Tag: laverne cox

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.

SCOOP: Judith Light to play Katherine Heigl’s mother in CBS legal drama “Doubt”


CBS forgot to tell us a (good) piece of information about their new legal drama Doubt, premiering during 2016/2017 midseason. Not just the slot where it will end up, though it remains a mistery so far. Katherine Heigl is getting a new mother!

The already exciting cast around Heigl –Steven Pasquale, Laverne Cox, Dreama Walker, Dulé Hill, Elliott Gould, Kobi Libii– will be joined by Who’s the boss?/Ugly Betty/Transparent/ Broadway star Judith Light as the heroine’s estranged mother. As of now, she is billed as a guest star in the pilot –where she just appears in one key scene– but she’s poised to come back later as a recurring character. Of course, she will continue on Transparent for the upcoming seasons 3 & 4.

Doubt is the story of Sadie Ellis, a brilliant attorney at a boutique firm who starts to fall for her charismatic client, Billy Brennan, an altruistic pediatric surgeon recently accused of murdering his girlfriend 24 years ago. Sadie is hiding her growing feelings from everyone, including her close friend and colleague,  Albert Cobb, who thinks he knows everything about her. Sadie’s decision to become involved with her client could put her career, as well as her happiness, at risk if Billy is found guilty, which means she needs to work all the harder to prove reasonable doubt, even if she has some herself. It is written by spouses Joan Rater & Tony Philan and produced by CBS Television Studios with Timberman-Beverly Productions.

“Doubt” (CBS) pilot preview: Another legal drama that is NOT “The Good Wife” but…


Written & produced by Joan Rater & Tony Philan (Grey’s Anatomy, Madam Secretary). Co-produced by Sarah Timberman & Carl Beverly (Elementary, Unforgettable, Justified). Directed by Adam Bernstein (Oz, Breaking Bad, Californication). For CBS, CBS Television Studios & Timberman-Beverly Productions. 65 pages.

Description: Sadie Barrow, a smart, successful 30-something defense attorney, shockingly falls in love with one of her very rich clients, Billy Conway, who may or may not be guilty of a brutal crime. As of now, she has been able to hide the affair from her colleagues at Klein & Associates, but she knows the truth will come out eventually and it could put her career in jeopardy…

With KaDee Strickland (Private Practice, Secrets & Lies), Teddy Sears (American Horror Story, Masters of Sex, Raising the bar), Laverne Cox (Orange is the new black), Dreama Walker (The Good Wife, Don’t Trust the B****, Compliance), Dulé Hill (Psych, The West Wing), Elliott Gould (Friends, Ray Donovan, American History X), Kobi Libii (Alpha House)…

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Sometimes, life is unfair. For Doubt, life is very unfair indeed. I read the pilot script just after watching the greatest episode of The Good Wife this year, and clearly Doubt can’t compare. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t good. It’s just that The Good Wife is beyond brilliant. If the show wasn’t developed for the same network, it wouldn’t be that big of a problem, but it is. And The Good Wife is not dead yet. We’ll get one more year, at least. Lucky us. I doubt Doubt can be paired with Michelle & Robert King’s drama on Sundays, or put somewhere else on the schedule. It wouldn’t fit. In fact, CBS should forget the legal drama genre for a bit, so we can mourn The Good Wife peacefully when the time will come…

Sadie Barrow is certainly cute and I love Kadee Strickland since Private Practice -and I miss her since I don’t watch Secrets & Lies– but she’s no Alicia Florrick/Julianna Margulies, though she totally deserves to be the lead of a show. Sadie is more of the Meredith Grey/women of the Shondaland kind. Doubt has been created by two ex-writers and producers of Grey’s Anatomy, and it shows. Doubt is soapy. Not a problem for me, I like it. But will CBS audience do? It’s a huge bet. And CBS is not used to bet on anything, or just once a year. And their next bet is already called Supergirl. Anyway. Doubt is your classical legal drama with two prominent cases dealt with in the pilot episode. They are not particularly original but they do the job efficiently. I quite liked what they did with a man called the “subway pusher” who, as you can imagine, killed a woman by pushing her onto the tracks of the subway. The man is sick, crazy sick, and it reflects on his attorney, Cameron Wirth, a very interesting character since it’s a transgender woman, played by Laverne Cox, revealed by Orange is the new black. She shares some part of her personal story with her client, but there are many more things to say about her and I’m already sad we’ll probably never get a chance to hear it. She teams up with a second year associate, played by the sparkling Dreama Walker. Those two excited me. I wanted more of them.

The whole love affair story didn’t excite me this much for a simple reason: the accused is clearly not a murderer! He is handsome, gentle, even touching… he’s kind of perfect and there is no twist at some point telling you: “Hey, the man you find so attractive and cool is, in fact, the real killer!”. Maybe they’re planning to reveal it a later time but it will already be too late. It is a now or never situation in my opinion. You have to show quickly what you’re TV series is made of. That’s the way it works now, like it or not. I’m not asking to pile up cliffhangers like in a Shonda Rhimes show, I’m just asking for one! And Doubt gives none. In the last scene, Sadie tells her mom -who’s in prison for something we’re not aware of- she has an affair with her client. It is also revealed Carolyn, the mom, has a love connection with Sadie’s boss, Isaiah Klein. I’m sorry but it feels a little bit too close to the Richard/Ellis storyline in Grey’s Anatomy. And it’s not pilot material. It’s just a good story for later in the season, nothing more. If ordered, the first season will deal with Bill Conway’s trial, and it’s a little thin to fill in 22 episodes… After it is closed? I fear the show becomes a fine soapy legal drama we don’t particularly need. But I’d probably watch it so…

Doubt is a decent but shy show developed by/for the wrong network. On ABC or NBC, why not! On CBS, duh? If by any chance it gets picked-up to series, I’ll support it and even pray for it. I love the cast, I like the characters and their dynamics. But let’s be realistic here: it’s not gonna happen. 

Catches of the Week: it’ all about diversity! Vanessa Williams, Laverne Cox, Natalie Martinez…


While the directors’ jobs are filled quickly, casting is tough this pilot season. Because of the increasing competition from cable and most importantly digital platforms like Netflix & Amazon, the talent pool of experienced actors is almost empty. The pressure over channels and talent agencies is higher than ever. So far, catches are not impressive. But most of them have something in common: diversity! 

NBC is very high on diversity, something they made pretty clear since their pick-ups of series Telenovela (Eva Longoria) and Shades Of Blue (Jennifer Lopez) and pilots Go, Jerrod Go!, The Curse of the Fuentes women, martial arts Warrior, and Love is a Four Letter Word. They all requires latinos, afro-americans and asian americans in lead roles.

This is how Nadine Velasquez and Cynthia McWilliams have been cast this week in the marriage drama Love is a Four Letter Word which chronicles the collision of race, sexuality and gender roles when three diverse couples put modern marriage to the test. The My Name is Earl alumna will play play Rebecca, a Cuban American who is deeply in love with Julie and very happy with their marriage, but doesn’t realize her wife is actively considering getting back together with her ex, Nick. McWilliams will play Tandi, one half of a happy couple with a young son who is experiencing difficulties fulfilling her dream of having another child. Hot Adan Canto, seen in The Following and Mixology, got the part of the mysterious man who brings the Curse to the Fuentes women in the pilot from Ugly Betty creator Silvio Horta. Natalie Martinez, most recently seen in Under The Dome, will star in Warrior as Kai Forrester, a damaged heroine who works undercover with physical and spiritual guidance from a mysterious martial arts master to bring down an international crime lord. Finally veteran S. Epatha Merkerson from Law & Order is reuniting with producer Dick Wolfe with a lead role in the Chicago Fire and Chicago PD planted spin-off Chicago Med. She will be the head of the hopistal.


In other diversity casting news, Vanessa Williams from Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives will play the bold and unapologetic new boss of Kevin Connolly (Entourage) in comedy pilot Fantasy Life for FOX, where Mitch (Connolly) lands his ultimate dream job hosting a fantasy football show, he’s forced to navigate office politics while becoming the star he never thought he could be. Asian American actor Daniel Henney has joined the Untitled Criminal Minds spin-off with Gary Sinise & Anna Gunn. Last but really not least, Laverne Cox, discovered in Orange is the new black, got the part of a transgender attorney in Reasonable Doubt for CBS. If the show is ordered to series, then she’ll become the first transgender regular character on broadcast TV, which is exciting and groundbreaking.

In other non-diversity news (!), cancelled Perception‘s star Eric McCormack, pursued for different roles, will star in musical drama pilot Studio City for FOX, where he’ll play the songwriter father of a young singer who’s trying to make it big in Hollywood, but the man turns out to be a drug dealer to the stars! Ex-Breaking Bad actress Betsy Brandt wants to prove she can be funny after the Michael J. Fox Show demise, so she accepted one of the female leads in CBS’ Life In Pieces comedy pilot, with Colin Hanks playing one of her siblings. David Lyons (Revolution, The Cape) toplines drama pilot Game Of Silence, which NBC is very high on. Sweet Zach Gildford (Friday Night Lights, Off The Map), coming off Stanistan‘s pilot USA Network sadly just decided not to pick-up to series, lands on ABC in soap pilot Flesh & Blood. Finally, excellent Annie Potts & John Carroll Lynch will play the heroine’s parents in comedy pilot Family Fortune for ABC, where the central character comes out to her family.