Tag: lance gross

The Trustee (ABC) pilot preview: Cagney & Lacey New Generation

Written and produced by Jay Scherick & David Ronn (The Smurfs 1 & 2, Zookeeper, Spin City). Directed by Michael Engler (Notorious, The Big C, 30 Rock, Party of Five). Executive produced by Elizabeth Banks (Pitch Perfect) & Max Handelman. From Warner Bros. Television & Brownstone Productions. 63 pages. 01/25/17.

Description:  Eliza Radley, a driven but stubborn detective, finds unlikely help from her precinct’s trustee, Amanda Jones, a larger than life ex-con finishing out her prison sentence doing menial tasks for the police department. Though these two have completely opposing views on crime and punishment, a highly entertaining and successful partnership is born to clean the streets of San Francisco… and basically help each other through life!

With Meaghan Rath (Being Human US, Cooper Barrett’s Guide to Surviving Life, Banshee), Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black, Doubt), Michael Cudlitz (SouthLAnd, The Walking Dead), Lance Gross (Sleepy Hollow, House of Payne), David Warshofsky, Berto Colon (Orange is the New Black), Tim Kang (The Mentalist), L. Scott Caldwell (Lost, How to Get Away With Murder)…

  

You’ll like it if you already like: Lethal Weapon, Starsky & Hutch, Cagney & Lacey

Likely timeslot: Monday at 10 or Wednsday at 10

Pilot season is more than just excitement, hope, fear and disappointment. It’s also about… mathematics. Let me do the maths for you. ABC picked-up 11 drama pilots. 7 of them are produced by ABC Studios. Meaning 4 of them are not produced in-house. 2 are from Sony Pictures Television (Doomsday and The Good Doctor) and 2 are from Warner Bros. Television (Deception and The Trustee). Historically, Warner Bros. Television refuses to co-produce. Sony Television accepts it, but not always. Last year, ABC ordered to series 1 Warner Bros. Television-produced project (Time After Time) and one Sony Television-produced show (Notorious), that ABC Studios joined as co-producer. What’s gonna happen this year? They will presumably take one of each again. Unless there’s a surprise. But if there’s one, it will come from Sony, not Warner, because of the co-production thing. Why am I telling you all this? Because Deception and The Trustee are naturally pit against each other this pilot season and it’s a shame. ABC could use both in those troubled times. I feel like Deception has the upper-hand for many reasons (read the preview HERE) but The Trustee shouldn’t be counted out of the race yet.

The truth is, The Trustee would have been a perfect match for FOX to put it with Lethal Weapon. Both are buddy cop dramedies that do a really great job at making you laugh and have some fun during 42 precious minutes of your time. This is not an easy achievement. And network television definitely need more of those. On ABC, it’s a show harder to envision and to schedule but having two women as leads certainly help. And the fact that both are black with one being a transgender woman makes it an important show suddenly. It would be the first time ever that a transgender woman would play a (co)lead on a TV show. It’s amazing. Just for the symbol, I very much want The Trustee to be ordered to series and be treated as what it is: a stepping stone. Is it a deserving contender? I’ll get to it in a moment, don’t worry. Let’s just take a minute to admire ABC for what they’re trying to do here. They tested a lot of actresses and they went for Laverne Cox as soon as she got available (when CBS pulled the plug on Doubt). One important information: she’s NOT playing a transgender woman here (as of now at least). Which is another step in the right direction. Okay, she’s playing another ex-con, wearing the orange jumpsuit like in Orange is the New Black. But it’s too soon to talk about typecasting, right?

The Trustee pilot script is flawed in my opinion and probably not as efficient as Lethal Weapon‘s was but they don’t exactly work the same way and well… The Trustee is not based on a proven feature film hit franchise. There’s more groundwork to do and an entire world to build. Buddy cop shows were very popular in the 70s & the 80s on TV before cinema took a stab at it. The tropes are there, which is not a bad thing. People need to feel comfortable, especially since they already have to accept that they’re not watching two males but two ballsy females. We’re in 2017, it shouldn’t be a problem in theory, but I can’t find recent examples. There was Cagney & Lacey between 1981 and 1988 and nothing successful -or even tried to be honest- before Rizzoli & Isles… in 2010 and which just ended. And it was not exactly a buddy cop show. Anyway. You see. So yeah, it starts and ends with a car chase (a Lincoln Sedan if you really want to know). There are cartoonish very bad guys (who trade Guatemalan girls for money). There are lazy and mysogynistic cops… Everything you’d expect with this genre but with a modern feel.

Does the duet work? Yes it does, really. And that’s the most important thing. They don’t exactly follow the usual distinct formula with one straight-laced stickler for protocol and one unpredictable loose cannon since they kinda are both loose cannons but not in the same way. On one hand, Eliza Radley is fearless and stubborn and has unorthodox methods. Just the fact that she decides to use Amanda, who’s not a detective AT ALL, in a mission proves it. And she has a complicated personal life since her partner and lover died. She has a fuck buddy though, who’s not very happy with the situation. On the other hand, Amanda is a high energy woman who knows everything about the street and conning people, that’s how she ended up in prison. She’s horny as hell now that she’s out. Her mother died when she was young, her troubled sister and her were raised by their grandmother. Both are lonely and they’ll clearly become friends rather sooner than later. There’s a welcome poignancy added to the mix through their backgrounds. At the end of the pilot, we can only root for them. We want more of their amazing partnership. We want them to catch the bad guys and kick their asses. It’s as simple as that. Chemistry between the leads will be the key.

The Trustee works as a nice a ride in The streets of San Francisco, between Starsky & Hutch and Cagney & Lacey new generation. You don’t really care about the investigation as long as you’re having fun. And you do. It’s not earth-shattering in any way but it definitely shakes things up in the buddy cop genre show, making it more modern, diverse and feminist. Trust me.

“Warrior” (NBC) pilot preview: Kung-Fu “Revenge”, a dish best NOT served

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Original Title: American Ronin. Pilot “Humility” Written & produced by David DiGilio (Traveler, Crossbones). Executive produced by husband & wife Walter F. Parkes (The Slap US) & Laurie MacDonald (Crossbones). Directed by Phillip Noyce (Revenge, Salt, Bone Collector, The Giver). For NBC & Universal Television. 60 pages.

Description: Kai Forrester, a damaged young woman is given a chance to go out of jail in exchange for working undercover for a mysterious martial arts master who trains her to bring down an international crime lord who’s responsible for the death of her twin brother…

With Natalie Martinez (Under The Dome, Secrets & Lies US), Holt McCallany (Lights Out), Lance Gross (Crisis, House Of Payne), Will Yun Lee (True Blood, Strike Back, Hawaii 5-0), Rila Fukushima (Arrow), Andy Allo

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Two pilot seasons ago, NBC developed a drama project entitled Bloodlines, about an 18-year old girl discovering she’s coming from a powerful family of mercenaries with skills in martial-arts and some kind of magical power. I think I never read something more dated than that (for example, the writer I won’t name wanted I saw a sign from Ace Of Base, some AC/DC and Stuck On You from Lionel Richie for the soundtrack…). It was dumb and thank God, NBC didn’t go further with it. Sadly, they’re trying something not that different this year with Warrior. It’s not as bad. But it’s not good either. Just think about those boooring scenes in this booooring show that is Revenge, where Emily Thorne learns martial arts. Well, now you have an idea of what Warrior looks like.

I’ll be honest: the opening scene is visually ambitious on paper and if they get the right budget for it, it could look gorgeous and be impressive. David DiGilio doesn’t hesitate to refer to Inception & Matrix, with important choreographic fighting scenes defying gravity. And it takes place in Dubaï, in a luxurious building between the desert and the sea, Mission: Impossible-style. But then… then you have other kung-fu fighting scenes, more traditional and grounded, but way too many. If I remember correctly, there are six in the pilot. You can’t deepen the characters while doing all this stuff. And because the writer wants his show to be taken seriously -I can’t blame him for that- he can’t crack too many jokes either. Bloodlines had many many flaws but at least, dialogues were amusing.

So it’s not fun, most of the time. It’s not emotional, except towards the end because we finally get some rest with the fighting for more character and relationship stuff. We learn some secret, but they are way too easy and obvious to make us care a little bit more about Kai. She’s a bad ass and that’s cool. Life hasn’t been easy for her and that’s sad. But it’s not enough to make a show out of it. It’s already hard to go through one episode, I can’t imagine what it would be like to watch a full season. The mythology doesn’t look solid enough at this point and it’s already hard to follow. Who are the enemies? What do they want? We need some sort of answers from the get go, just to be sure we’re not completely wasting our time here. The only thing I quite liked is the use of magic. There’s a hint of supernatural occurences and we pay a visit to the afterlife world called here “Shadowland” where our heroine is experiencing a near-death moment. The rest is so cliché about Chinese people doing their rites and being wicked and bloodthirsty and… well, it’s depressing.

In my opinion, Warrior is the perfect example of those projects not worth a pilot order that get it anyway for whatever mysterious reasons, and there are a few of them every year. It has no potential to become a hit, even a modest one. The cast is not even attracting, even if I’m pretty sure Natalie Martinez is capable of doing the job nicely. I hope NBC will come its senses and won’t order it to series. If they do, it can only be a mid-season entry cancelled after a few airings. And it’s not me being pessimistic. It’s me being realistic.