Tag: archie panjabi

Controversy (FOX) pilot preview: Another lesser American Crime

Written and produced by Sheldon Turner (In The Air, X-Men First Class). Executive produced by Jennifer Klein (Pearl Harbor), Judy Smith (Scandal, Braindead) & Charlie Gogolak (Kyle XY). Directed by John Requa & Glenn Ficarra (This Is Us, Patriot, Bad Santa, Focus, I Love You Phillip Morris). For 20th Century FOX Television, Zaftig Films, Smith & Company & Vendetta Productions. 60 pages. 01/28/17.

Description: The Junior Counsel of a prestigious Illinois university must deal with an out-of-control scandal when a young co-ed accuses several star football players of sexual assault. From the football coaches and boosters who wield outsize influence, to a university administration under siege, the series explores the type of high-profile controversy all-too familiar on today’s college campuses, as well as the corrosive, dangerous nature of institutional power…

With Austin Stowell (Whiplash, Public Morals), Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife, The Fall, Blindspot), Anthony Edwards (ER, Top Gun, Zodiac), Christine Lahti (Chicago Hope, Jack & Bobby, Hawaii 5-0), Erin Moriarty (Jessica Jones, The Kings of Summer), Saycon Sengbloh (Scandal), Vince NappoGriffin Freeman

 

  

You’ll like if you already like: American Crime, American Crime Story, Shots Fired

Likely timeslot: somewhere in midseason

In a few days, FOX will start airing event series Shots Fired, which I’m not a big supporter of, mainly because it’s kind of a rip off of the first season of American Crime without what’s making this show so great and important. It’s a decent attempt to make something compelling and meaningful out of a very hot topic -police shootings- but it’s never brilliant despite its incredible cast. Too soapy probably (You can still read the preview HERE). I’m not sold on Controversy either, for some of the same reasons and a few others. But FOX is certainly hoping Controversy will be their next Shots Fired, if Shots Fired (paired with Empire) becomes successful. It does have a real shot. They share the same respectable ambition. Controversy has not been announced as a miniseries, so they can explore other controversial subjects in subsequent seasons I guess…

This first installment is about college rape, a timely topic that was already tackled on… the second season of American Crime. Brilliantly. With fierceness. Why do FOX keep on following the steps of the ABC series? I’m not sure. But they’ll argue they do it very differently and I can’t say otherwise. Sadly, it’s not as gripping and it doesn’t come out as subtle and intimate. Sometimes, it’s just too spectacular for me. Starting the show with a flashforward then going back to the hours that led to the night of the crime is not a narrative tool that should be used there in my opinion. I understand they want their show to be efficient and as mainstream as possible, but they lose the emotion in the middle of this well-oiled machine. It lacks authenticity for me. And since most of the multiple characters, including the victim, don’t seem to be very reliable and well-meaning persons, I had a hard time connecting with them. But there’s a complexity that suggests it wouldn’t be fair to jump to any conclusions after only one episode. It is obviously thought as a whole and this pilot works more like an introduction to a short season than an episode that wants to give you a promise for months and years to come. And I’m pretty sure FOX will want to air the first two episodes back to back.

The most engaging character here is not the victim (sadly) or the possible culprit(s) but Jourdan Price, a crisis management consultant brought in to help with the scandal. It takes time before she appears but the show really starts with her arrival for me. Knowing that Archie Panjabi would play her certainly helped, I have to admit. What’s interesting is the show is produced by Judy Smith, the real-life top crisis-management consultant who inspired Scandal‘s Olivia Pope. It doesn’t mean Price is also based on Smith, but she did work on a number of high-profile clients, including universities. It’s reassuring. The show may be a faithful depiction of what really happens when such an horrible thing happen on college campuses, way too often apparently. But at the same time, there are soapy and conspirationist elements that show the writer Sheldon Turner is more interested in the twists and turns than in the emotional depth. And that’s a shame. But This Is Us‘ directors in charge of the pilot could add what’s missing in the script.

I’m also very curious to understand why Turner chose to adopt the Junior Counsel of the university’s point of view, which was not the case initially as the first description suggests it was supposed to be Price’s. Matt Kincaid seems to be a white-privileged golden boy, a bit pretentious, the kind of character that is not easy to like in general but who still looks like the usual leading man on a network show. Is it because he’s handsome, great to watch and that’s an easier sell? That may be the reason why and I’d like to be proven wrong. I hope there is more to him than just that and that it’s not a decision taken out of fear to make sure that FOX audience would tune in. I mean… Is there a FOX show with a female lead? Nope…

Is Controversy a quality show or a tepid impersonation of a quality show? I don’t have the answer yet. I just know it’s not a masterpiece but it has the potential to be at least a good entertainment. But one thing’s for sure: FOX will put it on their schedule next year no matter what. It’s not their best shot at a hit but it’s a project that is able to start a conversation on an important matter. They want their American Crime. They want to be in that game. They want awards recognition too. We’ll see if this effort is enough. 

The Jury (ABC) pilot preview: Archie Panjabi, from Kalinda investigator to Kim juror

TheJury

Created by VJ Boyd (Justified, The Player) & Mark Bianculli .Directed by Neil Burger (Limitless, Divergente, Billions, The Illusionnist). Produced by Carol Mendelsohn (CSI, Melrose Place), Julie Weitz, VJ Boyd and Mark Bianculli. For ABC, Sony Pictures Television, ABC Studios & Carol Menselsohn Productions. 62 pages.

Description: follows a single murder trial a season as seen through the eyes of the individual jurors, exploring the biases and experiences that influence the jurors’ judgment, and how their preconceptions change along the way. Season one is about the vicious murder of Victoria Chase, 17, for which classmate Michael Cleary, 18, is being accused of. Now it’s time for Kim Dempsey, Dan Baliss, and the other 10 jurors to find where the truth lies and decide whether he is guilty or not…

With Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife, The Fall), Jeremy Sisto (Suburgatory, Law & Order, Six Feet Under), Adina Porter (The 100, True Blood), Eve Harlow (The 100, Heroes Reborn), Brandon Jay McLaren (The killing US, Graceland, Falling Skies), Kevin Rankin (Friday Night Lights, Unforgettable, Breaking Bad), JD Pardo (Revolution, The Messengers), Nikki DeLoach (Awkward), Hina Abdullah, Ben Esler (Hell On Wheels), Brian Howe, Jayne Taini (Ray Donovan)…

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Most of you probably already know about the departure of ABC’s president Paul Lee, replaced by fellow number 2 Channing Dungey. He did a great job at the alphabet from 2010 to 2015, building an excellent line-up of family comedies, a slew of solid dramas, the Shondaland’s TGIT brand while pushing for diversity before anyone else, leading to a real trend that is now followed by every other network. What he also did, and that’s where he must be thanked for even though it drove him to ruin, was giving a chance to bold projects like American Crime, The NeighborsGalavant, Agent Carter, The Family, in an attempt to reduce the gap between network television and cable/streaming platforms’ shows. Sadly, numbers were dreadful for most of them and he refused to give up. Now he’s gone but he’s still reponsible for the projects developed for the past few months and this pilot season’s pick-ups. And The Jury is, I’m afraid, exactly the type of ambitious series Paul Lee tried to impose for years with no success. Why would this one work where all the others failed? At least, the incredible popularity of the Serial podcast or the documentary series Making a Murderer make The Jury trendy.

The pilot works a bit like a conceptual episode of soon gone The Good Wife, only told from the jury’s perspective. Except it’s not a one-shot but the whole concept of the show. It even starts like a lot of episodes of The Good Wife with a video took from a phone broadcasted in front of the jurors, one where the not yet dead victim is sadistically aussaulted by a group of cruel teenagers -friends?- in the woods, only to discover in the end of the sequence that she’s consenting, it’s roleplay. But she died a few hours later nonetheless. Glaucous, isn’t it? The prosecutors in the story are not that important. They do their job when we’re in the middle of a courtroom scene -and there are a few- but their speeches are pretty harmless. What the writers are focused on is the 12 jurors we meet along the way. 12 it’s the law but it’s a lot for a TV show. It takes time to learn their first names and understand who they are in a nutshell. They try to avoid caricatures but they don’t always succeed. You have the nerdy IT guy, the southern material belle, the angry old lady, the hipster artist, the middle-class working mom… The goal now is to deepen the characters since, as I understand it, every episode will be centered on one of them through flashbacks from their personal life, explaining how the case reflects upon their own story. It means 12 episodes plus a 13th for the verdict. And it also means quality will vary depending on the interest we have for a character. Some of them don’t seem that interesting actually. The ongoing trial and the new informations we will learn along the way should keep us entertained though. They didn’t choose a spectacular case for nothing.

The structure of the episode is quite complex. We jump all the time from the trial to the delibaration room, where the jury is poised to spend hours, from past to present with some scenes happening during the investigation, while we’re focusing on the juror Kim Dempsey, played by the phenomenal Archie Panjabi, through flashbacks. It means a lot of Archie in the pilot, but less in the subsequent episodes even if she comes out as a leader in the jurors team. You’ve been warned. Kim doesn’t seem that different from Kalinda. She’s a strong woman obsessed with seeking the truth, not there to make friends so she can look like she’s cold sometimes, and a bit provactive. In fact, she was at the center of a sex scandal a few months ago that kind of ruined her career. She is a domestic abuse crusader and everyone saw her having rough sex with her boyfriend in her young years with a video that leaked online. We’re offered a crispy glimpse of it where she begs him to hit her, harder and harder until it makes her leap bleed. She even licks her own blood while moaning. That’s certainly something Kalinda could have done (but not CBS). Told you it was glaucous. It’s not just the murder case. It’s the whole atmosphere. Are people ready for this? But don’t be afraid, the writers also give us some breathing space when the characters are debating, joking around a bit, irritating each others…

I really hope The Jury can find an audience on ABC because it could be really good –AmericanCrime/The Good Wife good- and an important piece of television but from where we stand, I’m not optimistic. Let’s be real: it’s ambitious but complex, well written and suspenseful but dark and gloomy for the most part, and highly serialized, which is not what the new network’s executives are looking for anymore… And since legal dramas always tend to scare the younger demo, The Jury is guilty of being a cable drama that will get cable ratings but on a network where they’re not sufficient. It has to be tried and taken care of properly, but the verdict is still out…