Tag: heather graham

The Hypnotist’s Love Story (ABC) pilot preview: You, female stalker edition

SERIES TITLE: The Hypnotist’s Love Story
NETWORK: ABC
GENRE: Soap Drama

LOGLINE: After a string of failed romances, Ellen, a successful hypnotherapist, is optimistic about her current boyfriend, a charming widower… until he reveals a disturbing truth: a stalker ex-girlfriend Sasha who has been following him and his son for years. Ellen finds herself intrigued, and oddly thrilled by the stalker, entirely unaware that they’ve already met…

Pilot Cast: Juliet Rylance (McMafia, The Knick), Heather Graham (Austin Powers, Boogie Nights, Californication), Adan Canto (Designated Survivor, The Following), Jane Seymour (Dr. Quinn, Jane The Virgin), Liza Lapira (9JKL, Don’t Trust The Bitch, Dollhouse), Skye P. Marshall (Black Lightning)…
Series Creator: Katie Wech (Star, The Secret Circle, Rizolli & Isles, Once Upon A Time In Wonderland).
Pilot Director: Francesca Gregorini (Humans, Electric Dreams).
Producers: Katie Wech, Heather Graham, David Hoberman (Monk), Todd Lieberman & Laurie Zaks (Castle, The Family, Wicked City).

Studios: ABC Studios & Mandeville Television.

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.

 

 

You’ll Like It If You Already Like: You, Dirty John, Lifetime and Hallmark Channel movies…

Likely Timeslot: Paired with The Bachelor in midseason or with The Bachelorette in the summer. Or sent to Lifetime or Hallmark Channel.

 

WRITTEN BY: Katie Welch

PAGECOUNT: 61 pages

DRAFT: 3rd Revised Network Draft. 1/11/19

 

BACKGROUND: The Hypnotist’s Love Story was the first pilot season order for ABC (NYPD Blue‘s happened off-cycle) and the first pilot order for the network’s new entertainment president Karey Burke, who comes from Disney’s cable channel Freeform. She wants to target women to lure them back at ABC and take back that number one crown they lost to NBC. The pilot is based on australian writer Liane Moriarty’s book published in 2011. It’s one of the seven international bestselling novels she wrote, with Big Little Lies, The Husband’s Secret and Truly Madly Guilty, each claiming the No. 1 spot on The New York Times Best Seller list. As you all know, Big Little Lies‘ HBO adaptation became a hit and won multiple Emmy Awards, while a second installment is on its way. If The Hypnotist’s Love Story were to be ordered to series, it would become the second adaptation to come to our TV screens, which is an indeniable strong selling argument for ABC.

Heather Graham, who plays the stalker character, has been the driving force behind the project from the get-go. She brought the book to Mandeville Television and ABC Studios after meeting with several producers. The pitch led to a buy, then a script and now a pilot.

 

SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: ELLEN (38) is a hypnotherapist who excels at helping others with their relationships, but can’t seem to find one of her own. Four dates in with PATRICK SCOTT (38), a handsome widower and single dad, Ellen finally thinks she may have found her soulmate. She remains undeterred after Patrick is forced to reveal that he has a stalker, an exgirlfriend named SASHA (40s), when she suddenly appears at their dinner date, but Ellen’s best friend JULIA (38) is immediately concerned. Back at work, Ellen convinces her client ROSIE (28) to break off her engagement with media mogul IAN ROMAN (40s), who in turn publishes disparaging articles about Ellen and threatens her. Ellen eventually meets Patrick’s son JACK (10), which enrages Sasha, who had a very close relationship with him. Sasha breaks into Ellen’s house after seeing where she leaves the spare key, bakes banana bread in her kitchen, and then gives it to Jack. Ellen ends up in need of new clients after Ian’s articles scare off her old ones, and she ends up unknowingly in a session with Sasha.

COMMENTS: I guess sometimes you can’t resist to a strong selling argument and it feels like that’s what happened here with ABC’s top execs when they greenlighted the pilot, based on a weak script but coming from a name. Also, they made their decision while You became a hit on Netflix and Dirty John started to get some traction over there too. They probably saw an opportunity to tell a similar stalker-could-be-a-serial-killer story but more focused on women this time. By the way, I have a suggestion for a better title: Crazy In Love. It’s more attractive and it fits better with what’s at stake honestly. It’s two women madly in love and slighlty deranged. And I don’t think a network that launched so many female empowering shows should ruin it with such a dull thing. Of course, women can be stalkers, and they can go crazy, and they can make mistakes and love too much, and badly, but then you have the responsibility to portray them with subtlety and dignity, tell how they got there in the first place. And pitting them against each others is not very 2019… unless you’re doing Killing Eve and have Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s talent and intelligence.

I don’t know if the book it’s adapted from was any good -reviews seem to mixed overall- but there’s always such an efficiency and a great deal of suspense and twists in Liane Moriarty’s work that you can’t really hate it. It’s definitely chick lit but with an edge and the surprising depth that comes with it. The Hypnotist’s Love Story may be the outlier though. There’s no such thing as edge and depth here, I’m not even sure there’s a story. Probably more of a lack of story. I don’t think it’s a good pilot and I don’t think it could become a good TV series either. The foundations and the characters are simply not solid enough and it’s overall very predictable. I even felt kind of insulted sometimes. The writer sets some straps for us -why not? let’s play!- but gosh, they are so obvious. How could she think we would jump in? And in terms of twists and craziness I’m very disappointed too. The craziest thing the stalker Sasha does is… baking banada bread in her rival’s kitchen. I mean, WTF??! If it’s supposed to give us an idea of how far she’s able to go, please stop right there! Which leads me to a reflexion I had during the whole reading: those characters don’t act like functionning adults. There is teenage angst and obsessive behavior that just doesn’t feel appropriate for the age group they’re supposed to be in. And it’s mostly painful to watch. It’s not fun. It’s probably not supposed to be but at least we would enjoy it more if it was. What it is supposed to be though it’s thrilling. And it’s not that either. It’s too cheesy to be.

In the end, can something be saved from this mess? Certainly not Patrick’s character, who’s one-dimensional and too good to be true. You have a hard time understanding why both Ellen and Sasha desire him so much, he’s so boring… It all rests on the actor’s shoulders now to make him at least charming and damn hot. Adan Canto should be able to. Fans of Big Little Lies, you’ll get a good amount of normal (and uninteresting?) chit-chat with friends and family, around coffees, cup of teas or glasses of wine. But most of it sounds fake sadly. And Ellen’s best friend is one more flat protagonist. One character I liked though is Ellen’s extravagant mother, played by Jane Seymour. She’s actually funny, that’s a breath of fresh air. So no, not much can be saved from this mess. But it’s watchable if you have time to spare and a fondness for these things.

 

FINAL RECOMMENDATION: Since both You and Dirty John are uniformly dull shows that worked anyway, there’s hope for The Hypnotist’s Love Story. But maybe this one would have a better chance on Netflix thanks to the system of recommendations or on Disney+ to stay in the family. Coming back week after week would suppose a need of better writing, more appealing characters and stronger hooks. I want to believe ABC wants to win women back with shows that are more empowering and less insulting. 

 

OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:

[ X ] PASS
 ] CONSIDER
[  ] RECOMMEND

“Studio City” (FOX) pilot preview: when “The O.C.” & “Shameless” are making music together

STUDIOCITY

Written & produced by Krista Vernoff (Shameless US, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Charmed). Co-produced by John Wells (Shameless US, ER, The West Wing, Third Watch) & Andrew Stearn (Shameless US, The West Wing, SouthLAnd, Third Watch). Directed by Sanaa Hamri (Shameless US, Empire, Nashville, Elementary). For FOX, Warner Bros. Television & John Wells Prods. 61 pages.

Description: After her alcoholic mother totally lost it, Catalina Evans, 17, is sent to L.A to live with her songwriter father and her stepfamily. What she thought would be an easier life doesn’t turn out exactly the way it should when she discovers her dad is a drug dealer to the stars and haven’t sell a single song for years. With her own dreams of stardom in mind, she starts her new life full of hope and songs to give…

With Florence PughEric McCormack (Will & Grace, Perception, Trust Me), Heather Graham (Austin Powers, Boogie Nights, Scrubs, Californication), Riley Smith (True Blood, 90210), Jeanine Mason (Bunheads), Samantha Logan (666 Park Avenue, The Fosters), Jordan Calloway (ER, Allie Singer), Timothy Granaderos

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The whole time I was reading Studio City‘s pilot script I was thinking about whether or not it would be a good fit with Empire. The musical show’s surprise and incredible success didn’t allow FOX to develop any soap opera of the same kind to pair it with, on time for pilot season. But honestly, I don’t think FOX should even try to do that. Other networks, yes, they will have to. Even if ABC always did and NBC tried many times the past few years but failed to offer one on the schedule except the horrible Deception. Some of you may also remember Cane on CBS. There probably won’t be another Empire anytime soon. FOX better should find shows that are not straight soap-operas but which could work with Empire. Ryan Murphy’s Scream Queens is a very strong contender (already picked-up to series). Studio City is another one. I’m always suspicious when a show is officially described as a little bit of this mixed with a little it of that. But this time, they’re not playing with us: Studio City really is The OC meets Shameless. With a bit of Nashville too. But this, they couldn’t say.

The OC (and Nashville) part of Studio City is pretty obvious from the get go : a smalltown girl with a violent and batshit crazy mother comes to L.A. to live with her songwriter father and his family in a nice house with a pool. But a little pool. Studio City is not Orange County. It’s not a poor neighborhood either. And since we’re talking about Los Angeles, know the big city is pretty much a character in the show. I’m just a little disappointed the writer made very cliché and uninspired choices such as Malibu beach or Universal Studios’ Jurassic Park Ride to locate some scenes. The OC comparison also works with the tone that is used: there’s a lot of humor and characters who don’t take themselves too seriously, like Rob, the father -it’s a good thing he’s played by such a funny guy like Eric McCormack- or the mother-in-law, Stevie (Heather Graham), who’s not Cookie but a pretty insane woman we can only love. They’re just the right amount of funny and craziness. More would make them unbelievable. Most of the cast consists of young adults characters because Rob has another daughter from a previous marriage, Emma, who acts like a bitch, and Stevie has a son, Mateo, and a daughter, Zoe. And they are all beautiful, of course. Two of them may even fall in love… Oh, shocking!

And that’s when Shameless US more than comes to mind, which is not so surprising since the creator, as well as the producers -especially the great John Wells who never disappoints- work for the show. You can find the same kind of lightness even when terrible things happen and this very special family liberates the same sort of energy and warmth. There are a few quite daring storylines, like this love story I won’t talk about, or the central conflict of having a drug dealer as a father. Note this is inspired by the real story of Krista Vernoff, the creator. In case you thought it was not credible. That being said, Studio City don’t (and can’t) go as far as Shameless and stays very much in a network comfort zone. Proof: the script starts with the mention “Curse words will be silenced or bleeped“. We hate that.

Even if I liked what I’ve read, I was not totally hooked and I’m not sure why. Maybe because the promise of what’s to come is not clear enough. I don’t know what we will see every week. The different members of the family doing bad things, mostly? How long can it stay relevant, then? The coming of age story of Cat is what interests me the most. At the very beginning of the pilot, we’re exposed to what she will become in 4 years: a superstar. Taylor Swift-like, it is said. I’m curious to see how we get there. You have to wait for 30 pages to hear a song, by the way. For now, the show can’t be labelled as a musical drama. Good: we already have enough of that!

Studio City‘s pilot script is very decent and a pleasure to read but I don’t think there is an unmissable TV show in there. An enjoyable one, that’s for sure. But nothing we haven’t already been told a million times. After Glee, Smash, Nashville, Power, Violetta (!) and Empire, what’s left to say about the musical industry? Probably a ton of things, but I can’t imagine Studio City saying them differently or at all. BUT I also think FOX really should favor this one to the dark drama pilots they ordered so… I’m in!