Tag: michelle king

Evil (CBS) pilot preview: The good mother, the good priest and the DEVIL

SERIES TITLE: Evil
NETWORK: CBS
GENRE: Supernatural Thriller Drama

LOGLINE: The battle between science and religion is in full force when Kristen, a skeptical female clinical psychologist, joins David, a priest-in-training and Ben, a blue-collar contractor as they investigate supposed miracles, demonic possessions, and other extraordinary occurrences to see if there’s a scientific explanation or if something truly supernatural is at work…

Pilot Cast: Katja Herbers (Westworld,The Leftovers, Divorce), Mike Colter (Luke Cage, The Good Wife, Ringer), Aasif Mandvi (Shut Eye, Jericho, Blue Bloods), Michael Emerson (Lost, Person Of Interest, Saw), Skylar Gray

Series Creators: Michelle & Robert King (The Good Wife, The Good Fight, Braindead). 
Pilot Director: Robert King.
Producers: Liz Glotzer (Castle Rock, The Good Fight), Michelle & Robert King.

Studios: CBS Television Studios & King Size Productions.

Ever wonder how TV executives wade through the dozens of pilot scripts they’re pitched each year? They have staff script readers, who provide what’s called “Script Coverage,” an executive summary and a recommendation for each script. Now you too can preview some of the season’s most buzzed about pilots and find out whether we’d recommend them for pickup. Note that all opinions are our own, and all plot, casting and other creative details described here are subject to change.

 

   

You’ll Like It If You Already Like: X-Files, MINDHUNTER, The Exorcist, Person Of Interest, The Following

Likely Timeslot: A 10pm slot is mandatory! But a sweet spot on CBS All Access would be something to think about…

 

WRITTEN BY: Michelle & Robert King.

PAGECOUNT: 63 pages.

DRAFT: Network draft 1/4/19

 

BACKGROUND: If you’re not familiar with Michelle & Robert King’s work, first be ashamed, second go to your room and binge watch popular and critically praised The Good Wife and then its incredible spin-off The Good Fight. Then we can talk. The Kings, as we fans like to call them, have been creative collaborators for 20 years and married for over 30 years. Impressive. So far, they were mostly into legal dramas. They created the 2006 ABC drama series In Justice, starring Kyle MacLachlan, which only lasted a short season, and the two brilliant shows I already recommended you just three seconds ago. In the summer of 2016, they launched on CBS something different, both for the network and for them, a little show called Braindead starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead. It was a quirky and funny horror dramedy. Pure genius. But the ratings were horrendous. It was cancelled.

Last fall, they inked a new overall deal with CBS Television Studios. Now, they are busy with multiple shows at different stages of development. There is an upcoming Showtime legal thriller series Your Honor, which they are executive producing alongside writer Peter Moffat, based on an israeli format and starring Bryan Cranston. There’s also Girls with Guns at the script stage, produced with Scott Free Productions for CBS All Access. And Evil, which would mark their return on CBS with a show that is not a legal drama, though it’s one of its component. It could be summarized as a religious-themed supernatural thriller. It’s intriguing and worrying at the same time. Is another Braindead-like ratings disaster is coming?

 

SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: New Orleans. KRISTEN BOUCHARD (34), a criminal psychologist and mother of four, interviews ORSON LEROUX (38), who is accused of murdering seven people. Kristen testifies in court that Orson is sane but the prosecution blindsides her on the stand their expert witness claims Orson is possessed by a demon named Roy. After she is fired by the DA’s office, Kristen investigates with DAVID DACOSTA (37), an assessor for the Catholic church. Kristen is skeptical at first, but after she meets with EMILY LEROUX, Orson’s wife, who plays Kristen, David, and BEN SCHWEIGER (30), a recording of whispers in her home, she starts to question if Orson is possessed. As Kristen dives deeper into Orson’s case, she begins to see GEORGE, probably a night terror but possibly a ghost, at night. When Kristen interviews “Roy”, and he tells her details about her encounters with George, she realizes someone has stolen her therapist’s notes and feed the information to Orson. LELAND TOWNSEND, the prosecution’s clinical psychologist, may have played a part in the devilish scheme…

 

COMMENTS:  It wouldn’t be far-fetched to bill Evil as a cross between cult series X-Files and David Fincher’s Netflix show MINDHUNTER. I don’t know if that’s the way it’s been conceived by the Kings, if those are references they had in mind, but once you’ve seen it you can’t unsee it. You have the thrills of the investigations on mysteries combined with the psychological depth. Reading this pilot script gave me the same conflicting feeling I had when I read Braindead‘s. You’re so happy and excited to read something that has been written by those two geniuses that you expect every line to splatter your brain with brilliance. And even though brilliance there is in there, and splatterring too (!), it’s not everywhere on every page. The best compliment I can make about Evil is that’s it’s a boiling, riveting, bedazzling show hidden behind a stark, unimpressive, already seen concept. 

It’s not saying though that the formula is ill-conceived. It’s well-crafted and smart, but it’s also very traditional and a bit mechanical at the start. Which might be a requirement if you want to survive on CBS. The Good Wife was like that in the beginning. Same with Person Of Interest. You need to give CBS’ viewers what they want before surprising them and choosing a more deviant path. The predictable thing is that it can only end up one way: with Kristen accepting to continue working with David and Ben after their first investigation together. This pilot script is never boring despite all that. It has to do with the fast pace the Kings always get right and the interactions between the characters that always work so greatly on paper. And then on film since they always get the best actors for the parts. I’m really not afraid of the finished product. I’m more scared of how the audience will react to the graphic scenes, if they’re filmed and edited the way they’re described. The cold open is a blood bath. It’s spilling through fingers and on the polished floor. It’s a nightmare. There are also flashes of severed flesh and exposed brain. Can network television allow that?

But it doesn’t stop there because later on, our heroine Kristen has to deal with a dark figure that haunts her at night. And we’re in full horror movie mode, believe me. It’s scary and appalling because of what the ghost that calls himself George says and does to her. He’s obsessed with the hot and sexy connection between Kristen and the soon-to-become priest David. As we all are. He wants to know if she’s all wet between the legs when she sees David. And so he takes off her underwear to make sure he’s right. It definitely makes you uncomfortable… especially because you can’t repress a laugh at the same time since this ghost is funny too! It’s weird and it can’t leave you indifferent, that’s for sure. You know what else is damn creepy? The whole Michael Emerson’s Leland Townsend character. Remember his Ben in Lost? Same kind of ambiguous man. He’s the best incarnation possible for the role. Townsend is a seemingly kind and trustworthy man with a twinkle in his eye and an appealing manner. But outward appearances couldn’t be more deceiving: he’s an agent of evil who spurs his followers to acts of unspeakable violence and murder. It’s called “a connector”. He’s reminiscent of James Purefoy’s serial killer character in The Following. He’s like a guru, and he tells Kristen that there are 60 people online who could come to her house and cut her heart out right now, if he asks them to. Guys, you’ll get a thrill up your spine at this very moment!

Let’s talk about those three central characters now. Kristen is young but she’s already the (single) mother of four girls, and her own mother lives with them in the house that is both her home and her workplace. She works in her basement, her female version of a man cave, cold and messy. Kristen herself is not cold, and she’s not messy though her life is starting to become messier than she has expected to. She’s desbribed as a walking contradiction. She’s friendly, pretty and sunny on the outside, but probably darker in the inside. She’s a woman of science, while David is a man of faith. It’s Scully and Mulder all-over again, though David does not believe in aliens, but in God, and angels, and devils. He’s rugged and handsome, the kind of sexy priest you only see on television. We don’t learn much of anything about his past in the pilot but there’s probably a lot to say. Ben, our third main character, is a carpenter who was recruited for David’s team early on. He has a deep skepticism about all things supernatural and he is a genius at uncovering the organic reasons behind reported “hauntings,” but there may be things outside his understanding that will rattle his belief system sooner or later… He finds his place in the pilot right away, as the side-kick, but I don’t know what could be his role in the future, other than the light presence and the problem solver. Anyway, all three form a team you want to spend more time with, especially if the show becomes heavily-serialized and batshit crazy later on. They could if they would.

 

FINAL RECOMMENDATION: Only the Kings can elevate such a traditional concept in the supernatural arena to the next level. And they did, quite brilliantly. Evil is not your typical CBS show and it’s not something you find these days on the other networks either. It’s a leap of faith that should be taken, but with a back-up plan in case it gets rejected. There should be a spot waiting for it on CBS All Access. With those writers, this cast and this strong potential, nothing can really go wrong. 

 

OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:

[  ] PASS
[  ] CONSIDER
[ X ] RECOMMEND

Braindead (CBS) pilot preview: When The Good Wife’s creators go full zombies!

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Created by Robert & Michelle King (The Good Wife, Vertical Limit, Red Corner). Produced by Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Alien, Prometheus), Judy Smith (Scandal) & David W. Zucker (Police Squad!, Naked Gun). For CBS Television Studios, King Size Productions & Scott Free Productions. 67 pages.

Description: Laurel, the daughter of a Democratic political dynasty who left Washington, D.C. to become a documentary filmmaker, is pulled back into the family business when her brother, the senate majority whip, needs her help running his senate office. Now a young, fresh-faced Hill staffer, Laurel discovers two things: The government has stopped working, and alien spawn have come to Earth and eaten the brains of a growing number of congressmen and Hill staffers…

With Mary Elizabeth Winstead (10 Cloverfield LaneThe Returned US, A Good Day to Die Hard, Final Destination 3) , Aaron Tveit (Graceland, Gossip Girl), Danny Pino (Cold Case, Law & Order SVU), Johnny Ray Gill (Rectify, Harry’s Law), Nikki M. James (The Good Wife)…

STARTS JUNE 13th ON CBS

 

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Whether The Good Wife leaves the air next May or stays at least one more year remains a mystery, as CBS has not decided on its fate yet (or so they say). In my opinion, they should wrap it up before it gets too embarrasing. A show that once was so brilliant can’t keep on offering such meh episodes (and such bad ratings). It’s just not acceptable. Creators Robert & Michelle King are already looking ahead while working on their next projects: there’s the ambitious Vatican City for Amazon, about the first female Papal spokesperson, which sounds exciting and new, and there’s Braindead, ordered to series for a summer run, described as a horror dramedy, which sounds a bit weird, especially on CBS but summer is this time of the year when the network allows itself to be real dumb and plain boring, as Under The Dome & Zoo proved to be (Extant was “just” boring and nothing else much). Braindead isn’t dumb and boring on the page. But is it any good? After scratching my head til it bleeds a little, here’s what I can say about the King’s next move.

Braindead is as funny as the Kings can be in The Good Wife sometimes, and it certainly doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is a good thing since we already have that kind of “why so serious?” zombie show. It’s called The Walking Dead and everybody saw at least a glimpse of it. There are even a few fans out there, I’ve been told. The tone of the show is much more looking towards Ash Vs. Evil Dead but it wouldn’t be fair to compare it to anything else on TV right now. Braindead is its own thing, familiar in a way but different. Highly entertaining but with substance – and not only raw meat. Laurel, our heroin, has a good sense of humor and it makes her instantly engaging. It certainly is a meaty role for Mary-Elizabeth Winstead, who deserves it. Laurel is not as cold as Alicia Florrick can look at first sight. She’s fresh, cheerful, a bit of a nerd. She’s described by the writers as “eclectic and lively“. Not sure what they mean, but yeah she’s all of that and probably much more as we get to know her.

The characters that surround her are for the most part politicians, whether they’re from her family or working against her family, and they already show their real faces behind the mask. That’s where it’s a good thing the show is written by the Kings and not some random writer. They know what they’re talking about. They know political strategies. They proved it on The Good Wife multiple times. It’s not a zombie show that happens to be set at Washington DC. It’s both a zombie and a political show, and both aspects are treated with the same care. You got the thrills and the violence of The Walking Dead, or let’s say The Strain; and also the excitement of a smart TV show like The Good Wife that doesn’t take you for a dummy. Juggling with both is much more difficult than it seems and they do it very smoothly. I’d like to add The Good Wife fans won’t be lost: they’ll have a good amount of walk and talk scenes, dialogues on the phones and the pilot starts the same way as a lot of the legal series’ episodes do, by showing an internet video, here it’s car crash in Russia directly followed by the fall of a meteorite.

When it comes to raising the stakes and giving us a good idea of what the show will look like on a weekly basis, the Kings kind of fail. They made a choice: not showing all their cards in the pilot. They don’t use flashbacks or flashfowards or any other writing tricks. I respect that. Totally. That’s the way most of cable shows work. And they treated Braindead as such. For a network, even during summertime, it’s dangerous but courageous. Hope they’ll be rewarded for it. And I also hope they have a plan but you can’t seriously throw yourself into that kind of story without a plan!

Something really good can come out of that pilot script and that idea of a television show, but Braindead isn’t there yet. For now, it’s total exposure. Getting to know the characters, understanding the political situation -which is never that easy- and attending the first few days of the epidemy. Will it become a survival show at some point? We don’t know, but we sure hope so. There’s exciting stuff ahead and there’s exciting stuff right now. We just have to accept Braindead isn’t a flashy show that makes your head spinning from the get go and leaves you breathless after an hour. It’s a more traditional writing but a very good one thrown into a mix of genres that makes it everything but traditional. It won’t make your brain hurts… yet.

 

NEXT REVIEW: AMERICAN GOTHIC (CBS)