Tag: glee

The Politician (Netflix) pilot preview: Do you miss Glee? Ryan Murphy does apparently…

SERIES TITLE: The Politician
NETWORK: Netflix
GENRE: Political One-Hour Dramedy

LOGLINE:  The political aspirations of Payton, a wealthy Santa Barbarian who’s ultimate goal is to become the President of the United States, one step at a time. And for now, he needs to a/ become the student body president of his college b/ be accepted to Harvard. To achieve that, he’s ready for anything. Literally.

Pilot Cast: Ben Platt, Zoey Deutch, Lucy Boynton, Jessica Lange, Gwyneth Paltrow, January Jones, Dylan McDermott, Laura Dreyfuss, Rhane Jones…
Series Creators: Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuck & Ian Brennan (American Horror Story, Pose, 9-1-1, Glee).
Pilot Director: Ryan Murphy.
Producers: Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Platt, Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuck & Ian Brennan.
Studios: Fox 21 Television Studios

Ever wonder how TV executives wade through the dozens of pilot scripts they’re pitched each year? They have staff script readers, who provide what’s called “Script Coverage,” an executive summary and a recommendation for each script. Now you too can preview some of the season’s most buzzed about pilots and find out whether we’d recommend them for pickup. Note that all opinions are our own, and all plot, casting and other creative details described here are subject to change.

 

  

 

WRITTEN BY: Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuck & Ian Brennan.

PAGECOUNT: 68 pages

BACKGROUND: A few months before mega TV producer Ryan Murphy left 20th Century FOX Television for Netflix in what is believed to be the biggest TV pact ever, the streaming giant granted him a rare two-season straight-to-series order for The Politician, one of the biggest TV package sales of 2018. Everything’s BIG when it comes to Murphy, it seems. At the time, Barbra Streisand was set to play one of the female leads but Murphy stalwart Jessica Lange has since stepped into her role for unknown reasons. Described as “a one-hour long comedy with social commentary”, The Politicanwill focus on a different political race each season. Word has it that straight-from-Broadway series star Ben Platt will have musical numbers in several episodes of the show, but other details have been kept tightly under wraps. With a copy of the pilot script in hand, let’s see if we can’t unwrap them a little…

SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: Two great looking 17-year-olds are making out in an upscale house in Santa Barbara, California. Meet River and his girlfriend Astrid. While on the surface, things may seem hot between them, something doesn’t seem quite right. Turns out Astrid is faking it. When River asks her why, she explains that she’s madly in love with him and doesn’t expect him to be perfect in bed because of his young age and lack of experience. After she leaves, a clearly upset River goes to his father’s office and opens a safe where there’s cash, jewelry and a gun. Then he goes back to his bedroom, looks around, and puts the gun in his mouth.

At that very moment he hears a car screech, followed by someone banging on his front door. In comes Payton, our leading man, filled with rage, tears streaking down his face. After calling River a traitor, he reveals the reason he’s there: he’s just learned that River is competing against him to become the student body president of their college. He warns him that this is HIS dream, that he is A WINNER and that he will win this at all costs. River is mortified, and so are we.

COMMENTS: So this is the project that Netfix won in a high stakes bidding war against Amazon and Hulu. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised — they all wanted a Ryan Murphy show. The problem is, while this is indeed a Ryan Murphy show, it isn’t American Horror StoryAmerican Crime Story, or Feud. Instead, alongside frequent collaborators Brad Falchuck & Ian Brennan, Murphy has returned to the mileu of one of his earlier series: Glee. To be fair, The Politician is bit more adult-oriented than Glee — after all, the characters are not in high-school. But what happens in their Santa Barbara college could just as well have happened at McKinley High. In fact, many of it did. Payton, the central character, is our new Rachel Berry: ambitious and opinionated, his goal isn’t to become the best singer in the world, but instead the President of the United States.

The Glee feeling doesn’t end there. It becomes even more pronounced when Payton starts looking for the perfect Vice-President from a shortlist of disabled and the minority classmates. Oh, and did I mention he sings, too? He performs a musical number at a funeral and it’s apparently the best thing ever. (In the script, he sings Joni Mitchell’s River. We’ll see if that one sticks.) Most of the other characters are caricatures: the witty best friend, the bitchy one, etc. Astrid, who’s Payton’s nemesis, is a bit more fleshed out, and should become even more important in later episodes since she’s not just River’s girlfriend (no spoilers here). Finally, there’s Infinity Rose — yep, that’s her name — a colorfurl girl who has cancer…. all different kinds of cancer, to be precise. Payton wants her as his VP, but she’s not interested, at least not for now. But she clearly has some tricks up her sleeve.

The Politician does have some things to say about politics, ambition and young people, but it doesn’t say them in a way that’s innovative or smart, and it’s hard to take it very seriously when so much of what happens is ripped from earlier Murphy shows. (There are some parallels with Murphy’s Scream Queens here, too.) What’s the point of going to Netflix if it’s to do exactly the same thing he did on FOX? I mean.. The Politician is occasionally irreverent and raunchy (there’s a threesome, you guys!) but there’s nothing here that Murphy and team couldn’t have achieved on network television.

FINAL RECOMMENDATION: It’s not the most imaginative or well-crafted of pilot scripts, and if it aired on FOX or FX I’m guessing The Politician would be dead on arrival. But with a two-season commitment from Netflix, with all of its algorithms and a binge-ready audience, it might just work. In fact, despite all of my own misgivings with the project, I can still see myself tuning in to see how it all plays out.

 

OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:

[   ] PASS
] CONSIDER
[   ] RECOMMEND

Rise -aka Drama High- (NBC) pilot preview: Glee for emotionally open grown-ups, This Is Us style

Written and produced by Jason Katims (Parenthood, Friday Night Lights, Bosto Public). Inspired by a true story. Based on Michael Sokolove‘s book. Executive produced by Michelle Lee (The Path, Pure Genius, About a Boy), Flody Suarez (8 simples Rules…) & Jeffrey Seller (Hamilton, Rent). Directed by Mike Cahill. For Universal Television & True Jack Productions. 54 pages. 2nd revised network draft. 01/30/17.

Description: The story of Lou Volpe, a litterature teacher in his forties in a Pennsylvania high school, who is appointed by the principal to take over and modernize the theater program that is dying. He chooses the provocative and emotional rock musical Spring Awakening –about teenagers discovering the inner and outer tumult of sexuality in late-19th-century Germany- as their first production. A choice that won’t be without consequences for the students and their families in this “Americana” town…

With Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother, Mercy Street), Rosie Perez (Search Party, Lipstick Jungle), Auli’i Cravalho (Moana), Marley Shelton (The Lottery, Eleventh Hour), Amy Forsyth (Defiance, The Path), Casey Johnson, Rarmian Newton (The Family), Shannon Purser (Stranger Things, Riverdale), Damon J. Gillespie, Shirley Rumierk, Joe Tippett, Ted Sutherland, Taylor Richardson

    

You’ll like if you already like: Glee, Smash, Friday Night Lights, This Is Us, Parenthood

Likely timeslot: Tuesday at 9 or 10 paired with This Is Us

There’s a question that is still haunting me six months later: why did This Is Us become such a success on NBC while Parenthood, which was very much in the same vein and even better, never got real traction during six years? There are multiple theories like Milo Ventimiglia’s ass in the trailer. Or the fact that the twists made all the difference. Mine is simpler: it came out with a perfect timing. The right show in the right place at the right time. And for the first time, fabulous writer Jason Katims, who was behind Parenthood but also Friday Night Lights and more recently Pure Genius, may have created the right show in the right place at the right time. Supposedly paired with This Is Us and not very far from The Voice, Rise has every chance to become a hit. And it deserves to. That’s the best script I’ve read this season so far (with comedy Libby & Malcolm at ABC which happens to be very timely too). It’s emotional, delicate and rich.

The pitch sounds like Glee and it’s probably Rise‘s biggest weakness from a marketing point of view. The feeling of “been there, done that” won’t be easy to erase from potential viewers’ minds. It’s a leap of faith, clearly. But honestly, whatever is your opinion on Glee -mine is not flattering- we’re very from it from the overall tone to the characters’ stories. Glee was a funny, entertaining, sometimes poignant show, which main goal was to give a litteral voice to characters rarely seen on TV. An enjoyable mess that outstayed its welcome, I’d add. Rise is an entirely different beast. By the way, it’s not exactly a musical high-school drama soap, as it could be described. It is mostly set in a high-school, there’s a bit of music in it -but not that much- and there are soap elements, that’s true, but to me it’s a realistic drama above all and the story of a working-class town and the families that live there. Like Friday Night Lights was not really a drama about football. Stanton, Pennsylvania, is like Dillon, Texas: a struggling but picturesque town with diners, churches, clapboard houses, american flags everywhere…

What NBC could and should insist on is the fact it’s based on a formidable true story, the one of Lou Volpe, a ground-breaking high school drama teacher who ran for 44 years the renowned drama program at Harry S Truman High School in Levittown, a low-income town in Pennsylvania, as chronicled in the book Drama High, written by one of his students, Michael Sokolove. And the fact that Jeffrey Seller and Flody Suarez, producers of Tony-Award-Winning hip-hop musical Hamilton, are associated with the project says a lot about how important Rise could become, as a cultural phenomenon and a stepping stone in this new era of television where networks want to reflect middle-America as how it really is. These days, people want real situations, real emotions, as This Is Us just proved.

Among the principal characters, aside from Lou Volpe and his family -he’s married and a father of three children- there is Lilette, a half Puerto Rican half Irish teenage girl, and her hot mess of a mother, a waitress sexually harassed by her boss; Robbie, an African-American stud, whose mother is in late stages of muscular disease; Simon, a Christian closeted young gay man, whose younger sister is in a wheelchair; Gwen, the theather’s queen bee whose parents are on the verge of divorce; Maashous, a mysterious foster kid who’s living secretly at the school… Don’t worry, Lou has his own Sue Sylvester: Tracey Wolfe, the high energy with a no-holds-barred mouth current Drama School teacher and a former high school theater person, who’s really funny and adds a welcome lightness to the ensemble.

Behind every student character, there’s a difficult, sometimes really sad but ordinary family story and a talent ready to explode with so many things to say through songs. We don’t get many informations about every one of them in the pilot but in the end we want to spend more time at their sides to understand who they really are and why they feel so familiar, how much we share with them… and hear more of their singing voices. Jason Katims is so good at portraying people without making them clichés. It’s impressive and admirable. This pilot is not about big twists or OMG moments or crazy laughs or huge performances. It’s about setting the stage for the season to come, introducing the characters and bringing them together towards this theater program that will change their life. There is so much potential and so many stories to tell starting from here. It couldn’t have been more promising and exciting than that.

Rise is probably one of the best things that will happen to us in a few months on television, believe me. It’s the promise of an exceptional show that will resonate with America and hopefully the whole world, that will bring people together. It will make us laugh and cry, and sing and dance, as long as we’re emotionally open and ready for it… Rise will make us all very happy. And that’s the most beautiful thing to do.

SCOOP: Darren Criss, Damon Wayans Jr. & How I Met Your Mother’s creators back at FOX with comedy projects

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FOX is developing two starring vehicles for Glee‘s Darren Criss & New Girl‘s Damon Wayans Jr., while How I Met Your Mother‘s creators Carter Bays & Craig Thomas are behind a third. Get the details!

The Jackal Group owned by Gail Berman is working on a musical comedy project called Royalties starring Darren Criss, which centers on a trio of songwriters at a Burbank recording complex enduring the minutiae of issues in the music business while collaborating to crack the next saccharine hit song of the summer… Allyn Rachel & Patrick Carlyle (Couple Time webseries) are the writers. 20th Century FOX Television is the studio. UPDATE: Per The Hollywood Reporter, should it move forward, Darren Criss won’t star in hit, just produce.

New Girl‘s Jake Johnson & Damon Wayans Jr. are behind The Henchman, a comedy project they wrote about a man (Wayans) who fights to find the right balance between his family and pursuing his dream of being a successful henchman. It’s produced by 20th Century FOX Television with Johnson’s shingle The Walcott Company.

Open Arms, the last effort from How I Met Your Mother & The Goodwing Games‘ creators Carter Bays & Craig Thomas as producers, is written by Peter Warren and tells the story of Howie and Joy, a couple who can’t have a baby that buys the Vermont inn they visit every year but soon realize they’re in over their heads… It’s produced by Sony Pictures Television where they are under an overall deal.

We’ll see in a couple of months if one of those is picked-up to pilot.