Tag: abc

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… 

Las Reinas (ABC) pilot preview: Not soapy enough

Positively Miami“. Written and produced by Dean Georgaris  (Paycheck, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life). Executive produced by Mark Gordon (Grey’s Anatomy, Criminal Minds, Quantico, Designated Survivor), Chris Brancato (Narcos) & Nick Pepper. Directed by Liz Friedlander (Conviction, Stalker, 90210). For ABC Studios, EOne & The Mark Gordon Company. 59 pages. Network Draft 5. 1.25.17.

Description: Detective Sonya De La Reina is forced to confront her past when a case compels her to reconnect with her estranged family, especially her grandmother Gabriella, the head of the most powerful criminal outfit in Miami. Thrust back into the world she thought she had left behind, Sonya must walk the murky line between the law and her family, and question her true destiny as a De La Reina…

With Daniella Alonso (Animal Kingdom, Being Mary Jane, Revolution, Friday Night Lights), John Corbett (Northern Exposure, Sex & The City, Parenthood, United States of Tara), Matthew Davis (The Vampire Diaries, Cult, Damages, What About Brian), Sonia Braga (Aquarius, Luke Cage, Alias), Amanda Warren (The Leftovers), Eric Winter (Days of Our Lives, Brothers & Sisters, Witches of East End), Shalim Ortiz (Heroes, Magic City)…

  

You’ll like if you already like: Queen of the South.

Likely timeslot: Sunday at 9, Monday at 10, Wednesday at 10

 

Writer Dean Georgaris is a lucky and supposedly talented guy. The two scripts he wrote this year got a pilot order: the military drama For God and Country at NBC and Las Reinas at ABC, two very different beasts. Years ago, he created Clementine, already for ABC, an intriguing show centered on a girl who discovers she has psychic powers. It was good and this close to get a series order. Maybe he’s about to get his revenge, though I feel like the alphabet has way better and more fitting options than this crime drama set in Miami –which is kind of exotic- originally developed in 2015-2015 when they were not looking for any procedural. Now they are, but Deception or The Trustee are stronger.

Even though the pitch indicates Las Reinas may be a soap –the classic story of a girl who abandoned her wealthy family a long time ago (six years precisely) but who has no other choice but to reconnect with them- it’s not. There are elements, yes. Like the grandmother who’s evil. I’d be glad to watch the incredible Sonia Braga playing this part. Think Madeleine Stowe in Revenge as Victoria Grayson. Gabriella de la Reina is the same kind of cruel queen. She looks lovely and stunning for her age (she’s 66), everybody in the community thinks she’s the most generous woman on earth, but in fact she’s a ruthless bitch and a murderer. I would want her funnier, so at least the show gives us a good guilty laugh, but she’s just mean and that’s it for now. Every time the show has the opportunity to go full soap, it just looks the other way. No OMG moments or edge of your seat scenes. No emotional stuff either. It’s a pity. ABC viewers would be more likely to give it a chance if it were soapier.

It’s mostly about the investigation –a missing girl, of course- and establishing our heroine as a no-nonsense badass cop who doesn’t follow the rules because she has a great instinct and people around her who are ready to forgive her behaviour as long as she saves the day. Exactly as the other ABC pilot The Trustee, but at least this one’s fun. And she has a partner, a new one, she’s not fond of. How surprising. He basically follows her everywhere but doesn’t add much to the mix. He’s bland. There was no time to give him something interesting to play it seems. There are other cops we don’t care about and Sonia’s ex-partner, who’s now her boss. There’s a nice potential there. But it’s a procedural so we’ll have to wait before they find the time to make something out of it.

There’s nothing even remotely fresh in Las Reinas, nothing that really makes you want to come back, unless you’re craving for one another crime procedural about a formidable detective with a difficult past. The criminal family angle is the only thing that could have made the difference but it’s not convincing and important enough in the pilot. It’s a CBS show lost in the ABC development slate. It was not good enough in 2014. It’s still not good enough in 2017. Adiós.

The Crossing (ABC) pilot preview: The show that desperately wanted to be Lost…

Written and produced by Dan Dworkin & Jay Beattie (Scream, Revenge, Criminal Minds, The Event, Vanished, Surface). Also executive produced by Jason Reed (Ninja Turtles, National Treasure, Prince of Persia). Directed by Rob Bowman (Castle, The X-Files, Parker Lewis). For ABC Studios, Jason T. Reed Productions & Dworkin & Beattie Productions. 63 pages. 2nd revised network draft. 12/27/16.

Description: Refugees from a war torn country start showing up to seek asylum in a small East Coast fishing town. Only the country these people are from is America and the war they are fleeing is 250 years in the future. Jude Miller, the local sheriff with a troubled past, Emma Peralta, a federal agent, and Rae, a mother in search of her missing refugee daughter, drive this allegory with a surprising conspiracy at the center…

With Steve Zahn (Mad Dogs US, Treme), Sandrine Holt (24, House of Cards, MacGyver), Simone Kessell (Terra Nova), Jay Karnes (The Shield, Sons of Anarchy, Tyrant), Grant Harvey (The Secret Life of the American Teenager), Rick Gomez (Justified, What About Brian, Band of Brothers),  Kelley Missal (One Life to Live), Rob CampbellJohn D’LeoTommy Bastow

  

You’ll like it if you already like: LostThe 4400, The Event, V, Invasion

Likely timeslot: Midseason. Sunday at 8 or 9 or Tuesday at 10.

 

Remember 2004 when ABC launched the same season Desperate HousewivesGrey’s Anatomy & Lost? 13 years later -gosh, we’re getting so old!- the alphabet network wants badly to recreate the magic with three pilots that are supposed to be in the same vein. While Bluegrass/Blood Red is written by Marc Cherry & Black’s Law is produced by Shonda Rhimes’ company, The Crossing is NOT coming from J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof & Carlton Cuse sadly but from Jason Reed, a former Disney executive-turned-producer -it helps!- and Dan Dworkin & Jay Beattie, who were behind MTV’s Scream and a handful of failed high-concept dramas like Surface or The Event. Sorry, but it doesn’t bode well for the project, though I can see why ABC is considering it may fill the gap left for Lost. As Disney Media Distribution put it in a recent presentation: “It’s a character-driven piece in a world we know and these are characters we can connect with. This is a show we are convinced international audiences will love“. It certainly does have an appeal but it’s too bad it’s not that great and revolutionary on paper…

Back in 2004 -what a year!- South Park released an episode about people from the future who travel back over 1000 years looking for work. It’s was a thinly veiled allegory for Mexican immigration, with the residents happy to hire the time immigrants to perform household tasks at cheap rates until their own jobs are taken away. Was it the inspiration? The creators will probably never say. In 2017, the topic of immigration is still huge around the world, between Donald Trump who wants to build a wall and refugees who drown in the mediterranean sea. The Crossing couldn’t be more timely. And that’s probably the most important reason why ABC ordered the pilot in the first place. And the most important reason why I’m a bit sad it’s not as good as I wanted it to be. The opening scene looks impressive and is kind of a shock: a hundred of people at least struggling, drowning deep beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, some of them swimming towards the light, towards life. And I’d say it stays good and gripping for about 30 pages. But then I got a little bit bored and I thought to myself that it looked exactly like the kind of high-concept series that automatically bombed sooner or later for the past decade. Except Lost.

I have two main concerns, even three: I don’t feel like the concept can sustain very long and we’re not given enough reasons to believe there’s a rich mythology behind; I’m not very keen on the characters’ initial portrayals, they sound cliché and bland; and I can’t imagine Steve Zahn & Sandrine Holt as the new Matthew Fox & Evangeline Lilly. I mean… This cast is one of the less attractive ABC assembled this year. I know Steve Zahn was one of the most sough-after actor of pilot season -dunno why- but Sandrine Holt seems to be a second thought, and all the others are unknown. Not sure they’re charismatic enough. I’d like to be proven wrong though. Not that they are asked a lot either. Zahn could add humor to his character that lacks it on paper. He plays a boy next door sheriff with a mysterious past, who has a child to take care of since his divorce. Holt is a federal customs agent who is all business. Heavily skeptical of the refugees’ story and the concept of time travel, she nonetheless is sympathetic enough to find the truth since she’s an immigrant herself. From the secondary characters, none really stand out at this point.

But let’s go back to the concept, which is ambitious when you’re pitching it but doesn’t seem to be that much once the dust settles. Time travel is not something that worked this year (Timeless, Time After Time and Making History are all flops at various degrees) and conspiracies are always hard to keep interesting for multiple seasons. They start big and they tend to get too complicated progressively until viewers lose interest and disappear. What’s interesting though, it’s that everything the refugees say about their journey and their past life -not much actually- isn’t illustrated with images. Meaning they could totally be lying to the authorities. We’re never quite sure they are good people, or if their intentions are good. It’s frustrating and confusing but the uncertainty gives a reason to stay a little bit longer. This plus the cliffhanger that does the job it’s asked for. In the end, you’re left with the feeling that you’ve already watched that show before. Maybe it was The 4400 or V or Invasion. Replace the word “refugees” with “aliens” and you get the picture.

The Crossing is not strong and ambitious enough to be granted the right to think of itself as a possible successor to Lost. It’s timely and entertaining, family-friendly and somewhat appealing, but it doesn’t look like a game-changer for ABC. More like an honest little show that will get lost in the ratings rather sooner than later and that will ultimately drown.

The Trustee (ABC) pilot preview: Cagney & Lacey New Generation

Written and produced by Jay Scherick & David Ronn (The Smurfs 1 & 2, Zookeeper, Spin City). Directed by Michael Engler (Notorious, The Big C, 30 Rock, Party of Five). Executive produced by Elizabeth Banks (Pitch Perfect) & Max Handelman. From Warner Bros. Television & Brownstone Productions. 63 pages. 01/25/17.

Description:  Eliza Radley, a driven but stubborn detective, finds unlikely help from her precinct’s trustee, Amanda Jones, a larger than life ex-con finishing out her prison sentence doing menial tasks for the police department. Though these two have completely opposing views on crime and punishment, a highly entertaining and successful partnership is born to clean the streets of San Francisco… and basically help each other through life!

With Meaghan Rath (Being Human US, Cooper Barrett’s Guide to Surviving Life, Banshee), Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black, Doubt), Michael Cudlitz (SouthLAnd, The Walking Dead), Lance Gross (Sleepy Hollow, House of Payne), David Warshofsky, Berto Colon (Orange is the New Black), Tim Kang (The Mentalist), L. Scott Caldwell (Lost, How to Get Away With Murder)…

  

You’ll like it if you already like: Lethal Weapon, Starsky & Hutch, Cagney & Lacey

Likely timeslot: Monday at 10 or Wednsday at 10

Pilot season is more than just excitement, hope, fear and disappointment. It’s also about… mathematics. Let me do the maths for you. ABC picked-up 11 drama pilots. 7 of them are produced by ABC Studios. Meaning 4 of them are not produced in-house. 2 are from Sony Pictures Television (Doomsday and The Good Doctor) and 2 are from Warner Bros. Television (Deception and The Trustee). Historically, Warner Bros. Television refuses to co-produce. Sony Television accepts it, but not always. Last year, ABC ordered to series 1 Warner Bros. Television-produced project (Time After Time) and one Sony Television-produced show (Notorious), that ABC Studios joined as co-producer. What’s gonna happen this year? They will presumably take one of each again. Unless there’s a surprise. But if there’s one, it will come from Sony, not Warner, because of the co-production thing. Why am I telling you all this? Because Deception and The Trustee are naturally pit against each other this pilot season and it’s a shame. ABC could use both in those troubled times. I feel like Deception has the upper-hand for many reasons (read the preview HERE) but The Trustee shouldn’t be counted out of the race yet.

The truth is, The Trustee would have been a perfect match for FOX to put it with Lethal Weapon. Both are buddy cop dramedies that do a really great job at making you laugh and have some fun during 42 precious minutes of your time. This is not an easy achievement. And network television definitely need more of those. On ABC, it’s a show harder to envision and to schedule but having two women as leads certainly help. And the fact that both are black with one being a transgender woman makes it an important show suddenly. It would be the first time ever that a transgender woman would play a (co)lead on a TV show. It’s amazing. Just for the symbol, I very much want The Trustee to be ordered to series and be treated as what it is: a stepping stone. Is it a deserving contender? I’ll get to it in a moment, don’t worry. Let’s just take a minute to admire ABC for what they’re trying to do here. They tested a lot of actresses and they went for Laverne Cox as soon as she got available (when CBS pulled the plug on Doubt). One important information: she’s NOT playing a transgender woman here (as of now at least). Which is another step in the right direction. Okay, she’s playing another ex-con, wearing the orange jumpsuit like in Orange is the New Black. But it’s too soon to talk about typecasting, right?

The Trustee pilot script is flawed in my opinion and probably not as efficient as Lethal Weapon‘s was but they don’t exactly work the same way and well… The Trustee is not based on a proven feature film hit franchise. There’s more groundwork to do and an entire world to build. Buddy cop shows were very popular in the 70s & the 80s on TV before cinema took a stab at it. The tropes are there, which is not a bad thing. People need to feel comfortable, especially since they already have to accept that they’re not watching two males but two ballsy females. We’re in 2017, it shouldn’t be a problem in theory, but I can’t find recent examples. There was Cagney & Lacey between 1981 and 1988 and nothing successful -or even tried to be honest- before Rizzoli & Isles… in 2010 and which just ended. And it was not exactly a buddy cop show. Anyway. You see. So yeah, it starts and ends with a car chase (a Lincoln Sedan if you really want to know). There are cartoonish very bad guys (who trade Guatemalan girls for money). There are lazy and mysogynistic cops… Everything you’d expect with this genre but with a modern feel.

Does the duet work? Yes it does, really. And that’s the most important thing. They don’t exactly follow the usual distinct formula with one straight-laced stickler for protocol and one unpredictable loose cannon since they kinda are both loose cannons but not in the same way. On one hand, Eliza Radley is fearless and stubborn and has unorthodox methods. Just the fact that she decides to use Amanda, who’s not a detective AT ALL, in a mission proves it. And she has a complicated personal life since her partner and lover died. She has a fuck buddy though, who’s not very happy with the situation. On the other hand, Amanda is a high energy woman who knows everything about the street and conning people, that’s how she ended up in prison. She’s horny as hell now that she’s out. Her mother died when she was young, her troubled sister and her were raised by their grandmother. Both are lonely and they’ll clearly become friends rather sooner than later. There’s a welcome poignancy added to the mix through their backgrounds. At the end of the pilot, we can only root for them. We want more of their amazing partnership. We want them to catch the bad guys and kick their asses. It’s as simple as that. Chemistry between the leads will be the key.

The Trustee works as a nice a ride in The streets of San Francisco, between Starsky & Hutch and Cagney & Lacey new generation. You don’t really care about the investigation as long as you’re having fun. And you do. It’s not earth-shattering in any way but it definitely shakes things up in the buddy cop genre show, making it more modern, diverse and feminist. Trust me.

The Good Doctor (ABC) pilot preview: Meet House’s spiritual prodigal son

Written and produced by David Shore (House, Sneaky Pete, Law & Order). Based on Park Jae-bum’s South Korean series Goot Dakteo. Excutive produced by Daniel Dae Kim (Lost, Hawaii 5-0), Erin Gunn (Battle Creek, Houdini and Doyle), Lindsay GoffmanSebastian Dong Hun Lee (Dramaworld) & David Kim. Directed by Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses, Baywatch, The Goldbergs, Sneaky Pete). For Sony Pictures Television, Shore Z & 3 AD. 62 pages. 3rd Network Draft. 1/13/17.

Description: Shaun Murphy, a young autistic surgeon with Savant syndrome, is recruited into the pediatric surgical unit of a prestigious hospital in Santa Fe. Although he has the mentality of a 10 year old, he has the amazing ability of 3D visualisation of the human anatomy and the memory of everything he reads. But can a person who doesn’t have the ability to relate to people actually save their lives and be considered as a “good doctor”? Shaun has six months to prove it…

With Freddie Highmore (Bates Motel, August Rush, Arthur & the Invisibles, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Antonia Thomas (Misfits, Lovesick), Nicholas Gonzalez (Pretty Little Liars, Sleepy Hollow, Melrose Place 2009, Resurrection Blvd.), Hill Harper (CSI New York, Limitless, Homeland, Covert Affairs), Richard Schiff (The West Wing, The Affair), Beau Garrett (Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce), Irene Keng (Harry’s Law), Chuku Modu (Snatch)…

 

   

You’ll like if you already like: House, Grey’s Anatomy, Code Black…

Likely timeslot: Monday at 10, Wednesday at 10 or Sunday at 9.

 

I have to be perfectly honest, I considered The Good Doctor as a weak contender and a low priority for a spot in ABC’s schedule next year for four main reasons: 1/ Because of this uninspired and so generic title (we already have The Good Fight & The Good Place by the way) 2/ Because it’s the adaptation of a Korean hit (I have nothing against Korean series but they’re not appealing to me at all) 3/ Because of the concept, that seems standard and tired (he’s a genius but he’s really bad with people) 4/ Because I tend to think ABC doesn’t need any new medical drama as long as Grey’s Anatomy is alive and well (and it is). But that was before Freddie Highmore got cast in the lead role and before I read the script, that really took me by surprise and moved me more than I could have imagined. Now, I feel like there could be a hit hiding in there. On paper, it looks like one. What will it take to become one? As always: a good timeslot, an efficient promotion and a bit of luck.

I was expecting a “medical dramedy soap” but it turned out The Good Doctor is a real medical drama. It has soap elements, it’s true, though ABC seems to have tone them down in their version compared to the Korean one. They changed the end for example, that probably looked inapropriate. Shaun and one of his female colleagues were getting very close, already. Too soon! They’ll get there at some point of course, but they have time (especially if they’re looking for 22-episode seasons). But to give us a Grey’s Anatomy feel anyway, there’s a scene where two characters are making out in the room where the residents are supposed to take a nap, not fuck. Allergics to Shondaland, fear not: it’s not the kind of show where everybody is sleeping around. It has comedic elements too but nothing that will make you laugh out loud. They’re not agressively looking for big funny moments. It’s more subtle than that. A few lines, some situations. A fine balance to make it not too heavy. Because heavy it is, most of the time.

If you’re looking for a “real” medical drama, The Good Doctor is for you. Writer David Shore knows his subject, his 8 seasons of House certainly helped, though he’s a former lawyer, not a former doctor. And it shows. Medicine is raw in the show. The first case involves a little boy who gets hit by a huge glass-covered commercial sign that falls on him at the airport. Shaun happens to be there and does his best to save him while the crowd is watching him. Remember he’s autistic. It’s a double challenge for him. He has no tools and no help. It’s an action-packed and intense teaser that will leave you breathless and begging for more. Medicine is nerdy too in the show. Of course, Shaun is kind of a nerd because of his condition and “savant syndrom” (which is a real thing in case you’re wondering). But Shore has also decided to add something that is not in the original show apparently, what he calls “pop-up medecine”. It’s a card that appears on the screen which is an image from Shaun’s memory. It’s here to provide us information about his current medical though-processes. I’m not totally sold on the idea, I’m not sure it’s necessary, but why not? As long as it doesn’t scare people off… After all, it worked on House with the human body’s 3D internal views.

But let’s get to the best part: the characters. That’s how you recognize a good series. What can be more important than that? They don’t all get the same amount of screentime and they don’t all get to show their potential but they really work as a group and they all have their “moment”. Shaun, as the central character, is in most of the scenes, almost everything revolves around him and his arrival in the hopistal -which doesn’t make everyone happy in the board- but it’s still an ensemble show. There are poignant flashbacks about our awkward but so touching hero during his childhood with his family that are deeply emotional and could leave you in tears. I’m pretty sure Freddie Highmore can do that. He is really talented, as he proved constantly in Bates Motel. To sum up: his father was violent, his mother abandoned him and his brother is no longer with him. Shaun makes a beautiful speech towards the end of the pilot that is heartbreaking. Plus, he forged a special relationship with the president of the hospital, Dr Ira Glassman, the one who helped him get the job, that goes way way back. It’s some kind of mentor for him and those two together should make great television. Remember House and Wilson. Or Cristina and Burke. Or Meredith and Richard. He also has a special connection with Claire Browne, another brilliant young doctor, and there’s a lot of potential there too. Shaun quickly finds his nemesis, Dr. Neil Melendez, the boss of the surgical residents at the hospital. This part comes off as a little forced though, but you will want more anyway.

There’s an urgency and an intensity in The Good Doctor that makes it an efficient and appealing medical drama. It doesn’t really revolutionize the genre but it keeps it fresh and straight-forward. What makes it distinctive is its unlikely hero and all the emotions that he makes you feel just by being him. Can ABC resist to a show they can heavily advertise as “the next great medical drama brought to you by the creator of House“? I don’t think so.

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

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

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

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

  

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

Likely timeslot: Tuesday at 10, summer spot…

 

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

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

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

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

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