Tag: life in pieces

“Life in Pieces” (CBS) pilot preview: The stories of a not so Modern Family

LIFEIN

Created and procuded by Justin Adler (Better Off Ted, Less Than Perfect). Executive Produced and directed by Jason Winer (Modern Family, The Crazy Ones). Co-produced by Aaron Kaplan (The Neighbors, Friends With Better Lives). For CBS, 20th Century FOX Television, Kapital Entertainment & Smalldog Picture Co. 36 pages.

Description: One family is told through the separate stories of its different family members, from feshly divorced Matt and his new girlfriend Colleen to young parents Greg & Jen, helped by long married couple with teenage kids Tim & Heather and Grandpa John & Grandma Joan…

With Thomas Sadoski (The Newsroom, The Slap US), Betsy Brandt (Breaking Bad, Parenthood, The Michael J. Fox Show), Colin Hanks (Roswell, Dexter, Fargo), Dianne Wiest (In Treatment, Law & Order), James Brolin (Pensacola, Hotel), Zoe Lister Jones (Whitney, Friends With Better Lives), Angelique Cabral (Enlisted), Dan Bakkedahl

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One Big Family. Fourt short stories. Every Week“. That’s the promise made by writer Justin Adler at the very beginning of the script, right after the title. He wants to make it pretty clear: this family comedy won’t be like any other. Except he forgot just one tiny thing: Modern Family is already on the air for 6 years! And if every little story of the Pritchett/Dunphy family is not totally separated from each other by commercial breaks as it is the case here, moving forward, Life In Pieces will undoubtedly have to mix the stories a little, inviting one or two characters into the short stories of the others, and then we’ll have something looking an awful lot like ABC hit show! Plus, they are using the same trick as in Modern Family‘s pilot: the fact that the characters are all part of the same family is only revealed at the end. Of course, you have to be really dumb not to understand it before (if you haven’t read it somewhere yet) ! That being said, Life In Pieces‘ script is good. It’s just sad the only so called original thing here is the concept (and choosing not very funny actors to play funny characters – look at their faces in the picture)…

Sorry to break it  to you like that but Life In Pieces is not very diversity-friendly! It’s an all-white, quite rich family. In the script, the character of Jen is said to be asian. CBS chose Zoe Lister-Jones to play her. And she’s not asian. But she’s hilarious, which is better. But it was the only touch of exoticism! I don’t want to start any debate about this whole diversity thing right now, but I think the show would have been much more modern than Modern Family is with an all-black or all-latino or all-asian or all-mixed cast.There is no trace of homosexuality either. A lesbian couple would have been nice. So we have the same set of characters that we are used to. And it feels outdated.

In the first segment (not the best one), we meet a freshly divorced man (Thomas Sadoski) at his first date with his new (an younger) potential girlfriend. It gets complicated when he meets her very annoying ex-boyfriend who still lives with her. I would have prefered a freshly divorced woman at her first date with her new (AND YOUNGER) potential boyfriend (or girlfriend !) for a change. Anyway. Then we have the young married couple who are expecting their first child. It’s the best segment (tied with the last one). Not because it feels new, but because the lines are really bold and funny as hell. Jen is about to give birth and all she is scared of is pooping during the delivery. And then there’s a huge problem regarding her vagina. I laughed hard. Third segment is about an older couple (Betsy Brandt…), married for a longtime, visiting colleges for and with their teenage boy. The thing is he gets drunk at night and everything goes out of control. It’s more sweet than funny to be honest. But it’s OK. Last segment reunites the whole family for a very special occasion: the patriarch’s funeral… except he’s not dead! He just wanted to hear a lot of nice things about him while alive. The idea is just great and the lines are once again hilarious. And we’re starting to like them.

I recognize I may be a little hard on this one. Life In Pieces is an uneven but quite good script… but for a show launched 6 years ago, before Modern Family arrives. CBS has definitely found something that looks like a hit, with a terrific cast, but in my opinion, they missed an opportunity to be relevant about diversity. It was the perfect vehicle for it. And CBS is not the right place for this single-camera comedy, by the way. We’ll see if the network goes for it or smashes it to pieces…

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

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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.

LAVERNE

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.

Catches of the Week: Colin Hanks, Jenna Elfman, Chris Klein, Nico Tortorella…

JENNA

While the most sought actors of pilot season are reading scripts and making their choices (or refusing everything), a few leads and secondary characters have already been cast this week. Here’s the summary!

She’s in a comedy project every year -which almost every time go to series- 2015 won’t be different! Jenna Elfman has said yes to the Untitled Dana Klein project for FOX, where she will play a working mom who is in constant competition with her perfect, stay-at-home sister-in-law. Ellen constantly second-guesses herself and, by extension, her husband. She worries she’s a bad mom/wife/daughter-in-law and often takes on more than she can handle in an effort to prove otherwise. Now they have to find the right fit for the sister part. Just as a reminder, the last few years we’ve seen Elfman in Growing Up Fisher, 1600 Penn, Accidentally on Purpose and Courting Alex (this one was really good but CBS destroyed it because of a bad move in the schedule). She also did Bad Mom for ABC which didn’t go to series. She’s still really living on her Dharma & Greg days. She did one season of Damages where she was great. She also appeared in one episode of Shameless. In 2007, she did Brothers & Sisters one time. The fact that she is not offered -or she don’t accept- drama or dramedies is beyond me… She would have been great in one of the few family dramedies developed this year…

At CBS, one of single-camera comedy Life In Pieces‘ lead has been cast. The role went to Colin Hanks, who was great in Fargo‘s first season, did good on Dexter during one of the atrocious seasons, and was recently very funny in an episode of Mom. Here, he will play Greg, the coddled youngest of three siblings who finds himself overwhelmed and unprepared for the birth of his first child. The show is about one family as told through the separate stories of its different family members.

At NBC, three secondary characters of single-camera comedy How We Live have been found: Lindsay Price, Chris Klein & Jared Gertner. The show is centered on Russell, a blogger, and his wife Holly who move to the suburbs where he begins writing about marriage and the family lives of his suburban friends and neighbors, in the style of an anthropologist who’s stumbled on an undiscovered tribe. Klein (American Pie) will play best friend Matt and Price & Gertner will form a couple, who are best friends with Matt!

Also note that Thomas Haden Church will star opposite Sarah Jessica Parker in HBO pilot Divorce, which is now officially ordered, Molly Shannon is also in it; the gorgeous The Following‘s season one alumn Nico Tortorella will be the boyfriend of a drag queen in HBO’s Mamma Dallas, written by Enlightened brilliant creator Mike White; and that Damon Wayans Jr. has just left New Girl to star in his own pilot, with the lead of Rush Hour for CBS being an option.

CBS orders two single-camera comedies… Why oh why?

JOHN

After a year without any single-camera comedy on the air, CBS is determined to try its hand at it again. They just ordered two pilots…

CBS is the home of good ol’ multicamera sitcoms, when other nets have difficulties to find successes in the genre (except ABC with Last Man Standing). Still, they wanna have single-camera comedies next year, despite the three consecutive flops they had two seasons ago: The Crazy Ones, We Are Men & Bad Teacher.

First one can be seen as an attempt to have their Modern Family. Written by Justin Adler, who worked on Samantha Who? and Better Off Ted, Life In Pieces has the ambition to portrait one family through the separate stories of its different family members. An interesting but difficult concept to tackle. The cast will be the key. It is produced by 20th Century FOX television, which has not one comedy on the air on CBS for the first year in decades. Meaning this project has a very good chance to go to series. Though, another order from them is expected (multicamera comedy by the duo behind The Lego Movie).

Second one is a passion project for CBS and late James Gandolfini, developed for years. Taxi-22, an adaptation of a French-Canadian show, was ordered to pilot last year but they couldn’t find the right leading man during the pilot season frenzy. This time, they have, in the person of John Leguizamo (he was in two pilots for ABC the last two seasons, which didn’t go to series ultimately). The single-camera comedy tells the tribulations of a New York taxi driver who never let his customers step on his toes, but with family, he becomes a very different man: he let his old father do and say anything; he’s always fighting with his son who he doesn’t understand at all; and he is still in love with his wife who left him several months ago, trying to rebuild her life…

SEE ALL CBS PILOT ORDERED SO FAR