Tag: revenge

The Death of Eva Sofia Valdez (ABC) pilot preview: a Latino Revenge with a supernatural twist

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Created by and executive produced by Charise Castro Smith (Devious Maids). Also executive produced by Michele Fazekas & Tara Butters (Agent Carter, Resurrection, Dollhouse, Reaper). For ABC & ABC Studios. 62 pages.

Description: Eva Sofia Valdez is an immigrant who rose from rags to riches and became a celebrated Miami entrepreneur and a champion for immigrant rights. But her success is fueled by an insatiable ambition that could destroy her family, a vendetta against the lover who betrayed her, and ghosts from the past who threaten to reveal the dark sacrifices Eva Sofia made to attain the American Dream…

With Gina Torres (Suits, Firefly, Huge, Matrix), Christian OchoaRaùl Castillo (Looking), Eric Close (Nashville, Without a Trace, Dark Skies), Melora Hardin (Transparent, The Office), Christina Pickles (Friends, Get Real, St. Elsewhere), Debra Mooney (Scandal, Everwood, Kirk), Angèlica Celaya (Constantine), Alison Fernandez (Law & Order: SVU), Marta Milans (Killer Women), Zabryna Guevara (Gotham), Jeimy Osorio

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Since Jane The Virgin broke out (sort of) two years ago at The CW, networks fantasize about having their own latino-fueled soap opera. Ugly Betty is long gone now but creator Silvio Horta tried to rekindle the flame last year at NBC with pilot The Curse of the Fuentes Women, which was a funny and sexually-charged proposal that didn’t go to series (read the preview). ABC is back at it this year with The Death of Eva Sofia Valdez, that you could easily billed as a “latino Revenge with a supernatural twist” or, as the network prefers to call it “McBeth with a Cuban twist”. Classier. But it means the same thing: “we want to sweep the latino american community off their feet and most importantly off their spanish speaking channels like Univision & Telemundo, which draw big ratings every night”. Needless to say, it’s not that easy and the charm of telenovelas lies in their cheap setting, cheap dialogues, cheap actors (as long as they are beautiful), cheap everything… The Death of Eva Sofia Valdez won’t be cheap (even if ABC Studios can be sometimes) but it has its own weird charm and I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of us fall in its trap, at least initially.

My main problems with the show are its title (that still can change – who wants to watch something called The death of… honestly?) and its longtime perspective that doesn’t go very far. Listen: it starts with a flashforward –Revenge style- where, you guessed it, our heroin Eva Sofia Valdez dies. There’s blood all over her white gown. She was just shot in the gut by an unknown assailant after she put the Monrose Rum Distillery on fire. Of course, she can survive this and maybe she will if the show works but then, the title doesn’t make any sense, even though sooner or later the woman will die, like every one of us. Then we jump to present day and it’s only “six months earlier”! And Eva Sofia’s daughter Isabel’s voiceover makes it clear: “This is the story of my mother“. So my question is: how can a show last more than one 22-episode season when its heroine -whose full name is on the title- dies in the end of it? I know, I shouldn’t give myself a headache over this, but you have to admit this title needs to change. Badly.

So, what works in there? Many things. On paper. I’m not sure this mix of genres can translate that easily on screen. That’s the real challenge for the production team and the director (and the cast of course). The writer decided to take a dangerous and risky road. Remember NBC supernatural daytime soap Passions (1999-2008)? There’s a bit of that. Kudos for trying. The pilot is unusual and definitely weird, especially when the supernatural elements are introduced at some point. It’s sort of ridiculous, but the kind of ridiculous that makes you want to watch more. Just to see how far they’re ready to go. We’re not in a straight supernatural environment. We’re in Florida nowadays, in the world of the rich and the famous, and everything changes the day three very strange women enter Eva Sofia’s life. Are they witches? That’s what we are led to believe. For sure, they’re bitches. They don’t only bring black magic to the table and a possible curse to our heroin, they also add humor when all those people start to treat themselves a little bit too seriously. A breath of not so fresh air. They are not “Wilhelmina-funny” but they fell from the same tree. That’s pretty much the only supernatural element, if you consider that the cliffhanger is more in the realm of mental illness… And that’s debatable!

In the funny side of things, there’s a gimmick used by the narrator that works -and which will probably go away in the subsequent episodes- where she shows/tells two versions of the same scene: “what he/she wanted to say/do” Vs. “What he/she really said/did instead”. Not incredibly new but a nice little addition to the story. The rest is classic and efficient telenovela/soap opera tricks where everybody’s a bit of bitch, lie to each others, spy on each others, sleep with each others… You got the two very different sons of Eva Sofia, the successful one and the nerdy one, both are very sexy of course. The nerdy one happens to be in love with his brother’s wife, which is a shame since he cheats on her and she knows it. Eva Sofia wants him to be the new mayor because the only other candidate is her enemy (boring Eric Close) since he dumped her 30 years ago, back in Cuba where she comes from. I’m not sure it’s reason enough to be so full of hate, but why not? At least, Emily in Revenge had better reasons to do what she did… But we don’t have the full picture yet. Many secrets have yet to be told. Eva Sofia is an interesting character for multiple reasons. First, did I tell you she is 50? It’s very unusual for an heroine on television to be 50. Kudos to ABC. Then, she’s not nice. At all. She probably was when she was young. But now, she’s crazy. Like mentally crazy, I guess. She’s on fire. And manipulative. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn she killed someone. And if she haven’t done it yet, she will. It makes her instantly stand out from the crowd. She’s modern, like Annalise Keating is on How to Get Away With Murder. Gina Torres can have a lot of fun with this and be at the top of her game.

I wouldn’t call The Death of Eva Sofia Valdez a slam dunk for ABC -maybe because it’s weird and weirdness can often be confused with ridiculousness- but it’s very on brand for the network with a guilty-pleasure dimension that may be a better fit with Lifetime. It’s not as funny as it should be, but it’s crazy enough to draw attention and give people reasons to stay a little bit longer. I don’t think it can be “the Empire of the latino community” but it’s safe to assume there’s an audience for it.

ABC | 2015/2016 Pilot Season: The Best & Worst

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Before ABC reveals its new schedule next Tuesday, here’s the best & worst of their pilot season ! Just my humble opinion.

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DRAMAS

1. QUANTICO – Ordered to series

“an incredibly strong contender at ABC, not only because it’s a great pilot script that keeps you on the edge of your seat for the whole time but above all because it’s the promise of a show that will keep you on the edge of your seat EVERY WEEK for an ENTIRE SEASON -and hopefully more- alongside characters you can only care about, through a journey that’s relevant to the world we live in. It’s a bomb in the making that’s about to explode. The Clock is already ticking. Tick tock… Tick Tock…” Full preview here

2. THE FAMILY (aka ORIGINAL SIN) – Ordered to series

“a family drama, a very human one, more than a mystery or a detective show, or even a soap. (…) 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 (…) Everything’s in place to make a great show out of the already great pilot.” Full preview here

3. THE BROAD SQUAD – Dead but could be redeveloped

” This pilot manages to be both entertaining and intelligent, even important I might add (…) The Broad Squad is not your usual cop show, not only because it’s a period drama but because it aims to be different, not a crime-solving straight procedural but a heavy serialized and character-driven one, with no strong emphasis on romantic storylines.” Full preview here

4. THE CATCH – Ordered to series

“it’s in the same vein as Scandal and entirely devoted to Alice Martin, a strong leading woman, brilliant at her job but who can also prove to be fragile when it comes to her messy personal life, in the same fashion as Meredith Grey, Addison Montgomery, Olivia Pope and Annalise Keating (…) The Catch comes off as a thrilling ride, but I can’t say it blew my mind… yet.” Full preview here

5. OIL (aka BOOM) – Ordered to series

“it is as ambitious as it looks, and as ambitious as the couple at the center of the show is. t has what it takes it to be a good entertaining TV series that doesn’t take its viewers for morons and which offers a little bit more than just fun. That being said, Boom may be a little too smart and intricate for its own good…” Full preview here

6. KINGMAKERS – Officially Dead

“Kingmakers is ABC wanting to recreate the magic they once had with Revenge. It’s not a spin-off, it’s not officially a reboot. It’s the same show but different. You know you’ve seen it before but you don’t really care as long as they keep it entertaining and fresh somehow. Let’s call it a spiritual spin-off!” Full preview here

7. MIX – Officially Dead

“Mix finds the right balance between the prime time family soap like Dallas and the more emotion-based family drama like Parenthood, the same way Brothers & Sisters did in fact. Let’s call it a family dramedy, with a lot of heart, a bit of laughs and the inevitable dirty little secrets we’re exposed to throughout the pilot (…) It’s almost too simple and too sweet to be really good.” Full preview here

8. RUNNER – Officially Dead

“ABC has better things to pick up, but it’s a solid pilot script that embarks us on a thrilling ride.” Full preview here

9. KINGS AND PROPHETS – Ordered to series

“Game of Thrones is a soap opera in its bones. The Bible is too, in a way. Kings and Prophets even more. It’s about lies, treasons, revenge… Death is everywhere all the time.  I wouldn’t have bet on it before reading the script, now I’m intrigued though not totally convinced. It could crash, it could work, it could even be a hit. Everything’s possible.” Full preview here

10. WICKED CITY (aka LA CRIME) – Ordered to series

“Dark and twisty. It takes a dangerous road for a network show because of the way the serial killer called Clark Gallagher operates (…) But I’m not sure in this crowded television landscape, already full of serial killers, this show has something more to offer…” Full preview here

11. THE ADVOCATE – Officially Dead

“An interesting way of spinning your gold ol’ medical drama, but not distinctive enough to make a splash and be a game changer. It’s nice, it’s a good vehicle for Kim Raver, but it’s boring most of time. The medical part is okay, but the soapy part is just too generic”. 

12. THE ADVERSARIES – Officially Dead

“not something new, not something bad, not something we’d be willing to really give a chance (…) trying to distinguish itself through the family drama perspective, but even that has already been made and it doesn’t make that much of a difference in the end (…) It will skew old and it doesn’t really fit with the schedule. It’s efficient and pleasant but a little outdated.” Full preview here

Not reviewed: UNTITLED AGENTS OF SHIELD PROJECT – Officially Dead

 

Martha Plimpton as Virginia Chance, Jimmy's mother.

COMEDIES

1. THE REAL O’NEALS – Ordered to series

“it fits perfectly with ABC’s brand, alongside Modern Family, The Goldbergs and all the others (…) The fact that the narrator is a teenage boy makes it sound like Fresh Off the Boat too, which can’t be a bad thing. Honestly, I’m already in love with these people (…)”  Full preview here

2. NERD HERD – Officially Dead

“I laughed out loud while reading it, which doesn’t happen very often to me (…) Just picture all of the smart ass kids of TV -like Manny from Modern Family or the adorable Brick from The Middle– and make them brothers and sisters, living in the same house.Full preview here

3. DELORES & JERMAINE – Officially Dead

“This shit is good. Better than expected, better than you think and even better than it should have been. I mean: a young man living with his grandma, it’s quite exciting on paper I think -I love grandmas on TV- but it’s paper thin at the same time. Somehow, the magic happens and at the end of the pilot, nothing about it seems thin anymore.” Full preview here

4. CHEVY – Officially Dead

“it’s in the vein of The Middle. They share the same kind of sweetness and warmness, and they aim at the same sort of truth of what a family really is, or should be, based on everyday life (…) It would fit perfectly in ABC’s line-up”  Full preview here

5. FORTUNE FAMILY – Officially Dead

“TV definitely needs a lesbian heroin, even more if she’s not the pretty kind. That’s diversity too, guys! Outside of the coming-out part, which is dealt with really well, the sitcom is probably less original than The Real O’Neals for many reasons, especially the mother & father dynamic that we have already witnessed countless times, but it works” Full preview here

6. ALL STARS – Officially Dead

“Better than expected, really funny at times, with an extravaganza you don’t find on the other ABC projects. But it’s more niche and the sports part lost me a bit. Not the best choice.” 

7. THE 46 PERCENTERS – Officially Dead

“Liked this one way more than expected and I can totally picture it lasting for years. But too many farts jokes for my taste, probably.” 

8. DR KEN – Ordered to series

“Liked this one way more than expected (again) and I can totally picture it paired with Last Man Standing. Good for diversity, good for laughs, but not especially great regarding originality” 

9. THE KING OF 7B – Officially Dead

“Quite daring, totally original and crazy, but a bit of a mess, with a feeling that it can’t last very long with such a pitch. Would better fit on Netflix or something!”

10. UNCLE BUCK – Ordered to series

“Not impressed. But it has some potential somehow…” 

11. KNOXVILLE – Officially dead

“A family comedy about rednecks? Already done by Greg Garcia with Earl and then Raising Hope. We don’t need this one even if it’s fine.”

12. WARRIORS – Officially Dead

“Don’t understand the attractiveness of this project. But apparently it has one. Maybe not being remotely interested in basket ball didn’t help. I have faith in producer Dan Fogelman -and ABC too since they can’t keep ordering his shows- but I don’t think it belongs to ABC, even if they broadcast NBA…”

Not reviewed: THE MUPPETS -Ordered to series

 

What pilots are you rooting for ?

“Kingmakers” (ABC) pilot preview: “Revenge” 2.0, for real!

KIngmakers

Written & produced by Sallie Patrick (Revenge, Dirty Sexy Money, Life Unexpected). Co-produced by Jay Beattie & Dan Dworkin (Revenge, Criminal Minds, Cold Case). Directed by James Strong (Broadchurch, Gracepoint, Doctor Who, Downton Abbey). For ABC & ABC Studios. 57 pages.

Description: Eli, a young man whose sister is found dead during her freshman year at an elite Ivy League university adopts a new identity -Jacob- to infiltrate the school and its century-old secret society called Skull & Key, consisting of privileged students, ambitious faculty, and high-profile alums – in order to investigate her death… 

With Gus Halper, Adrian Pasdar (Profit, Heroes, Amy, Agents of SHIELD), Kristin Bauer Van Straten (True Blood, Once Upon a Time), Parminder Nagra (ER, The Blacklist Alcatraz), Colm Feore (The Borgias, Revolution, Thor), Tracey Fairaway, Nick Eversman (Missing), Michael Trevino (The Vampire Diaries, Cane, The Riches), Megan West (How to Get Away With Murder), Khary Payton

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This is not a story of forgiveness…” Remember these lines? They’re iconic. They’re from Revenge‘s pilot. They are used the exact same way in Kingmakers‘ pilot. And you know why? Because Kingmakers is basically Revenge 2.0. It’s what Revenge‘s season 2 should have been if ABC didn’t decide to pursue Emily’s quest throughout the whole show instead of sticking to the plan and having a new revenge every season like the creator intended to in the first place (before being “let go”, as they say). Now, Revenge has largely outstayed its welcome, digging deeper and deeper its grave with stupid and/or overly complicated storylines and dull characters. ABC finally decided to pull the plug. In fact, they asked the writers to wrap up the damn thing. Which is the same even if the show isn’t officially canceled yet. So, tireless fans, don’t expect a 5th season, even shortened. The best hope you can have now is Kingmakers going to series. ABC could even change the title to… Revenge: Kingmakers. But I really don’t think they should do that. There should be no such thing as a Revenge franchise. Too little too late!

That being said, the ties with Revenge are more than obvious in the script: they are totally assumed! “Revenge” is the word that ends the first act (bold and underlined!) and then even ends the whole pilot! Sallie Patrick, the creator (and producer on Revenge), writes at the beginning: “We’re not in the Hamptons anymore“. She built up the show around the same structure -a quote to start, then the voiceover from the hero telling his tale, a flashforward, later on he even circles the head of his first target on a photograph, Emily style…), except the setting has changed and the characters are not the same. Well, they don’t have the same names and they’re not played by the same actors, but they’re pretty much the same actually. The Vandeermeers are like the Graysons: a rich power couple who toy with everybody including their own children. They have affairs, they kind of love/hate each other, and they’re linked to the death of the hero’s sister. We don’t know yet how. I’m pretty sure Colm Feore and Kristin Bauer will be a delight to watch doing that. Adrian Pasdar, as a Senator (This man will never play a “normal” guy!), will be great too. Our hero, Jacob/Eli is like Emily/Amanda: dark, determined, consumed with hate, but pretty and cheerful on the outside. He’s a smart young man gone bad. I could compare every Kingmaker‘s character to its Revenge counterpart but I guess you get the idea.

You probably understood that I’m not a big Revenge fan. In fact, I liked the pilot. I was full of hope. I appreciated the first season, even if I had a lot of doubts regarding the future of the show. And then I hated it until I stopped watching after the season 3 finale. If I totally forget the existence of Revenge, then I feel like Kingmakers‘ pilot is a good one. It may even be better than Revenge‘s. Gosh, as you can see I can’t forget Revenge. The thing is the flashforward is a little bit more interesting and doesn’t make the same mistake as Revenge did: there is no doubt about the identity of the person who is dying. And there’s no doubt he’s dead either. That’s when Kingmakers plays the How to Get Away With Murder‘s card: who killed him with an arrow, in front of everyone? And is it the same person who killed Julia (the sister)? Towards the end, there’s an exciting scene about the secret society Skull and key. Boo, the mysterious one. It’s the members all reunited in the tomb, wearing black cloaks in the dark, so we can’t see their faces. You get the chills instantly. But it’s easy and not that original, granted. Remember the movie The Skulls? Still, it works and you want to know more. I fell in the trap again, but this time I won’t stay longer than one season I promise, unless it is really good!

Kingmakers is ABC wanting to recreate the magic they once had with Revenge. It’s not a spin-off, it’s not officially a reboot. It’s the same show but different. You know you’ve seen it before but you don’t really care as long as they keep it entertaining and fresh somehow. Let’s call it a spiritual spin-off! As much as I hate what I’m about to say, I’ll say it: Kingmakers might become a good show so we should not count it out of the race yet. But ABC surely has better & fresher shows in the oven…