Tag: nicholas gonzales

Star (FOX) pilot preview: Mini-Cookies building a whole new Empire

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Created & executive produced by Lee Daniels (Empire, Precious, The Paperboy, The Butler) & Tom Donaghy (The Mentalist, The Whole Truth). Directed by Lee Daniels. Also produced by Effie Brown (Dear White People) & Pamela Oas Williams (The Butler). For FOX & 20th Century FOX Television. 53 pages.

Description: In the glamorous but cut-throat Atlanta music scene, three very different girls, two sisters and a friend, are coming together to form a band and rise to the top, helped by Miss Carlotta, the owner of a beauty salon with an amazing voice, who becomes a surrogate mother to them – even though she doesn’t approve of their musical dreams…

With Queen Latifah (Chicago, Bessie, Hairspray), Benjamin Bratt (Law & Order, Private Practice, Miss Congeniality), Jude Demorest (Dallas 2012), Ryan Destiny (Low Winter Sun), Brittany O’Grady (The Messengers), Nicholas Gonzales (Melrose Place 2009, Sleepy Hollow)…

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To those who think it’s easy to replicate a success, Empire is the proof it’s not. It took a year for FOX to find a suitable companion show for Empire and probably a year and a half before it’s on the air. Oh, last pilot season, they had Studio City, which was a pretty serious candidate but not produced in-house and when you deal with a phenomenon like Empire that gets you a ton of money, especially on a network where almost everything else is not working, you’d better think twice about what to do next. They first thought about remaking a forgotten movie, Urban Cowboy, but they rushed things and the pilot they shot ended up dead, rightfully (read the preview). They finally decided to take the easiest road: they asked Empire creator Lee Daniels to create another smash hit. He came up with Star, which is not an Empire spin-off but could have been. I don’t think it would have been a good idea though. Star is fine on its own. And forcing things rarely works. Plus they don’t need Cookie. They have their own.

I’d like to be upfront about one thing I’m convinced of: Empire without Cookie and Taraji P. Henson is nothing. Just a bunch of black males singing, doing so-so acting and being mostly irritating. She’s the star. She’s the reason why people watches it in the first place. And by the look of Star, I’d say Lee Daniels and FOX are totally aware of that and constructed the show with it in mind. It would be a mistake to announce Star, our heroin -‘cos it’s her first name- as a mini-Cookie. She has what it takes to become one at some point but we’re not there yet. And other characters like Queen Latifah’s Miss Carlotta give some Cookie vibes, and Cookie’s kind of punchlines. And it’s better this way on a longtime perspective: Star doesn’t rely on only one great character. But it takes at least three girls to make a Cookie…

Like Empire, the first pages are kind of ridiculous. No shades. No subtlety. But you become accustomed to it quickly and you get ready for the ride sooner than you expected. It starts as a roadtrip, from Pittsburgh (where Star is from) to Atlanta, with a stop in New York. And it’s engaging. Star, almost 18, leaves her foster home with three goals in mind. First, finding her sister, Simone, 16, who happens to be molested by her foster father. He may even have raped her but it’s unclear. Then, convincing Alexandra, her bestfriend she only met on the internet so far, to leave the Upper East Side where she lives with her wealthy family to go to Atlanta with her and create a band. They already wrote songs together, like “I Can Be”, heard throughout the pilot. Finally, doing whatever it takes in Atlanta to become the star she always dreamt to be, without ending up like her deceased mother: a junkie. On the road, they steal, they laugh, they sing, they argue, and it’s fun. Star is trash. And it makes her admirable for some reason. Simone is fragile, addicted but a nice gal. And Alexandra is Paris Hilton, but smarter.

When the girls arrive in Atlanta, it gets a little less fun but there are a few very enjoyable scenes like when they arrive in Miss Carlotta’s beauty salon where they meet colourful characters like Miss Bruce, a drag queen, or Danielle, who seems to come directly from Orange is the New Black. And also Cotton. Cotton is a very important character with a secret. The secret being… SPOILER ALERT… he’s a transvestite. He’s a boy, Miss Carlotta’s son, but he feels like a girl and dresses accordingly. And of course, he’s a lot of fun. I expected Carlotta Brown to be a new Cookie, but it turns out she was but she’s not anymore. Can she go back to her roots? She probably will. But for now, she’s a bigot. She believes in God and sings at church and she doesn’t want Star and her girls to make it in Atlanta’s musical scene. For a good reason: she tried a long time ago, and failed. And lost a lot in the process. Of course, Star is way too determined to listen to anything she has to say and towards the end of the pilot, she’s in deep shit! But she gets to sing in front of an audience composed of producers. That’s a start. I would be very happy to talk to you about the men in this story but there are only two main male characters: Derek, who has laid eyes on one of the girl, he’s Carlotta’s neighbor; and Jahill, someone from Carlotta’s past who looks like a good guy but he’s not. And Star will soon discover it. Lee Daniels is better at writing female characters, no doubt about it.

Star is exactly what FOX needs: a companion series for Empire that is not a copycat but another musical show set in another city, with different characters who are more Cookie than André, achieving different goals. In Empire, they try to stay on top. In Star, they try to be on top! It is aimed at a younger audience – partly the one FOX lost when Glee ended- but Star can totally please the Empire fans and become a big thing for the afro-american audience and the audience overall. It could be a fun show to watch and listen to. It’s joyful. It’s definitely more eccentric but with smaller ambitions. And maybe it’s better this way.

“Lucifer” (FOX) pilot preview: a funny as hell cop show that will make you fall in love with the Devil!

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Written & produced by Tom Kapinos (Californication, Dawson). Based on characters created by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth & Mark Dringenberg. Co-produced by Jerry Bruckheimer (CSI, Pirates of the Caribbean, Cold Case, Without a trace…), Jonathan Littman (CSI, CSI Miami, Cold Case, Hostages) & KristieAnne Reed (CSI Cyber, Chase, Miami Medical). Directed by Len Wiseman (Underworld, Die Hard 4, Sleepy Hollow, Hawaii 5-0). For FOX, Warner Bros. Television, DC Comics, Jerry Bruckheimer Television & Aggresive Mediocrity. 61 pages.

Description: a bored and unhappy Lucifer Morningstar, the Lord of Hell, has resigned his throne and abandoned his kingdom for the gorgeous, shimmering insanity of Los Angeles, where he has opened an exclusive nightclub called Lux. When an ex-lover of his turned pop star is shot dead in front of him, he decides to investigate on his own but police officer Chloe Dancer keeps on standing in his way and getting on his nerves. They have no choice but to reluctantly collaborate, something they might find quite tasty after a while. Lucifer now gets his kicks helping the LAPD punish criminals…

With Tom Ellis (Miranda, Rush, The Fades), Lauren German (Hawaii 5-0, Chicago Fire), Nicholas Gonzales (The OC, Resurrection Blvd., Melrose Place 2009), Lesley-Ann Brandt (Spartacus, The Librarians, Single Ladies), D.B. Woodside (Suits, 24, Buffy, Single Ladies), Rachael Harris (Very Bad Trip, Suits)…

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Lucifer is my third FOX drama pilot script of this season after Minority Report and Studio City and is, by far, my favorite one, to my own surprise. I’m not into all things DC Comics: I totally get why Arrow & The Flash are hits, but I don’t enjoy them myself; Gotham is an interesting piece of television but it bores the shit out of me; and Constantine is just plain awful and certainly won’t stick around any longer if NBC is in its right mind, something that has yet to be proven. I don’t want to be overly optimistic but I think Lucifer is the kind of show that could help FOX getting its groove back after an incredibly poor season, Empire put aside. It’s vivid, energetic and a lot of fun. It’s exactly what they need and I hardly imagine them not picking it up to series…

Lucifer‘s biggest flaw is being yet another cop show, especially since the comics were not about police investigations at all. In fact, the TV series was not originally conceived this way. It should have been about Lucifer opening a piano bar. What would have happened next I have no idea and no knowledge about. The version FOX executives asked for and got is this: a police procedural mixed with supernatural elements and comedy. And more precisely, they wanted Californication‘s Hank Moody investigating murder cases Richard Castle‘s style with Dr House‘s dark sense of humor. They hired Californication‘s creator and showrunner Tom Kapinos to try it and they negociated for a long time to have modern cop-show’s king Jerry Bruckeimer and his team co-producing it. It couldn’t go wrong and it didn’t. I enjoyed this script more than I could imagine. Not because of the first case of the week, ‘cos it’s not particularly original and tremendously suspenseful (I think The Mysteries Of Laura‘s first case was way more exciting and I’m not kidding), but thanks to the character of Lucifer, whose every line is just delightfully hilarious.

I don’t know much about Tom Ellis, but I suspect FOX found their next Hugh Laurie with him, but younger. If he meets the expectations, he totally has the material -and I’m not talking about his beautiful face or his incredible manly chest but about the script- to make an extremely enjoyable performance. Women will LOVE Lucifer/him instantly and men will want to BE Lucifer/him. He’s THAT great! He could charm the pants off of anyone and he totally knows it, which makes him weirdly even more attractive. Oh and before I forget: he has some kind of power! That’s the supernatural twist of the show. He’s able to make anyone tell their own deepest desires just by locking eyes with them. It can prove very practical during a police investigation as you can guess. Lauren German’s character, Chloe Dancer, is a badass detective that claims to be allergic to him. She says he makes her sick. Of course, we don’t believe a word of it. She’s already in love but she’ll need three or four seasons to realize it, and two or three more to act on it. We know how it works, we’ve seen it a million times already. Lucifer’s world is full of women who wants him bad. There is Maze, a waitress at his club, and also Dr. Linda Martin, a psychatrist he meets during the investigation whom he promises a hook-up at a later time. Yeah, he’s generous. Note there’s a also a backstory about Lucifer’s family, especially his brother Amenadiel who lurks into the shadows, but we don’t really know what his agenda is. He may not be that much of an angel though.

Lucifer is an almighty entertaining and funny as hell detective drama that deserves a slot in FOX’s schedule next season. It has all it takes to be a success. That being said, Forever at ABC was in the same situation this past year but could never become a hit, mostly because of bad scheduling. So Lucifer can’t be labeled as a winner yet. But in my heart, it is already. Yes, I fell in love with the Devil…