Tag: rarmian newton

Rise -aka Drama High- (NBC) pilot preview: Glee for emotionally open grown-ups, This Is Us style

Written and produced by Jason Katims (Parenthood, Friday Night Lights, Bosto Public). Inspired by a true story. Based on Michael Sokolove‘s book. Executive produced by Michelle Lee (The Path, Pure Genius, About a Boy), Flody Suarez (8 simples Rules…) & Jeffrey Seller (Hamilton, Rent). Directed by Mike Cahill. For Universal Television & True Jack Productions. 54 pages. 2nd revised network draft. 01/30/17.

Description: The story of Lou Volpe, a litterature teacher in his forties in a Pennsylvania high school, who is appointed by the principal to take over and modernize the theater program that is dying. He chooses the provocative and emotional rock musical Spring Awakening –about teenagers discovering the inner and outer tumult of sexuality in late-19th-century Germany- as their first production. A choice that won’t be without consequences for the students and their families in this “Americana” town…

With Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother, Mercy Street), Rosie Perez (Search Party, Lipstick Jungle), Auli’i Cravalho (Moana), Marley Shelton (The Lottery, Eleventh Hour), Amy Forsyth (Defiance, The Path), Casey Johnson, Rarmian Newton (The Family), Shannon Purser (Stranger Things, Riverdale), Damon J. Gillespie, Shirley Rumierk, Joe Tippett, Ted Sutherland, Taylor Richardson

    

You’ll like if you already like: Glee, Smash, Friday Night Lights, This Is Us, Parenthood

Likely timeslot: Tuesday at 9 or 10 paired with This Is Us

There’s a question that is still haunting me six months later: why did This Is Us become such a success on NBC while Parenthood, which was very much in the same vein and even better, never got real traction during six years? There are multiple theories like Milo Ventimiglia’s ass in the trailer. Or the fact that the twists made all the difference. Mine is simpler: it came out with a perfect timing. The right show in the right place at the right time. And for the first time, fabulous writer Jason Katims, who was behind Parenthood but also Friday Night Lights and more recently Pure Genius, may have created the right show in the right place at the right time. Supposedly paired with This Is Us and not very far from The Voice, Rise has every chance to become a hit. And it deserves to. That’s the best script I’ve read this season so far (with comedy Libby & Malcolm at ABC which happens to be very timely too). It’s emotional, delicate and rich.

The pitch sounds like Glee and it’s probably Rise‘s biggest weakness from a marketing point of view. The feeling of “been there, done that” won’t be easy to erase from potential viewers’ minds. It’s a leap of faith, clearly. But honestly, whatever is your opinion on Glee -mine is not flattering- we’re very from it from the overall tone to the characters’ stories. Glee was a funny, entertaining, sometimes poignant show, which main goal was to give a litteral voice to characters rarely seen on TV. An enjoyable mess that outstayed its welcome, I’d add. Rise is an entirely different beast. By the way, it’s not exactly a musical high-school drama soap, as it could be described. It is mostly set in a high-school, there’s a bit of music in it -but not that much- and there are soap elements, that’s true, but to me it’s a realistic drama above all and the story of a working-class town and the families that live there. Like Friday Night Lights was not really a drama about football. Stanton, Pennsylvania, is like Dillon, Texas: a struggling but picturesque town with diners, churches, clapboard houses, american flags everywhere…

What NBC could and should insist on is the fact it’s based on a formidable true story, the one of Lou Volpe, a ground-breaking high school drama teacher who ran for 44 years the renowned drama program at Harry S Truman High School in Levittown, a low-income town in Pennsylvania, as chronicled in the book Drama High, written by one of his students, Michael Sokolove. And the fact that Jeffrey Seller and Flody Suarez, producers of Tony-Award-Winning hip-hop musical Hamilton, are associated with the project says a lot about how important Rise could become, as a cultural phenomenon and a stepping stone in this new era of television where networks want to reflect middle-America as how it really is. These days, people want real situations, real emotions, as This Is Us just proved.

Among the principal characters, aside from Lou Volpe and his family -he’s married and a father of three children- there is Lilette, a half Puerto Rican half Irish teenage girl, and her hot mess of a mother, a waitress sexually harassed by her boss; Robbie, an African-American stud, whose mother is in late stages of muscular disease; Simon, a Christian closeted young gay man, whose younger sister is in a wheelchair; Gwen, the theather’s queen bee whose parents are on the verge of divorce; Maashous, a mysterious foster kid who’s living secretly at the school… Don’t worry, Lou has his own Sue Sylvester: Tracey Wolfe, the high energy with a no-holds-barred mouth current Drama School teacher and a former high school theater person, who’s really funny and adds a welcome lightness to the ensemble.

Behind every student character, there’s a difficult, sometimes really sad but ordinary family story and a talent ready to explode with so many things to say through songs. We don’t get many informations about every one of them in the pilot but in the end we want to spend more time at their sides to understand who they really are and why they feel so familiar, how much we share with them… and hear more of their singing voices. Jason Katims is so good at portraying people without making them clichés. It’s impressive and admirable. This pilot is not about big twists or OMG moments or crazy laughs or huge performances. It’s about setting the stage for the season to come, introducing the characters and bringing them together towards this theater program that will change their life. There is so much potential and so many stories to tell starting from here. It couldn’t have been more promising and exciting than that.

Rise is probably one of the best things that will happen to us in a few months on television, believe me. It’s the promise of an exceptional show that will resonate with America and hopefully the whole world, that will bring people together. It will make us laugh and cry, and sing and dance, as long as we’re emotionally open and ready for it… Rise will make us all very happy. And that’s the most beautiful thing to do.

“The Family” (ABC) pilot preview: the family soap you won’t even feel guilty about loving!

ORIGINALSIN

Previously entitled Flesh & Blood and Original Sin. Written & produced by Jenna Bans (Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, Scandal, Private Practice, Off the Map). Co-produced by David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman (Monk, Fighter, Warm Bodies, The Proposal) & Laurie Zaks (Castle). Directed by Paul McGuigan (Sherlock, Monroe, Devious Maids). For ABC, ABC Studios & Mandeville Prods. 63 pages.

Description: It’s been ten years since 9-year-old Adam Warren disappeared from Red Pines, Maine and the world has changed a lot in his absence. His mother, Claire, who was then just starting her first City Council campaign, has been elected mayor. His father, John, is now the bestselling author of “Grieving with Grace” a book series on coping with loss. Adam’s siblings, Danny and Willa, who were supposed to be watching Adam at the time, have each dealt with their guilt in their own way. So, when a young man appears in Red Pines claiming to be Adam, it throws everyone into a tailspin. The man sitting in jail for Adam’s supposed death is released as Nina Meyer, the cop responsible of the investigation, is forced to reexamine what truly happened so many years ago….

With Joan Allen (The Killing US, Luck, Face/Off, Hatchi, The Bourne Identity), Rupert Graves (Sherlock Last Tango in Hallifax, The White Queen, V for Vendetta), Margot Bingham (Boarwalk Empire, Matador), Alison Pill (The Newsroom, In Treatment, The Pillars of the Earth, Harvey Milk), Zach Gilford (Friday Night Lights, Off the Map, The Mob Doctor, The Purge: Anarchy), Liam James (The Killing US, Psych), , Andrew McCarthy (St Elmo’s Fire, Lipstick Jungle), Florianna Lima (Allegiance, The Mob Doctor), Madeleine Arthur (Big Eyes), Alex Steele (Degrassi: the next generation), Rarmian Newton

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He’s not dead! The kid’s not dead! Just realize Original Sin (aka Flesh & Blood) is the first drama in at least 2 years that doesn’t start with a dead kid. Gracepoint, Secrets & Lies, American Crime, The Missing, Bloodline… Do you need more proofs of this morbid tendency that started with the great and acclaimed Broadchurch? What was once a taboo subject matter on television fascinated the whole world in the past few months as if suddenly writers were allowed to deal with such a dark, traumatic event and jumped on the opportunity all at once. Here, on the contrary, the kid is coming back from the dead -not as in The Returned or Resurrection- figuratively! Everybody thought he died 10 years ago. They were all wrong. Well, in fact, we’re not sure yet if it’s the real Adam who’s back in Red Pines or someone who’s trying to take its place in the Warren family. But that’s one of the many hooks and chills this well-crafted pilot gives you.

From a writer who worked on all Shondaland’s series -she even created one!- it doesn’t come as a surprise. She learned from the best! But this time, Shonda is not involved. Jenna Bans did it by herself. And Shonda can be proud. Last year, she wrote the Sea Of Fire pilot script, which was in my opinion really really good and was worth a try at ABC. They didn’t order it to series, because it was too dark and too sexually charged for network television, I suspect. I see Original Sin as their way of making amends and a proof they believe she is able to bring them their next hit. It was reported on Deadline it is “getting a strong buzz heading into the home stretch“, the same way as How to Get Away With Murder last year. Nothing’s ever a sure thing, but it looks good. To be totally honest with you, I think I liked Sea Of Fire better. I’d say it was more unpredictable. Original Sin possesses a lot of twists and most of them work but once or twice I said to myself: “this is going to happen“. And it happened. But people appreciate being right, so it won’t hurt if they guess one or two things in advance. They’ll feel smart and there are still plenty of surprises to get excited about anyway.

At its core, Original Sin is a family drama, a very human one, more than a mystery or a detective show, or even a soap. It’s the story of a family which was detroyed the day the youngest child disappeared and could never recover from the pain and anger they felt and still feels. Even if most of them had no choice but to get on with their lives. Even if the culprit was found. Or so they thought. It’s essentially character driven, from every point of view, not only the family’s but also the detective’s, a journalist’s and the man who was not guilty after all but may be guilty of something else soon… You can feel their pain and their guilt, even now. It’s devastating on the page. I hope the cast can live up to it. I’m not too worried. Joan Allen, Alison Pill, Rupert Graves and Zach Gilford are brilliant. As we follow Adam’s return -the scene when they see him for the first time is upsetting- we witness the day they lost him through numerous flashbacks. Where they were. What they could have done. And then what they did. ‘Cos they all did things they’re not proud of in the wake of the tragedy. One of them did something even the Lord himself can’t forgive, and he/she won’t be able to keep the secret any longer. And you want to be there the moment it’s gonna happen. Midway through the script, I already knew I wanted Original Sin to go to series badly. Add to that the feel of a small town, the pressure of a political campaign, an affair -‘cos there’s always an affair-, this weird and mysterious child, who was abused, lonely for so long, you want to hug and tell him it’s all gonna be okay except he creeps you out at the same time… Everything’s in place to make a great show out of the already great pilot.

Original Sin could totally take the actual spot of Secrets & Lies -and precedently Resurrection– on Sundays at 9 on ABC, and would mesh well with Nashville if the musical soap were on the move to Sundays at 10 as most predict, including me. I don’t know if the show has more than one or two seasons to give, but it definitely has what it takes to offer us one or two great seasons, of 13-15 episodes preferably. And if they find the right twist, I’m sure they can go on a few more years. People can relate to this family and its members, they can feel for the detective, they can get excited by the investigation and the secrets that will be found along the way… And it won’t even feel like a sin to love it. 

Photo courtesy of YVRShoots