Tag: jenna bans

Good Girls (NBC) pilot preview: The Real Desperate Housewives of Detroit

Written and produced by Jenna Bans (The Family, Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives). Directed by Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest, Red 2, Justified, Monk). For Universal Television. 5th network draft 12/01/16. 60 pages.

Description: what happens when Beth, Annie and Ruby, three “good girl” suburban wives and mothers from the suburbs of Detroit suddenly find themselves in desperate circumstances: they decide to stop playing it safe and risk everything to take their power back, descending together into a life of crime, starting by robbing a grocery store…

With Kathleen Rose Perkins (Episodes, Colony), Mae Whitman (Parenthood, Arrested Development), Retta (Parks and Recreation, Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce), Matthew Lillard (Scooby-Doo, Scream, The Bridge US), Manny Montana (Graceland, Conviction), Reno Wilson (Mike & Molly)…

  

You’ll like it if you already like: Desperate Housewives, The Family

Likely timeslot: Tuesday at 10

 

For the third year in a row, writer Jenna Bans has a pilot in contention and for the very first time it’s not at ABC, where she was schooled by Shonda Rhimes through Grey’s Anatomy & Scandal, but at NBC. She signed an overall deal with Universal Television last summer -where her husband Justin Spitzer, creator of Superstore, already was- after the failure of The Family, which was worth better by the way, one of the few good network shows from last year. Sometimes, ratings work in mysterious ways. I was eager to read Good Girls‘ pilot script. Sea of Fire‘s in 2014 was incredibly strong. But I’m sad to report this one is not her best (unless if you go way way back to Off The Map, that she created)…

Here’s the thing with Jenna Bans: her writing is fearless, she always dives in darkness, she flirts with the limits -dealing with pedophilia on a broadcast network was not exactly taking the easiest road- and she makes it entertaining at the same time, full of surprises and compelling troubled characters. Mixing soap with gloom is rare and difficult. She learned her Shonda lessons right while crafting her own style. But with Good Girls, something’s off. It took time for me to understand what was bothering me but after reflecting on it and reading again some portions of the script it became clear: the whole story is just not believable and it feels like she knows it. As if she was determined to convince the audience as well as herself that such a thing could happen in real life. Subsequently, subtlety is nowhere to be found. It’s just not working. Not with these characters and in this context. Whether or not it actually happened someday, somewhere in the world.

I’m very surprised by the cast they assembled. Positively. I love these actresses and they didn’t choose them because they were popular. ‘cos they’re not. They choose them because they were right for the parts, I guess. Like they did with This Is Us actually. And they probably tested them as a group, since many scenes are about the girls together, talking. It’d be a shame if they didn’t have chemistry. A good move anyway, that gives me hope they’ll add what’s missing in the script by their natural talent, especially comedy-wise. Good Girls is more in the drama side, depressing sometimes, definitely heavy, supposedly emotional if they don’t push it too much, but there are a few scenes that could be funny. Calling it a dramedy would be a stretch though.

The hilarious Kathleen Rose Perkins (if you never saw her in Episodes then you don’t know what funny is) will play Beth, the ringleader of the trio, a frazzled mother who discovers her husband has an affair. Fed up with her life and angry, she’s the one who decides to rob a supermarket. She struggles with guilt and fear in the aftermath. She’s the most interesting, multi-dimensional character on paper. Then there’s her younger sister Annie, played by the excellent Mae Whitman, a single mom terrified of losing her son in a custody battle. Who’s a bit boring and whining person for now. And finally her best friend Ruby, a waitress who worries about her 11-year-old daughter who has kidney disease and isn’t getting the treatment she needs at the local clinic. Retta is the most surprising casting. I didn’t picture her like this at all. And that’s good news. She’ll probably add layers to the role. The men of Good Girls are mostly bad uninteresting guys. There’s work to do to make them more than those tired clichés.

Then there’s the question of being able to sustain the premise over multiple seasons. Even with shortened orders, I don’t see it. Those girls won’t be able to escape prison at some point. Not without huge inconsistencies in the stories. That worries me a lot to be honest. If they start by robbing a supermarket, what happens next? They rob a bank, deal drugs and kill people? It’s gonna get ugly and possibly ridiculous.

Good Girls has an average pilot script that has really good moments as well as mediocre ones, and that can be elevate to a superior level by only two things: a great cast (which it has) with a real chemistry (has yet to be proven) and a director that has a vision and who’s not just a performer (I’m not sure). NBC is clearly envisioning it as a companion for This Is Us and though it would suffer from the comparison, it’s a valid option.

“The Family” (ABC) pilot preview: the family soap you won’t even feel guilty about loving!

ORIGINALSIN

Previously entitled Flesh & Blood and Original Sin. Written & produced by Jenna Bans (Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, Scandal, Private Practice, Off the Map). Co-produced by David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman (Monk, Fighter, Warm Bodies, The Proposal) & Laurie Zaks (Castle). Directed by Paul McGuigan (Sherlock, Monroe, Devious Maids). For ABC, ABC Studios & Mandeville Prods. 63 pages.

Description: It’s been ten years since 9-year-old Adam Warren disappeared from Red Pines, Maine and the world has changed a lot in his absence. His mother, Claire, who was then just starting her first City Council campaign, has been elected mayor. His father, John, is now the bestselling author of “Grieving with Grace” a book series on coping with loss. Adam’s siblings, Danny and Willa, who were supposed to be watching Adam at the time, have each dealt with their guilt in their own way. So, when a young man appears in Red Pines claiming to be Adam, it throws everyone into a tailspin. The man sitting in jail for Adam’s supposed death is released as Nina Meyer, the cop responsible of the investigation, is forced to reexamine what truly happened so many years ago….

With Joan Allen (The Killing US, Luck, Face/Off, Hatchi, The Bourne Identity), Rupert Graves (Sherlock Last Tango in Hallifax, The White Queen, V for Vendetta), Margot Bingham (Boarwalk Empire, Matador), Alison Pill (The Newsroom, In Treatment, The Pillars of the Earth, Harvey Milk), Zach Gilford (Friday Night Lights, Off the Map, The Mob Doctor, The Purge: Anarchy), Liam James (The Killing US, Psych), , Andrew McCarthy (St Elmo’s Fire, Lipstick Jungle), Florianna Lima (Allegiance, The Mob Doctor), Madeleine Arthur (Big Eyes), Alex Steele (Degrassi: the next generation), Rarmian Newton

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He’s not dead! The kid’s not dead! Just realize Original Sin (aka Flesh & Blood) is the first drama in at least 2 years that doesn’t start with a dead kid. Gracepoint, Secrets & Lies, American Crime, The Missing, Bloodline… Do you need more proofs of this morbid tendency that started with the great and acclaimed Broadchurch? What was once a taboo subject matter on television fascinated the whole world in the past few months as if suddenly writers were allowed to deal with such a dark, traumatic event and jumped on the opportunity all at once. Here, on the contrary, the kid is coming back from the dead -not as in The Returned or Resurrection- figuratively! Everybody thought he died 10 years ago. They were all wrong. Well, in fact, we’re not sure yet if it’s the real Adam who’s back in Red Pines or someone who’s trying to take its place in the Warren family. But that’s one of the many hooks and chills this well-crafted pilot gives you.

From a writer who worked on all Shondaland’s series -she even created one!- it doesn’t come as a surprise. She learned from the best! But this time, Shonda is not involved. Jenna Bans did it by herself. And Shonda can be proud. Last year, she wrote the Sea Of Fire pilot script, which was in my opinion really really good and was worth a try at ABC. They didn’t order it to series, because it was too dark and too sexually charged for network television, I suspect. I see Original Sin as their way of making amends and a proof they believe she is able to bring them their next hit. It was reported on Deadline it is “getting a strong buzz heading into the home stretch“, the same way as How to Get Away With Murder last year. Nothing’s ever a sure thing, but it looks good. To be totally honest with you, I think I liked Sea Of Fire better. I’d say it was more unpredictable. Original Sin possesses a lot of twists and most of them work but once or twice I said to myself: “this is going to happen“. And it happened. But people appreciate being right, so it won’t hurt if they guess one or two things in advance. They’ll feel smart and there are still plenty of surprises to get excited about anyway.

At its core, Original Sin is a family drama, a very human one, more than a mystery or a detective show, or even a soap. It’s the story of a family which was detroyed the day the youngest child disappeared and could never recover from the pain and anger they felt and still feels. Even if most of them had no choice but to get on with their lives. Even if the culprit was found. Or so they thought. It’s essentially character driven, from every point of view, not only the family’s but also the detective’s, a journalist’s and the man who was not guilty after all but may be guilty of something else soon… You can feel their pain and their guilt, even now. It’s devastating on the page. I hope the cast can live up to it. I’m not too worried. Joan Allen, Alison Pill, Rupert Graves and Zach Gilford are brilliant. As we follow Adam’s return -the scene when they see him for the first time is upsetting- we witness the day they lost him through numerous flashbacks. Where they were. What they could have done. And then what they did. ‘Cos they all did things they’re not proud of in the wake of the tragedy. One of them did something even the Lord himself can’t forgive, and he/she won’t be able to keep the secret any longer. And you want to be there the moment it’s gonna happen. Midway through the script, I already knew I wanted Original Sin to go to series badly. Add to that the feel of a small town, the pressure of a political campaign, an affair -‘cos there’s always an affair-, this weird and mysterious child, who was abused, lonely for so long, you want to hug and tell him it’s all gonna be okay except he creeps you out at the same time… Everything’s in place to make a great show out of the already great pilot.

Original Sin could totally take the actual spot of Secrets & Lies -and precedently Resurrection– on Sundays at 9 on ABC, and would mesh well with Nashville if the musical soap were on the move to Sundays at 10 as most predict, including me. I don’t know if the show has more than one or two seasons to give, but it definitely has what it takes to offer us one or two great seasons, of 13-15 episodes preferably. And if they find the right twist, I’m sure they can go on a few more years. People can relate to this family and its members, they can feel for the detective, they can get excited by the investigation and the secrets that will be found along the way… And it won’t even feel like a sin to love it. 

Photo courtesy of YVRShoots