Tag: abc

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

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

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

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

 

   

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

Likely timeslot: Monday at 10.

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

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

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

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

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

Unit Zero (ABC) pilot preview: Revenge of the badass lady nerds

Written and produced by Lindsey Shockley (Blackish, Benched, Trophy Wife). Executive produced by Kenya Barris (Blackish, The Game) & Toni Collette. Directed by David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, Vince Principals, Kenny Powers). 59 pages. Network 3rd Revised Draft 1/29/17. For ABC Studios.

Description: Jackie Fink, an unassuming CIA engineer and single mom, is chosen to be the leader of a team of CIA underlings who are thrust into the field as first time spies. Each week, this team of zeroes races against the clock to gather intelligence and solve cases of national security. And they succeed partly because no one in their right mind would ever suspect they were spies. Overlooked in the workplace, their invisibility makes them perfect for the most covert missions…

With Toni Collette (Hostages, United States of Tara, Little Miss Sunshine, Muriel’s Wedding), Rob Huebel (Children’s Hospital, Transparent), Kimberly Hébert Gregory (Vice Principals, Devious Maids), Peter Cambor (NCIS Los Angeles, Roadies, Grace and Frankie), Dana Powell (Modern Family, Suburgatory)…

 

   

You’ll like it if you already like: Kingsman, Agent Carter, Scorpion, Quantico… 

Likely timeslot: Sunday at 8 or 9; Tuesday at 10; Wenesday at 10

 

Writer and producer Kenya Barris -who co-created America’s Next Top Model back in the day- is on fire! His comedy Blackish is winning major awards, his comedy pilot Libby & Malcolm starring Felicity Huffman & Courtney B. Vance looks like a sure thing for a series order (read the preview here), a Blackish spin-off is in the works (but I don’t think ABC should move forward with it) and now comes Unit Zero, a hour-long dramedy with Toni Collette he executive produces that looks like another winner… even if it’s about losers. Is the alphabet network, where he is under an overall deal, trying to turn him into their comedic Shonda Rhimes? He has found his own style -making political statement and starting a conversation while being funny- and might have two hours of programming next year. That’s a really good start.

At its core, this show is about outsiders, those of us who don’t fit in. It celebrates everything that’s beautiful about being different” said creator Lindsey Shockley about Unit Zero when the project was sold to ABC last summer. And she’s not lying. That is exactly why I found this pilot script so refreshing, apart from the fact that you don’t stumble upon a show labeled as an action spy dramedy every day. Those characters are instantly endearing and special, starting with our heroine, Jackie Fink, who just gave birth in her forties. And now she’s stuck with the father, who was just a one-night stand she’s not in love with (yet?). She’s a whip smart nerd with an unsinkable spirit and a beautiful mess. She’s perfect for Toni Collette, who already proved in United States of Tara she’s able to play anything and everything with brilliance.

Then there’s Brianna, her fearless (black) best friend, looks tough but hides a lot of pain inside; Azeema, a young foxy Muslim-American college freshman who’s just starting as an intern in the CIA; Midge, an overweight delightful woman in her late fifties who was an olympic biathlete in her youth; and finally the man of the team, Phineas, a tone deaf genius who’s (not so) secretly in love with Jackie who (not so) secretly doesn’t really care. With its female-fueled cast, Unit Zero pulls back the curtain on what it’s like to be a woman in a historically male-dominated field, showing underrepresented voices. And that’s another reason why it’s unusual and enthusiastic.

This character-based procedural with strong serialized elements doesn’t take itself too seriously, constantly deflecting highly dangerous situations with humor. They’re all very funny in their own way and their world is bigger than life, as are their crazy (unrealistic?) high-tech inventions they test in the field. The action scenes are insan. Jackie slaloming through traffic is something I definitely want to see. Especially since she’s wearing a jet-black punk wig, a leather skirt and combat boots so she can be mistaken for a badass hacker called “Lonelyheart”, dominatrix style, right in the middle of Acapulco with a cartel running behind her car.

Everything moves fast and in style. Think the movie Kingsman (with a lesser budget probably). Music plays an important role with classic energetic hits like “Dancing with Myself” by The Donnas in the opening sequence. The whole point of the pilot is to asemble the team after Jackie made a huge mistake her first day back in the office that could threaten her future in the CIA. They all decide to help her. The rest is history! Despite everything that’s happening, the emotions in there are real and it makes the show very complete.

Unit Zero is a joyful and thrilling ride alongside characters you can only root for who will move you, make you laugh hard and think a little. Suddenly, “action spy dramedy” is a thing, a thing that you’ll like and want. Will it be a hit for ABC? It surely looks like one. 

Bluegrass/Blood Red (ABC) pilot preview: Desperate Cop in soapy smalltown America

Written and produced by Marc Cherry (Desperate Housewives, Devious Maids, The Golden Girls). Also produced by Reba McEntre, Sabrina Wind (Desperate Housewives, Devious Maids, Reba), Mindy Schultheis & Michael Hanel (Malibu Country, Reba, Rita Rocks). Directed by Michael Offer (How to Get Away With Murder, Longmire). 54 Pages. 2nd revised network draft (01/05/17). For ABC Studios, Cherry-Wind Productions & Acme Productions.

Description: Ruby Adair, the sheriff of colorful small town Oxblood, Kentucky, finds her red state outlook challenged when Tag Fayad, a young FBI special agent of Middle Eastern descent is sent to help her solve a horrific crime that happened during the 4th of July parade. Together they form an uneasy alliance as Ruby takes Tag behind the lace curtains of this southern gothic community to meet an assortment of bizarre characters, each with a secret of their own…

With Reba McEntire (Reba, Malibu Country, Tremors), Jack Coleman (Heroes, Scandal, The Office, Dynasty), Amanda Detmer (What About Brian, Private Practice), Ryan McPartlin (Chuck, Devious Maids), Ben Esler (Hell On Weels), Emily Rose (Haven, ER, Graceland), Natalie Hall (Star-Crossed, All My Children), Saidah Ekulona (Impastor)…

   

You’ll like it if you already like: Desperate Housewives, Devious Maids, True Blood

Likely timeslot: Sunday at 9 (the old Desperate Housewives slot) or Monday at 10 (right after old-skewing Dancing With the Stars).

 

Desperate situations call for desperate measures. And in their drama department, ABC is in a desperate situation. They found no new hit this season, except Designated Survivor that is doing okay, while older dramas that are not Grey’s Anatomy are dying. So they asked Marc Cherry, one of their last hit maker, responsible for the rise and fall of the iconic Desperate Housewives, to give them something. Anything. And here we are.

I am thrilled to be coming back home to ABC. What makes it all the sweeter is Reba McEntire is coming with me. And we can’t wait to share with our fans this wonderful Southern Gothic soap opera we’ve been cooking up for them” Cherry said in an official statement. I find it amusing that he considers having fans of his own. Reba McEntire has fans. Of course, she’s a legendary country music star (who wants to be an actress too for some reason). But Marc Cherry? I’m not sure. I mean, there are fans of Desperate Housewives all over the world. There must have fans of Devious Maids too. I am one of them. Don’t judge me. But fans of him? Anyway. It’s just PR after all. So, will those said fans be happy with his new project? Possibly. But not as much as they would have anticipated I’m afraid.

The first question I ask myself when I’m finished reading a pilot script from a renowned writer is not was it good or not but would it have been picked-up if it was not written by this particular talent that has a value for obvious marketing reasons (“from the writer that brought you Desperate Housewives“)? In this case, Marc Cherry has such a special voice that there is no doubt it’s him and there is no doubt it would have been picked up even written by someone else or written by a young and unproven Marc Cherry. Even though it’s clearly not his best work, it’s exactly what ABC needs: something heavily serialized but with a crime and an investigation at the center since there’s still a craving for this kind of shows; something fun and soapy, but not too dark since ABC had too many of those the past few years; and finally something that has the potential to stay on the air for years to come since you know, it’s a business.

Plus, it is believed to be part of the network’s push for more programming that reflects Middle America. On this, I’m not really sold. Yes, it is set in the traditionally Republican state of Kentucky -as both Marc Cherry and Reba McEntire are proud Republicans- but those people living in Oxblood are way too quirky for real americans to recognize themselves in them, apart, maybe, in our heroine and her family. For example, there’s the character of Miss Bo. She will probably be the funniest part of the show. But she runs the local brothel with “the ugliest whores in Kentucky”. I don’t think my mother or yours will recognize themselves in her. Except if your mother is “a Madam”. And that’s okay. I’m also thinking about the Winemiller sisters, black and colorful church ladies. They run a Bed & Breakfast and they talk a lot. Often at the same time. Not your regular neighbours. But anyway, that’s where the fun is. That’s Marc Cherry at his best. Bitchy comments, dialogues to die for. He still got it, my friends. If they find the right cast, magic will happen.

In case you’re wondering, Cherry isn’t offering here a celebration of Donald Trump and his digusting ideas, especially about immigration. But I had my doubts while I was reading the teaser. A brown-skinned woman that is supposed to be a terrorist after she plowed into crowd during a 4th of July parade, killing people (it reminded me of the Nice attack during Bastille Day last summer, which was probably his inspiration)… a detective who is described (in bold letters) as “Middle eastern decent”… but without revealing too much, it’s not what you think. It’s about looking beyond the appearrances for both the townspeople and the stranger coming to town. Like Cherry did with Desperate Housewives and even a bit with Devious Maids: there are no good or bad people in the end, there are only crazy people. It’s not life, it’s soap. And it’s not deep but it’s irreverent.

What I’m less fond of in the show is the investigation part. It’s not used as a distraction from time to time. It’s at the center of it all. And it’s Marc Cherry. The ones in Desperate Housewives were always kinda ridiculous. I’m afraid it’s still the case. It’s not yet, but it could become quickly. Especially if there are planning 22-episode seasons. Just don’t expect The Killing. Thankfully, the dynamic between Ruby and Tag looks different than what we’re used to. It’s not about them falling in love in the near future. She’s 55 (Reba is 61 but she has a “good” surgeon). He’s in his thirties. Well, it would be bold to make them fall in love but I don’t feel like it’s in the cards. It’s more of a mother/son relationship and I don’t recall such a duet in crime dramas. She’s a tough woman with a temper (who has every reason to be angry – her ex-husband Deke is now married to her ex-best friend, plus her junkie daughter left, leaving her 7 year-old son behind); he’s a sex-addict and rude and vegan FBI agent who doesn’t believe in love, monogamy or marriage. Definitely an interesting pair.

I don’t know if it’s because Twin Peaks is coming back or because networks suddenly remembered that America is not only made of big overcrowded cities, but quirky little towns are back in the game this year (Riverdale is another example) and the Marc Cherry Project is apparently ABC’s way of saying: “Middle America, we heard you. Let’s have some fun together!”. Fun, there is. It’s an exciting soap a little more grounded than usual mixed with a crime drama, that has enough potential to be considered as a frontrunner in this pilot season. It isn’t revolutionnary. It won’t be a game-changer show for the network but it could turn into a solid performer that will primarily resonate with older viewers (it lacks teenager/ young adult characters so far). 

PILOT WHISPERER: New edition #PilotSeason

First published on December, 07

2017 pilot season officially started yesterday when ABC ordered political comedy pilot Libby & Malcolm starring Felicity Huffman and Courtney B. Vance as we reported 3 weeks ago. Other comedies are nearing pilot orders while deals are being worked out.

 

At ABC, the next one on the list is Rapper Mayor / Untitled City Mayor Project, that could be descrided as a comedic version of hit Designated Survivor. It is about Courtney Rose, a talented but struggling hip-hop artist, who 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… It’s created by Jeremy Bronson, writer and producer on The Mindy Project and Speechless, and produced by Jamie Tarses (Happy Endings) for ABC Studios. The casting for the leading man is underway. PICKED-UP

The multicamera comedy project Documenting Love, sort of a Mad About You new generation has a pilot production commitment, as well as thriller drama Doomsday from Sony Pictures Television about 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. PICKED-UP  DTLA, about a celebrity choreographer who must fight to protect her status, family, business and secrets, is heating up. The Untitled Marc Cherry drama with Reba McEntire is already ordered to pilot.

Comedy Start Up starring Zach Braff is inching closer to a pick-up PICKED-UP, as well as Splitting Up Together produced by Ellen De Generes  PICKED-UP and Charlie Foxtrot from Aaron Kaplan PICKED-UP. A not-yet-announced project starring basketball player Jalen Rose, Jalen vs Everybody, and written by Nahnatchka Khan, is heating up. PICKED-UP

 

At CBS, the Untitled Chris Distefano Hybrid Comedy Project is heating up. Written and produced by How I Met Your Mother creators Carter Bays & Craig Thomas. Inspired by comedian Chris Distefano’s life story, the hybrid project is centered on Izzy and Chris, two 20-somethings who are raising their newborn daughter and merging their loud families – one Puerto Rican, one Italian… PICKED-UP

Me, Myself and I is also on the map. The single-camera comedy which examines one man’s life over a 50-year span, somewhat in the vein of movie Boyhood, has a put pilot. PICKED-UP And of course, the order for The Big Bang Theory spin-off Sheldon is just a formality. UPDATE: World Wide Webbs, a comedy about a family who became rich and famous thank to their daily video blogs, is on tracks for an order.

On the drama side, quirky cop show Magnolia Springs about a sheriff and his teenage son solving crimes in a small city is gearing up towards a pick-up, casting is underway. Firewall, a new procedural from Mentalist creator, is also hot. Luc Besson’s Hunch, about a LAPD detective who begrudgingly teams up with a celebrity psychic who, unfortunately, is also his ex-wife, should get the nod soon; as well as Justin Lin’s SWAT,  a reboot of the 1970s series billed as an intense, action-packed procedural following an African-American SWAT lieutenant torn between loyalty to the streets and duty to his fellow officers. PICKED-UP

 

At NBC, while Amy Poehler’s off-cyle pilot The Baby starring Seann William Scott will shoot in a few days, the Untitled Kourtney Kang Comedy produced by Fresh Off The Boat creator Nahnatchka Khan is red hot. It explores what it’s like to grow up as the only girl in the only mixed race family in the suburbs of Philadelphia, dealing with real-world issues like race and gender while never losing focus of her life goal… to become a Laker Girl like her idol, Paula Abdul. PICKED-UP

In the drama department, the peacock has medical drama Salvation directed by Paul Haggis awaiting green light. It is billed as the first real-time hospital “extreme event” show, capturing the life-and-death choices nurses, PA’s and other front-line caregivers make as they struggle to provide care and triage. PICKED-UP Legal drama Blood Defense, based on Marcia Clark’s book about a relentless criminal attorney, is red hot for a pick-up, as well as Family Honor, from Matt Reeves, a police procedural told through the eyes of four diverse foster sisters. The Last Policeman is close to a pick-up. It follows a detective in New Hampshire during the final years of civilization as a catastrophe-level asteroid hurtles toward the planet. Heavy serialized legal drama Flight Risk from John Wells is also considered. Drama High, an high-school drama with musical elements written and produced by Jason Katims (Parenthood) with Hamilton producers Jeffrey Seller & Flody Suarez is red hot. PICKED-UP Last drama pilot order at NBC should go to Redliners, adapted from Charlaine Harris’ short stories, that mixes romance and espionnage about a pair of former spies living in suburbia who are reactivated when a failed hit on one of them leaves the assassin dead. PICKED-UP

 

At FOX, DC’s Black Lightning is almost a done deal PICKED-UP AT THE CW, as is Matt Nix’s untitled family superhero drama at Marvel in the X-Men Universe PICKED-UP. The network is just waiting for the final pilot script. Dr House creator David Shore could be back at FOX with an untitled project about a professional spy who teams up with an enterprising civilian to solve cases here and abroad. Control, by Westworld creators Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joyce, is heating up.

Comedy Thin Ice from New Girl creator is already ordered to pilot. Other comedy heating up is Turned On, directed by Paul Feig, about a brilliant but awkward engineer who creates an android who spirals out of control… The Untitled Wresting Comedy produced by Dwayne Johnson, Will Ferrell & Adam McKay, is also very much on the map.

 

At The CW the Charmed reboot seems to be a priority. Searchers pilot from The 100 creator Jason Rothenberg & Greg Berlanti is a sure thing, with a shooting expected to take place in South Africa. PICKED-UP Transience produced by Ian Somerhalder, is heating up, as well as LA Demonic for Warner Bros.

 

More to come…

Libby & Malcolm (ABC) pilot preview: Give it the “Best Comedy” Emmy Award already!

Written and produced by Kenya Barris (Blackish, The Game, Are we there yet?) & Vijal Patel (Blackish, The Middle). Also produced by Felicity Huffman & E. Brian Dobbins (The Sea of Trees). 37 pages. Network draft 11/28/16. For ABC Studios, Principato-Young Entertainment &  Khalabo Ink Society.

Description: 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 (Desperate Housewives, American Crime, Sports Night, Transamerica), Courtney B. Vance (American Crime Story, Law & Order Criminal Intent, Flashforward, 12 Angry Men), Gary Cole (The Good Wife, Veep, The West Wing), James Lesure (Las Vegas, Men at Work, Liptstick Jungle), Caitlin McGee, Monique Green, Sayeed Shahidi (Uncle Buck), Jahi Di’allo Winston

     

You’ll like it if you already like: Modern Family, Blackish, Veep

Likely timeslot: wednesday, 9.30 after Modern Family.


Libby & Malcolm
was the first official order for the 2017 broadcast pilot season, it is the first script review I’m writing this year and it is undoubtedly the best comedy script in years! No surprise there was a bidding war among the networks to get it, especially with Felicity Huffman attached to star. And there was no better place for it than ABC quite frankly. It is the perfect combination between your regular family comedy with smart and hilarious parents and kids in the same vein as Modern Family and other ABC hits, your workplace comedy set behind the scenes of a television show like 30 Rock and your spicy political comedy that takes a very real look at how today’s “politics of division” play out. It couldn’t be more topical after the election of Donald Trump. It is the right comedy in the right place at the right time. And it’s already an Emmy Award contender for best comedy, best actress in a comedy and best actor in a comedy!

What’s brilliant with this show in the first place is how much it exists in the real world, the one we’re all living in, and in the now. At the beginning, there are images of glaciers collapsing, Syria, abandoned Detroit houses, cop shootings… Yeah yeah, it’s a comedy but it doesn’t shy away from the important topics and the real politics. It’s about the current and the future administration. Obama takes hits. Trump takes hits. Voters themselves take hits. And it’s not just about America. It’s about the whole world. It should resonate everywhere. What they experience over there is what we experience over here, and there and there. And it’s not boring. Fear not!

On the contrary. It’s funny all the time. It’s always sharp and clever. Tasteful. It can be ferocious too. Those two can get pretty nasty. You laugh and you think, and you think about why you’re laughing, maybe you even laugh about what you’re thinking. It creates debate. It places ideas at the center of it all. For example, during Libby & Malcolm talk show, there’s a led board of a light square hopping around various hot button issues, from very serious ones -LGBT rights, recycling- to lighter ones -sports team names- then they have to talk about the topic chosen with their guest, who’s Jon Hamm in the pilot (and yes, there’s a joke about his scrotch!). It’s very efficient and should be used as a gimmick in every episode. It will help the show stay relevant and close to reality. We also meet their producer, Randal Martin, a 60-year old complete narcissist, possibly racist, whose every line is hilarious; and Zev, their assistant, a techno journalist in her thirties who must be a lesbian according to Randal because she has a short hair cut. They’re all very promising. The pilot is filled with other guests (maybe a bit a too many?) like Tom Bergeron, Ryan Seacrest and Bill Maher, playing themselves.

The Black and Wright family is definitely a modern one. Malcolm, confident and cocky, had three children with his deceased wife: MJ, a sweet but neurotic 7 year-old boy, Cassius, 11, smart and cool, and Naya, 14, super-opiniated, “a pitbull” in a skirt, who hates Libby. Libby is their white step mom, a bright, beautiful, and bossy woman, who was already married once. Libby and Malcolm met not that long ago, they hated each other before falling in love and they decided to marry and live together very quickly. Now they are doing their best to be good parents while they are in the spotlight. Felicity Huffman & Courtney B. Vance will probably make a great couple. And Huffman has literally chemistry with everyone -that’s how good she is- so there is no doubt about it. They have plenty of top-notch dialogues to help them do so, and even some “walk and talk” scenes, made popular by The West Wing. And in case you’re wondering, there are also very sweet moments with the kids towards the end, the kind that can make you cry juste like that. Yes, there’s eveything we could hope for in this pilot. Everything!

In the end, 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.

ABC’s 25 most exciting projects for 2017/2018 pilot season

The following article is based on descriptions mixed wih talents attached ONLY. None of the scripts have been read at this point. 

 

ABC’S NEEDS FOR NEXT SEASON

  • One big family soap, preferably produced in-house.
  • One police procedural show, preferably produced in-house and preferably in ABC’s wheelhouse: heavy serialized.
  • At least one ambitious and buzzworthy thriller and/or fantasy series.
  • New comedies that differ slightly from their successful family brand to diversify the offer.
  • More synergy with Disney-owned properties (Marvel, Lucas Films…)

ABC is in a very dark place this year while new president Channing Dungey, the first African American woman to head a broadcast network ever, is working hard on her first pilot season. She explained recently why the Alphabet was failing the past few years in her opinion “With our dramas, we have a lot of shows that feature very well-to-do, well-educated people, who are driving very nice cars and living in extremely nice places. There is definitely still room for that, and we absolutely want to continue to tell those stories because wish-fulfillment is a critical part of what we do as entertainers. But in recent history we haven’t paid enough attention to some of the true realities of what life is like for everyday Americans in our dramas.” We’ll see in a few weeks if her pilot pick-ups reflect that vision but in my opinion, they should not forget people tend to watch what doesn’t remind them their (sad) daily life too much…

Despite a smart fall schedule, ratings have plunged. Both new procedural drama entries Conviction & Notorious have failed big time. They were not very good shows and they didn’t add anything new and distinctive to the network. The second season of Secrets & Lies -which was supposed to start last year- came way too late and wasn’t able to bring the attention of viewers. In the meantime, ABC left Quantico in the 10pm sunday slot. It had to fight alone, a decision that resulted in new lows. But it’s still an important asset for them so they will finally try to save it by putting it behind The Bachelor come midseason. Too little too late? Once Upon A Time is dying but could live one more year since ABC won’t be able to launch too many new shows at the same time next fall. Agents of SHIELD is dying too and does for quite some time now. New Marvel show ordered straight-to-series The Inhumans will replace it in the fall but it could still be renewed.

Grey’s Anatomy is still ABC’s number one show. A 14th season is on its way. A 15th probably too. It’s an incredible success. How To Get Away With Murder manages to stay a decent level, which was not easy with Scandal being on a hiatus and Notorious doing horrible numbers right before. Designated Survivor starring Kiefer Sutherland is a hit. Not the biggest hit ABC could have hoped for, but a hit nonetheless. And they have in store a third season for critically-acclaimed American Crime; a miniseries about the evolution of the LGBT movement in the US called When We Rise; an unexpected second year of Shondaland’s The Catch; the new Shondaland drama Still Star-Crossed; and Kevin Williamson’s Time After Time. All are still unscheduled at this time. And none look like a potential big winner…

But ABC has one great reason to be happy: their comedy brand is stronger than ever! New entries American Housewife and Speechless, smartly scheduled behind The Middle & The Goldbergs respectively, found their audience right away. Modern Family is not a monster anymore but does more than okay; Blackish gets decent numbers and receives awards recognition; Fresh Off The Boat maintains itself out of dark waters. The only black sheep is The Real O’Neals, a really good show that struggles for unknown reasons and that will probably get the axe in may to make room for something new. On friday, Last Man Standing and Dr Ken are living their lives peacefully. New comedies Downward Dog and Imaginary Mary are waiting in the wings… As a result, they won’t need many new comedies next year.

DRAMAS

 

CRIMINAL (Warner Bros. Television)

What? after falling prey to a CIA sting, a fast-talking, hedonistic con man and his ragtag team of criminals must complete an ongoing series of missions to clear their names and steal an unknown number of long-forgotten relics that could change the fate of the world…

Why? By the team that brought you Blindspot. Martin Gero is co-creating, Greg Berlanti is co-producing. It’s easy to understand why ABC can be interested in this kind of high-concept serialized procedural show. It’s not really in their DNA, it skews more male than they’re used to, but if it works for NBC -mostly- why wouldn’t it work for them? Maybe they’d need The Voice to achieve the same goal though…

 

DOOMSDAY (Sony Pictures Televison) picked-up

What? starts in the aftermath of 9/11, when 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…

Why? Is this the next Designated Survivor for ABC? It sounds like it, even though it seems a little more complex and ambitious, and doesn’t have a big star attached to it yet. It could be buzzworthy and exciting. It’s from the people who wrote The Jury last year. ABC passed on it but it was worth a try honestly (and they’re redeveloping it). Maybe they’ll get their chance this time around. It’s definitely something the network needs badly.

 

DOWN IN THE VALLEY (TriStar Television)

What? a talented female police officer returns home to Napa Valley to support her struggling family after her troubled sister disappears and leaves her infant daughter in need of care. When she joins the Napa County Sheriff’s Department to make ends meet, she quickly realizes that this posh, bucolic, “small town” paradise now has more than its fair share of big-city problems.

Why? Described as a darkly comedic hourlong crime drama and family soap, this project seems to reunite most of what ABC is looking for: fun, family, middle-America and procedural elements through a woman’s point of view.

 

DRAMA KINGS (Sony Pictures Television)

What? follows four handsome bachelor brothers, all of whom have major issues with women. However, nothing compares to the tumultuous relationship they have with their powerful, manipulative and controlling mother. In addition to meddling with their lives, she’s the owner of a Los Angeles hotspot, a scion in the community, and possibly responsible for the deaths of her last two husbands…

Why? Sounds like a big giant soap like ABC is known for, that could fit perfectly with The Bachelor by the way. It needs to be fun and provocative. They need to the find the right cast too, especially for the mother. The whole success of the show might depend on her. About the men, they don’t need to be famous, as long as they’re all beautiful and very different, from every ethnicity. And one should be gay / in the closet IMHO. Is it too much like Empire, without the music? Maybe. Jordan Budde (Mistresses, GCB) is writing. Peter Tolan (Rescue Me) is producing.

 

GRACE (ABC Studios)

What? about a family of adult siblings whose lives are upended when their stalwart minister father reveals to his family that he is gay…

Why? ABC was the best network in the emotional family drama arena in the 90s & 00s with such shows as Thirtysomething, Once and again, My so-called life, Brothers & Sisters… While This Is Us is a ratings success NBC can be really proud of, the Alphabet needs to take that crown back and Grace looks like the perfect show to do so, with the right cast. Please make it fun too.

 

HYPERION (ABC Studios)

What? top secret drama based on the Disney theme park mythology

Why? With no more details available at this time, it’s hard to tell if they should bet on it. But since synergy is really important for Disney and Once Upon A Time will conclude rather sooner than later, Hyperion looks like a potential substitute. It’s written by Agent Carter creators. It’s kinda reassuring. The show was not a ratings success but deeply appreciated by those who sticked with it.

 

JIGSAW (ABC Studios)

What? Set in suburban Las Vegas, this drama follows the relationships of three sisters, all with different fathers, within’ a blue-collar ‘Jigsaw’ family, that is a family that is pieced together by more than just births, marriages and adoptions.

Why? This Is Us vibe, anyone? The title and the term ‘jigsaw family’ suggests there might be something different in play here, something mysterious whether it’s in the story itself or in the storytelling. Plus, a family drama that takes place in Las Vegas is new. We’re not that often sent to Sin City. It sounds very ABC-like. Sarah Hooper is writing.

 

PATROL (ABC Studios)

What? about four female LAPD officers who attended the police academy together five years ago and are forced to reconnect after a high-stakes, traumatic secret returns to haunt them…

Why? Kerry Washington is producing this one. I’m sad Shonda Rhimes is not involved though. I’m pretty sure she can shake the detective genre and make it her own. Anyway, I’m all in favor of a female-fueled detective show, as long as it’s not a straight procedural and it doesn’t look like it. It’s more in the serialized realm with procedural elements. Maybe too close to Quantico though, if the story is told through two timelines?

 

THE CROSSING (ABC Studios) picked-up

What? revolves around refugees from a war torn country who start showing up seeking asylum in a U.S. city… but the country these people are from is America, and the war they are fleeing is 500 years in the future…

Why? I’m not sure how this very good idea can turn into more than a movie but it’s still a very good one, topical. I mean, in an America where Trump has been elected president and promised to build a wall… MTV’s Scream‘s creators are writing the script, which makes me even more doubtful about the end result. We’ll see.

 

THE MARQUIS (Warner Bros. Television)

What? a sexy and twisted character soap set in the most iconic and exclusive building in Manhattan…

Why? The Melrose Place fan in me can’t overlook this project. And I know Greg Berlanti & Julie Plec, who produce it, were big fans too. I hope they can do something as good and exciting, and twisty and crazy. And absolutely avoid making another 666 Park Avenue with a useless supernatural twist (a genre they love too obviously).

 

THE MOTHER COURT (ABC Studios) picked-up

What? Set in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) Federal Court, aka “The Mother Court,” it follows brand new lawyers working for both the defense and the prosecution as they handle the most high profile and high stakes cases in the country – all as their personal lives intersect.

Why? It screams “Legal Grey’s Anatomy” all over the pitch. And it’s okay. Remember the Shonda Rhimes medical drama is right in the middle of its 13th season. It’s unbelievable! And you know what? This one is produced by Shonda Rhimes too, penned by a Scandal writer. One can only hope it’s as good. As long as it’s different from HTGAWM and it has characters we haven’t already seen a million times before in Shondaland or somewhere else, we’re good to go! The post-Grey’s Anatomy spot is waiting for you.

 

UNIT ZERO (ABC Studios) picked-up

What? a brilliant, but unassuming CIA engineer and single mom, Jackie Fink, is the leader of a team of CIA underlings who are thrust into the field as first time spies. Each week, this team of zeroes races against the clock to gather intelligence and solve cases of national security. And they succeed partly because no one in their right mind would ever suspect they were spies.

Why? The brilliant Toni Collette is set to star as the heroine of the show and it’s reason enough to give it a chance quite frankly. Plus, even though it’s a procedural, it’s billed as a “dramedy” and it relies heavily on the characters. This one could be really fun and ABC needs to be fun again in the drama department after so many heavy serialized shows. It’s from the guy who created Blackish. He knows funny.

 

UNTITLED MARC CHERRY PROJECT (ABC Studios) picked-up

What? after a horrible, suspected act of terrorism happens at a 4th of July parade in the small town of Oxblood, Kentucky, the FBI sends a cocky agent of Middle Eastern descent to investigate. He teams up with the mercurial local Sheriff (McEntire) to uncover secrets far darker than either could have ever imagined…

Why? Created by Marc Cherry, the man who brought us Desperate Housewives & Devious Maids, and starring popular country singer Reba McEntire, this soap described as “southern gothic” might be dark but as long as it’s twisty and funny and has something to say about the state of America right now, it’s an automatic order for me. And since ABC won a bidding war to have it, I’m not afraid: they will order it! They need it.

 

WITNESS 33 (ABC Studios)

What? When thirteen families in witness protection are killed in one day, the head of the program is forced to go on the run. He maintains his innocence as he evades with an obsessive FBI agent in pursuit accross the country. Week to week, he will visit the families he put into witness protection, knowing one of them can unlock the mystery of who framed him…

Why? It screams like a midseason show with no more than 13 episodes per year that doesn’t fit with what ABC is usually doing but which is worth a chance thanks to a pretty solid hook. There’s a procedural element to it that would help along the way to grab new or occasional viewers while keeping the fans satisfied. That’s of course if it’s as entertaining and exciting as it sounds. Adrian Hodges is writing (The Muskeeters, Primeval New World) & Julie Gardner is producing (Doctor Who, Torchwood, Banana, Cucumber).

 

ABC also develops a number of basic procedural shows like a Magnum reboot; Hobbs from Michael Strahan about an NFL player turned cop; John Corey; The Exchange where an American cop teams up with an British one; Homicide Special or NYPD Red. There’s one medical show in development The Good Doctor by Dr House’s creator David Shore. They also have an Enemy of the State adaptation from Jerry Bruckeimer; and more family soaps like House of Moore (redeveloped from last yeat but without Felicity Huffman starring this time); Icon; American Heritage or Women in black (that’d be perfect for summer or… Lifetime), plus an untitled one about a multi-generational Indian American family. Dark thrillers are in the works like Salamander or Head Games produced by Viola Davis.

 

COMEDIES

940 SATURDAYS (Universal Television)

What? There are 940 Saturdays between the day your child is born and the day they turn eighteen. In this single-camera series, three families band together to enjoy… and survive them all.

Why? Eva Longoria is producing. She doesn’t have such a good track record so far through her UnbeliEVAble production shingle based at Universal but at least there’s an original concept here. It really depends on how it plays out. If it’s just a pretext or if they use those 940 Saturdays as an important tool in the storytelling. I’m intruigued though not totally sold yet.

 

CO-LIVING (Sony Pictures Television)

What? a recently-widowed 60-something guy teams up with an entrepreneurial 20-something girl to “monetize” his biggest asset — the single-family brownstone he used to share with his wife — renting out the bedrooms to an eclectic group of housemates. The “sharing economy” just hit home.

Why? As a non-family comedy project, this one seems to be modern and topical. With the right set of characters and actors, I can see it becoming something cool.

 

THE ESCAPE (20th Century FOX Television)

What? about a stressed-out urban professional who uproots himself and his troubled 19-year-old son to move to rural Idaho to live with his father, a retired surgeon with the ruggedness of Indiana Jones

Why? There’s an Everwood vibe that I like a lot, but most of all, it looks sincere and emotional. From the guys (Chris Miller & Phil Lord) who wrote the LEGO movie, 22 Jump StreetThe Last Man On Earth, Son of Zorn, upcoming Making History… Doesn’t look like your classical ABC comedy, might be a problem to fit it in the schedule.

 

HOLY SH*T (ABC Studios)

What? follows the staff of a struggling church and their edgy new pastor (Nick Thune) as they fight to survive in the modern world…

Why? Some sort of office comedy happening in a church? The racy title needs to change but other than that, I think it’s promising.

 

LET’S STAY TOGETHER (ABC Studios)

What? Whether it be for the sake of their family, finances, or friendship, the series will explore three very different but connected couples’ hilarious journeys as they choose to make a go of their marriages for all the right and wrong reasons — because in the end, divorce is so old fashion.

Why? ABC needs to find their new Modern Family and this “connected couples” thingy helps thinking Let’s Stay Together coud be the one. Too soon to tell, of course. Plus, it may be a very tired family comedy in disguise. Once they decide not to divorce, I’m not sure how it can differentiate from the others. But I’m interested. It looks positive, full of hope. And we need that, don’t we?

 

LIBBY & MALCOLM (ABC Studios) picked-up

What?  a very real look at how today’s “politics of division” play out between two opposing pundits who also happen to be married; one’s black, one’s white; one’s left, one’s right. Bitter rivals at work on their pundit show Black & Wright, they have to turn conflict into compromise at home when it comes to raising their kids…

Why? This is my favorite comedy pitch of the year! It’s from Kenya Barris, who also created Blackish and it sounds like something that could be both funny and intelligent, very topical. It even screams Emmy Awards! ABC really wants Felicity Huffman (not that she’s gone, she’s in American Crime but…) and Courtney B. Vance as her partner, looks magical. It could fit with the other ABC comedies while adding something different, something more. This one looks a sure bet. See you next year!

 

MELTING POTTS (ABC Studios)

What? centers on a blended family made up of equal parts Indian, Muslim, Jewish, and New Jersey. It is about a newly married couple struggling against culture, tradition and generations to build their idea of a “normal” American family.

Why? Kerry Washington produces this project and it doesn’t change the fact that this pitch is exciting. Such a comedy is too important to be overlooked in those troubled times, with an America divided, Trump as the president and immigrants being seen as trouble-makers. Shows about one indian family, or one jewish family are great. But mixing them all together looks even greater. We needs this. America needs this. To be great again.

 

RAPPER MAYOR (ABC Studios) picked-up

What? 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.

Why? Is this some kind of Designated Survivor comedic version? Sort of. It deviates from what ABC is doing, sounds more like a NBC or FOX comedy, but it doesn’t make it less attractive. Well done, it could be really fun.

 

TWINSTERS (Sony Pictures Television)

What? the story of identical twins separated at birth, adopted on two different continents and raised completely unaware of each other until they are reunited at age 29…

Why? This pitch could totally be used for a drama instead, and honestly I think it would make a great one. But they chose to make a comedy out of it and I understand why: it’s another version of the “Odd couple” concept that seems more profound than usual. Plus, it’s based on a documentary about a true story. And it’s from David Caspe, who created Happy Endings. It could get very emotional. I’m all for it.

 

THE ZIPCODERS (ABC Studios)

What? a divorced mother of three moves her family to the East Side of Austin, Texas, soon after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., in an effort to be closer to her estranged sister. Once there, her teenage son forms a rock ‘n’ roll band, to the utter bewilderment of friends, family and the community at large.

Why? ABC visits the 80s with The Goldbergs, the 90s with Fresh Off The Boat. Why not going back to the 70s with The Zipcoders? If it’s as good! And the pitch suggests it could be, with a rich historical context and some music. It’s produced by Viola Davis, which could help.

 

UNTITLED CAROL BURNETT COMEDY (Universal Television) picked-up

What? about a family who gets a chance to buy the house of their dreams — a house they’d never be able to afford under normal circumstances, but is able to under extremely abnormal circumstances. They must live with the current owner, an older actress (Burnett) — until she dies.

Why? Carol Burnett + this pitch + the multi-camera format doesn’t suggest it’s gonna feel very modern. But shows like Last Man Standing or Kevin Can Wait prove there’s still an audience for it on network television. Plus, it’s produced by Amy Poehler. If ABC needs something new for their friday slate, I would count on this one first.

 

ABC also has a Goldbergs spin-off about the character of the gym teacher. Well, why not? A Zach Braff comedy Start Up about a guy starting his own business; and a Mindy Kaling-produced project about a liberal lesbian couple.

 

What projects are you the most interested in among these? Take your picks!

 

SEE ALSO :