cousin without her parents knowing. Her story could become very emotional and will probably take a different path from Randall’s since she doesn’t have the same age. But still… And finally there’s JJ, the youngest of the family, a sweet child who has a wonderful relationship with his parents and who reveals to be transgender. That story hasn’t been told by This Is Us! Finally one that’s new! I love the way it’s handled, with such simplicity and acceptance. There’s a human warmth throughout the pilot script that should fit with the hot setting (Savannah, Georgia).

In the council, we have three men who make their way into the story sweetly. Dr. Oliver Post is an esteemed oncologist and surgeon who is Scott’s doctor. He was Robin’s friend from college, and he’s a married gay man now, with a child. He seems cool. Anthony Lavelle is one of Scott’s oldest friends. He’s a chef, he’s single and he wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s cool too. And Larry is the oldest, maybe the wisest of the bunch. He has a strong presence, he’s rough around the edges and he’s a bit mysterious. We don’t know much about him so far. I wouldn’t say he’s cool but I like him too. There’s nobody not to like in this show anyway! Which leads to a certain lack of conflicts, but they surely will come! The council of dads concept is more of a theory right now than an actual thing since we’ll have to wait for the second episode at least to see how it works exactly. That’s a good reason to stay.

As you probably have understood now, Council of Dads is a very progressive show with a lot of diversity and a ton of good intentions. You think that’s a lot? I do too. The writing is good enough so you don’t feel like they’re adding some more big topics to an already-packed pile but maybe they could or should have kept some stories for later. Same goes with the cliffhanger. It’s better to have one in general but it’s the kind of show that doesn’t really need it, the family is enough to make you come back no matter what. The upcoming story that is implied by it sounds familiar and a little too soapy for the show’s sake but we’ll see. If they handle it like A Million Little Things handled his, I’m all in for the ride.


FINAL RECOMMENDATION: Does NBC need another emotional family drama in their schedule when they already have This Is Us, which set the bar quite high? Nope, not really. An argument could be made that they they didn’t need another medical drama with Chicago Med in their line-up last year but they ordered New Amsterdam anyway and both are cohabiting nicely so far…  It would be a shame if Council of Dads were to be passed on for that reason. It shouldn’t have been ordered to pilot in the first place then. So, if the finished product is as great, moving and beautiful as the script is, there’s no good reason for stopping there. The Perrys may or may not be the next Pearsons but they are worth living.



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The Haunting of Nancy Drew (The CW) pilot preview: Third time’s the charm!

SERIES TITLE: The Haunting of Nancy Drew
GENRE: Detective Horror Drama

LOGLINE: Set in the summer after her high school graduation,18-year-old Nancy Drew thought she’d be leaving her hometown for college, but when a family tragedy holds her back another year, she finds herself embroiled in a ghostly murder investigation — and along the way, uncovers secrets that run deeper than she ever imagined. When Nancy ends up a suspect in a murder, it rekindles her love for detective work, even though the clues lead her to believe that a long-dead local girl may be the killer…

Pilot Cast: Kennedy McMaan, Maddison Jaizani (Versailles, Into the Badlands), Tunji Kasim (Nearly Famous), Leah Lewis (Sing it!, Station 19), Alex Saxon (The Fosters, The Fix), Freddie Prinze Jr (I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scooby-Doo)…
Series Creator: Noga Landau (The Magicians),Josh Schwartz & Stephanie Savage (The OC, Gossip Girl, Dynasty, Marvel’s Runaways).
Pilot Director: Larry Teng (Supergirl, Animal Kingdom, Elementary).
Producers: Noga Landau, Melinda Hsu Taylor (Lost, Vampire Diaries, The Gifted), Josh Schwartz & Stephanie Savage.

Studios: CBS Television Studios & Fake Empire.

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: Riverdale, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Veronica Mars, Charmed

Likely Timeslot: They could definitely use Riverdale as its lead-in. They could also pair it with Charmed.


WRITTEN BY: Noga Landau.

PAGECOUNT: 56 pages

DRAFT: 2nd Network draft 1/13/19

BACKGROUND: Launching a Nancy Drew TV series has been a priority for CBS Television Studios, which has the rights to the the classic YA mystery books originally published by Stratemeyer Syndicate and later Simon & Schuster, for quite a while now. Two versions have already been developed over the past three years. First Drew at CBS, starring Sarah Shahi as a 30-year-old version of the cult character (It was not good), which went to pilot and got close to a series order. Its star later confessed : “I’m very happy it didn’t go. It was not good”. She also said it was considered “too female” by the network: “My response was like, ‘I don’t remember us talking about tampons and our, like, placentas and our cycles on the show.’ So I don’t know what was too female about it.” Anyway.

Then Nancy Drew was developed at NBC last year, this time with a Nancy in her 40s, who has written her own adventures as books, and must now team up with her estranged former friends to solve a murder mystery. It didn’t go beyond the script stage. Both incarnations were from writers Tony Phelan and Joan Rater (Grey’s Anatomy, Doubt) and producer Dan Jinks. They left CBS Television Studios since then for Universal.

At the time, I was wondering why CBS Television Studios didn’t turn the property into a nice little CW show, keeping the central character as a teenage girl or a young adult. It apparently took them 4 years to realize that was the best and most logial option… And they asked Josh Schwartz & Stephanie Savage to write and supervise the project. They know a thing or two about teen dramas, so that made sense. So, third time’s the charm, as they say?


SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: After graduating high school, a depressed, secretive and curious NANCY DREW (18) skips out on college and must face life in the wake of her mother’s death, still living with her dad CARSON, as she begins to solve a ghostly mystery. Her friends aren’t as they seem and trust isn’t something that comes easy to her. After discovering TIFFANY HUDSON murdered with her coworkers GEORGE PHAN (18) and ACE (21) from The Claw dinner, Nancy Drew is back in her crime solving ways, along with BESS MARVIN (18), a new girl in town who quickly becomes an ally. Her boyfriend/secret lover NED “NICK” NICKERSON (19) has his own unbecoming past with Tiffany Hudson that makes Nancy question everything. Did Ned kill Tiffany? Nancy must battle her past in order to uncover and solve this murder case, while LUCY SABLE, a long-dead local girl, starts to haunt her…

COMMENTS: Based on the Nancy Drew mystery stories, this CW pilot is a nice surprise since the previous adaptations were failures that questioned the necessity and the relevance of such a character in the 21st century. Turns out a young woman who solves mysteries can still be a thing in 2019, even when Veronica Mars did a great job a few years ago. Remember, she was often described as “Nancy Drew meets Philip Marlowe” when she arrived on our screens. What strikes me the most with this script, which has flaws to be honest, is that it manages to be both classic an modern, predictable and exciting, funny and pretty scary. It’s easy to picture it around shows such as Riverdale or Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. It almost feels like it’s part of the same universe, like a secret spin-off. Even though I’m not a big fan of those series myself, I’m convinced there’s an audience for his new addition.

Let’s meet the new versions of those familiar characters first. So, Nancy is 18, she’s in grief since her mother died, she’s living the worst version she could picture of her life: stuck in the small town she grew up in, with very few friends around her, a reputation that she’s not always confortable with and a job as a waitress that really doesn’t fulfill her. This Nancy is sexually active, she’s into hook-ups and we meet her as she’s having sex with Nick, her secret flame that she may be ready to share a real relationship with. Nick is a former high school athlete with a mysterious past, who should be on full scholarship to a top university. Instead, he’s working as a car mechanic. What they have in common is a feeling that their lives are not going into the right direction and that’s something they can escape from when they’re together. If there’s chemistry between the actors, that should work fine.

The new George is a tough, tattooed girl from the wrong side of the tracks who felt personally wronged by Nancy in high school. But now they are both suspects in the killing of Tiffany Hudson, the two nemesis are forced to team up to track the culprit and clear their names… and it just may be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. But we’re clearly not there yet! Their current dynamics made of nasty jokes and little humiliations is too good to abandon so quickly. Then there’s the new Bess, a refined young woman whose wealthy background sets her apart from Nancy but here again, the investigation to find the real killer help them connect, while Bess is doing whatever it takes to keep her own dark secrets hidden. Those three women at the center of the show are really the main draw. They form some sort of sorority, created by the circumstances, that is more complex than it was in the books. The other male lead is Ace, a charming dishwasher with a philosophical bent, whose provocative insights on the murder investigation will lead Nancy to conclude that there’s much more to this supposed burnout than meets the eye. I wouldn’t be surprised this turns into a love triangle trope between Nancy, Nick and Ace. That wouldn’t be the most innovative idea…

The Haunting of Nancy Drew has something charming going on for it. It may be the town of Bayport, a fishing village that feels like Riverdale but with the ocean, with its traditions and a melancholia that comes with the views. For now, it’s the main street, the police station, the dinner, Nancy’s house, the bluffs and Bayridge Drive, the part of the town where the rich folks live. It’s enough to get a sense of what life is for Nancy over there. Most of us would love to live in such a place, or at least go there for vacations, for her it’s hell. We’ll see what the director will make of the scenery and for once, Vancouver, where it will be filmed, matches with how it’s supposed to look like. Yay! But what’s interesting is that it becomes progressively scarier. The more the investigation progresses, the more it becomes clear that it’s not exactly the idyllic town we thought it would be. It smells like death, there are ghosts and we end up with a medium in a motorized wheelchair for a spiritism seance! I’m not a big fan of the fantasy/horror part of the show, but at least it’s properly introduced. So it won’t just be about murder mysteries being solved every week. In fact, it seems like the whole first season will revolve around the same story and it’s good news, especially if they’re aiming at shortened seasons of 10-13 episodes. There’s one story about Nancy’s past and her parents’ that’s particularly intriguing. Are they murderers themselves? Maybe that’s the thing that will make me stay around a little bit more.


FINAL RECOMMENDATION: The Haunting of Nancy Drew has found a way to be faithful to the character and its famous adventures, to update her status as a feminist icon who lives in our era, to capture the atmosphere of a strange fishing village and to fall within the framework of the recent teen noir dramas that became worldwide phenomenons such as Riverdale. It’s the best version The CW can get of a detective show, with wit and charm. That’s why they’d better give it a chance. 



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Filthy Rich (FOX) pilot preview: When Empire goes south

GENRE: Soap Drama

LOGLINE: When the wealthy CEO of the world’s largest Christian network dies in a plane crash, his wife and adult children are stunned to discover he has grown, illegitimate kids who are also in his will. When the steel azalea matriarch of the family, Margaret Monroe, tries to pay them to go away, these newly legitimized heirs have very different ideas and insist on not only staying in town but becoming part of the family empire…

Pilot Cast: Kim Cattrall (Sex & The City, Tell Me A Story, Police Academy), Gerald McRaney (This Is Us, Simon & Simon, Major Dad), Aubrey Dollar (Battle Creek, Point Pleasant), Melia Kreiling (Salvation, Tyrant), Corey Cott (The Good Fight), Mike Harris (The Practice, Awake), Benjamin Aguilar, Mark L. Young (10 Days in the valley, The Inbetweeners), David Denman (Outcast, Thee Office), Olivia Macklin (The Young Pope)…
Series Creator: Tate Taylor
Pilot Director: Tate Taylor (The Help, The Girl on the Train).
Producers: Tate Taylor, John Norris, Francie Calfo & Brian Grazer (Empire, Parenthood, 24, Arrested Development, Genius).

Studios: 20th Century Fox Television, Imagine Television & Wyolah Films.

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: Empire, Dynasty, Dallas, Brothers & Sisters, Succession…

Likely Timeslot: Whether paired with Empire or used as its midseason replacement.


WRITTEN BY: Taylor Tate

PAGECOUNT: 60 pages

DRAFT: 1/21/18 (Last revision: 12/1/18


BACKGROUND:Filthy Rich is not just any pilot for FOX, it’s the first greenlight decision made by new FOX CEO of Entertainment Charlie Collier (previously at AMC). As a big fan of writer and director Tate Taylor’s work, he committed to a pilot order in the room, which isn’t something that happens frequently. FOX originally bought Filthy Rich last development season with a put pilot commitment. It did not go to pilot at that point (and Taylor went on to direct the movie Eve ), but both sides remained high on the project, leading to a pilot order this time around.

For actor-turned filmmaker Taylor, this is a very personal project since he was born and grew up in Jackson, Mississippi. The show is set in New Orleans, not that far away. He declared: “As a Southern man, I’m so excited to be telling this story of family, faith and ambition set in a place I grew up in and around.” Still, it’s based on a foreign show -like two other drama pilots at FOX out of six- from New Zealand. Actually, it was the country’s most expensive TV show ever! But they don’t produce a lot. It stayed on the air for two seasons before it got cancelled. It actually flopped and it didn’t even get good reviews.


SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: MARGARET MONROE (Mid60s) is the host of a popular Christian lifestyle show and the matriarch of a billion dollar family business operated by her husband, EUGENE (60s) and her children, ERIC (32) and ROSE (30). When Eugene, unexpectedly dies in a plane crash, his numerous infidelities come to light, along with three illegitimate adult children, GINGER (mid20s), a fierce woman with business savvy, who grew up dirt poor in Vegas, JASON (mid20s), an attractive, loyal young man who runs a weed business at a ranch in Colorado, and ANTONIO (19), a tattooed, up-and-coming boxer and single dad. Their introduction into the Monroes’ lives stands to threaten the family’s pristine reputation, as well as their business and wealth. After much prayer and unsuccessful tactics, Margaret makes a power play that upsets her son Eric: she publicly welcomes the three new Monroes into the family business. All family members, new and old, are forced to adjust to this strange, new family dynamic while the whole country is watching…


COMMENTS: Fox has described Filthy Rich as a “larger-than-life Southern gothic dramedy,” but let’s be clear: this is first and foremost a big, juicy soap, although it does become a surprisingly emotional family drama by the end of the pilot. That said, I’m not totally convinced the script sells the show very well. There’s a lot of exposition, and not much else. As promised, it is “larger-than-life,” which also means it’s totally unrealistic and that all the characters start as clichés, but it becomes more compelling as it goes along. It’s not about the basic opposition between wealthy, well-educated and brilliant children against poor, under-educated and moronic bastards. Some of the “bastards” are smarter than they seem to be and at least one of the wealthy children is not as entitled and manipulative as she could have been.

The pilot is very much centered around Margaret Monroe and Ginger Sweet (those names!) — strong, sharp women from two different generations who will go to any lengths to protect their loved ones and get their due. While they’re the show’s strongest assets, they also steal a good deal of thunder from the other characters. Rose, for example, feels a little bit left out. She’s got some good dialogue and a few fun moments, but she’s a bit weak compared to the other women around her. Hopefully her kind-hearted nature will make her more interesting at some point down the road. Likewise, her brother Eric, married with two kids and Senior VP of Operations at the conservative Christian Sunshine Network, doesn’t bring much to the table in the pilot. The new siblings are more intriguing, especially Jason, who we learn is not all that he would seem.

With Kim Cattrall as the leading lady, the rest of the cast will have to bring their A-game. Cattrall is a huge presence and her character is in line with strong matriarchs in soaps like Empire‘s Cookie or Dynasty‘s Alexis. It’s a perfect role for her. Margaret made me think of an older and more successful version of Desperate Housewives’ Bree Van de Kamp. Obsessed with perfection and appearances, she has a lifestyle show aimed at showing women how to be perfect housewives, but we all know that she just needs a little push before we see her true colors. For now, it’s clear that she’s a hypocrite — you never know when she’s sincere, especially when she reacts to the loss of her husband. A power couple like this is sure to have many secrets. By the way, Gerald McRaney who plays Eugene is a series regular even though he dies in the cold open, which means flashbacks are coming our way. Or maybe he’s not really dead — this is a soap after all, and conveniently his body was never found, supposedly eaten by alligatorsbut we’re not dumb! Fun fact: in the original show, he didn’t die on a plane crash, he commited suicide. I don’t know why they changed it. Maybe because it was too similar with ABC’s A Million Litte Things‘ story. Or maybe because they found it too dark. Or maybe because they want him back!

Although the pilot is missing a good cliffhanger, there are plenty of good directions for the series to take, especially when the whole Monroe family teams up. There’s also a political and social flavor to the show, but it’s not really the focus of the pilot and it may never be.


FINAL RECOMMENDATION: Soap amateurs may find in Filthy Rich their next obsession, especially now The CW’s Dynasty has lost its mojo already and FOX’s Empire has flamed out quickly, making headlines for behind-the-scenes scandals more than storylines and ratings. It’s not exactly groundbreaking but its southern setting, its gender politics’ theme, its delicious matriarch character and its immoral tendencies make it a good candidate for the network’s next soap sensation.



[  ] PASS