Tag: abc

ABC 2017-2018 Schedule [+ THOUGHTS]

MONDAY

8- DANCING WITH THE STARS

9- DANCING WITH THE STARS

10- THE GOOD DOCTOR

TUESDAY

8- THE MIDDLE / FRESH OFF THE BOAT

9- BLACKISH / THE MAYOR

10- THE GOSPEL OF KEVIN

WEDNESDAY

8- THE GOLDBERGS / SPEECHLESS

9- MODERN FAMILY / AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE

10- DESIGNATED SURVIVOR

THURSDAY

8- GREY’S ANATOMY

9- SCANDAL

10- HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER


FRIDAY

8- ONCE UPON A  TIME

9- MARVEL’S INHUMANS

10- 20/20

SUNDAY

8- TO TELL THE TRUTH

9- THE SHARK TANK

10- 10 DAYS IN THE VALLEY

MIDSEASON

 QUANTICO / AGENTS OF SHIELD / FOR THE PEOPLE / THE CROSSING / DECEPTION / SPLITTING UP TOGETHER / ALEX, INC.

What’s good?

  • All the moves within the comedy blocks are quite unexpected but they’re smart. Fresh Off The Beat will finally get the chance to show all its potential with a decent lead-in, American Housewife will be able to get stronger behind Modern Family, and Blackish -already sold in syndication- should be fine there.
  • Even though Deception looked like the best option to air behind Dancing With the Stars, The Good Doctor is the second best choice and it’s a good thing it airs in the fall. It’s ABC’s best shot at drama success right now. Very hopeful with this one.
  • Keeping the TGIT intact against NBC’s “Must See TV” is the right move.

What’s bad?

  • ABC basically gives up on sunday until American Idol arrives in spring. I think they could and should have fought a little bit more. That being said, moving The Shark Tank there makes sense as well as moving family-friendly fares Once Upon A Time, Marvel’s Inhumans and later on Agents Of SHIELD on friday. It won’t do well but it’s not gonna look as bad as it did on sunday.
  • The Gospel of Kevin on tuesday at 10? It’s gonna be uuuuuugly. I don’t think the show really had a chance anyway but here? Oh God…
  • Three new dramas premiering in spring? Plus two new comedies… That’s a lot. It’s a pity for Deception and Alex, Inc. They have potential but they probably won’t get the treatment they deserve…

ABC | 2017/2018 – Fantasy Schedule

Those are predictions based on feelings and ABC final schedule may end up very differently! It will be announced on Tuesday. Stay tuned and until then, enjoy the read!

 

RENEWED

GREY’S ANATOMY | ONCE UPON A TIME | SCANDAL | AGENTS OF SHIELD | HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER | QUANTICO | DESIGNATED SURVIVOR

MODERN FAMILY | THE MIDDLE | THE GOLDBERGS | FRESH OFF THE BOAT | BLACKISH | AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE | SPEECHLESS

ORDERED

MARVEL’S INHUMANS | DECEPTION | FOR THE PEOPLE | THE GOOD DOCTOR | THE GOSPEL OF KEVIN | THE CROSSING | 10 DAYS IN THE VALLEY

THE MAYOR | SPLITTING UP TOGETHER | STARTING UP

Without a doubt, the biggest shocker of the upfronts 2017 is the arrival of American Idol on ABC for a march 2018 spring run, possibly on both sunday and monday nights. The 40 hours it will take may very well have changed the network’s initial plans for midseason and maybe even for fall as a consequence. A lot of decisions don’t feel right -especially renewing Once Upon A Time for a rebooted 7th season- but they obviously emptied their pocket for Idol… Once again, they will have to rely heavily on their comedies and hope for the best in the drama department with Deception & The Good Doctor looking like their safer bets… Will ABC wait for Idol to use them while throwing their wildest cards in the overcrowded fall? That’s a theory…

MONDAYS

DANCING WITH THE STARS

DANCING WITH THE STARS

DECEPTION

Deception is the closest thing to Castle ABC has in their options. The magical part of the FBI procedural would mesh well with Dancing With the Stars; the pair seems to be a no-brainer. Except the network is always reluctant to give their best slots to shows they don’t produce in house (that’s why Forever didn’t get much of a chance two years ago…). Maybe it’s finally time to take that risk…

TUESDAYS

THE MIDDLE / AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE

First 6 weeks – MARVEL’S INHUMANS

then – BLACKISH / THE MAYOR

AGENTS OF SHIELD

Now that ABC has finally found a way to get some life on tuesday night at 8 thanks to The Middle and new entry American Housewife and now that This Is Us is gone to another night on NBC, they really have a chance to do better at 9. Marvel’s Inhumans doesn’t look like a massive hit but whatever happens with it, it’s only there for 8 episodes and possibly only 6 or 7 weeks. They can use that time to promote heavily their new comedy pairing, a combination of Blackish, which should move after 3 years behind Modern Family -it’s supposed to have its own viewers- and The Mayor, a new show that’s different from other ABC comedies, being mostly a workplace one with musical elements (!) but the network allegedly loves it, it’s worth a try. Fresh Off The Boat is waiting in the wings anyway…

WEDNESDAYS

THE GOLDBERGS / SPEECHLESS

MODERN FAMILY / STARTING UP

DESIGNATED SURVIVOR

While Modern Family is not eternal -but renewed for 2 more seasons- ABC has to use it to launch a new family comedy while it’s not too late. Zach Braff’s looks like their best shot this year, though Splitting Up Together would probably be okay there too. Nothing else should change on that night.

THURSDAYS

GREY’S ANATOMY

SCANDAL

HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER

With This Is Us moving at 9 on NBC, the TGIT will be in danger and there’s no way now ABC premieres the new Shondaland show For The People in the fall. They’ll have to wait for This Is Us to end and use American Idol to promote it the best they can so it doesn’t turn out as another The Catch. The final season of Scandal will have to air against This Is Us which is, in a way, not so dramatic: it’ll be gone by the end of the season anyway. Grey’s Anatomy should be fine against Will & Grace, unless Will & Grace comes back bigger than expected. How To Get Away With Murder may be impacted if Scandal takes a hit but it survived after the low-rated Notorious last year so there’s every reason to be optimistic.

FRIDAYS

GAME SHOW

THE SHARK TANK

20/20

Cheap friday coming our way! With Last Man Standing and Dr Ken cancelled, ABC may not be ready to invest on that night. They have a ton of game shows that could do as well in the 8pm slot. Of course, I thought about throwing Once Upon A Time there, and that’s where it could end up when Idol will take over coming spring, but in the fall, let’s just say stability is the key.

SUNDAYS

ONCE UPON A TIME

THE GOSPEL OF KEVIN

10 DAYS IN THE VALLEY

Awful you say? Well yeah, you’re right. But Once Upon A Time is renewed whether we like it or not, it has to air somewhere and launching three new shows back to back on sunday would be a suicide mission at this point. Two is already too much to be honest. The Gospel of Kevin seems compatible with OUAT somehow and I don’t see it anywhere else quite frankly, except summer. 10 Days in the Valley is a 10pm show, has a cable feel and is only 10 episodes.

MIDSEASON

THE GOOD DOCTOR should be paired with AMERICAN IDOL on sunday, like House was a long time ago on FOX. I feel like this show has a big potential and while it may be very tempting to launch it in the fall, ABC should wait for the right moment to give it the best chance.

THE CROSSING is kind of a question mark. I’m convinced it’s the kind of high-concept show that won’t do well after a few airings but it could start big and here again, waiting for AMERICAN IDOL to promote it might be the answer. Tuesday at 10 when Agents of SHIELD is done?

With a 13-episode renewal, QUANTICO will be back… somewhere.

What do you think? Feel free to comment!

ABC 2017/2018 Comedy Pilots ranked

 

ABC had a rough year in the drama department but comedy wise, all’s good in the hood! That’s where they excel. Modern Family has lost ground but it’s still fine and remains the center piece of ABC Funny; The Middle moved quite smoothly to tuesdays and helped significantly what once was a dead night for the network; The Goldbergs proved they could anchor wednesday nights as well as The Middle did for the past years; Blackish is not a huge success but the Golden Globes and the Emmys love it; Fresh Off The Boat managed to keep its head above water facing NBC’s tremendous hit This Is Us; and Last Man Standing once again did miracles for friday nights. But that’s not it for the winners: the two new fall entries American Housewife & Speechless also did amazing and fit perfectly with the comedy blocks. They’re probably here for the long haul.

Bad news are for Dr Ken, which might not be worthy of a renewal despite satisfying but not great numbers after Last Man Standing; The Real O’Neals, which showed promise during its first year last spring but couldn’t resist to This Is Us with disappointing numbers all year long and ABC doesn’t have any room for a pity renewal; and spring entry Imaginary Mary that didn’t deliver, the Jenna Elfman’ curse striked again. With theorically only one slot available for a new comedy next year and 13 pilots vying for it, ABC will have tough choices to make, especially since they had once again a great development slate. Will they add one hour of comedy on sunday night? Will they get rid off their friday night sitcoms for single cams?

 

SINGLE-CAMERA COMEDIES

  1. LIBBY & MALCOLM (ABC Studios)

    Two opposing pundits also happen to be married. One’s black, one’s white; one’s left, one’s right. Bitter rivals at work on their own political talk show Black & Wright, Libby & Malcolm have to turn conflict into compromise at home when it comes to raising their kids. With Felicity Huffman, Courtney B. Vance, Gary Cole, James Lesure…

Libby & Malcolm is about finding strength and answers through our differences, whether they are political or personal. It’s about unity. And unity is exactly what is missing in this sad sad world. It gives reflection, hope and fun. There are not so many comedies like that on television right now, let alone on a network. The next great comedy is here. And we’re ready for it. Felicity Huffman & Courtney B. Vance will get awards recognition with this one. ABC just can’t do without it. Pure and simple.

 

Read the full preview

 

2. RAISED BY WOLVES (Warner Bros. Television)

    Sheila Gable is a one tough mother struggling to support her five opinionated, eccentric kids on a shoestring budget in a Midwestern town. With Georgia King, Craig T. Nelson

Raised By Wolves is a like an edgier version of The Middle, with a different parenting dynamics since it’s about a single mother and I’d like ABC to think of those families too that do exist. It’s not always a mommy, a daddy and three or four kids. There is a big Shameless feel to it, which is not so surprising since it’s also the adaptation of an english series, with Diablo Cody’s unique voice making it even more special. It totally fits with the actual line-up and adds something more. A no-brainer to me… if only a more well-known actress had accepted the leading role!

 

3. STARTING UP (Sony Pictures Television)

     About all the things that happen — the good, the bad and the ugly — when a guy in his mid-30s with a wife and two kids makes the crazy decision to quit his good job and dive into the brave new world of starting a business. With Zach Braff, Tiya Sircar, Michael Imperioli…

Fun, smart an inspirational, Starting Up feels like Zach Braff’s feel good movies. It’s part family comedy, part workplace comedy, and the two genres mesh surprisingly well. It shares a lot of DNA with Blackish by the way. Scrubs fans will be happy to have Braff’s voice over back on TV on a weekly basis. And ABC should be happy to have a comedy that may skew more male than what they’re used to. A safe bet for a pick-up.

 


4. THE MAYOR (ABC Studios)

    Courtney Rose, a talented but struggling hip-hop artist, runs for mayor to promote his mixtape – and wins. The guy is a quitenssential optimistic, a dreamer through and through. He’s the coolest, most fun dude in town, and if you don’t believe it, just ask him and he’ll tell you. With Brandon Micheal Hall, Lea Michele, Yvette Nicole Brown…

It starts like a comedic version of Designated Survivor, it ends up like nothing else on the network or any other network for instance. So yeah, it’s a little off brand, it’s a wild card, but ABC should take this risk while they can. It’s political and topical; there’s a bit of a Parks And Recreation vibe because of the setting and the group of characters that will soon become a family of some sort. And there’s music too. What else?

 


5. LOSING IT (ABC Studios)

    About three misfit adult siblings and their parents who — between divorce, new parenthood, early-onset dementia and let’s just say life — are all losing it in different ways. And family is the only way they’re going to find it. With Jon Cryer, Natalie Morales, Sam Huntington, Gerald McRaney…

Adult siblings, death, alzheimer disease… Losing It is not your typical ABC family comedy. It can get really dark. But it’s very funny too and definitely different. It’s hard not to think of This Is Us, especially with Gerald McRaney being part of the cast and some sort of surprising twist towards the end. Will the comparison help it or doom it? I’m not sure but I want to believe there’s a special place for it somewhere on the schedule.

 

6. SPLITTING UP TOGETHER (Warner Bros. Television)

      The story of a couple whose marriage is reignited by their divorce. With Jenna Fischer, Oliver Hudson, Diane Farr…

The logline is a little short and doesn’t say what the show really is about. It’s a modern, emotional & edgy tale of a divorcing couple that decides to keep on living together with the kids for financial and sentimental reasons. I think it can really strike a chord with the audience if the cast delivers and if the execution is as impressive as the script asks it to be. But ABC will probably have to chose between this one and Raised By Wolves, since both are produced by Warner Bros. In a perfect world, they’d take both.

 

7. SCHOOLED – aka THE GOLDBERGS SPIN-OFF (Sony Pictures Television)

    Set in the 1990s and follows two high school teachers who become unlikely father figures to the kids at their Philadelphia school, the same school Adam from The Goldbergs graduated from. With Nia Long, Bryan Callen, Tim Meadows

ABC never tried to spin-off Modern Family or The Middle. Why starting now with The Goldbergs? I don’t think Schooled is needed and I’m sorry to report this pilot is not as good as the mothership’s. That being said, it’s effective, funny and it has potential moving forward. It’s yet again a family comedy but the difference is it’s mostly set in a high-school. Beverly Goldberg makes an appearance at the beginning but other than that, Schooled is its own thing. From a marketing perspective, ABC might be very tempted to give it a try and noboby could blame them.

 

8. CHARLIE FOXTROT (ABC Studios)

  Captain Charlie Taylor, a cautious, lovable dentist stationed at Fort Bragg, promises to look after his brother’s impulsive fiancée and her two misfit teens while his brother is deployed in Iraq… With Jason Biggs, Ana Ortiz, Swoozie Kurtz, Robert Baker…

Well. I’m not sure why ABC decided to order a pilot for this one, other than the military is very trendy these days and they probably wanted to be part of it in their own way, through comedy. But the problem is this script is really weak and I don’t think this quite good cast can do anything about it. It’s way too cheesy to be taken seriously and not funny enough to be watched like a guilty-pleasure comedy. Don’t make this mistake, ABC…

 

9. JALEN VS EVERYBODY (20th Century FOX Television & ABC Studios)

  Former NBA player and current ESPN personality Jalen Rose juggles his career responsibilities with the challenges of being a single dad. With Jalen Rose, Anna Maria Horsford, Marla Gibbs, Rich Sommer…

I’m not familiar with Jalen Rose but I can recognize a good comedy and this one is not. There is too much sports talk and private jokes to be appreciated widely and the central story about a dad who doesn’t want his children to grow is overused to death. It has to stop now. We get it. The behind-the-scenes part resembles Libby & Malcolm‘s except here we just don’t care. It’s just an excuse to have famous faces passing by. Creator Nahnatchka Khan (Fresh Off the Boat, Don’t Trust the B****) is worth better than that…

 

BLACKISH SPIN-OFF (ABC Studios) > Haven’t watched the planted episode focusing on Zoey Johnson as she heads to college but people don’t seem to be very happy with it and it’s probably not a good idea for ABC. Maybe for Freeform? Nice try but pass.

 

MULTICAMERA COMEDIES

  1. HOUSEHOLD NAME (Universal Television)

    A family gets a chance to buy the house of their dreams but under extremely abnormal circumstances: they must live with the current owner, an eccentric, larger-than-life actress — until she dies. With Carol Burnett, Matt Oberg, Timothy Omundson, Mary Holland…

This one’s a bit like Hot In Cleveland but more family-friendly with Carol Burnett instead of Betty White. It’s a solid and often hilarious old-school sitcom, that may not belong to ABC in 2017 or any other network. It’s for TV Land, if TV Land was still doing one of those. I’d be very happy to watch it if ABC gave it a chance but I have my doubts they will. The rumor has it NBC -which produces it- will pick it up if ABC passes on. To pair with Will & Grace? It would be an interesting option. Like the “Golden Gay Comedy Hour”.

 

2. UNTITLED SINGLE DAD COMEDY (ABC Studios)

      An intellectual but emotionally challenged single dad moves to Queens with his two young daughters and forms an unlikely family with the other residents in their apartment building. With Rob Riggle, Lombardo Boyar, Amy Hill…

Yet another old-school sitcom, cute and sweet, almost cheesy. Sadly, the dad character is kind of irritating and the kids characters have nothing special going for them. The neighbours are the funniest ones. It doesn’t sound like ABC to me.

 

 

For The People -Black’s Law- (ABC) pilot preview: Shonda Rhimes by-the-book? Not exactly, your honor…

Written and produced by Paul William Davies (Scandal). Also produced by Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder, The Catch) & Betsy Beers. Directed by Tom Verica (Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal). For ABC Studios & Shondaland. Network draft 1/13/17. 57 pages.

Description: Brand new lawyers working for both the defense and the prosecution at the Southern District of New York (SDNY) Federal Court, aka “The Mother Court”, have to handle the most high profile and high stakes cases in the country – all as their personal lives inevitably intersect. Sandra, Allison, Seth, Jay, Kate and Leonard may not be friends but starting from now, whether they like it or not, they’ll be together almost 24/7, fighting for justice and fighting each others…

With Britne Oldford (American Horror Story, Skins US, Hunters), Lyndon Smith (Parenthood, 90210, Extant), Ben Rappaport (Mr Robot, The Good Wife, Younger), Susannah Flood (Chicago Fire), Wesam Keesh (Awkward), Regé-Jean Page (Roots, Waterloo Road), Anna Deavere Smith (Nurse Jackie, The West Wing, Blackish), Hope Davis (Wayward Pines, American Crime, In Treatment), Vondie Curtis-Hall (Daredevil, Chicago Hope), Ben Shenkman (Royal Pains, The Night Of, Angels in America)…

   

You’ll like it if you already like: Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder, Law & Order

Likely timeslot: in the TGIT, thursday at 9 after Grey’s Anatomy or at 10 once How To Get Away With Murder ends

 

A lot of you asked me on Twitter those past three months when the Black’s Law preview would come out. Shonda Rhimes’ pilots always get a lot of attention for very good reasons: after all, she’s the queen. The truth is, it’s one of the first scripts I read this year but I was so conflicted about it that I decided to give it time to let it sink in and not to write about it right away. Weeks have passed and I just couldn’t do it as my first impressions faded away. So I re-read it to make sure I was really thinking what I thought I was thinking. I also read Grey’s Anatomy pilot script for the first time. As you may know, Black’s Law is said to be in the vein of the medical drama when it started. It’s undeniable. Thought it was a good idea to compare. I was wrong. It got me even more disturbed. Now that the upfronts are coming in a few days, I have no choice but to do it. So here we are, friends. Black’s Law will certainly be picked-up to series by ABC anyway. The contrary would be quite a shocker. Not only because it’s Shonda Rhimes and ABC can’t afford to say no to her -which is not entirely true, they already did a few times- but because it’s simply one of the best pilot scripts they have in contention this year. No matter what.

Black’s Law doesn’t start with a crazy flashforward or a steamy love scene. It starts with a black screen and a dictionary entry saying “AB Initio: Latin from the first act, or meaning from the start” and then we’re back to black. Suddenly, it bursts into song. An energetic, propulsive one. And it stops when an alarm rings. Our heroine, Sandra, is waking up in the soft light of sunrise at 5.30. She’s wearing modest clothes in a not so modest apartment. Then she goes out: we’re in the vibrant and awesome city of New York and the song kicks in again. She takes the subway, she’s lost, she buys a banana and she finally arrives at her destination at 6.44: “The Mother Court”. It’s her first day. She wanted to be the first to arrive and she is. It’s a standard, modest but efficient start that tells us two things: this show is mostly about Sandra Black, as Grey’s Anatomy focused heavily on Meredith Grey early on -though there’s no voice over here- and also that the writer is not looking to replicate a Shondaland formula that may have been overused by now. Smart move? Only time will tell. That’s where I am conflicted the most: as a huge Shonda Rhimes fan, I was looking for something splashy and it turns out to be a regular legal drama, less soapier than expected but character-driven of course. It’s a good one, it seems. Not at a The Good Wife level, but still. Is it what ABC viewers want? Isn’t it a bit disappointing? Well. Now you know what to expect.

So, we’re exposed to three main cases in this first episode, which is a lot and doesn’t leave much space to the personal stories of our main characters, though we learn a thing or two about them through the way they handle the situations they’re in. It’s a big ensemble. There are 10 regulars. 6 young lawyers in their thirties. 3 of them are prosecutors. The other 3 are public defenders. They have 4 bosses in their fifties. We meet all of them in the first few pages in a classic Shonda Rhimes’ way that always works. You can already feel the competition mounting. That’s where the show is really smart. There’s not only a competition between the prosecutors or between the public defenders to take the best case or to make the best impression, but there’s also the promise of new battles every week between the prosecutors and the public defenders that are facing each others in court. In general, legal dramas are about the lawyers of one firm and they work together. Here, there is no firm and there is no working together. At least for now. Then love and friendships will complicate things. And we can’t wait to get there! There’s frustration when the pilot ends -without any cliffhanger by the way- but a good one. We can feel great things are coming up but we’re not there yet. In the era of Peak TV, let’s just hope people will give it a chance and a bit of patience.

Let me introduce you to the characters now. I’ll try to be quick. So Sandra is a sensible, fiercely intelligent and independent girl, who’s burdened by the decision to leave a Supreme Court clerkship that made her somewhat famous in the legal world. We learn in the pilot what really happened (don’t expect a big OMG moment) and what drove her to the law. She’s a cute, simple, fresh heroine that I’m already fond of. Allison is Sandra’s best friend. They go way back and now they live together. It’s impossible not to think of Meredith and Cristina. Let’s hope their friendship is as strong. Allison is a wealthy and generous woman and she’s in a relationship with Seth, a smart and reasonable but inexperienced recent law school grad. Of course, they become adversaries in their first case at “The Mother Court”, which causes a lot of drama. It’s not very surprising but perfectly handled. Seth works with Leonard, a cocky and case-stealing colleague, with a considerable swagger, and Kate who just wants to stay out of the drama, do her job and get the win. Of course, it won’t be that simple. Finally, Sandra and Allison are teamed up with Jay, a perhaps too big-hearted fellow. They don’t sound like clichés, they form a promising group but we can’t say they feel like characters we haven’t seen before either (is that even possible though?). Interesting point: Sandra doesn’t have any love interest yet. Which is kind of revolutionary in a Shondaland show!

I won’t describe all the bosses characters, they are not very developed yet but let’s just say they add some humor and more conflicts to the show. Tina, the  tough, intimidating, no-nonsense SDNY court clerk, will probably be the audience’s favorite. She’s a crowd-pleaser. She’s funny. And she happens to be played by Anna Deavere Smith, who’s hilarious. Hope Davis is a great actress too. She plays Jill, the boss of all public defenders; she’s smart and savvy. The equivalent of Miranda Bailey in Grey’s in a way. Maybe you’re asking about the cases tackled -fast- in this pilot. The big one, that Sandra is on, is about a young man who’s accused of plotting the bombing of the Statue of Liberty. Yeah, big one I said. It made me think of a storyline from Homeland‘s recent sixth season. Black’s Law wants to be revelant, so of course they chose to deal with terrorism, THE subject matter these days. It’s done perfectly, with nuance and a bit of criticism against the police and against the law overall. It’s a morally commited show that seems to have a lot to say about the system and how much it can be unfair sometimes, especially when you’re up against the State. The other cases are about a fraud and a con man. Nothing very sexy. You know what it misses? Something fun, eccentric. Yeah but… we’re in the Federal Court so…not gonna happen.

Black’s Law is NOT a Shonda Rhimes by-the-book show. It’s less less soapy than Grey’s Anatomy, less sexy than Scandal, less twisty than How To Get Away With Murder, but it’s engaging and promising nonetheless in a more classic, regular way, with characters that you care about and some Shondaland trademarks. It doesn’t want to make viewers jump out of their seats at every corner, it’s more of a slow burn. It doesn’t ambition to be the “sensation of the year” but more like a sensation for years to come, a show that ABC will be able to rely on for the long haul. Let’s just hope the TGIT viewers will welcome Black’s Law as they’re supposed to: with kindness, goodwill and patience. This one’s a keeper. 

Salamander (ABC) pilot preview: Your conspiracy thriller from the 2000s

Written and produced by Andre Nemec (Zoo, Ninja Turtles, October Road, Alias), Jeff Pinkner (Zoo, Fringe, Lost, Alias), Josh Appelbaum (Zoo, Alias) & Scott Rosenberg (Zoo, High Fidelity, Gone in Sixty Seconds). Based on 2012 Belgian series. Directed by Gary Fleder (Kingdom, Beauty and the Beast, October Road, Kiss the Girls). For ABC Studios, Midnight Radio, Beta Films & Keshet Studios. 58 pages. Network Draft. 01/20/2017.

Description: Ethan Anders, a brilliant but misanthropic engineer, recruits Nora Schaller, a skeptical Homeland Security agent, to help him track a mysterious bank robber whose theft of 66 specific safety deposit boxes, belonging to the elite and powerful, sets in motion a series of blackmails that are linked to a greater conspiracy that is killing people one by one…

With Larenz Tate (Rescue Me, Power, House of Lies, Game of Silence), Allison Miller (Go On, Terra Nova, Incorporated), John Leguizamo (Bloodline, Moulin Rouge, Romeo+Juliet), Elaine Tan (Hand of God), Neil Sandilands (The 100, Hap and Leonard)…

  

You’ll like if you already like: Prison Break, 24, Designated Survivor, Scandal

Likely timeslot: midseason (as a bridge between Designated Survivor season 2A & 2B?)

Welcome back to the early 2000s folks. Salamander, adapted from a belgian series, looks like a script that was lost during this period of time when every network wanted their conspiracy thrillers after 24 & Prison Break broke out. Remember Kidnapped, Vanished or The Nine? Salamander is one of these. They all tended to be appealing on paper based on the concept with their strong hooks and big twists. But at some point, they all had to face reality: it’s hard to pull off conspiracy-themed series on a weekly basis. They became silly and sometimes even unwatchable. And they got cancelled pretty quickly. Salamander is not totally dumb and silly. At least, not yet. But everything that’s happening is unbelievable and overall not that surprising if you watched the shows I pointed out a few lines ago. I would be very surprised if ABC gives it a chance. It looks like one of those pilots that got ordered “just in case”, just to see. And they could’t assemble an attractive cast, like The Crossing, to compensate. Not a good omen either.

As in Prison Break, the relationship between two brothers is at the center of the story and gives an emotional feel to a pilot that’s mostly about plots and twists. But one of them dies in the pilot, paving the way for another, more conventional relationship between our hero, a “normal nerd” and a psychiatrist who works at Homeland Security. They’re supposed to have a strong chemistry -we’ll see if that translates on screen- and the writer insists on it a lot. Way too much. We get it man. In fact, the pilot starts with them having a date. It goes horribly wrong of course. They agree not to see each other again. But you know fate. It’s twisty. 10 pages later they’re in for a big deadly adventure where everyone in New York seem to be dangerous and hiding a terrible secret. We meet so many secondary characters… it’s overwhelming! Between the senator who causes an explosion on a ferry, the man who commits suicide by jumping out of his office’s window, those you just meet in one scene but the writers warn you they will be more important later on… You can feel they have a plan. And they’d better! It’s based on an existing show after all. The way is already paved.

Despite this waterfall of characters, the story is more plot-driven than character-driven, especially when the leads are not on screen, which happens every other scene. For example, you can sense from the get go that the cops who interrogate Ethan Anders after the death of his brother are corrupt and you think they’ll play a bigger role later. Wrong: they end up killing each other. It’s one of those plot twists that give you an instant hard on because it’s exciting and surprising at the exact moment it arrives. And then you think about it and it just don’t make sense. Salamander asks you not to use your brain too much. Some people are good at it. Others just can’t. Your apprecIation of the show may very well depend on it. But above all, it’s a show where you’re clearly told not to get too attached to the characters because most of them are not there for long and that’s a problem for me. It’s hard to care about anything when you’re sent this message. Last thing that troubles me with Salamander is the fact that Ethan is an engineer. It’s way too convenient for the writers. Too easy. He can crack everything. It’s not the first show to do this but it doesn’t make it okay. And about Nora, she’s “just” a psychiatrist at Homeland Security but she has access to everyting. It just doesn’t make sense.

Salamander is not the type of show ABC should bet on though Designated Survivor proved there’s an audience for thrilling conspiracy series on the network when it’s well done. But this show doesn’t have Kiefer Sutherland, nor legs to work for a long time even if the pilot is efficient and action-packed. ABC has way better options to waste a slot on it. Go back where you belong Salamander: to the early 2000s!

The Doomsday Project (ABC) pilot preview: Think Scorpion, but bigger and smarter

Created and produced by Mark Bianculli & VJ Boyd. Executive produced by Carol Mendelsohn (CSI, CSI: Miami, CSI: New York, Melrose Place, Providence) & Julie Weitz (Game of Silence). Directed by Joachim Roaning (Marco Polo, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales). For Sony Pictures Television, Carol Mendelsohn Productions, Pernomium Pictures & Signal Hill Productions. 61 pages. Draft 01/20/17.

Description: In the aftermath of 9/11, the U.S. government institutes a secret think tank featuring the most creative minds in science and entertainment that is tasked with dreaming up man-made disaster scenarios and their possible solutions. Because the hypothetical ideas are deemed extremely dangerous, the list is sealed and the program shut down. But when a catastrophe occurs that’s ripped from the pages of the missing doomsday book, the team is brought back years later to prevent the disasters of their own making…

With Claire Holt (The Vampire Diaries, Aquarius, H2O), Rachelle Lefevre (Under The Dome, What About Brian, Twilight), Taye Diggs (Private Practice, Murder in the First, Empire), Jack Davenport (Smash, FlashForward, Pirates of the Caribbean), Dan Byrd (Cougar Town, Aliens in America, Easy A), Rochelle Aytes (Mistresses, Criminal Minds, The Forgotten), Justin Chatwin (Shameless US, American Gothic, Dragonball Evolution)…

   

You’ll like it if you already like: Quantico, The Blacklist, Scorpion, Designated Survivor

Likely timeslot: Monday at 10, Tuesday at 10.

Remember last year when I entitled my review of MacGyver “And you thought Scorpion was stupid?“. This time it’s the opposite. The Doomsday Project shares a bit of DNA with both the CBS shows -it’s about preventing disasters from happening- but the stakes are higher than ever and all is done with an incredible sense of build-up and efficiency, with characters that you can only care about. Doomsday falls in the big-idea original drama concepts category that the broadcast networks were heavily pursuing this season but have been in short supply. ABC got the project in a three-network bidding by giving it a pilot production commitment that has a series penalty behind it. Meaning: there’s a big chance it gets ordered in may. It was compared to Designated Survivor in some articles, which is the only new ABC drama that looks like a hit this year, but they don’t have so many things in common. For starters, The Doomsday Project is a heavily-serialized procedural.

I’m in awe of the writers’ capacity to deliver so many informations and establishing so many characters in only a few pages. It reminded me of Quantico‘s pilot script in that way. It’s not an easy story to tell and easy concept to sell -the pitch is a bit of a headscratcher- and somehow they did it smoothly. It starts in the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta that some of you may remember from the season 1 of The Walking Dead. The first disaster is about a deadly disease called Marburg that is stolen by four men in tailor made hazmat suits. We’ll discover later that they are planning to unleash it at the MET through the ventilating system during a private opera played for the biggest American Pharma companies. There’s a lot of action going on through the pilot, it’s always fast-paced, but the best part is happening in the last act with our characters being on the spot. It’s a great reward after watching them talking and arguing on and on in The Hub, a high-tech three level room with giant plasma screens everywhere, described as “a war-room from the future”. At some point, it makes you a little bit claustrophobic being there all the time, even when you’re not (claustrophobic).

I know what you may think right now: it sounds heavy and not funny at all. Well yes, it’s heavy -I mean, the whole world could collapse because of the disease- BUT it’s funny! You won’t laugh out loud like a crazy person, but you’ll appreciate the humor, skillfully exuded through the characters’ conversations. They all know each other very well, they have a common past, so they never hesitate to poke fun at each other and most of the time that’s how we learn more about every one of them. That’s a smart way to promise backstories, kept for later. Of course, they all have secrets. Some of them are already exposed. Others will have to wait. And as you can guess with this type of story, there’s a huge conspiracy behind. I’m always very cautious about that: it rarely works for the long haul. At least, this one sounds it could, if the writers are as brilliant as the characters and gave it a lot of thinking before jumping into the project.

What big concept shows lack of in general is strong characters. The Doomsday Project doesn’t have this problem. They’re all intriguing. Some are likable, others are not, but it’s okay. They don’t have to be as long as they’re interesting. And they are. And they really work as a group. ABC managed to assemble a solid cast with familiar faces. Kayla (Claire Holt) is the newest member of the Doomsday project. Considered the best cyber security analyst in the country, she’s efficient, irreverent, and not particularly interested in making friends. I love her already. And you’ll see, she even more important than expected. Faye (Rachelle Lefevre) is the whip-smart and shrewd Deputy Director of Homeland Security who is at the helm when the Doomsday team reassembled. Coldly pragmatic, she initially has little reverence for her assemblage of geniuses but during the course of the first mission, she develops a growing respect for the team. She’s an enigma. We have three very strong women at the center if you add Dr. Elle (Rochelle Aytes), a renowned physicist, MD and author, notable for her ability to popularize science, “making complex ideas disgestible for the masses”. It will help when things will get too complicated for us.

She was married once with the handsome and confident Dr. Davis (Taye Diggs), an engineer and architect, formerly the youngest-ever head of disaster prevention for FEMA. Fastidious, with expensive taste in clothes, he’s not fond of forays into the field. Warren (Jack Davenport) is a well-known intellectual playwright turned middle-brow action screenwriter. He is imaginative and creative and sees the world like a story which helps him think like (and even empathize with) the enemy. You remember his character in Smash? Same kind of asshole. Then there’s Nate Hensley (Dan Byrd), the younger one. He became rich as a professional analyst and is the founder of The New Oracle, a website that is devoted to predicting politics, sports and stock trading. He can hedge any bet and predict any outcome. Also, he’s gay. Finally, there’s Chris Wyatt, a Navy SEAL instructor. He’s the muscles of the team but also a brilliant mind: he’s specialized in military strategy. And yes, women and men are all very sexy in this show and there’s no reason to complain about it.

The Doomsday Project is one of the most ambitious project of this pilot season, but we all know high-concept shows are always those that burst into flames first. ABC needs to be careful here, especially since Quantico proved that their viewers may not be interested in this type of stories. How could they resist though? If the finished pilot is as solid as the script is, it has to be tried…