Tag: poppy montgomery

Mission Control (CBS) pilot preview: Too big a challenge

Written and executive produced by Andy Weir (The Martian, The Egg). Executive produced by Simon Kinberg (X-Men, Legion, Designated Survivor, Mr & Mrs Smith), Charles H. Eglee (Hemlock Grove, Dexter, The Shield, The Walking Dead), Aditya Sood (Deadpool, The Martian, Designated Survivor), Brian Buckner (True Blood), Courtney Conte & Quan Phung (Whitney). Directed by Jeremy Podeswa (Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, The Tudors). For CBS Television Studios, Genre Films & Slingshot Global Media. 63 pages. 10/18/16.

Description: The next generation of NASA astronauts and scientists juggle both their personal and professional lives during a critical mission with no margin for error…

With Poppy Montgomery (Unforgettable, Without a Trace, Glory Days), David Giuntoli (Grimm, Privileged), Peyton List (Frequency, The Tomorrow People, FlashForward, Mad Men), Levi Fiehler (The Fosters), Ricardo Chavira (Desperate Housewives, Santa Clarita Diet, Scandal), Wunmi Mosaku (Guerilla, Fearless, Jo, In The Flesh), Vinny Chhibber (No Tomorrow)…

 

You’ll like it if you already like: Quantico, Grey’s Anatomy, Extant The Martian

Likely timeslot: Summer-bound?

Last year, CBS was heavily criticized on their lack of diversity in almost every every new series they picked up, all prominently featuring white males (Bull, MacGyver, Pure Genius, The Great Indoors, Kevin Can Wait, Man With a Plan) with only Doubt and to some extent Training Day going on another direction but considered as second thoughts on the schedule. They promised to do better next year. And here we are. We’ll have to wait for the orders to see if they improved but by the look of things right now, apart from SWAT starring Shemar Moore, Higher Ground which is a long shot and sitcom pilot Brothered Up, it’s once again very male and very white. Mission Control is the perfect example of what’s going wrong at the Eye: the two leads were supposed to be a bilingual Latina and an African-American man, they chose Poppy Montgomery and David Giuntoli. Mindfuck.

You think it’s a detail? It’s not. This pilot tries hard to be in the vein of the Shonda Rhimes bona fide hits -after they already failed with Doubt– and they’re not even capable of having a diverse cast for starters. Oh, there are Ricardo Chavira and Nigerian-born actress Wunmi Mosaku in secondary roles though. In October, CBS launched a Drama Diversity Casting Initiative to find African-American, Asian-American, Latino, Native American, Pacific Islander, LGBTQ actors and performers with disabilities to join current series and pilots. None were cast in any pilot. Just one of the participants, Alexa Adderly, has been cast in an episode of Bull… Seems like it’s just their way of saying “we care” but when decisions time come, they don’t anymore. Anyway, the characters in Mission Control are not properly fleshed out so the loss is not on the actors but on the network. The writer Andy Weir doesn’t seem like someone who watched a lot of Grey’s Anatomy or Scandal and it shows when he’s asked to mimic them. I’m even thinking he may not like them at all. The characters ARE the key in this type of projects. They can’t be one-dimensional. Especially when the world they live in is quite complicated to connect with for the audience. Sometimes, the show goes very technical and I was totally lost. The same way as a medical show can throw a lot of specific terms we don’t understand and we’re still fine because we care. Here, the problem is we don’t really care.

Honestly, I’m still trying to figure out what this show is about ultimately, what’s the story, what’s the purpose of it all. One thing I know, there’s a sex scandal -as in 2 or 3 other pilots this year- with public affairs officer Rayna trying to clean up a nude pics leak from one of their astronauts, Deke, a rich heiress. She’s not too bummed out about it by the way. It’s a little bit overwhelming to offer this particular story in a pilot. It sounds more like a plot B in episode 4. And it’s used to introduce two of the most important female characters of the show, which doesn’t sound very flattering to reduce them to this. Did I say sexist? I guess it’s their way to insist on “we’re light, we’re cool, we’re timely”. Anyway the case is resolved by the end of the episode so everyone at CBS is happy. As long as the women are sexy and the men are funny nerds… It’s a bummer because those people are supposed to be brilliant, amazing, but we’re stuck with a sex scandal instead of them doing incredible things.

There are two factions of people in Mission Control: the folks down in NASA’s control unit, lead by whip-smart Julie Towne as the flight director, and the people up on a next-generation space station called Durga, lead by Stevenson, a cocky astronaut. Those two have indeniable chemistry but right now it’s impossible for them to act on it for obvious reasons. Though cam sex should be on the table if you want my opinion. And so the critical mission is to move Durga from low-orbit to high-orbit, where it will eventually fly to Mars. And 14 months in the future, there is a giant explosion above earth. Is it Durga? Is it the Russians’ shuttle (‘cos of course the Russians are involved and they are not supposed to be the enemies this time)? That’s the only hook Andy Weir has found to give us a reason to stay a little bit longer since it’s not the characters obviously. Unless they reworked the damn thing extensively, there are too many problems here to warrant a series order and it’s a shame. It was a great pitch idea.

Mission Control is the waste of a good idea. CBS turned the once promising project into of one those half-baked summer fares they’re now renowned for like Extant, Under The Dome or Zoo. It’s a creative mess that wants to be both Grey’s Anatomy or Quantico but doesn’t know how to, and The Martian, banking on the author’s name. But those two genres -soap and science- just don’t mesh well, especially with an unexperienced writer who never worked for television before. It was too big a challenge.

CBS 2016/2017 Comedy Pilots ranked

CBS-logo-2011

This past season was, once again, not a great year for CBS’ comedy department with new entries not doing so well. Life In Pieces seems to work only because it follows The Big Bang Theory, and still manage to lose a big chunk of its viewers anyway. A move next year could prove very problematic, but it’s a slot wasted for a show that’s not even produced in-house… Angel From Hell was, as expected, cancelled after a few airings. Mike & Molly was sentenced to death for unknown reasons, even though it was at least a utility player. Second season of The Odd Couple, which should never have been ordered, was kept all season long and will finally start airing on April. Meaning it’s basically already cancelled. Mom is doing fine, thank God. And 2 Broke Girls is okay, despite multiple moves on the schedule.

Whatever they decide to renew or cancel in the end, very few slots are available for new comedies. The race will be tough. But “fortunately”, most of their comedy pilots don’t look promising on paper (and the worst one is a straight-to-series order, ugh). Decisions shouldn’t be that hard to make. They took mostly multicamera comedies -they finally understood!- but there’s still some single-camera left. Let’s take a look!

  1. SUPERIOR DONUTS (CBS Television Studios)

rate rate rate rateFollows the relationship between the owner of a donut shop, his new young employee and their patrons in a gentrifying neighborhood of Chicago… With Jermaine FowlerBrian d’Arcy James, David Koechner, Sarah Stiles…

This is the only comedy pilot script at CBS that I liked. A lot. It’s not only very funny, it’s also insightful and it really fits with their actual line-up. I totally see it sandwiched between Mom & 2 Broke Girls, or after The Big Bang Theory. And I feel like Jermaine Fowler can become huge in the next few years. I’m not sure about Brian d’Arcy James though. Didn’t know he could be that funny. For me, it’s a sure bet. Plus, it is directed by sitcom superstar James Burrows.

 


2. MY TIME/YOUR TIME (Sony Pictures Television / CBS Television Studios)

rate rate rate  chronicles the relationship of Marla & Wade, a young couple as they begin dating long distance through Skype. One is in New York, the other in Los Angeles… With Jane Levy, Nicholas Braun, Izzie Steele…

Yet another dramedy about millenials looking for love. Okay, it’s not original but it is something networks have a hard time to find, something that feels true and fresh and fun and melancholic… It’s appealing, honest, really cute…

Read the full preview

 

3. WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND (Warner Bros. Television)

rate rate rate two 40-something parents who were wild and reckless teenagers now face their worst nightmare—raising three teenagers of their own… With Jason Lee, Alyssa Milano, Matt Murray, Tia Mowry…

Single-camera comedy. Ouch. If they can only take one, this is the one! It’s a bit too classical to be honest, it doesn’t tell anything new about parenting, but it’s a strong vehicle for Lee & Milano, who already played a married couple in My Name is Earl. They have chemistry. They can do great. The script is a little rough around the edges, but it mostly works and the kid characters really do exist. ABC could have generated this one. It just lacks the thing that would make it really special.

 


4. THE KICKER (Universal Television)

rate rate rate  an oddball athlete drives family, friends and strangers insane after he unexpectedly finds himself cut from his professional football team… With Geoff StultsDavid Spade, Joanna Garcia Swisher…

The Tina Fey / 30 Rock team came up with an efficient, pretty funny pilot, whose only real fault is too rely so much on its star that if Geoff Stults is not the right one after all, it will probably fail miserably. The character is so annonying that if the actor doesn’t have the charm required, the pilot could quickly turn into something unwatchable. I’m pretty condident though. Too bad it’s not produced in-house and it has almost the same pitch as Kevin Can Wait (see below)…

 

5. REAL GOOD PEOPLE (CBS Television Studios)

rate rate rate centers on a conservative, small-town family from Texas who is forced to reconcile their family values when they discover their children’s lives are less than perfect… With Nick Zano, Lenora Chrichlow, David Keith, Julie White…

I am moderately convinced by the script, but I feel like this family has a real potential and the cast is capable of turning it into something better than it is on the page, but it’s certainly not special. Remember The Millers? I fear it gets the same destiny (the creator wrote multiple episodes for it)…

 

6. FURST BORN (CBS Television Studios)

rate rate about a wife and mother who learns she was adopted and that her birth parents are a flamboyant but loving family of drag-racers… With Poppy Montgomery, Katey Sagal, John Carroll Lynch, Swoosie Kurtz…

Stellar cast! Really. But damn, why is it so unfunny most of the time? I didn’t laugh a lot. It’s not complicated: you got a few good characters -the two set of grandparents- and all the others, who are boring as hell. Dunno if Poppy Montgomery can deliver in a comedy -it would be her first- but I feel like it’s meant to be another Life In Pieces (and it’s also a single-cam): good cast wasted in a mediocre comedy. Magic can still happen…

 


7. I’M NOT YOUR FRIEND (CBS Television Studios)

rate rate a contractor learns that raising his kids is more challenging than expected when his wife goes back to work and he has to take care of the little monsters by himself all day long… With Matt Le Blanc, Jenna Fischer, Diana Maria Riva…

Bad vehicle for Matt Le Blanc returning to network comedy. He deserved better after 5 years of the excellent Episodes. Clearly, he’s not our friend Joey anymore.

Read the full preview

 

8. THE GREAT INDOORS (CBS Television Studios)

rate rate an adventure reporter must adapt to the times when he becomes the boss to a group of millennials in the digital department of the magazine… With Joel McHale, Chris Williams, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Stephen Fry…

I have NO IDEA why Joel McHale accepted this (and why CBS ordered it in the first place). How come a show about millenials can be so cliché and outdated? Didn’t laugh once. It just ends up being unfunny and unrealistic for the most part. From someone who comes from Community, it makes no sense. And I don’t think he will be able to improve the material.

 

9. KEVIN CAN WAIT (Sony Pictures Television) – Ordered to series

rate  a newly retired police officer looks forward to spending more quality time with his wife and three kids… only to discover he faces much tougher challenges at home than he ever did on the streets. With Kevin JamesErinn Hayes, Taylor Spreitler, Ryan Cartwright…

It’s never funny. Same old jokes that don’t work anymore. No diversity. Kevin Can Wait is more outdated than The King of Queens was at the time! It’s just not possible airing this in 2016. It could have been tacky in a sweet and nostalgic way. But it’s just tacky as… shitty tacky.

Read the full preview