Tag: jason reed

False Profits (ABC) pilot preview: Flashback to ABC’s Glory Days

Written and executive produced by Kayla Alpert (Code Black, Ally McBeal, Sweet Valley High). Also produced by Sabrina Wind (Devious Maids, Desperate Housewives, Reba) & Jason Reed (The Crossing, Ninja Turtles). Directed by Paul McGuigan (Sherlock, Devious Maids, Designated Survivor, The Family). For ABCABC Studios & Jason T. Reed Productions. 63 pages. Network draft 1/18/2018.

Description: Laura, Parvun and Hilary, three down-and-out women who live in suburban Arizona, fight their way to the top of the cutthroat world of a multi-level marketing cosmetics business, forming their own tribe, each wanting a better life for themselves. Little do they know what will happen in a year…

With Bellamy Young (Scandal, Dirty Sexy Money, Scrubs), Kosha Patel (Mary+Jane, The Newsroom), Shelley Hennig (Teen Wolf, Ouija, Unfriended, The Secret Circle), Vanessa Williams (Daytime Divas, Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty), Ben Lawson (Designated Survivor, Doubt, Love Child), Mark L. Young (Ten Days in the Valley, The Comeback, The Inbetweeners US), Marcus Coloma (Major Crimes, Make It or Break It, South BeachTapil Talwalkar

   

You’ll like it if you already like: Desperate Housewives, Good Girls, Devious Maids, Ugly Betty…

Likely timeslot: Sunday at 9, Wednesday at 10

 

In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity” says Sun Tzu in The Art of War. “The best revenge is massive success” said Frank Sinatra. It’s with those quotes that False Profits‘ script starts and they say a lot about what this show is really about. The intention of it all. Yes, the logline looks like yet another desperate attempt for a “new Desperate Housewives” with working women this time, but it’s much more than that. Not that it’s a better show than DH. It’s not. And not that ABC won’t try to market it as one if it’s picked-up. With an executive producer -Sabrina Wind- who was Marc Cherry’s “eyes and ears” (that’s what he said) during DH glory, it will be too tempting for them. But I feel like False Profits tries to dig deeper and looks like a great show for the #MeToo #TimesUp era. Also, it fits perfectly with ABC’s new ambition to tell stories that are “less dark, less edgy, more hopeful, more joyful” and that reflect the true realities of what life is like for everyday Americans, especially for american women, without losing what made them successful 15 years ago.

False Profits -this title isn’t appealing at all, it needs to change- is an update on the sacred American dream, on the female side this time; which is not that ordinary. It lightens the mood in these uncertain times but not without substance when Desperate Housewives was an exciting and incredibly entertaining show but pointless most of the time. Not trying to pit them against each others. But since they will be compared a lot, I want to make things clear. Yes, it’s often comical, and bitchy, and full of twists; it’s an unapologetic soap which aims to be entertaining and exciting as well. The added value here is its hopefulness, the positive message it sends to women, the inclusiveness. That’s where it deviates from NBC’s Good Girls, for instance. They both show women fighting together and not against each others, pursuing their dreams, the “girl power” in full force, but in False Profits they launch their business, they don’t rob a supermarket. And that’s way more powerful. Even though the world of comestics is very specific, which may make it harder for viewers to relate to -and for the show to find an audience that will look beyond that- it’s still something that’s part of every women’s lives, whether they like it or not. And False Profits doesn’t show it with naiveté. On the contrary, it’s quite cynical sometimes. At least, that’s how I read it.

It starts with a big joyous cold open set in Las Vegas during 2018’s Brava Natural (the fictive brand of the show) cosmetics national sales training with women from different ethnicities, ages and religions, like they’re all members of a cult, but a million-dollar extravaganza cult with cocktails, dancers, acrobats, and even two of the original Spice Girls (Mel B & Gerri Halliwell) on stage! It’s crazy. But things quickly go south when a woman in her pink stilettos emerge from the shadows and shoots Brava‘s CEO Kirsten Odelfet. And then we flashback to one year earlier. So the show is not all positive and fun, it’s also dark. Of course, we don’t know who the female shooter is, we don’t even see her face. It’s an efficient hook, in the “who shot X?” fashion that always works. The only problem is: as of now, we don’t care about this Kirsten. And we don’t see her again in the pilot by the way. But we want to. Definitely.

Let’s meet our three central characters now, who are all smartly introduced and already relatable and moving on the page. First, there’s Laura Hazelton, a single mother of two struggling to get by. it will be interesting to see Bellamy Young in a very different role than Scandal‘s Melly Grant. Tired of being ten steps behind, Laura signs up for a multi-level marketing scheme for selling cosmetics. it’s through her that it all starts. Then there’s her friend and colleague Hilary Jenkel (Shelley Hennig), a sharp-tongued, hot-tempered former beauty queen whose glory days were cut short by a nasty drug habit. Now in recovery and single mother of a 6 year-old, she hopes to reignite the flame between her and Clark, Lila’s father. But when he sues for full custody of their daughter, Hilary needs to whip her life and bank account into shape. She joins Laura in the business, using her pageant know-how as the underdog’s team secret sales weapon. The third Musketeer is indian-american Parvun Chattoraj, a soft-spoken, whip-smart young woman, who’s much more sophisticated about computers than most people. Her very traditional parents want her married but it’s not her priority.

Finally, on the other side of the spectrum is Suzanne (Vanessa Williams), chief of a highly successful “tribe” of Brava Natural saleswomen, who become Laura, Hilary and Parvun’s best enemy when they decide to become her direct competition. At a bridal convention, they get creative in selling products, outsmarting Suzanne and her extravagant booth. So the war is on! Bellamy Young vs Vanessa Williams is the most promising thing this show can provide, by far! What if Suzanne was the shooter? Unless it’s one of our girls? See. It works! We’re dying to know what happened. Let’s just hope we will be as much invested in the little details of their everyday lives than in the bigger picture. Also that the men characters will become more interesting and complex. I get that those women don’t need men to become who they want to be, but it doesn’t mean that the ones who are in their lives should be useless. They need to exist too.

False Profits is a fun soap, mostly comical, darker at times, that takes us back to ABC’s glory days when Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, Brothers & Sisters & Ugly Betty were all on the air at the same time. Does it belong to the past or does it have a future on a network that changed a lot since then? Crossing my fingers so it can find a place in the schedule and in the audience’s heart. It’s not revolutionary but it sends the right message at the right time.

The Crossing (ABC) pilot preview: The show that desperately wanted to be Lost…

Written and produced by Dan Dworkin & Jay Beattie (Scream, Revenge, Criminal Minds, The Event, Vanished, Surface). Also executive produced by Jason Reed (Ninja Turtles, National Treasure, Prince of Persia). Directed by Rob Bowman (Castle, The X-Files, Parker Lewis). For ABC Studios, Jason T. Reed Productions & Dworkin & Beattie Productions. 63 pages. 2nd revised network draft. 12/27/16.

Description: Refugees from a war torn country start showing up to seek asylum in a small East Coast fishing town. Only the country these people are from is America and the war they are fleeing is 250 years in the future. Jude Miller, the local sheriff with a troubled past, Emma Peralta, a federal agent, and Rae, a mother in search of her missing refugee daughter, drive this allegory with a surprising conspiracy at the center…

With Steve Zahn (Mad Dogs US, Treme), Sandrine Holt (24, House of Cards, MacGyver), Simone Kessell (Terra Nova), Jay Karnes (The Shield, Sons of Anarchy, Tyrant), Grant Harvey (The Secret Life of the American Teenager), Rick Gomez (Justified, What About Brian, Band of Brothers),  Kelley Missal (One Life to Live), Rob CampbellJohn D’LeoTommy Bastow

  

You’ll like it if you already like: LostThe 4400, The Event, V, Invasion

Likely timeslot: Midseason. Sunday at 8 or 9 or Tuesday at 10.

 

Remember 2004 when ABC launched the same season Desperate HousewivesGrey’s Anatomy & Lost? 13 years later -gosh, we’re getting so old!- the alphabet network wants badly to recreate the magic with three pilots that are supposed to be in the same vein. While Bluegrass/Blood Red is written by Marc Cherry & Black’s Law is produced by Shonda Rhimes’ company, The Crossing is NOT coming from J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof & Carlton Cuse sadly but from Jason Reed, a former Disney executive-turned-producer -it helps!- and Dan Dworkin & Jay Beattie, who were behind MTV’s Scream and a handful of failed high-concept dramas like Surface or The Event. Sorry, but it doesn’t bode well for the project, though I can see why ABC is considering it may fill the gap left for Lost. As Disney Media Distribution put it in a recent presentation: “It’s a character-driven piece in a world we know and these are characters we can connect with. This is a show we are convinced international audiences will love“. It certainly does have an appeal but it’s too bad it’s not that great and revolutionary on paper…

Back in 2004 -what a year!- South Park released an episode about people from the future who travel back over 1000 years looking for work. It’s was a thinly veiled allegory for Mexican immigration, with the residents happy to hire the time immigrants to perform household tasks at cheap rates until their own jobs are taken away. Was it the inspiration? The creators will probably never say. In 2017, the topic of immigration is still huge around the world, between Donald Trump who wants to build a wall and refugees who drown in the mediterranean sea. The Crossing couldn’t be more timely. And that’s probably the most important reason why ABC ordered the pilot in the first place. And the most important reason why I’m a bit sad it’s not as good as I wanted it to be. The opening scene looks impressive and is kind of a shock: a hundred of people at least struggling, drowning deep beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, some of them swimming towards the light, towards life. And I’d say it stays good and gripping for about 30 pages. But then I got a little bit bored and I thought to myself that it looked exactly like the kind of high-concept series that automatically bombed sooner or later for the past decade. Except Lost.

I have two main concerns, even three: I don’t feel like the concept can sustain very long and we’re not given enough reasons to believe there’s a rich mythology behind; I’m not very keen on the characters’ initial portrayals, they sound cliché and bland; and I can’t imagine Steve Zahn & Sandrine Holt as the new Matthew Fox & Evangeline Lilly. I mean… This cast is one of the less attractive ABC assembled this year. I know Steve Zahn was one of the most sough-after actor of pilot season -dunno why- but Sandrine Holt seems to be a second thought, and all the others are unknown. Not sure they’re charismatic enough. I’d like to be proven wrong though. Not that they are asked a lot either. Zahn could add humor to his character that lacks it on paper. He plays a boy next door sheriff with a mysterious past, who has a child to take care of since his divorce. Holt is a federal customs agent who is all business. Heavily skeptical of the refugees’ story and the concept of time travel, she nonetheless is sympathetic enough to find the truth since she’s an immigrant herself. From the secondary characters, none really stand out at this point.

But let’s go back to the concept, which is ambitious when you’re pitching it but doesn’t seem to be that much once the dust settles. Time travel is not something that worked this year (Timeless, Time After Time and Making History are all flops at various degrees) and conspiracies are always hard to keep interesting for multiple seasons. They start big and they tend to get too complicated progressively until viewers lose interest and disappear. What’s interesting though, it’s that everything the refugees say about their journey and their past life -not much actually- isn’t illustrated with images. Meaning they could totally be lying to the authorities. We’re never quite sure they are good people, or if their intentions are good. It’s frustrating and confusing but the uncertainty gives a reason to stay a little bit longer. This plus the cliffhanger that does the job it’s asked for. In the end, you’re left with the feeling that you’ve already watched that show before. Maybe it was The 4400 or V or Invasion. Replace the word “refugees” with “aliens” and you get the picture.

The Crossing is not strong and ambitious enough to be granted the right to think of itself as a possible successor to Lost. It’s timely and entertaining, family-friendly and somewhat appealing, but it doesn’t look like a game-changer for ABC. More like an honest little show that will get lost in the ratings rather sooner than later and that will ultimately drown.