Tag: paul attanasio

Tommy (CBS) pilot preview: Edie Falco is great, but is she enough?

SERIES TITLE: Tommy (aka Nancy)
NETWORK: CBS
GENRE: Cop Drama

LOGLINE: When Abigail Thomas, a former high-ranking NYPD officer, becomes the first female Chief of Police for Los Angeles, she uses her unflinching honesty and hardball tactics to navigate the social, political, and national security issues that converge with enforcing the law…

Pilot Cast: Edie Falco (The Sopranos, Nurse Jackie, The Menendez Murders), Michael Chernus (Orange is the New Black, Mercy), Russell G. Jones (The Americans, Godless), Adelaide Clemens (Watchmen, Rectify), Olivia Lucy Phillip
Series Creators: Paul Attanasio (Bull, Homicide, House, Quiz Show, Sphere).
Pilot Director: Kate Dennis (The Handmaid’s Tale, Secrets & Lies)
Producers: Paul Attanasio, Steven Spielberg, Darryl Frank & Justin Falvey.

Studios: CBS Television Studios & Amblin Television.

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: Madam Secretary, Bull…

Likely Timeslot: Sunday night might be the right way to go. It will skew old anyway.

 

WRITTEN BY: Paul Attanasio.

PAGECOUNT: 62 pages

DRAFT: “In Dreams Begin Responsibility” Revised network draft 02/1/19

BACKGROUND: In its first pilot season without longtime chief Les Moonves at the helm, is CBS is finally ready to give a chance to projects that are more female-driven. Tommyis one of this year’s contenders that would appear to fit the bill, but just because it’s on the development slate doesn’t necessarily mean the network has turned a new leaf. Inspired in part by a real-life surge in the number of female police chiefs (LA County alone had a record seven last year), the network developed two female-led cop projects last year: Chiefs, starring Jorja Fox, Alana De La Garza and Aunjanue Ellis as (you guessed it) three female police chiefs, and a Cagney & Lacey reboot starring Grey’s Anatomy‘s Sarah Drew. In the end, neither project made the cut. (The Magnum, PI reboot did). Will Tommy succeed where those projects failed? Read on…

 

SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: We open on MARIA DE ANGELES (20’s) picking up her ten year-old daughter MADISON from school. LAPD and ICE are both watching her, but just when ICE is about to move in, LAPD officer ADAM REED (30) breaks Maria’s taillight, putting her under arrest before ICE can get to her. The following day, we are introduced to ABIGAIL THOMAS (known as TOMMY), 48, soon to be the next Chief of Police for the City of Los Angeles. Tommy takes the arrested woman’s young daughter into her protection, housing her with her own grown daughter, KATE WELCH (30). As the strange and mysterious circumstances surrounding the arrest are uncovered, Tommy finds herself in the middle of a political firestorm, facing pressure from both inside and outside the department.

COMMENTS: Tommy may be the perfect example of a project that doesn’t sound particularly compelling until someone great signs on to star. That’s not to say that having Edie Falco attached sudddenly makes Tommy my top pilot pick for the season — not by a long shot — but her involvement helps. Simply put, she has what it takes to singlehandedly increase any project’s chances of survival. The only person to have earned an Emmy Award for Best Actress in both the drama and comedy categories, Falco is beloved for her portrayal of Carmela Soprano in HBO’s groundbreaking series The Sopranos and for her nuanced performance in Showtime’s Nurse Jackie. I don’t know whether her role in this project was written with her in mind, but it’s hard to imagine any other actor being a better fit.

With a New Yorker’s gift for being tough and sarcastic while still remaining likable, Tommy loves being a cop more than anything. Her dedication to her work, however, has clearly taken a toll on her personal life, where she’s been a less-than-stellar wife and mother. Moving to Los Angeles for work, she’s geographically closer to her daughter Kate and her grandchildren, and it might be time to make amends. Also living in LA is Tommy’s ex-husband, who’s an actor and a totally charming human being. They have an easy intimacy and have become close friends over time. These two relationships form solid ground for more serialized storylines. Tommy herself is an interesting character and an unusual lead: she’s a woman of a certain age, a lesbian, and is considered as a “feminist icon” by many.

So, as you can see: Tommy is a lot more ambitious than your typical network procedural. And although my personal interest in the pilot’s investigation waned along the way, it ends up being more ambiguous and complex than it appears at the beginning. And clearly Tommy is a complex character. Is that enough to carry a show that will inevitably fall into the more generic “case of the week” formula? To be honest, I’m not sure. Also of concern in the pilot script are the office politics and hierarchy of it all, which I found cumbersome and confusing.

 

FINAL RECOMMENDATION: Tommy could become an important asset for CBS, which is in need of more strong female-driven programming. And it’s hard to envision anyone better than Edie Falco playing the complex, titular character. Still, this one is not a slam-dunk. My interest in the procedural part of the pilot script waned along the way, and the jumble of supporting characters were just that. In short, I’m not convinced this project has what it takes to retain a network audience. CBS may have better options… 

 

OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:

[  ] PASS
X ] CONSIDER
 ] RECOMMEND

Bull (CBS) pilot preview: This is NOT The Good Wife’s successor

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Created and executive produced by Paul Attanasio (Dr House, Homicide, Donnie Brasco, Disclosure) & Phil McGraw (Dr Phil, The Doctors). Directed by Rodrigo Garcia (In Treatment, Big Love, Six Feet Under). Also executive produced by Jay McGrawJustin Falvey & Darryl Frank (The Americans, Under The Dome, Extant, Terra Nova). For CBS, CBS Television Studios, Stage 29 Prods & Amblin Television. 65 pages.

Description: Based on Dr Phil McGraw’s early days. Dr Jason Bull, a psychologist on top of his game, head of Trial Sciences, Inc., one of the most prolific trial consulting services of all time, provide with his team of experts the best help you need to prove your innocence or defend your case… 

With Michael Weatherly (NCIS, Dark Angel), Freddy Rodriguez (The Night Shift, Ugly Betty, Six Feet Under), Christopher Jackson, Geneva Carr, Jaime Lee Kirchner (Mercy, The Mob Doctor)…

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This year, CBS has apparently decided to put a drama pilot against one another and pick-up the best (or the easiest one to market). For their police procedural needs, it’s probably Nancy Drew against MacGyver; on the action side, it’s Training Day against Four Stars; in the medical genre, it was supposed to be Bunker Hill against Sensory, but the latter has been pushed to a fall shooting, so now it’s more of Bunker Hill against a possible Code Black season 2; and in the legal department, to succeed to The Good Wife, it’s Doubt –rolled from last year with a new pilot– against Bull. It’s writers from Grey’s Anatomy against the so famous and beloved Dr Phil. It’s Katherine Heigl against Michael Weatherly, who’s just departing from hit NCIS. There’s still a chance CBS orders both, especially since both are said to be well regarded, but if they have to choose just one… I’d say Bull has the upper hand. One thing’s for sure: none of them is the next The Good Wife. None of them is that good. They are both very different and they both bring something to the table. But not something new. And not something people are craving for.

Bull is kind of a nightmare to me, as a reader. It’s one thing to watch a procedural, it’s another one to read a procedural script, especially when it’s a pilot. Trust me. It can get very boring very fast. You’re thrown into this world where you have a hundred of characters, most of them already know each other, there are the lawyers, the consultants, the clients… Their personnality is described in one sentence. You don’t get to learn much more about them as the episode progresses since they are not here to talk about their problems and fears and god knows what else but to solve a case, help other people. So you tend to confound them. You even have a hard time remembering their names. And there’s this hero you are forced to like by the writers, because he has a sense of humor and because whatever he says or does he’s a good person inside. And the show is co-wrote by the person who inspired him so it means the grey areas of the character are not that grey. And the whole thing is just not pleasant to read. Bull‘s script is certainly not a page turner, but as the case evolves, with some twists and turns on the way, it becomes interesting. The closing argument part is really strong, for example. Too late probably. But it’s better later than never, I guess.

Bull is not your typical legal drama though, and for one good reason: the heroes are not the lawyers but the people helping the lawyers decide which strategy is the best, based on complex psychological analysis and mock trials. The TSI headquarters are a giant place with fake courtrooms, focus-group rooms with a one-way glass, a graphic design studio, a computer reasearch room… And all they do all day is analyse the jurors. Imagine the outcomes. And of course, sometimes, they are the ones who investigate and discover the truth. Because the show has to resemble to a police procedural at some point, whether it’s accurate about this job or not. Come on, we’re on CBS! I thought it was all very exhausting in the end. It’d be great for a special episode of a legal show. Or if it was just one department inside a firm with a larger story. But following these people doing this load of work every week? Nope. Then again, maybe it’s just me…

And you know what else I didn’t appreciate? The overwhelming writing. It overflows with details and ideas. People are too often talking at the same time, in front of the camera for “interviews”. Too many split screens. Too many montages, of Instagram photos for example. One montage in particular I hated: Bull having “moments” with his team. Bull laughing with someone. Bull hugging this other someone. Bull lunching with her and her. Bull smoking with him… The writers may have thought this montage was enough to show us how close Bull is with his team members, how cool a person he is. But no. It’s so lazy and so fake! We don’t really care about him, except if you’re a huge fan of Dr Phil, maybe. That’s where casting Weatherly is a brilliant idea. Not that he is an exceptional actor, but people love him, presumably, so the character suddenly sounds more interesting than he is on the page. The other characters are all the same for now.

Is CBS capable of rejecting a pilot with Michael Weatherly as the lead? I don’t think so. To bank on NCIS success, they will order it no matter what. Does it make sense? Do NCIS fans can be interested in Bull? I don’t have the answer since I don’t get why they watch NCIS in the first place, for 14 years! But I’m pretty sure Bull is not that a solid legal drama and shouldn’t move further in a better world. But it will. So all bets are off!