Tag: shonda rhimes

For The People -Black’s Law- (ABC) pilot preview: Shonda Rhimes by-the-book? Not exactly, your honor…

Written and produced by Paul William Davies (Scandal). Also produced by Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder, The Catch) & Betsy Beers. Directed by Tom Verica (Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal). For ABC Studios & Shondaland. Network draft 1/13/17. 57 pages.

Description: Brand new lawyers working for both the defense and the prosecution at the Southern District of New York (SDNY) Federal Court, aka “The Mother Court”, have to handle the most high profile and high stakes cases in the country – all as their personal lives inevitably intersect. Sandra, Allison, Seth, Jay, Kate and Leonard may not be friends but starting from now, whether they like it or not, they’ll be together almost 24/7, fighting for justice and fighting each others…

With Britne Oldford (American Horror Story, Skins US, Hunters), Lyndon Smith (Parenthood, 90210, Extant), Ben Rappaport (Mr Robot, The Good Wife, Younger), Susannah Flood (Chicago Fire), Wesam Keesh (Awkward), Regé-Jean Page (Roots, Waterloo Road), Anna Deavere Smith (Nurse Jackie, The West Wing, Blackish), Hope Davis (Wayward Pines, American Crime, In Treatment), Vondie Curtis-Hall (Daredevil, Chicago Hope), Ben Shenkman (Royal Pains, The Night Of, Angels in America)…

   

You’ll like it if you already like: Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder, Law & Order

Likely timeslot: in the TGIT, thursday at 9 after Grey’s Anatomy or at 10 once How To Get Away With Murder ends

 

A lot of you asked me on Twitter those past three months when the Black’s Law preview would come out. Shonda Rhimes’ pilots always get a lot of attention for very good reasons: after all, she’s the queen. The truth is, it’s one of the first scripts I read this year but I was so conflicted about it that I decided to give it time to let it sink in and not to write about it right away. Weeks have passed and I just couldn’t do it as my first impressions faded away. So I re-read it to make sure I was really thinking what I thought I was thinking. I also read Grey’s Anatomy pilot script for the first time. As you may know, Black’s Law is said to be in the vein of the medical drama when it started. It’s undeniable. Thought it was a good idea to compare. I was wrong. It got me even more disturbed. Now that the upfronts are coming in a few days, I have no choice but to do it. So here we are, friends. Black’s Law will certainly be picked-up to series by ABC anyway. The contrary would be quite a shocker. Not only because it’s Shonda Rhimes and ABC can’t afford to say no to her -which is not entirely true, they already did a few times- but because it’s simply one of the best pilot scripts they have in contention this year. No matter what.

Black’s Law doesn’t start with a crazy flashforward or a steamy love scene. It starts with a black screen and a dictionary entry saying “AB Initio: Latin from the first act, or meaning from the start” and then we’re back to black. Suddenly, it bursts into song. An energetic, propulsive one. And it stops when an alarm rings. Our heroine, Sandra, is waking up in the soft light of sunrise at 5.30. She’s wearing modest clothes in a not so modest apartment. Then she goes out: we’re in the vibrant and awesome city of New York and the song kicks in again. She takes the subway, she’s lost, she buys a banana and she finally arrives at her destination at 6.44: “The Mother Court”. It’s her first day. She wanted to be the first to arrive and she is. It’s a standard, modest but efficient start that tells us two things: this show is mostly about Sandra Black, as Grey’s Anatomy focused heavily on Meredith Grey early on -though there’s no voice over here- and also that the writer is not looking to replicate a Shondaland formula that may have been overused by now. Smart move? Only time will tell. That’s where I am conflicted the most: as a huge Shonda Rhimes fan, I was looking for something splashy and it turns out to be a regular legal drama, less soapier than expected but character-driven of course. It’s a good one, it seems. Not at a The Good Wife level, but still. Is it what ABC viewers want? Isn’t it a bit disappointing? Well. Now you know what to expect.

So, we’re exposed to three main cases in this first episode, which is a lot and doesn’t leave much space to the personal stories of our main characters, though we learn a thing or two about them through the way they handle the situations they’re in. It’s a big ensemble. There are 10 regulars. 6 young lawyers in their thirties. 3 of them are prosecutors. The other 3 are public defenders. They have 4 bosses in their fifties. We meet all of them in the first few pages in a classic Shonda Rhimes’ way that always works. You can already feel the competition mounting. That’s where the show is really smart. There’s not only a competition between the prosecutors or between the public defenders to take the best case or to make the best impression, but there’s also the promise of new battles every week between the prosecutors and the public defenders that are facing each others in court. In general, legal dramas are about the lawyers of one firm and they work together. Here, there is no firm and there is no working together. At least for now. Then love and friendships will complicate things. And we can’t wait to get there! There’s frustration when the pilot ends -without any cliffhanger by the way- but a good one. We can feel great things are coming up but we’re not there yet. In the era of Peak TV, let’s just hope people will give it a chance and a bit of patience.

Let me introduce you to the characters now. I’ll try to be quick. So Sandra is a sensible, fiercely intelligent and independent girl, who’s burdened by the decision to leave a Supreme Court clerkship that made her somewhat famous in the legal world. We learn in the pilot what really happened (don’t expect a big OMG moment) and what drove her to the law. She’s a cute, simple, fresh heroine that I’m already fond of. Allison is Sandra’s best friend. They go way back and now they live together. It’s impossible not to think of Meredith and Cristina. Let’s hope their friendship is as strong. Allison is a wealthy and generous woman and she’s in a relationship with Seth, a smart and reasonable but inexperienced recent law school grad. Of course, they become adversaries in their first case at “The Mother Court”, which causes a lot of drama. It’s not very surprising but perfectly handled. Seth works with Leonard, a cocky and case-stealing colleague, with a considerable swagger, and Kate who just wants to stay out of the drama, do her job and get the win. Of course, it won’t be that simple. Finally, Sandra and Allison are teamed up with Jay, a perhaps too big-hearted fellow. They don’t sound like clichés, they form a promising group but we can’t say they feel like characters we haven’t seen before either (is that even possible though?). Interesting point: Sandra doesn’t have any love interest yet. Which is kind of revolutionary in a Shondaland show!

I won’t describe all the bosses characters, they are not very developed yet but let’s just say they add some humor and more conflicts to the show. Tina, the  tough, intimidating, no-nonsense SDNY court clerk, will probably be the audience’s favorite. She’s a crowd-pleaser. She’s funny. And she happens to be played by Anna Deavere Smith, who’s hilarious. Hope Davis is a great actress too. She plays Jill, the boss of all public defenders; she’s smart and savvy. The equivalent of Miranda Bailey in Grey’s in a way. Maybe you’re asking about the cases tackled -fast- in this pilot. The big one, that Sandra is on, is about a young man who’s accused of plotting the bombing of the Statue of Liberty. Yeah, big one I said. It made me think of a storyline from Homeland‘s recent sixth season. Black’s Law wants to be revelant, so of course they chose to deal with terrorism, THE subject matter these days. It’s done perfectly, with nuance and a bit of criticism against the police and against the law overall. It’s a morally commited show that seems to have a lot to say about the system and how much it can be unfair sometimes, especially when you’re up against the State. The other cases are about a fraud and a con man. Nothing very sexy. You know what it misses? Something fun, eccentric. Yeah but… we’re in the Federal Court so…not gonna happen.

Black’s Law is NOT a Shonda Rhimes by-the-book show. It’s less less soapy than Grey’s Anatomy, less sexy than Scandal, less twisty than How To Get Away With Murder, but it’s engaging and promising nonetheless in a more classic, regular way, with characters that you care about and some Shondaland trademarks. It doesn’t want to make viewers jump out of their seats at every corner, it’s more of a slow burn. It doesn’t ambition to be the “sensation of the year” but more like a sensation for years to come, a show that ABC will be able to rely on for the long haul. Let’s just hope the TGIT viewers will welcome Black’s Law as they’re supposed to: with kindness, goodwill and patience. This one’s a keeper. 

Grey’s Anatomy : what if Shonda Rhimes creates another spin-off? Here are 5 ideas!

GREY'S ANATOMY - ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" stars Kevin McKidd as Owen Hunt, Justin Chambers as Alex Karev, Chandra Wilson as Miranda Bailey, Gaius Charles as Shane Ross, Tessa Ferrer as Leah Murphy, Jessica Capshaw as Arizona Robbins, Sandra Oh as Cristina Yang, Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey, Patrick Dempsey as Derek Shepherd, Sara Ramirez as Callie Torres, Jerrika Hinton as Stephanie Edwards, Camilla Luddington as Jo Wilson, Sarah Drew as April Kepner, Jesse Williams as Jackson Avery and James Pickens, Jr. as Richard Webber. (Photo by Bob D'Amico/ABC via Getty Images)

While ABC is having a hard time finding new drama series that stick, Grey’s Anatomy is still a ratings monster on Thursday in season 13 (!!!) with more than 8 million fans watching the show live, adding another 4 millions in the 7 days that follow. Of course, the show will get a 14th season renewal. But isn’t it the right time and the last chance for ABC to order a new spin-off? That’s probably something the network dreams about for years -since Private Practice run has ended- while Shonda Rhimes is rightfully resisting the urge. She now has 5 shows on the air (Grey’s, Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, The Catch and midseason entry which has yet to be renamed Still Star-Crossed) and a handful of new projects for next season. But what if they do it? What spin-off should they go for? Here are 5 ideas. Feel free to discuss them and add yours!

 

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  1. Callie’s Anatomy

Since Sara Ramirez departed the show in the end of season 12, she cut her hair and came out as bisexual, juste like our beloved Callie. Wouldn’t it be great to follow Callie’s professional and sexual adventures in New York? She could dump Penny quickly and make love to Sofia’s lesbian babysitter! It’s just an idea. We want her to go rock’n’ roll. She would met new colleagues there, new friends, in a little clinic, not a huge hospital, maybe in a poor neighborhood to deal with different issues than in Grey’s and Private. It’d be one of the rare TV shows with a bisexual lead (The 100 and what else?) and one of the rare drama with an hispanic lead (Shades of Blue and ?). Make it happen, ABC!

 

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2. Call Me Izzie

Well, Izzie… Every year, everyone thinks there’s a storyline that might be finaly introducing Katherine Heigl’s long awaited comeback but it never happens. And this year is no exception with Alex and Jo separating. As much as we know, there is no such plan, especially since Rhimes & Heigl are still at odds. But we’re allowed to dream a little. Izzie coming back in Seattle for a few episodes and then leading her own show would certainly be a ratings success if things are done the right way. But Heigl has her new series Doubt (from ex Grey’s Anatomy producers) coming next year on CBS, which rules it out completely, at least for 2017. Too bad.

 

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3. Warriors

It seems like nobody’s missing Kim Raver’s Teddy. It was a nice player though, a really interesting character that departed too soon. It’s certainly too late now to re-introduce her in the show, but a few years back they totally should have given her her own spin-off. It would have been centered on her mourning trip to a war zone where she would have led a team of courageous doctors saving lives in dangerous situations. And sleeping with each others of course. ABC developped similar ideas a few times the past years but without Shonda involved. Maybe they should re-think the idea, with her this time…

 

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4. Grey’s Anatomy: the Young Years

Remember this season 6 episode where we flashbacked to the hospital in the 80s when Ellis Grey, Meredith’s mother, and Richard met and fell in love during the AIDS years? It was a damn good one. And the great Sarah Paulson was in it. It was before she became Ryan Murphy’s best friend. Making a whole show about this period of time would be risky, especially since we already know how the couple ended up in life and since period dramas tend to flop on networks, but at least it would have been interesting and kind of new.

 

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5. Grey’s Kindergaten

Okay, this one is very unlikely, but I like it. Have you ever asked yourself what happens for our doctors’ kids when they are all together in the Sloan-Grey Memorial’s kindergaten? That show would be a workplace comedy following the nurses that take care of them. Occasionally, one of Grey‘s stars would make a guest appearance.

 

And yes, a show about Cristina in Switzerland would make sense too, but I feel like everything has been said and done about her. It wouldn’t be a good idea and we need Sandra Oh in something new!

Still Star-Crossed (ABC) pilot preview: Shonda Rhimes goes all Shakespearian and Downton Abbey

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Created and executive produced by Heather Mitchell (Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy). Based on Melinda Traub‘s novel. Directed by Michael Offer (How To Get Away With Murder, Homeland, Longmire). Also executive produced by Shonda Rhimes, Betsy Beers (How To Get Away With Murder, Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy) & Michael R. Goldstein (Rodney) & José Luis Escolar (Cloud Atlas, Kingdom of Heaven, Indiana Jones and the Last Cruisade). For ABC, ABC Studios, Shondaland Productions & The MrG Production Co. 64 pages.

Description: In the 16th century Verona, the deaths of Romeo and Juliet have escalated the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets. The streets of Verona have become dangerous, traitors have emerged, and the kingdom is vulnerable to attack. The young ruling Prince of Verona, Escalus, wants to end the feud and bring peace to the kingdom. Following the sage advice of his sister Princess Isabella he devises a plan to marry a Capulet to a Montague to unite the families and strengthen his position. He commands a union between Romeo’s cousin, the womanizing Benvolio, with Juliet’s cousin, Rosaline, who is in love with Prince Escalus. Each is fiery and independent. They’ll have to banter their way to a compromise in the midst of treachery, power grabs and palace intrigue. Another star-crossed love story begins.

With Lashana Lynch, Sterling Sulieman (The Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars), Torrance Coombs (Reign, The Tudors), Zuleikha Robinson (Lost, Homeland, Rome, The Lone Gunmen), Grant Bowler (Lost, Ugly Betty, Defiance, True Blood), Anthony Head (Buffy, Merlin, Dominion, Free Agents), Medalion Rahimi (The Catch), Wade Briggs (Please Like Me), Ebonée Noel, Dan Hildebrand (Sons of Anarchy, Deadwood) and guest-stars Clara Rugaard as Juliet & Lucien Laviscount as Romeo (Scream Queens, Episodes).

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We probably all had the same reaction when we learned the Shondaland pilot of the year for ABC was 1/ a period drama 2/ a sequel to Romeo & Juliet: we laughed hysterically and cried a little. And now, it’s time for a little prayer. Make it work. Make it beautiful. Make it modern, somehow. Make it the Downton Abbey of Shonda Rhimes. She always said she was a big fan of the UK show (which is huge in the US too). Some say she’s “the Shakespeare of our time” (and yes, it’s too much). In 2016, we celebrate the 400th birthday of the author’s death. There’s no coincidence, if you ask me. This will be probably get ordered no matter what. Let’s see if it’s worth it or if it’s just saying “yes” to everything Shonda initiates.

For many years, networks worked on modern incarnations of cult Romeo & Juliet. At least one project like this is in development every year. And none of them hit the air in the end. Maybe because Shakespearian tales fuel soap operas for decades, whether consciously or not. The tragedies he wrote are timeless and still resonate with our world, our lives. In that regard, those projects had nothing special going on for them. Maybe the right way to go was this all along and nobody believed in it, or was up to the challenge: adaptating the original story as a period drama and going even further. And asking the crucial question: what happens in Verona once Romeo & Juliet are dead? Still Star-Crossed, despite its flaws, boldly goes in that direction and never apologizes for it.

More specifically, the first two acts are dedicated to tell the story of Romeo & Juliet respectfully. I wouldn’t say it’s boring but we all know how it plays out and how it’s gonna end. Honestly, I don’t know if they could have done otherwise. For the few (young?) people who don’t know it or for those who don’t remember it well, it seemed to be inevitable. Plus, since Romeo & Juliet are those who started the war, it would have been strange not to meet them. And it’s better than flashbacks. The good thing is we’re introduced through their last days to the characters that will play huge parts in the rest of the show, from delivish Lady Capulet and her coward of a husband to Mercutio, and Rosaline, and Tybalt… The list goes on and on. Maybe that’s the biggest problem here: too many characters and very little time to serve them correctly.

This is mostly a premise pilot, that sets up the situations and the relationships for the remainder of the season. Don’t expect too many twists and turns. There are but it’s not the point. And there’s plenty to do starting from here, though I don’t think the first season will consist of more than 13 episodes, since it looks like a midseason entry and the budget will be high with a shooting in Spain. That’s probably for the best. It needs to be prestigious and strong. 22 episodes wouldn’t suit it well. Look at Reign on The CW, in the same vein: it is quite good but the first seasons were way too long. It lost my interest. They have to avoid that at any cost, even if it becomes a success. It needs to be an event. Its built-in brand appeal already makes it an important appointment.

I don’t want to be too specific about what happens in the pilot, I’d just say it’s more exciting than I expected, quite well-written, and it can also appeal to those, like me, who are not fans of period pieces. Treachery, power grabs and palace intrigue are at the center, and it’s not that hard to connect with the characters. They feel modern. The women are, definitely. I have a harder time with the men, it will probably take more time to like them. The show is clearly geared towards women. Unfortunately, it lacks humor and eccentricity for my tastes. I couldn’t stop thinking of the movie Romeo + Juliet, with Claire Danes & Leonardo DiCaprio. It was brilliant, we’re far from it. There are no A-listers in the cast but some people we will be happy to meet again.

Still Star-Crossed seems to be a no-brainer for a pick-up at ABC, not because it’s incredibly good but because it’s different from what networks are used to, because it has a real appeal and already make people curious, and because it’s from Shonda Rhimes of course. It’s a risk worth taking, as long as they play their cards right. 

Notorious (ABC) pilot preview: How To Get Away With Scandal

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Created and executive produced by Josh Berman (Drop Dead Diva, The Mob Doctor, Bones, CSI) & Allie Hagan. Directed by Michael Engler (Downton Abbey, The Big C, 30 Rock, Party of Five). Also executive produced by Josh Barry (Salem), Mark Geragos, Wendy Walker & Kenny Meiselas. For ABC, Sony Pictures Television, ABC Studios, The Firm & Osprey Productions. 63 pages.

Description: The professional and personal relationship between Jake Gregorian, a charismatic attorney and Julia George, a powerhouse television producer, as they attempt to control the media, the justice system, and ultimately – each other. Julia decides what our country cares about. She creates heroes and monsters, victims and villains. Jack boasts a roaster of celebrity clients and will win at any cost…

With Piper Perabo (Covert Affairs, Looper, Coyote Ugly), Daniel Sunjata (Graceland, Grey’s Anatomy, Rescue Me), Aimee Teegarden (Star-Crossed, Friday Night Lights), Kate Jennings Grant (Frost/Nixon, Love & Other Drugs), J. August Richards (Angel, Agents of SHIELD, Raising The Bar), Ryan Guzman (Heroes Reborn, Pretty Little Liars, Step Up All In), Kevin Zegers (Gracepoint, Gossip Girl, Transamerica), Sepideh Moafi (Blackbox)…

 

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Notorious is the most ABC-like project I’ve read this year so far. Totally what they used us to those past few years. Good news: it’s not CBS or NBC wanting to be ABC but ABC doing what they know how to do best. It’s right where it belongs. Bad news: it’s almost a cliché of a Shondaland show, not produced by Shondaland. It may miss what makes Shonda Rhimes’ shows so special and ultimately successful. But it’s not bad. Not bad at all. As long as you do like soaps. And it’s the promise of something that can run for years, highly serialized but with new scandalous cases every week. Is it what ABC’s new bosses are looking for? Is it the missing piece that could help the TGIT thrives again in the ratings? Is it a show worth fighting for? So many questions. I do think ABC has to give it a chance anyway.

First things first: like Scandal, which was inspired by a real-life crisis expert, Notorious is based on the relationship between famed criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos –who defended Michael Jackson, Winona Ryder or Chris Brown, among others, and who also represents Kesha in her lawsuit against Dr Luke– and long-time Larry King Live executive producer Wendy Walker, both co-produce. So we are led to believe that there is truth in the way those two act and in the stories they are telling us. Which is not easy. There’s something that doesn’t feel real, or at least that is highly exaggerated. It’s TV. We are not naive. We know they need to spice things up a little bit. Reality is often boring and doesn’t make entertaining television. But still. We need to believe in what we’re watching, so we can connect with the characters. And it’s hard for now. It may take time. But they probably won’t have that much time to convince so…

You know what I like about Julia & Jack? They’re cynical. So cynical. It’s refreshing. Not that this is that provocative or anything. We’ve seen UnREAL (if you haven’t, you should!). There’s a lot of Quinn King in Julia when she is working behind-the-scenes of the Louise Herrick Live show. She’s manipulative. Those scenes are definitely exciting and sometimes jaw-dropping. They reminded me of The Newsroom too. But I won’t compare both shows. That would be an insult to Aaron Sorkin. Regarding the atmosphere, the cases that are tackled, the rhythm, we’re totally in Scandal territory. Julia’s fiancée is a recently appointed Federal Judge, who has been cheating on her with high priced escorts. We’re not that far from politics. We’ll come to it at some point. They could even do crossovers if it was produced by Shonda Rhimes. That would fit perfectly. Olivia Pope helping Jake, who is in love with a client’s wife who may be a murderer… And when you think Scandal, you’re one step away from How To Get Away With Murder. The legal part of the show, especially Jack’s and his brother’s firm, works the same way as the Viola Davis show. Same kind of stories and one character, Ella, Jake’s protégée, an ambitious and not that naive young lawyer, could easily be one of the “Keating Five”.

But what makes this show different? Not that much and that’s the whole problem in my opinion. “The unique, sexy, and dangerous interplay of criminal law and the media” is how the show is sold. In Scandal & HTGAWM, the media is part of the story without being explored thoroughfully. Notorious is complementary in that way, but I’m not sure the audience will want another show in the same vein, especially when the others are still on the air, alive and quite well. Plus, Notorious doesn’t offer in this pilot that many efficient cliffhangers and OMG moments. Or it’s just that we are so prepared and used to this type of storytelling that nothing can surprise us anymore. Anyway, if writers Josh Berman and Allie Hagan were on a mission to create a Shondaland-like show, they succeeded. But if they were supposed to add their own touch and find a new angle, they kinda failed, with dignity though.

Notorious possesses a sexy, crazy attractive cast, especially with those mouth-watering actors. The script is a little bit more than okay. The options for the future of the show are countless. There is a ton of potential. It shouldn’t be hard to sell. But it’s so ABC, so Shondaland, that it’s predictable most of the time and it doesn’t offer anything new. I’d say it would be a good companion for Scandal when the third season of How To Get Away With Murder will end. But that’s only if they keep the TGIT intact next year. And it’s not a done deal yet. 

Toast (ABC) pilot preview: The first Shondaland comedy brought to you by Scott Foley

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Pilot “Arden” written and executive procuded by Scott Foley. Based on an idea by Scott Foley & Greg Grunberg. Directed by Gail Mancuso (Modern Family, 30 Rock, Scrubs, Roseanne, Dharma & Greg, The Nanny). Also executive produced by Shonda Rhimes, Betsy Beers (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder), Greg Mettler (Cougar Town, That’ 70s Show) & Greg Grunberg. For ABC, ABC Studios & Shondaland Productions. 56 pages.

Description: Over their wedding rehearsal dinner, engaged couple Max and Paige have their eclectic family and friends give toasts recalling anecdotes about the couple — but flashbacks reveal that the toasts don’t always get it right, as we watch the true story of their complicated, funny and relatable road to marriage…

With Jerrika Hinton (Grey’s Anatomy), Jono Kenyon (Step Dave, Go Girls), Tessa Ferrer (Grey’s Anatomy, You’re The Worst, Extant), Punam Patel (Kevin From Work), Brooks Wheelan (Saturday Night Live)…

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It’s been a few years now since Shonda Rhimes tries to produce a comedy in order to expand her empire and explore a new territory. No surprise here: she’s deeply in love with shows like The Mindy Project (where she guest-starred) or Cougar Town. She developed several projects for ABC but Toast, which was already in contention last pilot season, only got an order this time around and will be her first real attempt. The idea was brought to her by fellow actor Scott Foley, a series regular in Scandal, and his longtime friend Greg Grunberg –they met way way back on Felicity– with Foley writing the script. None of them will act in it. Toast is not really in ABC’s wheelhouse since it’s not what we can call a family comedy, though there’s a family component, and romantic comedies didn’t really work them (Selfie, Manhattan Love Story, Mixology…). But who knows, maybe this is the one? Maybe it’s their How I Met Your Mother? At least, there’s a concept.

The idea that every episode will feature a toast from one of the guest could get old very fast. That’s my main concern. But of course, every episode will be different since the personnality of the guest in question totally change the dynamics. In the pilot episode, they chose to focus on Arden, one of the bride’s best friend, who’s batshit crazy, very flirtatious, probably an alcoholic and totally self-absorbed. She got on my nerves at some point, but you get used to her. She’ll probably be much more bearable when she won’t be at the center of the stage in subsequent episodes. Maybe they thought they needed the most scandalous character -or so it seems for now- to make a splash at the beginning. Arden tells the story of the day they met, in a cafe, Max’s cafe for instance, and how they were this close to never talk to each other despite an almost reciprocal love first at sight. Most of the story works in flashbacks, with the guest voice-over. And sometimes we pause to see the reaction of the couple and the other guests, especially their parents who, of course, didn’t know the real story.

Every episode will tell one stage of their relationship through a toast. But how many toasts can those people give, honestly? You can’t make 8 seasons with this. Well, technically — and I guess they thought about it and looked for a solution– this is “just” the rehearsal dinner. So, in season 2, they can work on the actual wedding diner. And in season 3… I don’t know… the divorce dinner? Maybe it’s too soon… Let’s say the baby shower afternoon toasts? See, you can go on and on… The same guest can do multiple toasts this way. It’s not that bad a concept after all. Or am I just trying to convince myself? One thing’s for sure: this couple is cute. It’s a network comedy so don’t expect them to be original. I didn’t find them too cliché, though. But they need to be as broad as possible so people can identify to them. Just forget You’re The Worst, Catastrophe and other anti-romcom. That’s not what we are offered here. At leas, there’s an effort made in the casting process since they made them an interracial couple. But it was probably not planned at the writing stage so there’s no reference to it. But I hope they will adress it at some point. There’s something to do with it, obviously. Two different set of families and values and traditions. That can fuel the story and make it more relevant. Especially since even cable comedies don’t really tackle the subject. It’s all-white.

When it comes to comedy, does the Shondaland recipe can be adapted? Of course, it can! The rythm of this pilot, the back and forth between past and present, the dramedy feel of the whole thing is very Shonda Rhimes. Scott Foley knows who he works for. Or Shonda made a ton of notes. He only wrote a movie before Toast, but it does look like a “real” professional script. Would Shonda have been interested in the project if it was not from him but some unknown person? Probably not. Would ABC have picked-up it to pilot if it was not produced by Shondaland? I’m conflicted on this one. I don’t have the answer. Anyway, it’s not off-brand for them. Just not their strong suit. It’s a very good idea to give the bride role to Jerrika Hinton. She thrives on Grey’s Anatomy and she feels more at ease with comedy than drama (not that she’s not good in drama!). Plus, they can recreate the magic she had with Tessa Ferrer, as her best friend Jules here, who played the annoying but moving Leah Murphy in the medical soap.

Toast is not the funniest thing I’ve read this year and the fact that it’s produced by Shonda Rhimes doesn’t make it an automatic yes, and shouldn’t for what it’s worth. But if ABC wants something different than the regular family comedies they’re renown for on their schedule next year, maybe it’s the right way to go. The concept looks stronger than expected and branding it as “the first Shondaland comedy” –which it is– already makes half the work for the marketing department.

ABC’s 23 most exciting projects for 2016/2017 pilot season

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The following article is based on descriptions mixed wih talents attached ONLY. None of the scripts have been read at this point. 

What are ABC’s needs for next season?

  • A dramedic cop show that can replace Castle, which is dying and might not survive this season, and that’d better be produced by ABC Studios or they’ll have another Forever situation on their hands.
  • There are never enough Shondaland shows on the ABC’s air. At least one more drama wouldn’t hurt the schedule. The first Shondaland comedy would be nice too.
  • One or two new strong family comedies that can help launching a second comedy block on tuesday while The Middle and Modern Family are still solid but get pricier as years go by and are not produced in-house, sadly.
  • More “bridge shows” that can do better than Agent Carter or Galavant do when the hits are gone for a few weeks. More “out of the box” ideas.

NUMBERS

Drama Scripts ordered: around 40 / Comedy Scripts ordered: around 40

Drama pilots ordered last year: 12 /  Comedy pilots ordered last year: 13

11 drama pilots should be ordered / 11 comedy pilots should be ordered

OBSERVATIONS

Last season was quite a good one for ABC with How to Get Away With Murder & Blackish becoming instant hits and American Crime and Fresh Off The Boat getting rave reviews. Even Secrets & Lies surprised at the last minute with growing numbers. This year, while we don’t know yet what’s gonna happen with promising shows like The Family, The Catch and The Real O’Neals, plus Secrets & Lies season 2, all coming midseason, the results are way less convincing. The Muppets did weaker numbers than expected, Wicked City was a total flop, and Blood and oil did bad numbers, as expected, in that very difficult sunday spot against The Walking Dead. Things look brighter for Quantico, that didn’t become the hit it was supposed to be because of bad scheduling but did a pretty good job to attract viewers in a dead spot. Plus, the show is a success on Live+7. And that could be reasons enough to save it for another year, hoping it can stay strong creatively.

Regarding older shows, Grey’s Anatomy is still very strong, Scandal rebounded a bit, How to Get Away With Murder lost steam but stayed solid, the whole wenesday comedy block is a success, even if Modern Family is not the hit it once was, Dancing With The Stars‘ erosion has stopped for now, the multicamera duo Last Man Standing/Dr Ken is number one on friday, while Castle is dying fast, Nashville can’t survive any longer and Agents of SHIELD is just here to keep Marvel happy. The Once Upon a Time situation is worrying but ABC has bigger problems to solve.

Regarding the development slate, it seems a bit weaker than the years before, with no real surprise but they seem to know what they want and what they don’t want, contrary to other networks, so they don’t develop too much of everything hoping something will stick. That’s a good sign. Less original ideas but still a fair amount of female-driven soaps, their trademark, several legal dramas in development -‘cos yes, it would be nice if ABC had one- many many family comedies, ‘cos that’s what they do, and a handful of Shondaland projects, from dramas to comedies, ‘cos she’s the queen. Note that it’s the only network to have very few remakes in the works, among them: Fantasy Island & Big Ballet (UK Import). Let’s take a look at la crème de la crème.

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DRAMAS


CANARY
(ABC Studios)

What? about a woman who risks everything to help a whistleblower come forward with secret information that will impact the lives of millions…

Why? Is it too serious a subject for a network? It depends on the way it’s done. If it’s too complex, it might be. It is described as “Homeland meets Erin Brockovich“. Works for me.


CONVICTION
(ABC Studios)

What? about Carter Morrison, the brilliant but rebellious daughter of a Clinton-like political family who is forced into taking a job as the head of Los Angeles’ newly created Conviction Integrity Unit. She, along with her team of lawyers, investigators and forensic experts, has two weeks to examine cases where there’s credible suspicion that the wrong person may have been convicted of a crime.

Why? Mark Gordon (Grey’s Anatomy, Criminal Minds, Quantico) is behind this hour of TV that looks like something in the vein of Scandal, with a political background mixed with cases of the week and heavily serialized stories linked to the heroin and the members of her team. And this “Conviction Integrity Unit” has not been done before, I recall.

 

FINA LUDLOW (ABC Studios)

What? about the brash, intelligent, hot-mess daughter of Carl and Elaine Ludlow, who left Harvard Law School and found her “voice” as the firm’s brash and controversial legal investigator…

Why? I feel like this woman’s gonna be cool. It will probably all depend on the actress who’s cast for the part, though. What more can I say? ABC needs a procedural. Why not this one? A legal one.

 

HOUSE OF MOORE (ABC Studios)

What? about the sexy, twisted lives of an iconic fashion family, looking at our beauty-obsessed culture through a darkly comedic lens…

Why? Felicity Huffman is attached to star as the mother of the family and she also produces it. Ugly Betty is long gone and a lot of people misses it. Maybe it’s time to try something in the fashion universe again, as long as it is different enough. And that’s what the “darkly comedic lens” suggests.

 

THE INVADERS (ABC Studios)

What? drama which examines the dark underbelly of an exclusive beachfront community by following its inhabitants as they fight to belong while keeping their secrets hidden from view…

Why? A dark, humerous soap set in a little town? Oh yeah! Plus, it’s based on a well-reviewed book.

 

THE JURY (Sony Pictures Television)

What? follows a single murder trial a season as seen through the eyes of the individual jurors, exploring the biases and experiences that influence the jurors’ judgment, and how their preconceptions change along the way…

Why? This is an highly ambitious anthology legal drama from Carol Mendelsohn, who started her career on Melrose Place and was one of the CSI franchise producers. It’s hard to say whether it has what it takes to become a hit of it’s too old school for that, but ABC has to try it and see what happens. PICKED-UP

 

THE THOUSANDTH FLOOR (Warner Bros. Television)

What?  set in 2118, in a thousand-story supertower on Manhattan’s Upper East Side; a young woman’s fall from the 1,000th floor ignites a scandal that ensnares the top-floor elite and the bottom-floor drones…

Why? Greg Berlanti is everywhere, damn! He’s behind this project too, created by Maggie Friedman (Dawson’s Creek, Once & Again, Witches of East End, Jack & Bobby), and adapted from a series of books that just came out from the same team as Pretty Little Liars, The Vampire Diaries & The 100. It could be a huge mess but for now, it’s an interesting mix between Downton Abbey and Hunger Games. Let’s give it a try before frowning like it’s the worst idea ever!

 

MONSTROPOLIS (ABC Studios)

What? drama in which monsters are real, living amongst the humans in the city of New Manhattan (aka Monstropolis); but now someone is killing monsters, and it is up to one disgraced detective to stop the killer… or become the next victim…

Why? Supernatural dramas are not what ABC does best. They try at least one every year and they always fail, at the exception of Once Upon A Time. But if they want to keep broadcasting Agents of SHIELD at 9, they’d better find something that goes with it, better than Wicked City. Monstropolis seems like a good option.

 

NOTORIOUS (ABC Studios)

What? drama which follows the professional and personal relationship between a charismatic attorney and a powerhouse television producer as they attempt to control the media, the justice system, and ultimately – each other…

Why? Here again, we can feel a Shonda Rhimes/Scandal vibe that doesn’t hurt. But Shonda is not involved. It’s from Josh Berman, who created Drop Dead Diva and Vanished, and consults on The Blacklist. A romantic thrilleresque show, that’s also what mid-season entry The Catch is. If this one works, it’s always a good thing to have something to potentially pair it with.

 

THE PARTY (ABC Studios)

What? a twisted family drama that follows a murder investigation told over the course of 24 hours; the case begins at a celebration that is interrupted when a body is found floating in the pool; through flashbacks, the mystery paints every guest as a possible suspect…

Why? In spite of their deal with ABC Studios, Josh Schwartz & Stephanie Savage (The OC, Gossip Girl) have a hard time getting something on the air. The last time it was The Astronaut Wives Club. While The Party doesn’t sound like the most original thing ever, it’s a show that seems buzzworthy, following the How To Get Away With Murder/Quantico trend.

 

UNFOLLOW (Warner Bros. Television)

What? what happens when a secretive billionaire makes a global announcement — via the social media platform he invented — that he is terminally ill and has decided to bestow his entire fortune to a seemingly random sample of 140 people from around the world. When one of them turns up dead, the others realize that they are all suspects — and the next potential victim.

Why? This hot property (that somehow resembles FOX’s The Following) is adapted from Vertigo Comics by The Originals‘ showrunner Michael Narducci and deals with the dangers of social medias in a very unique way. Again, this one seems buzzworthy. But is ABC the right home for it?

 

UNTITLED ALISON SCHAPKER PROJECT (ABC Studios)

What? about a group of Catholic nuns fighting the closure of their Bronx-based convent who must suddenly deal with three young novices whose arrival unearths long-buried secrets…

Why? This one, from Shondaland, is my favorite and I would be very sad if they don’t order a pilot for it. But Shondaland developed many dramas and comedies for this pilot season, ABC will have to make a choice. I don’t see them ordering more than two. Having nuns for heroins sound like fun, and the creator, Alison Schapker, worked on Alias, Lost and Fringe! She’s from the J.J. Abrams’ school. It’s reason enough to want it desperately.

 

UNTITLED BESS WOHL PROJECT (ABC Studios)

What? dramedy which focuses on a clique of young nannies, a trio of interconnected families and their various support staffs, all trying to help the kids grow up when they haven’t quite grown up themselves…

Why? Shondaland is behind this one too, with Scandal ladies Kerry Washington & Katie Lowes producing. It’s not the first time a project about nannies is developed, but not one came to fruition. This is it, guys! If you replace nannies by maids, it sounds a lot like Devious Maids. But Devious Maids is a very funny and entertaining show after all, that maybe ABC should have kept for themselves, instead of giving it to Lifetime…

 

THE WILL (Sony Pictures Television)

What? billed as a mystery revolving around the surviving members of an eccentric and wealthy patriarch who dies and leaves his massive inheritance to the various members of his family, but with strict, mysterious, and sometimes bizarre conditions attached to the gifts.

Why? ABC’s still missing a consistent family drama since Brothers & Sisters departed so many years ago. This one sounds fun and exciting, even if it’s hard to imagine what it will look like. But it’s produced by Amblin Television and that’s worrying when you look at their track record. At least it’s different from what they are used to deliver.

 

COMEDIES

 

AUNT JILL (Universal Television)

What? about a smart, confident, hilarious and lovable 50-year-old who chose a different path than most women her age by focusing on her career and social life instead of getting married and having a family…

Why? I’d love to watch a network comedy centered on a middle-aged woman. It’s exactly the reason why it won’t be picked-up but let me believe it’s possible. Please do.

 

BRAUNSCHLAG (Sony Pictures Television)

What? domestic take on David Schalko’s Austrian single-camera comedy, about a young small-town mayor named Emma Wolf who has dysfunctional siblings, a dying father, disgruntled citizens, a nearly bankrupt town and the mafia breathing down her neck…

Why? Haven’t seen the original show but I feel like it could be loads of fun, with quirky characers all over and a sweet girl at the center.

 

DAMAGE CONTROL (ABC Studios)

What? about the overworked, underpaid, clean up crew of the Marvel Universe specializing in dealing with the aftermath of the unique fallout from superhero conflicts…

Why? This is a Marvel show, their first comedy. Of course ABC will have no choice but to pick it up, first to pilot then to series. That’s how it is, sadly. But maybe it will be very cool. And it seems a bit more exciting than NBC’s Powerless from DC Comics. Those two will be there next season, you can count on it.

 

DREAM TEAM (Warner Bros. Television)

What? about Coach Marty Schumacher, who knows how to win in the world of girls’ club soccer. His last team went to the national championship, and those women are off playing in college, semipro, even the Olympic team. Now Coach Schumacher, who is known as “the star maker” (mostly by himself), has a documentary crew following him around as he assembles his next dynasty from a diverse group of little girls that bring along their diverse families.

Why? This project has a very big commitment, so it should be ordered to pilot. It’s from Kari Lizer & Bill Wrubel, who worked together on Will & Grace a decade ago, it’s a high concept and it’s described as a mockumentary à la Modern Family (Wrubel is one of the key writers of the hit series). Paul Lee desperately wants a comedy with a sport twist. It’s a sure bet!

 

FAMILY SHOW (20th Century FOX Television)

What? single-camera comedy set behind the scenes of a fictional family sitcom, following crew members on set and at home…

Why? We were talking about Modern Family. Here’s a project that basically wants to explore what’s happening behind-the-scenes. It’s an idea that rarely pays off –30 Rock is the only example that comes to mind, but it wasn’t a hit per say, among viewers at least- but they have to try it. But is ABC the right place for it? Not sure about that. It would be weird to have a show poking fun at the family comedy genre on a network that airs 8 of them!

 

ORDINARY PEOPLE (ABC Studios)

What? single-camera comedy about an interracial couple with very different personalities and big ambitions…

Why? ABC has a lot of diversity on their comedies –Blackish, Fresh Off The Boat, Dr Ken– but it’s about time they tackle the interracial issue in one of them (Modern Family does it a bit with Gloria & Jay).

 

PLUS ONE (ABC Studios)

What? single-camera comedy told from the point of view of three millennial siblings who find their places in the family upended when they discover they have a fourth sibling who is everything they are – and more…

Why? I like this idea. Really. It’s simple but interesting in terms of dynamics. They can do a lot with it.

 

SPLITSVILLE (ABC Studios)

What? about the single residents of a suburban cul-de-sac, in the wake of a wave of divorces, who join forces to raise their kids and get through it together…

Why? Here’s the comedy project from Shondaland. It’s written by the creators of Trophy Wife, a show that was worth a much longer life. It’s already two good reasons to get behind it. But if you need one more: it’s a beautiful idea and divorces are everywhere in real life but not much represented on television. They need their comedy!

 

UNTITLED SCHWARTZ & WIENER PROJECT (ABC Studios)

What? revolves around a gay couple that gets divorced with both men remarrying and raising their budding teenage daughters together, despite the pitfalls of their different families

Why? Two gay couples in the same show?! Raising kids?! Yes yes yes! First there were Cam & Mitchell from Modern Family. Then there was so so The New Normal. Time to go to the next level!

 

What projects are you the most interested in among these? Take your picks!