Tag: betsy brandt

“Life in Pieces” (CBS) pilot preview: The stories of a not so Modern Family

LIFEIN

Created and procuded by Justin Adler (Better Off Ted, Less Than Perfect). Executive Produced and directed by Jason Winer (Modern Family, The Crazy Ones). Co-produced by Aaron Kaplan (The Neighbors, Friends With Better Lives). For CBS, 20th Century FOX Television, Kapital Entertainment & Smalldog Picture Co. 36 pages.

Description: One family is told through the separate stories of its different family members, from feshly divorced Matt and his new girlfriend Colleen to young parents Greg & Jen, helped by long married couple with teenage kids Tim & Heather and Grandpa John & Grandma Joan…

With Thomas Sadoski (The Newsroom, The Slap US), Betsy Brandt (Breaking Bad, Parenthood, The Michael J. Fox Show), Colin Hanks (Roswell, Dexter, Fargo), Dianne Wiest (In Treatment, Law & Order), James Brolin (Pensacola, Hotel), Zoe Lister Jones (Whitney, Friends With Better Lives), Angelique Cabral (Enlisted), Dan Bakkedahl

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One Big Family. Fourt short stories. Every Week“. That’s the promise made by writer Justin Adler at the very beginning of the script, right after the title. He wants to make it pretty clear: this family comedy won’t be like any other. Except he forgot just one tiny thing: Modern Family is already on the air for 6 years! And if every little story of the Pritchett/Dunphy family is not totally separated from each other by commercial breaks as it is the case here, moving forward, Life In Pieces will undoubtedly have to mix the stories a little, inviting one or two characters into the short stories of the others, and then we’ll have something looking an awful lot like ABC hit show! Plus, they are using the same trick as in Modern Family‘s pilot: the fact that the characters are all part of the same family is only revealed at the end. Of course, you have to be really dumb not to understand it before (if you haven’t read it somewhere yet) ! That being said, Life In Pieces‘ script is good. It’s just sad the only so called original thing here is the concept (and choosing not very funny actors to play funny characters – look at their faces in the picture)…

Sorry to break it  to you like that but Life In Pieces is not very diversity-friendly! It’s an all-white, quite rich family. In the script, the character of Jen is said to be asian. CBS chose Zoe Lister-Jones to play her. And she’s not asian. But she’s hilarious, which is better. But it was the only touch of exoticism! I don’t want to start any debate about this whole diversity thing right now, but I think the show would have been much more modern than Modern Family is with an all-black or all-latino or all-asian or all-mixed cast.There is no trace of homosexuality either. A lesbian couple would have been nice. So we have the same set of characters that we are used to. And it feels outdated.

In the first segment (not the best one), we meet a freshly divorced man (Thomas Sadoski) at his first date with his new (an younger) potential girlfriend. It gets complicated when he meets her very annoying ex-boyfriend who still lives with her. I would have prefered a freshly divorced woman at her first date with her new (AND YOUNGER) potential boyfriend (or girlfriend !) for a change. Anyway. Then we have the young married couple who are expecting their first child. It’s the best segment (tied with the last one). Not because it feels new, but because the lines are really bold and funny as hell. Jen is about to give birth and all she is scared of is pooping during the delivery. And then there’s a huge problem regarding her vagina. I laughed hard. Third segment is about an older couple (Betsy Brandt…), married for a longtime, visiting colleges for and with their teenage boy. The thing is he gets drunk at night and everything goes out of control. It’s more sweet than funny to be honest. But it’s OK. Last segment reunites the whole family for a very special occasion: the patriarch’s funeral… except he’s not dead! He just wanted to hear a lot of nice things about him while alive. The idea is just great and the lines are once again hilarious. And we’re starting to like them.

I recognize I may be a little hard on this one. Life In Pieces is an uneven but quite good script… but for a show launched 6 years ago, before Modern Family arrives. CBS has definitely found something that looks like a hit, with a terrific cast, but in my opinion, they missed an opportunity to be relevant about diversity. It was the perfect vehicle for it. And CBS is not the right place for this single-camera comedy, by the way. We’ll see if the network goes for it or smashes it to pieces…

Catches of the Week: it’ all about diversity! Vanessa Williams, Laverne Cox, Natalie Martinez…

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While the directors’ jobs are filled quickly, casting is tough this pilot season. Because of the increasing competition from cable and most importantly digital platforms like Netflix & Amazon, the talent pool of experienced actors is almost empty. The pressure over channels and talent agencies is higher than ever. So far, catches are not impressive. But most of them have something in common: diversity! 

NBC is very high on diversity, something they made pretty clear since their pick-ups of series Telenovela (Eva Longoria) and Shades Of Blue (Jennifer Lopez) and pilots Go, Jerrod Go!, The Curse of the Fuentes women, martial arts Warrior, and Love is a Four Letter Word. They all requires latinos, afro-americans and asian americans in lead roles.

This is how Nadine Velasquez and Cynthia McWilliams have been cast this week in the marriage drama Love is a Four Letter Word which chronicles the collision of race, sexuality and gender roles when three diverse couples put modern marriage to the test. The My Name is Earl alumna will play play Rebecca, a Cuban American who is deeply in love with Julie and very happy with their marriage, but doesn’t realize her wife is actively considering getting back together with her ex, Nick. McWilliams will play Tandi, one half of a happy couple with a young son who is experiencing difficulties fulfilling her dream of having another child. Hot Adan Canto, seen in The Following and Mixology, got the part of the mysterious man who brings the Curse to the Fuentes women in the pilot from Ugly Betty creator Silvio Horta. Natalie Martinez, most recently seen in Under The Dome, will star in Warrior as Kai Forrester, a damaged heroine who works undercover with physical and spiritual guidance from a mysterious martial arts master to bring down an international crime lord. Finally veteran S. Epatha Merkerson from Law & Order is reuniting with producer Dick Wolfe with a lead role in the Chicago Fire and Chicago PD planted spin-off Chicago Med. She will be the head of the hopistal.

LAVERNE

In other diversity casting news, Vanessa Williams from Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives will play the bold and unapologetic new boss of Kevin Connolly (Entourage) in comedy pilot Fantasy Life for FOX, where Mitch (Connolly) lands his ultimate dream job hosting a fantasy football show, he’s forced to navigate office politics while becoming the star he never thought he could be. Asian American actor Daniel Henney has joined the Untitled Criminal Minds spin-off with Gary Sinise & Anna Gunn. Last but really not least, Laverne Cox, discovered in Orange is the new black, got the part of a transgender attorney in Reasonable Doubt for CBS. If the show is ordered to series, then she’ll become the first transgender regular character on broadcast TV, which is exciting and groundbreaking.

In other non-diversity news (!), cancelled Perception‘s star Eric McCormack, pursued for different roles, will star in musical drama pilot Studio City for FOX, where he’ll play the songwriter father of a young singer who’s trying to make it big in Hollywood, but the man turns out to be a drug dealer to the stars! Ex-Breaking Bad actress Betsy Brandt wants to prove she can be funny after the Michael J. Fox Show demise, so she accepted one of the female leads in CBS’ Life In Pieces comedy pilot, with Colin Hanks playing one of her siblings. David Lyons (Revolution, The Cape) toplines drama pilot Game Of Silence, which NBC is very high on. Sweet Zach Gildford (Friday Night Lights, Off The Map), coming off Stanistan‘s pilot USA Network sadly just decided not to pick-up to series, lands on ABC in soap pilot Flesh & Blood. Finally, excellent Annie Potts & John Carroll Lynch will play the heroine’s parents in comedy pilot Family Fortune for ABC, where the central character comes out to her family.