Tag: nbc

Emergence (NBC) pilot preview: Another day, another plane crash

SERIES TITLE: Emergence
NETWORK: NBC
GENRE: Mystery Thriller Drama

LOGLINE: Jo, the sheriff of a small town, takes in a young child that she finds near the site of a mysterious accident who has no memory of what has happened. The investigation draws her into a conspiracy larger than she ever imagined, and the child’s identity is at the center of it all. Determined to discover the truth and to protect her as well as her family, she takes all the risks…

Pilot Cast: Allison Tolman (Fargo, Downward Dog, Good Girls), Alexa Skye Swinton (Billions), Donald Faison (Scrubs, The Exes), Clancy Brown (Billions, Thor Ragnarok, The Shawshank Redemption), Owain Yeoman (The Mentalist, Generation Kill), Robert Bailey Jr (The Night Shift), Ashley Aufderheide (The Slap US), Zabryna Guevara (New Amsterdam, Gotham)…
Series Creator: Michele Fazekas & Tara Butters (Kevin Probably Saves The World, Agent Carter, Resurrection, Reaper).
Pilot Director: Paul McGuigan (Sherlock, Designated Survivor, Devious Maids)
Producers: Paul McGuigan, Robert Atwood, Michele Fazekas & Tara Butters. 

Studios: ABC Studios and Fazekas & Butters 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: The Passage, Believe, Kevin Probably Saves The World, The Crossing, Fringe…

Likely Timeslot: Monday 10pm (midseason?). There’s honestly no other and better place for it.

 

WRITTEN BY: Michele Fazekas & Tara Butters

PAGECOUNT: 64 pages

DRAFT: 2rd Revised Network Draft. 1/8/19

 

BACKGROUND: Emergence marks a reunion for writers Michelle Fazekas and Tara Butters & director Paul McGuigan after working together on the 2017 ABC fantasy dramedy Kevin (Probably) Saves the World, which went to pilot and then to series at ABC. Sent to the tuesday 10pm death slot, it lasted a full season of 16 episodes without generating any real buzz. You don’t change a winning team, as they say! But this time, ABC Studios didn’t keep the project for themselves. It ended up at NBC with a put pilot commitment (for some reason). Since it’s not produced in-house, the pilot only has a tiny chance to get ordered to series. Meanwhile, Allison Tolman was among the most sough-after actors for pilots this season, fielding multiple offers both in comedy and drama.

 

SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: One night, JO TORRES (40s), a recently divorced mother and Chief of Police in the sleepy town of Southold on Long Island is awaken by a boom in the distance that causes all the lights to go out. She is called to the scene of a small aircraft crash. Nearby Jo finds a young girl allalone, who is physically perfectly fine, but has no memory of who she is. At the hospital as they asset the girl, federal agents who are investigating the crash show up demanding to see her and her chart. Red flags go off for Jo and her doctor friend ABBY FRASIER (50s). They are confirmed when one of her officers, CHRIS MINETTO (20s), calls saying those federal agents from earlier weren’t from NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board). Fearing for the girl after an abduction scare, Jo decides to keep her close at home with her teenage daughter, BREE (14) and her ill father ED (60s). Jo even recruits her exhusband, ALEX (40s), to help keep the girl, now called PIPER, safe as she tries to figure out who she is, who these mysterious people are, and what they want with her…

COMMENTS: I don’t want to sound cynical or bitter but I have no clue, only theory, that could explain why NBC decided to order a pilot for such a show, especially since it comes from an outside studio. Is this some sort of gift to ABC Studios? Were they forced to do it for some reason? Was it just love at first sight and it’s something you can never explain? So the biggest mystery here is not within the show itself. I wouldn’t go as far as to say there’s definitely a conspiracy behind Emergence‘s birth but it smells like it, folks! The thing is it’s a decent script. Yeah, surprise! I didn’t hate it in fact. I could even say I quite liked it. It’s a page turner. You want to know what’s gonna happen next. But it’s also very deceiving in the end. You get no answers, you’re just even more confused than you were at the beginning and more importantly: you don’t know what this show is and where it wants to go.

That’s always the same story, over and over again, with those TV series billed as “mystery thriller dramas”. You’re irresistibly attracted to it, you know it’s bad for you, you know you’re gonna have a headache the morning after, but you still need your fix. Am I suddenly comparing them to drugs or alcohol? I think I do. There’s a pretty big difference though: it’s way easier to quit. And as ratings often suggest: many viewers don’t hesitate to stop when they get the feeling they’re being played or lied to. You know the famous “we have a plan, don’t worry! A 6-year plan!” and you’re only at the sixth episode and it makes no sense already? This is not working anymore. NBC’s Manifest is not proving me wrong. It started way stronger than anybody expected but it lost more and more steam as the season went on and it ended at a level that would require a cancellation, if network television was not so complicated these days. It will probably get a second season –Revolution and Timeless style- but moved to another slot, a more difficult one, and you can say bye to the six-year plan and to the promised answers. That’s hours of life you will never get back. Emergence gives me the same feeling, though it doesn’t seem to be as ambitious as previous offers. Which should be a bad thing, but in this case it’s what saves it from a disaster. At least for now.

Let’s see what the strenghths of Emergence are. First: the atmosphere. On the page, this isolated, bay town that feels almost like an island is a place where you want to spend some spooky time. The lighthouse, the ferry, the house by the sea… It’s a postcard waiting to be destroyed by bizarre happenings and strange mysteries. The cold open set during the night is a great way to start with lights flickering, a small safety pin sliding across a surface on its own and then flying across the room, the alarm’s clock digits cycling through weird hieroglyphs… and then you can hear a distant boom when suddenly all the electrical power in the city goes out. That’s the moment when the crash happened, we learn later. Magnetic field. Plane crash. Gosh, it’s hard not to have a déjà vu. From Lost to Manifest, we’re in well-known territory. Somehow it works. And that’s thanks to the writing mostly.

Second: the characters. No high-concept show can work with uninteresting protagonists. Most of those which didn’t make it on the long haul had a deficit in that department. I have to say it’s refreshing to have a central character who’s a woman. Too often mystery shows are associated with men. And she’s a sheriff, which is another way to shake things up a little bit. As the choice of the great Allison Tolman to play her suggests, she’s not a beauty queen, she’s not your typical heroine. She’s a single mother, she takes care of her ill father who’s living with her and her teenage daughter, she doesn’t know her mother who abandoned her when she was a baby, she’s strong, and a smart ass, and she’s beloved in her hometown and we can only love her too. Also she’s a divorcee but with her ex, things are not completely settled yet. It’s her whole family which is at the center of Emergence and that’s a better and simpler way to go than concept shows with 15 strangers and 15 stories to tell at the same time. Plus, they all have a good sense of humor in this family. A few jokes are always welcomed to release the tension a bit.

And of course there’s this strange little girl, that they decide to call Piper. She’s intelligent, curious and mysterious. The relationship that Jo starts to share with her is very reminiscent to similar ones in shows like NBC’s Believe of FOX’s The Passage. It’s déjà vu all over again. But this time it’s between a child with no mother she can remember of and a woman who’s already a mother. Not with a man who doesn’t want to be father and who has no clue how to act like one. So it’s a bit different, maybe easier, and less moving in a way. We’ll see if the magic happens between the actresses. That’s the key. We have the cliché character of Benny who presents himself as an investigative reporter but who’s in fact a bad guy. You can smell it for miles away but Jo doesn’t. She may be under his spell. He’s charming of course. Bad guys in those shows always are at first. The pilot script ends up on some sort of cliffhanger that’s confusing. We’re never clearly in a sci-fi show. But maybe we are. We don’t know. They don’t want us to know. Will we ever know?

 

FINAL RECOMMENDATION: After the Timeless wreck and soon-to-be a wreck Manifest, NBC should better stay out of the high-concept game for a while. They don’t really have a place for Emergence or any other mystery shows on their schedule and making it a summer fare would equal giving it a ticket to dumpsterland. It’s a series that could have made sense 10 or 15 years ago before all the other similar ones crashed, but today it would just be adding another corpse to the pile. 

 

OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:

[ X ] PASS
[  ] CONSIDER
 ] RECOMMEND

Perfect Harmony, Uninsured, The Kenan Show… NBC 2019 comedy pilots ranked from best to worst

 

After years of disaster in the comedy department, Superstore was considered as a beacon of hope for NBC when it arrived on the air in 2015. Four seasons later, we can’t call it a hit, we can’t even say it helped launch a new brand, but at least it keeps the lights on on an otherwise uneventful night, facing CBS’ sitcoms and ABC’s Shonda-fueled TGIT. Thanks to its Netflix deal, The Good Place showed some promise during its second season but that didn’t last long. Even though the show will be back for a fourth and is creatively still amazing, NBC can’t count on it ratings-wise. And then there’s cult sitcom Will & Grace that came back strong for its ninth season but has lost some steam since then. During its current tenth season, it’s regularly the strongest comedy of the night by a very slim margin but really nothing to rave about. When FOX decided to get rid of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, NBC saved it since it’s an in-house production. Here again, despite the promotion the move gave it, the cop comedy returned at a low level. What to say about fall “sensation” I Feel Bad, that never should have been ordered in the first place? It’s virtually dead. Why did NBC decide to treat exciting outdoor-shot multicam Abby’s like shit? No one knows. It deserved a better chance than a late spring launch. And don’t even get me started on A.P. Bio… To summarize: NBC still has a big comedy problem, with no hits, no brand… and nothing crazy good to offer next season it seems…

 

 

  1. PERFECT HARMONY (20th Century FOX Television)

 about a rural church choir that gets the director it never thought it needed when a salty, in mourning Ivy League music professor (Bradley Whitford) stumbles through their door and helps them find their voices…

From the network that brought you The Voice, Smash (and Rise). This musical comedy totally fits with NBC, though it’s not exactly the proof it’s a hit in the making. It could be billed as an adult version of Glee, in a church instead of a high-school. With a music professor a little more interesting and funny than this poor Will Schuester. No offense, gleeks! Was that even a word? Anyway, Perfect Harmony is not surprising, or groundbreaking, or anything else really than a good script introducing a promising group of characters with both funny and sweet moments, and creating its own world with its own rules and gimmicks (one being very similar to The Good Place‘s “safe language”). And somehow that’s enough. Also, the jokes are top-notch, sometimes they go a little too far but they stop at the right moment. Plus Bradley Whitford, y’all! And Anna Camp. Hallelujah! Rooting for this one. Could make sense paired with Will & Grace, ‘cos the gay audience will stan this. Hopefully, it will skew larger than that.

 

2. UNINSURED (Sony Pictures Television)

 around young parents Dave and Rebecca (Adam Pally & Abby Elliott) who end up having to take care of Dave’s parents (Fran Drescher & Steven Weber) who have mishandled their finances and need help to pay down a sizable debt….

NBC only has two multicam pilots this year and Uninsured is a really good one, despite a pitch that not is exactly earth-shattering. Except it fits the bill, sort of. It’s nice to have a show centered around “normal” people, having to deal with real life issues, with not much money in the bank. A bit like Superstore. Too bad it was not developed for ABC. It would have worked well with The Conners. For those who are nostalgic of The Nanny, it has a very strong argument: it would mark Fran Drescher’s network sitcom return in a role that was clearly written with her in mind. She’s a grandmother in there! Gosh. Fran is now Sylvia, in a way. Same type of character. It should be fun. Those who are familiar with Adam Pally & Abby Elliott know they should mesh well. There’s not much not to like in Uninsured, unless you’re allergic to good ol’ sitcoms.

 

3. THE KENAN SHOW (Universal Television)

a newly widowed dad (Kenan Thompson) is determined to be everything for his kids while begrudgingly letting his persistent father-in-law (Andy Garcia) become more involved in their lives…

This one is a question mark but also the most likely to get ordered to series: NBC seems very high on Kenan Thompson, they managed to convince Andy Garcia to sign up whereas he refused a lot of offers the past few years, and it’s a broad concept. That being said, I didn’t find the pilot script exceptionally good, though it’s okay. The voice-over of the deceased mother is surprising at first, destabilizing but sweet. At some point, it feels like they use it too much. I’m not convinced it can work this way for a long time. But if they dump it after the pilot, they’re loosing what makes it original. Tough call! It has lot of heart and it’s sometimes fun. Maybe that’s enough to get a series order, but to find an audience on NBC? Unlikely.

 

 

4. SUNNYSIDE (Universal Television)

Former New York City Councilman Garrett Shah (Kal Penn) finds his calling when faced with six recent immigrants in need of his help and in search of the American Dream…

Okay. So this one has a concept, and a star, and a LOT OF diversity, and… a confusing start. It’s typically the kind of niche comedy that could become great after a while, like Parks And Recreation or Community, but I’m not sure it fits with today’s NBC and more importantly with today’s network television. You need to be effective from the get-go if you want people to stick around. And this pilot is not effective. It certainly shows some promise, the show it could become if they’re lucky enough to get the chance to last more than three episodes, but we’re not there yet. Too much exposure, too many characters. Tough sell. Also, this title doesn’t make much sense. Come back with a better one if it’s picked-up!

 

5. VILLAGE GAZETTE (Universal Television)

Amber (Amber Ruffin), the editor of the Benson Village Gazette, loves her safe small town life writing fluff pieces about gardening and nursing baby squirrels back to health. That is until the newspaper owners hire a disgraced big city reporter, Randall (Tommy Dewey), who immediately challenges the happy denial Amber (and the Benson Village town folk) have been living in. Now, Amber is forced to recognize that everything isn’t always sunshine and rainbows and that she has a lot to say if she could get the courage to push against the rose–colored protective bubble she has created for both herself and the Gazette…

It’s a nope. And it’s a sad nope because on paper I liked the idea of a workplace comedy set in a small town inside a newspaper, with characters who are journalists. It’s uncommon and timely. The thing is the script gave me very few smiles and no laughs. It made me roll my eyes too many times, it’s way too cheesy for its own good and it’s so damn predictable all the time. The central character tries too hard to be the new Leslie Knope. And it doesn’t work ‘cos there’s only one Knope. While the “grumpy” character is way too cliché to be appealing, even as a villain. So for me, it’s nope, nope, nope. NBC only ordered a pilot presentation so they don’t seem to be totally sold either.

 

6. LIKE MAGIC (Universal Television)

an optimistic young woman (Jee Young Han) is pursuing her dream to be a headlining magician in the eccentric and ego-driven world of the Magic Palace…

I may be too harsh with this one, but I can’t see something that can be saved in there. Yes, the magic part of the show is unusual and makes it different on the surface. But on the inside… it’s just a lazy workplace comedy, already seen too many times, rarely funny, predictable, cringy and well… ’nuff said! Want it to disappear in a magic hat.

 

The script for the new version of multicam “Friends-in-Law” is not available. And no one has been cast in it yet. It may be dead. The first version was okay and would have been a good companion for Will & Grace.

Council Of Dads (NBC) pilot preview: This Is Us (Again)

SERIES TITLE: Council Of Dads
NETWORK: NBC
GENRE: Family Drama

LOGLINE: The story of Scott Perry and his family, whose lives are thrown into upheaval when he gets a potentially terminal diagnosis. Facing his mortality, he and his wife, Robin, assemble a unique group of carefully chosen male friends to support his family and guide them through the ups and downs of life’s many challenges…

Pilot Cast: Sarah Wayne Callies (The Walking Dead, Prison Break, Colony), Clive Standen (Vikings, Taken, Camelot), J. August Richards (Agents of SHIELD, Angel, Raising The Bar), Michael O’Neill (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, Rectify), Tom Everett Scott (13 Reasons Why, SouthLAnd), Michele Weaver (Love Is…), Emjay Anthony (Bad Mom 2, Rake), Blue Chapman, Steven Silver (13 Reasons Why), Thalia Tran…

Series Creators: Joan Rater & Tony Phelan (Grey’s Anatomy, Doubt, Madam Secretary).
Pilot Director: James Strong (Liar, Broadchurch, Doctor Who).
Producers: Jerry Bruckheimer (Lucifer, CSI, Cold Case, Without a Trace), Jonathan Littman, KristieAnne Reed, James Oh, Joan Rater & Tony Phelan.

Studios: Universal Television, Jerry Bruckheimer Television & Midwest Livestock 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: This Is Us, Parenthood, A Million Little Things

Likely Timeslot: Behind This Is Us is such the most obvious option that NBC will never choose this one… It’ll be This Us‘ replacement come midseason, probably.

 

WRITTEN BY: Joan Rater & Tony Phelan.

PAGECOUNT: 63 pages.

DRAFT: Third network draft 1/7/19

 

BACKGROUND: Council of Dads is based upon a true story that inspired Bruce Feiler’s bestselling memoir The Council of Dads: My Daughters, My Illness and the Men Who Could Be Me published in 2010 by William Morrow & Company. In 2008, Felier was diagnosed with a life-threatening cancer. Fearing what the absence of a father figure would do to the lives of his young twin daughters, he had the genius idea to form a Council of Dads, which consisted of six of his closest friends who agreed to help him raise his daughters. Each had his area of expertise such as homework dad or outdoors dad so the girls knew who to turn to for a specific issue when their mother was not available. The happy twist is that he made a full recovery after all. As a consequence, the Council was never fully activated. In the show, it will need to be!

The book was first adapted for TV eight years ago as a half-hour comedy written by Peter Tolan (Rescue Me, The Larry Sanders Show), and was sold to FOX network with a big commitment. Then it went to pilot starring Kyle Bornheimer, Ken Howard and Diane Farr, directed by Joe & Anthony Russo, but it didn’t make in on the schedule. The big comeback of family dramas following the success of This Is Us is probably the reason why the concept is revisited now as a one-hour drama.

 

SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: SCOTT PERRY (40), a father of four, lives a seemingly healthy life until DR. OLIVER POST (40), Scott’s best friend and also his doctor, diagnoses him with a rare form of cancer, requiring him to spend time in the hospital and in chemo. During Scott’s leave, his friend and AA’s sponsee, LARRY MALVERN (60), drops by to help Scott’s wife, ROBIN (40), with the kids and general errands. Scott returns from the hospital, but another unexpected visit from old friend ANTHONY LAVELLE (40) consequently leads into a conversation about the childhood CrabShack that Scott bought the previous year. Another surprise hits Scott: Robin is pregnant. This profound revelation leads him to doubt the remaining time he has left with his four children -JJ (7), CHARLOTTE (13), THEO (15), LULY (21)- who are all growing up too fast. His chemo and upcoming lab test have sparked some doubts regarding his time left and it pushes him to assemble a council of men (evidently being his best friends) to look out for his children, his wife and the CrabShack for one year. During the day of Scott’s final test, Robin’s water breaks…

 

COMMENTS: When it comes to family dramas, NBC’s critically-acclaimed This Is Us became such a phenomenon on broadcast television that it must have been hard for any other network to launch a new one since then. In fact, none have risked it the past two years. Even ABC’s A Million Little Things, which is not technically a family drama, probably suffered a bit from the comparison, at least initially. Even so, this pilot season marks a big return of the genre. They’re all looking for the next This Is Us, and NBC itself wants another one apparently. Council Of Dads is very much in the same vein and will give you the same exact feeling of sweet melancholy and nostalgia. They come from the same place -the heart- and they march to the beat of the same drum. The question is not “will you cry?” but “when will you cry?”.  But are they different enough so there’s a place for both in our lives?

As a fan of the genre, I’d be tempted to answer that there is a place for both, of course. But as a TV observer, I’m not so sure. The similarities are not only about the tone, it’s also about the stories that are being told and the characters we’re introduced to. Which is worse. Viewers might feel like they have already watched this show. Not only 10 or 15 years ago. Also yesterday. And probably tomorrow. Let’s take the dad character as an example. His story is different from Jack Pearson’s but he’s cut from the same cloth. He’s handsome, and so nice, and open, and generous, great with the kids, great with the wife, great with the friends. The perfect guy. And he has a darker side. Just like Jack, he struggled with addiction in the past. He works as a heroic, almost divine figure, soon to become a haunting ghost for his family. Because yeah, he dies at the end. Don”t consider it as a spoiler. It’s part of the concept. There’s no concept if he survives. What’s great though is even if you see it coming from miles away, it tears your heart out the same when it happens. It must have to do with the way it’s announced, with a sobriety that’s almost surprising for a show that could have been more manipulative if they wanted to. If you haven’t cried before -it’s unlikely- that’s the moment when you’ll let it all out.

Robin, like Rebecca, is a courageous woman who’s a bit overshadowed by her husband in the pilot but still, she’s an appealing character from the get-go and as a OB/GYN and mother/stepmother to four children -soon five- you can only admire her. Then you have Luly, the eldest child. The story is told from her point of view and voiceover. Scott had her before he met Robin but the birth mother was never really in the picture and Luly feels ready to have a little bit more of her in her life. Also, she’s a talented writer, she is focused on her future and waiting to hear if she’ll get an important internship at a prominent New York publication. But her priorities change dramatically when her father gets sick. That’s when she meets Evan, a smart, caring young man with a great sense of humor who has been taking care of his sick mother. Their relationship is reminiscent of Kate and Toby’s. They’re going through the same hell at the moment and that’s what brings them together. The difference is they’re younger and more reckless. Luly is probably the best character in there. She has a lot of potential.

Can’t say the same about Theo, who’s some younger version of Kevin Pearson, before the alcholol, the drugs and celebrity. He thinks the world is against him and that he can’t do anything. Most of his storyline in the pilot is about his driving test. Even though it’s quite revealing about his difficulties and weaknesses, it’s not as gripping as the other stories. Charlotte’s is way more exciting, but it’s the biggest déjà vu at the same time. She’s an adopted child who wants to know more about her origins. Yep, same as Randall. With her best friend Tess, she decides to go meet her cousin without her parents knowing. Her story could become very emotional and will probably take a different path from Randall’s since she doesn’t have the same age. But still… And finally there’s JJ, the youngest of the family, a sweet child who has a wonderful relationship with his parents and who reveals to be transgender. That story hasn’t been told by This Is Us! Finally one that’s new! I love the way it’s handled, with such simplicity and acceptance. There’s a human warmth throughout the pilot script that should fit with the hot setting (Savannah, Georgia).

In the council, we have three men who make their way into the story sweetly. Dr. Oliver Post is an esteemed oncologist and surgeon who is Scott’s doctor. He was Robin’s friend from college, and he’s a married gay man now, with a child. He seems cool. Anthony Lavelle is one of Scott’s oldest friends. He’s a chef, he’s single and he wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s cool too. And Larry is the oldest, maybe the wisest of the bunch. He has a strong presence, he’s rough around the edges and he’s a bit mysterious. We don’t know much about him so far. I wouldn’t say he’s cool but I like him too. There’s nobody not to like in this show anyway! Which leads to a certain lack of conflicts, but they surely will come! The council of dads concept is more of a theory right now than an actual thing since we’ll have to wait for the second episode at least to see how it works exactly. That’s a good reason to stay.

As you probably have understood now, Council of Dads is a very progressive show with a lot of diversity and a ton of good intentions. You think that’s a lot? I do too. The writing is good enough so you don’t feel like they’re adding some more big topics to an already-packed pile but maybe they could or should have kept some stories for later. Same goes with the cliffhanger. It’s better to have one in general but it’s the kind of show that doesn’t really need it, the family is enough to make you come back no matter what. The upcoming story that is implied by it sounds familiar and a little too soapy for the show’s sake but we’ll see. If they handle it like A Million Little Things handled his, I’m all in for the ride.

 

FINAL RECOMMENDATION: Does NBC need another emotional family drama in their schedule when they already have This Is Us, which set the bar quite high? Nope, not really. An argument could be made that they they didn’t need another medical drama with Chicago Med in their line-up last year but they ordered New Amsterdam anyway and both are cohabiting nicely so far…  It would be a shame if Council of Dads were to be passed on for that reason. It shouldn’t have been ordered to pilot in the first place then. So, if the finished product is as great, moving and beautiful as the script is, there’s no good reason for stopping there. The Perrys may or may not be the next Pearsons but they are worth living.

 

OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:

[  ] PASS
[  ] CONSIDER
[ X ] RECOMMEND

 

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (NBC) pilot preview: Music Friended Me

SERIES TITLE: Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist
NETWORK: NBC
GENRE: Musical Dramedy

LOGLINE: a whip-smart but socially awkward girl in her late 20s is having a hard time connecting to friends, coworkers, family, etc. She just doesn’t have the ability to read people or understand what’s really going in their heads. But, thanks to a freak accident, Zoey is given an extraordinary ability. Suddenly she has the power to hear what’s going on in people’s minds. Only she hears their deepest desires and innermost thoughts as songs and big musical numbers that they perform (passionately) just for her. With this new power at her disposal, Zoey is able to use her “gift” to not only help her self but also to help others in some state of crisis or need…

Pilot Cast: Jane Levy (Suburgatory, Castle Rock, Evil Dead), Skylar Astin (Pitch Perfect, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), Alex Newell (Glee), Mary Steenburgen (Joan of Arcadia, Orange is the New Black, Back to the Future 3), Peter Gallagher (The OC, Covert Affairs, Grace and Frankie), John Clarence Stewart (Luke Cage)…
Series Creator: Austin Winsberg (Jake in Progress, 9JKL, Gossip Girl). 
Pilot Director: Richard Shepard (Girls, Ringer, Ugly Betty, Rosewood). 
Producers: Austin Winsberg, Paul Feig (Freaks & Geeks, Spy, Ghosbusters, Bridesmaids), Jessie Henderson, Eric & Kim Tannenbaum (Two and a half-men, The Last OG, The Odd Couple).

Studios: Universal Music Group, Lionsgate Television, Polygram Entertainment, Feigco Entertainment & The Tannenbaum Company.

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: God Friended Me, Kevin (Probably) Saves The World, Joan of Arcadia, Eli Stone… 

Likely Timeslot: After The Voice on monday seems the only way to go… but in the spring!

 

WRITTEN BY: Austin Winsberg

PAGECOUNT: 59 pages

DRAFT: Third Draft 1/8/19

 

BACKGROUND: Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is the first project to come out of a mega deal between Universal Music Group (which is part of NBCUniversal, corporate parent to NBC) and Lionsgate Television, signed back in 2018. Under this multiyear first-look deal, the two companies are developing original scripted and unscripted television series drawn from UMG’s portfolio of labels, artists and music, with plans to release accompanying soundtrack albums for each project. It’s vertical integration in full force, and for that reason alone, it will be very surprising if this project doesn’t get ordered by NBC in May.

The show’s creator, Austin Winsberg certainly has a musical theater pedigree: he penned the TV adaptation for NBC’s The Sound of Music Live! starring Carrie Underwood, as well as the Broadway musical First Date. Director Paul Feig (BridesmaidsGhostbusters) was also attached to helm the pilot for a period of time, but as is often the case with movie directors attached to network projects, Feig is now said to be too busy with his feature schedule. Instead, Richard Shephard will direct, with Feig remaining on board as executive producer.

 

SCRIPT SYNOPSIS:  ZOEY (late 20s) is a high strung, stressed-out programmer who’s aiming for a promotion at work. She isn’t much “fun”, as illustrated by her total apathy towards music. After getting stuck in an MRI machine during an earthquake, she begins to hallucinate people around her singing aloud. Zoey confides in her music fanatic neighbor MO (late 20s), who helps Zoey realize that these impromptu musical numbers are expressions of a person’s innermost thoughts. This manifests as a kind of mind reading power for Zoey, which she quickly comes to resent. She learns unpleasant private information, such as that many of her coworkers are rooting for her failure. However, this power also becomes an advantage later when she is able to “hear” encouragement from her father MITCH, who’s almost vegetative with a brain disease. After a conversation with her crush SIMON (early 30s), Zoey figures out a bug in a heal the app at work that earns her the promotion. Meanwhile her close friend MAX (late 20s) is revealed to be secretly in love with her, which leaves Zoey feeling conflicted…

 

COMMENTS:NBC has described Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist as What Women Wantmeets La La Land — a “big, bold, fun, hopeful, emotional and innovative musical series that will be unlike anything that’s ever been on television before.” While I won’t argue that the show isn’t fun, hopeful or emotional, I personally didn’t find the pilot script terribly bold or innovative. Yes, it’s probably the first time that a whole show has been based on the idea of a character hearing other people’s thoughts through music, but many shows have had characters suddenly burst into songs, from Glee to Eli Stone, to the upcoming Mixtape on Netflix (developed at FOX). Many other shows have done the same for special episodes, including Grey’s Anatomy and the Buffy musical, “Once More With Feeling.” Yes, there’s a difference here in that the whole concept is based on this fantasy, but that’s its weakness, too.

First, you have to accept that the reason why this happened to the heroine is because she was listening to music during a MRI which happened at the same time as an earthquake. And for some reason, a million different songs from a music streaming platform uploaded in her brain. Just like that. And they’re all from Universal Music, of course. It’s a lot to swallow but if they find a way to hit the right note, it could work. For this, leading lady Jane Levy should be a real asset. She’s good and radiant. She has what they need to make her super cringy character on paper a smart and charming woman we would follow anywhere. That’s a lot of work, though. Zoey’s nervous energy and impressive ability to talk a lot is something not everybody can override, I guess. Maybe music will calm her down eventually. Isnn’t music supposed to southe the soul? In the pilot, she hears The Beattles’ Help, Avicii’s Wake Me Up and Celine Dion’s All By Myself, among other songs.

Second, how many times can one enjoy watching Zoey hearing someone’s inner thoughts? Sure, it’s interesting and fun at first, but as with CBS’s God Friended Me, even the most novel of concepts grow old. And after Zoey comes to learn in the pilot that her special ability is her chance to help others, all I could think about is the procedural type of show that’s destined to follow. I hope my concerns prove to be unfounded, but based on the pilot script, it’s hard to see a truly compelling path forward for the show’s narrative.

Zoey’s co-worker and best friend Max is funny and the pairing of Jane Levy and Skylar Astin is exciting. The two actors should have great chemistry. Meanwhile, Mo, Zoey’s neighbor, is an easygoing, open-minded and cool character who assumes the role of a kind of guardian angel — Zoey’s Yvette for those who watched ABC’s Kevin (Probably) Saves the World. This dynamic doesn’t seem to be reinvented here as much as it is rehashed. Again, I’d love to be proven wrong. At least, by casting gender nonconforming actor Alex Newell in Mo’s role, they’re adding a new flavor to the duet.

 

FINAL RECOMMENDATION: Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is not exactly the bold and innovative musical show NBC wants to sell us, but it’s an uplifting and light-hearted fare, sometimes cheesy, sometimes weird, that has an undeniable charm. It could find a devoted and loyal fanbase but it doesn’t sound like a #1 hit song, especially if its biggest ambition is to become a “case of the week” show…

 

OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:

[  ] PASS
[ X ] CONSIDER
[  ] RECOMMEND

Prism (NBC) pilot preview: Legally Good

SERIES TITLE: Prism
NETWORK: NBC
GENRE: Pyschological Legal Thriller Drama

LOGLINE: a provocative exploration of a murder trial in which every episode is told through the perspective of a different key person involved. Each new version of the facts ratchets up the mystery and the suspense, calling into question everything we have seen so far and asking is the right person on trial? Driven by an ensemble of complicated characters, the show lets the audience ask if truth matters less than who can tell the most compelling story…

Pilot Cast: Malin Akerman (Billions, Trophy Wife, 27 Dresses), Mykelti Williamson (Chicago PD, Fences, Lethal Weapon), Ramon Rodriguez (The Affair, Iron Fist), Sara Rue (Mom, Popular), Brooke Smith (Grey’s Anatomy), David Alpay (The Tudors), Chloe Wepper
Series Creators: Daniel Barnz (Cake, Beastly, Won’t Back Down).
Pilot Director: Daniel Barnz.
Producers: Daniel Barnz, Ben BarnzCarol Mendelsohn (CSI, Melrose Place) & Julie Weitz (Game of Silence).

Studios: Universal Television, We’re Not Brothers Productions & Carol Mendelsohn Prods.

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: Damages, The Affair, The Good Wife

Likely Timeslot: Tough One. Midseason.

 

WRITTEN BY: Daniel Barnz.

PAGECOUNT: 61 pages

DRAFT: First network draft 12/9/18

BACKGROUND:  Packed with a little bit of everything, NBC’s schedule isn’t lacking much these days. As a consequence, they haven’t ordered many pilots this year. The one thing they don’t have on the air right now is a pure legal drama. Ever since Chicago Justicefailed to click with audiences back in 2017, they haven’t tried another. Two pilots are vying to be the project that reverses that trend this year: Bluff City Law, which seems pretty straight-forward on paper, and Prism, which looks more complex. It’ll be interesting to see which way NBC goes: safe, risky, or another year without.

 

SCRIPT SYNOPSIS:  RACHEL LEWIS (40s), an Erin Brockovich-esque defense attorney in Phoenix, Arizona, prepares for a high profile murder case. The case in question is the murder of prominent local TV host, JESSICA WREN (40s), who was stabbed and killed in a parking lot. Rachel’s client is the suspect, MICHAEL JAMISON (20s), who was seen running from the crime scene just after the murder occurred. Michael is poor and uneducated, and Rachel has devoted her life to helping innocent people in his situation. On the other side is prosecutor EDUARDO GUATY (40s), an old friend of Rachel’s from law school. During their first courthouse session with JUDGE HENLEY (50s), both Rachel and Guaty are surprised to see Judge Henley introduce Jessica Wren’s bloodied scarf into evidence, sent from an anonymous source straight to the court because (as the accompanying note reads) the cops “always screw it up.” In the first hearing with a jury present, Guaty anticipates Rachel’s opening statement, leaving her blindsided with nothing to present. In search of a new angle, she delays her opener until the next morning and enlists the help of her journalist friend ALEXIS, who is covering the trial. Sneaking a peek at Alexis’ phone, she clocks the name WES WILLIAMS, Jessica’s producing partner. Rachel learns Wes himself is under investigation for sexual assault. She has her new angle/suspect…

COMMENTS: The script opens with a quote from essayist Anaïs Nin “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are” followed by a series of weird and intense dreamlike images, including a blood-stained glove and a knife falling in slow-mo…. It’s a hell of a way to set the mood. Then an eye opens and we’re in bed with… our heroine of the week, who’s just waking up from a vivid nightmare. Each episode will be told from the perspective of someone different: the accused, the defense attorney, the prosecutor, the judge, jury members, witnesses, etc. That’s the concept. Like Showtime’s The AffairPrism is using the plot device that’s become known as “The Rashomon Effect,” named after Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 Japanese period psychological thriller Rashomon, which involves various characters providing sometimes contradictory interpretations of the same incident. If picked up, we should get 13 episodes from this same case in season one, before moving on to a new case if there’s a second season.

Exploring a murder trial in this way seems particularly timely given the current zeitgeisty anxiety about fake news and what’s true and what’s not. It’s certainly ambitious, and the pilot script succeeds in managing to both entertain and be provocative. The series is set in Phoenix, Arizona and the heat is almost a character in and of itself, adding a little something to the already stifling atmosphere at the courthouse. The title Prism refers to the courthouse which is said to look like a giant prism — a steel and glass behemoth. Also unsual, the show’s writer/creator is slated to direct the pilot. You can tell from the way it’s written that he knows exactly how he wants it to look and how the visuals will fit with the concept.

This same attention to detail is evident in the characters — especially Rachel, the pilot episode’s focus. As written, she’s a force of nature: brilliant, ruthless and empathetic at the same time. I’m not surprised Malin Akerman, one of the most sought-after actresses this pilot season, chose Prism. She’s a compelling character who gets even more interesting when we discover her tragic past. Could she be mentally ill? She’s definitely quirky, which leads to some weird moments. You know who she makes me think of, just a bit? The Good Wife‘s Elsbeth Tasioni. To be honest, I’m already sad she won’t be at the center of every episode, which could well end up being the flaw to the show’s structure. The other character that stands out initially is hard-hitting prosecutor Eduarto Guaty. His history with Rachel makes for a great dynamic, as they’re forced to set their friendship aside — at least in the courtroom.

 

FINAL RECOMMENDATION: Prism is not your typical legal show, nor is it typical network fare. It has a strong cable-feel and it’s hard to figure a timeslot on NBC where it’s likely to grab the large audience needed to survive on broadcast. I wonder if Universal might do better shopping it to a streaming platform, where it could attract a smaller but devoted fanbase and stay on for a few years. That being said, it may be one of those shows that’s worth the risk and if one network can take it these days, it’s NBC.

 

OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:

[  ] PASS
X ] CONSIDER
 ] RECOMMEND

 

NBC 2018/2019 Schedule (+ THOUGHTS & TRAILERS)

 

MONDAY

8- THE VOICE

9- THE VOICE

10- MANIFEST

TUESDAY

8- THE VOICE

9- THIS IS US

10- NEW AMSTERDAM

WEDNESDAY

8- CHICAGO MED

9- CHICAGO FIRE

10- CHICAGO PD

 

 

THURSDAY

8- SUPERSTORE / THE GOOD PLACE

9- WILL & GRACE / I FEEL BAD

10- LAW & ORDER: SVU

FRIDAY

8- BLINDSPOT

9- MIDNIGHT, TEXAS (THE BLACKLIST Midseason)

10- DATELINE

SUNDAY

SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

8- WORLD OF DANCE  (Midseason)

9- WORLD OF DANCE (Midseason)

10- GOOD GIRLS (Midseason)

 

MIDSEASON

GOOD GIRLS | THE ENEMY WITHIN | THE GILDED AGE | THE VILLAGE | THE INBETWEEN

BROOKLYN NINE-NINE | A.P. BIO | ABBY’S

 

THOUGHTS

– Not sure why high-concept drama Manifest was chosen over other options -especially since NBC doesn’t even own it- but it gives me some The Event feels… Probably something that will start big and lose viewers very quickly.

This Is Us leading into New Amsterdam was expected and it seems to be a good pair, though the medical show doesn’t have any hook that will help it be distinctive from the others currently on the air. It should do fine but no hit in the making.

– Finally a Chicago night entirely devoted to the franchise! It should have happened ages ago, but it’s never too late I guess! They’ll probably be stronger together than individually, as crossover specials proved in the past.

– Why is I Feel Bad Will & Grace’s companion for fall and not way more compatible multicamera comedy Abby’s? That’s a mystery. Expect this show to be gone quickly.

Law & Order: SVU moving thursday at 10 is surprising but the Dick Wolf’s 20-season show should be fine.

 

TRAILERS