Tag: jane levy

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (NBC) pilot preview: Music Friended Me

SERIES TITLE: Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist
GENRE: Musical Dramedy

LOGLINE: a whip-smart but socially awkward girl in her late 20s is having a hard time connecting to friends, coworkers, family, etc. She just doesn’t have the ability to read people or understand what’s really going in their heads. But, thanks to a freak accident, Zoey is given an extraordinary ability. Suddenly she has the power to hear what’s going on in people’s minds. Only she hears their deepest desires and innermost thoughts as songs and big musical numbers that they perform (passionately) just for her. With this new power at her disposal, Zoey is able to use her “gift” to not only help her self but also to help others in some state of crisis or need…

Pilot Cast: Jane Levy (Suburgatory, Castle Rock, Evil Dead), Skylar Astin (Pitch Perfect, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), Alex Newell (Glee), Mary Steenburgen (Joan of Arcadia, Orange is the New Black, Back to the Future 3), Peter Gallagher (The OC, Covert Affairs, Grace and Frankie), John Clarence Stewart (Luke Cage)…
Series Creator: Austin Winsberg (Jake in Progress, 9JKL, Gossip Girl). 
Pilot Director: Richard Shepard (Girls, Ringer, Ugly Betty, Rosewood). 
Producers: Austin Winsberg, Paul Feig (Freaks & Geeks, Spy, Ghosbusters, Bridesmaids), Jessie Henderson, Eric & Kim Tannenbaum (Two and a half-men, The Last OG, The Odd Couple).

Studios: Universal Music Group, Lionsgate Television, Polygram Entertainment, Feigco Entertainment & The Tannenbaum Company.

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: God Friended Me, Kevin (Probably) Saves The World, Joan of Arcadia, Eli Stone… 

Likely Timeslot: After The Voice on monday seems the only way to go… but in the spring!


WRITTEN BY: Austin Winsberg

PAGECOUNT: 59 pages

DRAFT: Third Draft 1/8/19


BACKGROUND: Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is the first project to come out of a mega deal between Universal Music Group (which is part of NBCUniversal, corporate parent to NBC) and Lionsgate Television, signed back in 2018. Under this multiyear first-look deal, the two companies are developing original scripted and unscripted television series drawn from UMG’s portfolio of labels, artists and music, with plans to release accompanying soundtrack albums for each project. It’s vertical integration in full force, and for that reason alone, it will be very surprising if this project doesn’t get ordered by NBC in May.

The show’s creator, Austin Winsberg certainly has a musical theater pedigree: he penned the TV adaptation for NBC’s The Sound of Music Live! starring Carrie Underwood, as well as the Broadway musical First Date. Director Paul Feig (BridesmaidsGhostbusters) was also attached to helm the pilot for a period of time, but as is often the case with movie directors attached to network projects, Feig is now said to be too busy with his feature schedule. Instead, Richard Shephard will direct, with Feig remaining on board as executive producer.


SCRIPT SYNOPSIS:  ZOEY (late 20s) is a high strung, stressed-out programmer who’s aiming for a promotion at work. She isn’t much “fun”, as illustrated by her total apathy towards music. After getting stuck in an MRI machine during an earthquake, she begins to hallucinate people around her singing aloud. Zoey confides in her music fanatic neighbor MO (late 20s), who helps Zoey realize that these impromptu musical numbers are expressions of a person’s innermost thoughts. This manifests as a kind of mind reading power for Zoey, which she quickly comes to resent. She learns unpleasant private information, such as that many of her coworkers are rooting for her failure. However, this power also becomes an advantage later when she is able to “hear” encouragement from her father MITCH, who’s almost vegetative with a brain disease. After a conversation with her crush SIMON (early 30s), Zoey figures out a bug in a heal the app at work that earns her the promotion. Meanwhile her close friend MAX (late 20s) is revealed to be secretly in love with her, which leaves Zoey feeling conflicted…


COMMENTS:NBC has described Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist as What Women Wantmeets La La Land — a “big, bold, fun, hopeful, emotional and innovative musical series that will be unlike anything that’s ever been on television before.” While I won’t argue that the show isn’t fun, hopeful or emotional, I personally didn’t find the pilot script terribly bold or innovative. Yes, it’s probably the first time that a whole show has been based on the idea of a character hearing other people’s thoughts through music, but many shows have had characters suddenly burst into songs, from Glee to Eli Stone, to the upcoming Mixtape on Netflix (developed at FOX). Many other shows have done the same for special episodes, including Grey’s Anatomy and the Buffy musical, “Once More With Feeling.” Yes, there’s a difference here in that the whole concept is based on this fantasy, but that’s its weakness, too.

First, you have to accept that the reason why this happened to the heroine is because she was listening to music during a MRI which happened at the same time as an earthquake. And for some reason, a million different songs from a music streaming platform uploaded in her brain. Just like that. And they’re all from Universal Music, of course. It’s a lot to swallow but if they find a way to hit the right note, it could work. For this, leading lady Jane Levy should be a real asset. She’s good and radiant. She has what they need to make her super cringy character on paper a smart and charming woman we would follow anywhere. That’s a lot of work, though. Zoey’s nervous energy and impressive ability to talk a lot is something not everybody can override, I guess. Maybe music will calm her down eventually. Isnn’t music supposed to southe the soul? In the pilot, she hears The Beattles’ Help, Avicii’s Wake Me Up and Celine Dion’s All By Myself, among other songs.

Second, how many times can one enjoy watching Zoey hearing someone’s inner thoughts? Sure, it’s interesting and fun at first, but as with CBS’s God Friended Me, even the most novel of concepts grow old. And after Zoey comes to learn in the pilot that her special ability is her chance to help others, all I could think about is the procedural type of show that’s destined to follow. I hope my concerns prove to be unfounded, but based on the pilot script, it’s hard to see a truly compelling path forward for the show’s narrative.

Zoey’s co-worker and best friend Max is funny and the pairing of Jane Levy and Skylar Astin is exciting. The two actors should have great chemistry. Meanwhile, Mo, Zoey’s neighbor, is an easygoing, open-minded and cool character who assumes the role of a kind of guardian angel — Zoey’s Yvette for those who watched ABC’s Kevin (Probably) Saves the World. This dynamic doesn’t seem to be reinvented here as much as it is rehashed. Again, I’d love to be proven wrong. At least, by casting gender nonconforming actor Alex Newell in Mo’s role, they’re adding a new flavor to the duet.


FINAL RECOMMENDATION: Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is not exactly the bold and innovative musical show NBC wants to sell us, but it’s an uplifting and light-hearted fare, sometimes cheesy, sometimes weird, that has an undeniable charm. It could find a devoted and loyal fanbase but it doesn’t sound like a #1 hit song, especially if its biggest ambition is to become a “case of the week” show…



[  ] PASS

CBS 2016/2017 Comedy Pilots ranked


This past season was, once again, not a great year for CBS’ comedy department with new entries not doing so well. Life In Pieces seems to work only because it follows The Big Bang Theory, and still manage to lose a big chunk of its viewers anyway. A move next year could prove very problematic, but it’s a slot wasted for a show that’s not even produced in-house… Angel From Hell was, as expected, cancelled after a few airings. Mike & Molly was sentenced to death for unknown reasons, even though it was at least a utility player. Second season of The Odd Couple, which should never have been ordered, was kept all season long and will finally start airing on April. Meaning it’s basically already cancelled. Mom is doing fine, thank God. And 2 Broke Girls is okay, despite multiple moves on the schedule.

Whatever they decide to renew or cancel in the end, very few slots are available for new comedies. The race will be tough. But “fortunately”, most of their comedy pilots don’t look promising on paper (and the worst one is a straight-to-series order, ugh). Decisions shouldn’t be that hard to make. They took mostly multicamera comedies -they finally understood!- but there’s still some single-camera left. Let’s take a look!

  1. SUPERIOR DONUTS (CBS Television Studios)

rate rate rate rateFollows the relationship between the owner of a donut shop, his new young employee and their patrons in a gentrifying neighborhood of Chicago… With Jermaine FowlerBrian d’Arcy James, David Koechner, Sarah Stiles…

This is the only comedy pilot script at CBS that I liked. A lot. It’s not only very funny, it’s also insightful and it really fits with their actual line-up. I totally see it sandwiched between Mom & 2 Broke Girls, or after The Big Bang Theory. And I feel like Jermaine Fowler can become huge in the next few years. I’m not sure about Brian d’Arcy James though. Didn’t know he could be that funny. For me, it’s a sure bet. Plus, it is directed by sitcom superstar James Burrows.


2. MY TIME/YOUR TIME (Sony Pictures Television / CBS Television Studios)

rate rate rate  chronicles the relationship of Marla & Wade, a young couple as they begin dating long distance through Skype. One is in New York, the other in Los Angeles… With Jane Levy, Nicholas Braun, Izzie Steele…

Yet another dramedy about millenials looking for love. Okay, it’s not original but it is something networks have a hard time to find, something that feels true and fresh and fun and melancholic… It’s appealing, honest, really cute…

Read the full preview


3. WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND (Warner Bros. Television)

rate rate rate two 40-something parents who were wild and reckless teenagers now face their worst nightmare—raising three teenagers of their own… With Jason Lee, Alyssa Milano, Matt Murray, Tia Mowry…

Single-camera comedy. Ouch. If they can only take one, this is the one! It’s a bit too classical to be honest, it doesn’t tell anything new about parenting, but it’s a strong vehicle for Lee & Milano, who already played a married couple in My Name is Earl. They have chemistry. They can do great. The script is a little rough around the edges, but it mostly works and the kid characters really do exist. ABC could have generated this one. It just lacks the thing that would make it really special.


4. THE KICKER (Universal Television)

rate rate rate  an oddball athlete drives family, friends and strangers insane after he unexpectedly finds himself cut from his professional football team… With Geoff StultsDavid Spade, Joanna Garcia Swisher…

The Tina Fey / 30 Rock team came up with an efficient, pretty funny pilot, whose only real fault is too rely so much on its star that if Geoff Stults is not the right one after all, it will probably fail miserably. The character is so annonying that if the actor doesn’t have the charm required, the pilot could quickly turn into something unwatchable. I’m pretty condident though. Too bad it’s not produced in-house and it has almost the same pitch as Kevin Can Wait (see below)…


5. REAL GOOD PEOPLE (CBS Television Studios)

rate rate rate centers on a conservative, small-town family from Texas who is forced to reconcile their family values when they discover their children’s lives are less than perfect… With Nick Zano, Lenora Chrichlow, David Keith, Julie White…

I am moderately convinced by the script, but I feel like this family has a real potential and the cast is capable of turning it into something better than it is on the page, but it’s certainly not special. Remember The Millers? I fear it gets the same destiny (the creator wrote multiple episodes for it)…


6. FURST BORN (CBS Television Studios)

rate rate about a wife and mother who learns she was adopted and that her birth parents are a flamboyant but loving family of drag-racers… With Poppy Montgomery, Katey Sagal, John Carroll Lynch, Swoosie Kurtz…

Stellar cast! Really. But damn, why is it so unfunny most of the time? I didn’t laugh a lot. It’s not complicated: you got a few good characters -the two set of grandparents- and all the others, who are boring as hell. Dunno if Poppy Montgomery can deliver in a comedy -it would be her first- but I feel like it’s meant to be another Life In Pieces (and it’s also a single-cam): good cast wasted in a mediocre comedy. Magic can still happen…


7. I’M NOT YOUR FRIEND (CBS Television Studios)

rate rate a contractor learns that raising his kids is more challenging than expected when his wife goes back to work and he has to take care of the little monsters by himself all day long… With Matt Le Blanc, Jenna Fischer, Diana Maria Riva…

Bad vehicle for Matt Le Blanc returning to network comedy. He deserved better after 5 years of the excellent Episodes. Clearly, he’s not our friend Joey anymore.

Read the full preview


8. THE GREAT INDOORS (CBS Television Studios)

rate rate an adventure reporter must adapt to the times when he becomes the boss to a group of millennials in the digital department of the magazine… With Joel McHale, Chris Williams, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Stephen Fry…

I have NO IDEA why Joel McHale accepted this (and why CBS ordered it in the first place). How come a show about millenials can be so cliché and outdated? Didn’t laugh once. It just ends up being unfunny and unrealistic for the most part. From someone who comes from Community, it makes no sense. And I don’t think he will be able to improve the material.


9. KEVIN CAN WAIT (Sony Pictures Television) – Ordered to series

rate  a newly retired police officer looks forward to spending more quality time with his wife and three kids… only to discover he faces much tougher challenges at home than he ever did on the streets. With Kevin JamesErinn Hayes, Taylor Spreitler, Ryan Cartwright…

It’s never funny. Same old jokes that don’t work anymore. No diversity. Kevin Can Wait is more outdated than The King of Queens was at the time! It’s just not possible airing this in 2016. It could have been tacky in a sweet and nostalgic way. But it’s just tacky as… shitty tacky.

Read the full preview


My Time/Your Time (CBS) pilot preview: How I Date Your Mother


Created and executive produced by Hilary Winston (Happy Endings, Community, My Name is Earl). Directed by Pamela Fryman (How I Met Your Mother, Just Shoot Me, Frasier). Also executive produced by Carter Bays & Craig Thomas (How I Met Your Mother, The Goodwin Games). For CBS, Sony Pictures Television, CBS Television Studios, Gifted and Talented Camp & Bays Thomas Prods. 49 pages.

Description: chronicles the relationship of Marla & Wade, a young couple as they begin dating long distance through Skype. One is in New York, the other in Los Angeles…

With Jane Levy (Suburgatory, Shameless US), Nicholas Braun (10 Things I Hate About You, The Perks of Being a Wallflower), Utkarsh Ambudkar (The Mindy Project), Izzie Steele, Langston Kerman

rate rate rate

How I Met Your Mother ended two years ago and CBS still haven’t found a new comedy which can appeal to millenials, a precious target for advertisers, the way the cult sitcom did. There was the How I Met Your Dad pilot attempt, which went directly to the trash can. The idea hasn’t been revisited since then, against all odds. And pretty much nothing else. My Time/Your Time is their next tryout and marks the return of HIMYM’s creators to CBS but as executive producers only. Creator Hilary Winston knows a thing or two about modern comedies; she was involved in Happy Endings & Community, not what we can call two ratting jugernauts but two beloved comedies nonetheless. Cherry on the cake, CBS hired Pamela Fryman to direct. She directed the vast majority of HIMYM episodes. Does My Time/Your Time have any chance to become the next best thing or at least something for CBS and for us?

Let me tell your first Marla, our heroine, is just the cutest. And Jane Levy seems to be the perfect choice. The character is described as a “young Maura Tierney type” and I couldn’t agree more. She has “short-term confidence and long-term insecurity”. The kind of girl you who often goes unnoticed but once you laid eyes on her, you can’t stop staring. I’m not totally sold on Wade, her colleague/Skype friend/soon-to-be boyfriend and maybe future husband. A bit too cocky for my taste. But he’s nice, and cute too. And funny. They are both. You know what I love the most about them? They are not cliché. They are not stereotyped. Marla & Wade are totally representative of their generation, hyperconnected but lost, unsure. Not really happy with their jobs, their love life, but they are no sadsacks.

Still, the pilot kinda made me both happy and sad. But mostly happy. It’s really a dramedy in fact, more than a straight comedy. It’s not edgy enough to be on cable, but maybe it’s not funny enough to be sandwiched between The Big Bang Theory and 2 Broke Girls. How I Met Your Mother evolved a lot through the years and became a dramedy though. Maybe it paved the way. And now CBS has rollercoaster comedy Mom too. Hope is not not lost for My Time/Your Time. It just won’t be that easy.

Remember ABC’s Manhattan Love Story? Cool concept, bad characters. My Time/Your Time is the contrary. So-so concept but great characters on paper. The fact that they can only communicate through Skype is a very modern idea but how long before the writers has no other option than reuniting them in the same city? Following every step of their relationship is interesting though, if it’s what’s intended. If they take their time. The booty calls. The first real date. The first kiss. The first fuck. The first real fight. All those firsts. And then the moving closer. The moving together… You have at least three seasons with all this. But right now, here where they are.

They date other people for quite some time but they can’t find the right one. They are almost 30 and they are starting to think they never will but then they meet through their work -they are both at the same company but not in the same coast- and something magical happens. They start to give each other’s advices for their next dates and they slowly fall in love. Of course. In the end of the pilot, they both know they have feelings for each others but they are not ready tell it yet and act on it. Well, Marla is not. Wade tried and failed miserably. Marla doesn’t even know it. He came to New York to see her. But that’s the moment when she finally had a good date, with a romantic kiss in the end, the way she always dreamt of (under the rain, with leaves falling around -yeah, she’s a romantic). It couldn’t be that easy! Let’s just hope it won’t be as complicated for Wade as it was for a certain Ted… Secondary characters are Marla and Wade’s respective bestfriends. Honestly, we don’t care about them and nothing is done so we feel otherwise. It’s not that important in the pilot, as long as the actors are good enough. But the writers will have to do something about it pretty quickly.

My Time/Your Time is yet another dramedy about millenials looking for love. Okay, it’s not original but it is something networks have a hard time to find, something that feels true and fresh and fun and melancholic… It’s appealing, honest. Maybe it’s too smooth, too nice, maybe we’ve seen too many Girls, You’re The Worst… to be impressed anymore. Maybe it’s not CBS enough. Not funny enough. Maybe it is doomed to fail. But damn, I think I want these characters to be on my screen every week. They’re relatable and that’s a precious and powerful thing.