Tag: caitlin carver

Model Woman (ABC) pilot preview: Beautiful Bertie is no Ugly Betty

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Created and executive produced by Helen Childress (Reality Bites). Based on Robert Lacey. Directed by Richard Shepard (GirlsRosewood, Ringer, Ugly Betty, Dom Hemingway). Executive produced by Sarah Fain, Liz Craft (The Shield, Lie To Me, Dollhouse), Rosalie Swedlin (Lagies, Red Corner) & Scarlett Lacey (The Royals). For ABC, TrisTar Television, Anonymous Content & ABC Studios. 65 pages.

Description: It’s 1977 and the formidable Bertie Geiss, a tempestuous matriarch and uncompromising businesswoman, with her colorful husband Miller by her side, lords over the Geiss Modeling Agency, a monopolistic powerhouse that sets standards of beauty worldwide. Bertie has an eye for spotting talent and cultivates her finds by mentoring the “girls” in a sorority-type home with strict rules and regimens. As she nears hitting the big 50th birthday, her whole empire is threatened by her Paris partner Lio Fibonacci, a sexy, dangerous snake who is secretly pilfering models to join his new agency in New York while introducing the models to the disco nightlife of glamour, sex and drugs which Bertie forbids…

With Andie MacDowell (Cedar Cove, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Sex, Lies and Videotape), Steven Weber (Wings, Studio 60, Leaving Las Vegas), Nicole Ari Parker (Rosewood, Soul Food), Caitlin Carver (The Fosters, Hit the Floor), Dan Byrd (Cougar Town, Aliens in America, Easy A), Jamie Bamber (Battlestar Galactica, Law & Order: UK), Chris Mason (Lightfields, The Fades), Kaley Roynane (Gotham), Madeline Blake, Frank Harts (Billions, The Leftovers), Marcus Callender (Straight Outta Compton)…

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Every year, there’s a bunch of pilots you don’t understand why they got ordered. Not that they are awful. Just that they don’t fit with their respective network, and they don’t stand a chance in comparison to others. It looks like a waste of money and it gives false hope to the people involved. I guess someone inside the network roots for it, otherwise it wouldn’t be ordered at all. Right? In fact, it’s a little bit more complicated than that. That’s the case with Model Woman. It’s a pretty decent pilot but why in hell ABC would select this over way more on-brand properties? And it’s not like it was something critics would rave about either, like an American Crime. I’m guessing it has something to do with the fact that it’s produced by TriStar television, which was relaunched last summer. It’s their first broadcast pilot picked-up. Maybe it’s just a way for ABC to show their interest towards the company and start a relationship with them. Maybe Model Woman is just a pawn in the game. Or maybe I’m paranoid and they genuinely think it has a chance to become a hit. Which is worrisome.

Look at the description: “a soapy period drama set in the fashion world”. I have nothing against the fashion world. Ugly Betty was set in it and it worked for them after all. Every decade or so, they try something like this. Remember Models Inc. from Sir Aaron Spelling in the 90s with Linda Gray and Carrie-Ann Moss? Even though they introduced it as a Melrose Place spin-off: huge flop. Remember The Beautiful Life on The CW? Cancelled after two airings or so. It seems like it’s not a subject people are interested in it. Or they didn’t find the right way to talk about it yet. But then again, Ugly Betty kinda did. And Model Woman is not in the same vein, at all. The “period” part is the real problem here. Usually, period dramas bomb on networks. Not sure why exactly, but they do. ABC tried, among others. Remember Pan Am? And between models and stewardesses, there’s not a huge difference. At least at the time. The Playboy Club and Life On Mars are other examples.

Because Model Woman is based on the biography of Eileen Ford, the outspoken and controversial woman who started as a model and went on to co-found the famous Ford Modeling Agency with her husband Jerry, it takes itself pretty seriously. Not a good thing when you want to make a soap. It could have been a fun show. It’s not. Sure, some lines are but the fun stops there. And it lacks surprises and unexpected twists. And bitches! Models can very bitchy. Or at least we want them to be. I mean, Naomi Campbell was discovered by Eileen Ford. Where is she in this? Where are the bitches?! The character of Rebecca Blakewell, who betrays the heroine, is supposed to be one. But she’s not enough for me. Helenjane Harris, Bertie’s competitor is another one. But she already signs a pact with her in the pilot. Do we have bitchy men instead? Not really. Bertie’s husband is not that good a person, but not the devil himself. The two young boys are pretty cool. There’s just this Lio Fibonacci, a friend who’s now a competitor. But you have to wait for the end of the pilot to discover it. Too little too late. All those beautiful people, including the young innocent Gemma or Bettie’s daughther Michelle, are definitely too nice for a soap.

Like The Death of Eva Sofia Valdez, Model Woman gives a starring role to a 50-year-old woman. Kudos ABC, once again. Bertie Geiss really is “a tempestuous matriarch and uncompromising businesswoman” and she’s the heart of the show. Maybe she’s the only real bitch in there. She’s the queen. She knows how to make an entrance. There’s a lot to like and to hate about her. Her lines are the best, by far. For example, to someone who says “the FDA just banned saccharine” when she asks for a cake with no sugar but saccharine instead, she responds: “Well, sugar causes fatness. We have to pick our battle.” Slay, bitch! I don’t know if Andie MacDowell is the right fit though. She ages gracefully but we’re so used to see her as a shampoo saleswoman we can’t remember if she was a good actress in the first place. Honestly, I don’t know.

Model Woman is a decent pilot script but a weak contender for a series order. If the story was contemporary and soapier, I’d say “yes, why not?” but as it is, ABC wouldn’t know what to do with it and it’s not the right time to take any chances. Sorry Beautiful Bertie, you’re just no Ugly Betty.

“Blood and Oil” (aka”Boom”) (ABC) pilot preview: a smart soap that will either bomb or explode!

Boom

Written & produced by Josh Pate (Surface, Legends, Falling Skies) & Rodes Fishburne. Co-produced by Don Johnson, Tony Krantz (Sports Night, 24, Felicity) & Louis G. Friedman (American Pie, X-Men Origins: Wolverine). Directed by Jonas Pate (Aquarius, Friday Night Lights, Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome). For ABC, ABC Studios & Flame Ventures. 61 pages.

Description: The largest oil discovery in U.S. history is happening right now in North Dakota and people are coming from all over the country to strike it rich. Heading there with big dreams and sky-high ambition are the young married couple Billy and Cody Lefever. As we follow their trials and tribulations in a modern day “Wild West”, they negotiate a colorful ensemble of roughnecks, grifters, oil barons, criminals and fellow prospectors against a stark and beautiful backdrop…

With Chace Crawford (Gossip Girl), Rebecca Rittenhouse (Red Band Society), Don Johnson (Nash Bridges, Miami Vice, From Dusk Till Dawn), Scott Michael Foster (Greek, Californication, Once Upon A Time), Delroy Lindo (Believe, Kidnapped), Amber Valletta (Revenge, Transporter II), India de Beaufort (One Three Hill, Jane By Design), Caitlin Carver (The Fosters, Hit the Floor), Yani Gellman (Pretty Little Liars, The Young & The Restless)…

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Since it was announced, Boom is one of the most, if not the most, intriguing pilot of the season. But before reading the script, I was not sure what it was really about, only that it looked original, ambitious and dead serious. Following the oily and soapy foodsteps of notorious Dallas, Boom is an old project that was set up at ABC a few years ago, then went to USA Network, before landing on ABC again this year and finally scoring a pilot order. It certainly deserved one: it is as ambitious as it looks, and as ambitious as the couple at the center of the show is. It is set in the real world, it deals with real issues, it’s about economics, tactics… And it has what it takes it to be a good entertaining TV series that doesn’t take its viewers for morons and which offers a little bit more than just fun. That being said, Boom may be a little too smart and intricate for its own good…

The script starts with facts about this incredible oil discovery that probably most of the people in the US or somewhere else in the world are not aware of. To sum up for you, The Bakken, that’s how it is called, is the biggest oil discovery in American history -bigger than Texas and as big as Saudi Arabia- which has triggered a geopolitical shift and an economic boom in North Dakota on a scale not seen since the 1849 California Gold Rush. According to The Economist, the city of Williston (where the show takes place) is the fastest growing small city in America, that will be the size of Dallas by 2030 if predictions are accurate. North Dakota’s unemployement rate is currently zero. Yes, 0%! A millionnaire is created each and every day in the Bakken. Crazy, right? The first thing that came to my mind was how come have I never heard about it (I probably don’t watch enough documentaries and don’t read enough newspapers) and how good a setting it is for a TV show.

The first scene is a car accident, a stylized one as it is described in the script, in the middle of nowhere with the beautiful backdrop of the Salt Lake City Area (where it is shot); one of the last scene is a big “Boom!” explosion that is meant to be impressively awesome, with oil pulsing from a rig. You also have a shoot-out in the streets of Williston in between, making the show look like a western for a few minutes. So the pilot is not just about people plotting against each others, especially if they are family members (and there are some) as in every good soap opera; it’s before anything else introducing us to a world where we have no landmarks, that is modern and retro at the same time, where there’s a very special atmosphere like nowhere else and where dangerous things are really happening. It’s disturbing but it feels good to break out from our comfort zone to discover something that feels new.

The show can also be very unsettling -and for some of us, crippling I fear- because of the characters we are introduced to, most of them being wicked and malicious, with an hidden agenda (and I hope the young cast will be able to meet the expectations). Even our heroes, the LeFevers, can be a little frightening sometimes. But they’re cute most of the time, we’re rooting for them of course. They’re trying to live their American Dream, they’re smart enough to succeed, but to be able to do so, sooner or later they will have to enter a pact with the Devil. The Devil being the Boyd family here, one of the richest of the city, with Hap, the father, played by Don Johnson -a role reminiscent of the one he played in Tarantino’s Django Unchained– and his wife, Darla (Amber Valletta), the bitch in chief. There is a tense dinner scene with the four of them that is great. They happen to have two disloyal children, Wick (Scott Michael Foster) who is in constant war with his father, and Lacey, an environmental activist who is deeply in love with Hap’s driver, who is not the man everybody think he is. But for now, the LeFevers are poor. They live in a trailer parked in Patchwork, a mini-city inside the city, some sort of bidonville, where they meet good people for a change, eager to help them.

There’s a lot to assimilate at first in Boom and it won’t be an easy show to sell, especially on a network, but as I said before, it’s Dallas, it’s a soap, but more grounded, with higher ambitions. It’s no Empire. If ABC orders it to series, it will either bomb quickly or explode and become a hit. Is the audience ready for it? I sure hope so!