Tag: john wells

Animal Kingdom (TNT) pilot preview: Sexy shirtless men doing very bad things shamelessly

Animal Kingdom

Created by Jonathan Lisco (SoutLAnd, Halt and Catch Fire, Jack & Bobby). Based on the australian movie Animal Kingdom. Directed by John Wells (ER, Shameless US, The West Wing, Third Watch, August: Osage County). Produced by John Wells, Liz Watts, David Michôd (Animal Kingdom, The Rover), Andrew Stearn & Jonathan Lisco. For Warner Horizon Television & John Wells Productions. 58 pages.

Description: When 17-year-old Josh moves in with his wild, free-wheeling relatives in their Southern California beach town after his mother ODs, he is pulled into their life of indulgence and excess. But after Josh discovers that it’s all being funded by criminal activities, it suddenly becomes clear to him that joining the Cody family comes with more danger and excitement than he might be ready to handle…

With Ellen Barkin (The New Normal, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, This Boy’s Life, Sea of Love), Scott Speedman (Felicity, The Last Resort, Underworld), Finn Cole (Peaky Blinders), Shawn Hatosy (SouthLAnd, Fear the Walking Dead), Devon Sawa (Nikita), Jack Weary (Pretty Little Liars, It Follows), Daniella Alonso (One Three Hill, Friday Night Lights, The Night Shift), Ben Robson (Vikings), Ryan Dorsey (Justified), Anna Belknap (CSI: New York)…


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With Animal Kingdom, TNT is definitely trying to move on and leave their glorious past behind. Forget bad popcorn series like Falling Skies or worse : The Last Ship (even if technically, this one’s still on the air). Forget the Dallas reboot misstep, which was creatively a winner but lost too many viewers in a very short period of time to become anything else but a loser. Forget uninteresting copshows like Perception. Forget Legends & Agent X. Oh, maybe you never heard of them in the first place… And you can already start to say goodbye to Rizzoli & Isles, which is ending at the end of season 7. Major Crimes shouldn’t stay long either if TNT finds what they’re looking for with their new shows: the larger crowd possible with finer products. It’s a big challenge for the most network-y of all the cable channels. They want to be AMC. They want to be FX. Except they broadcast all day long Bones, Castle, Grimm, Charmed, Hawaii 5-0, Law & Order repeats. The transition’s gonna be hard. Is Animal Kingdom, likely coming next summer, is their Mad Men, the show that will change the face of TNT forever?

Undoubtedly, Animal Kingdom is edgier than what they are used to broadcast. It’s packed with antiheroes doing bad things like you know… swearing, stealing, fighting, selling drugs… and probably killing at some point if they need to. They’re not afraid of it, or of anything quite frankly.They’re bad asses you don’t wanna mess with. Everybody know them in town. They’re “respected” because they are so much feared. Even the police is careful with them. They’d love to put them all in prisons, they’re watching them as much as they can but the Codys also happen to be very clever, at least most of them, so trying to catch them is more like wasting time and energy. But as much as they are dangerous, they’re also filled with humor, joy, coolness, sexy ways -they love to throw parties around the pool and forget to put shirts and/or pants on- and they have a certain sense of family values. They’re always hitting each others but it’s clear they love living together. The ciment of the whole family is the mother, nicknamed Smurf. She’s cheery, colorful, funny, she cooks a lot, but let’s not be fooled: she’s even more dangerous than her children! She’s the mastermind and she never rests. Whether she’s a good person in the inside has yet to be proven. But she might be. And watching Ellen Barkin in this role will be delightful, that’s for sure.

So the thing with Animal Kingdom is that it’s dark and gritty, as many cable shows are, but lighter than let’s say… Mr Robot on USA Network. Or True Detective on HBO. Or Ray Donovan on Showtime. Or Sons of Anarchy on FX. Or Breaking Bad on AMC. You get the idea? And it’s not necessarily a bad thing, don’t get me wrong: making something very entertaining with a dark content is not that easy. I can think of only one show to compare Animal Kingdom with, in terms of rhythm, content and enjoyment: Shameless.  And it’s not a surprise: both are produced by John Wells. It also made me think of another show and don’t laugh please: The OC! If Ryan had arrived in the trash version of the Coen family! Because basically, Josh is like Ryan: an intelligent teenage boy that never got the chance to succeed in life because of his drug-addict of a mother. Except the Codys, unlike the Coen, won’t help him. They’re gonna drag him to the darkside until (very bad) shit happens. It’s predictable but it should be a hell of a ride for him to live and for us to witness.

Animal Kindgom‘s pilot script successfully balances the fun and the dark, the light and the twisty, the sexy and the gritty, and is definitely a show to look forward to. That being said, I don’t think it has what it takes to become a breakout hit and turn TNT upside down but it’s a first step towards the right direction. Many more are to be taken…



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


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!