UPDATE “Sneaky Pete” (CBS/Amazon) pilot preview: Walter White & Mr. Dr. House made a skinny baby

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Story written by David Shore & Bryan Cranston. Teleplay written by David Shore (Dr House, Battle Creek, Family Law). Produced by James Degus & Erin Gunn (Battle Creek). For Sony Pictures Television, Moon Shot Entertainment & Shore Z. 60 pages.

Description: Marius, a thirty-something con man, upon leaving prison, takes cover from his past by assuming the identity of a cellmate. “Sneaky Pete” then hides out from his debtors while working for his new “family’s” bail bond business. There he uses his considerable charm and criminal prowess to take down bad guys far worse than himself, partnering with a female “cousin” who has her suspicions about his real motives…

With Giovanni Ribisi (Friends, Earl, Ted, Dads), Marin Ireland (Homeland, Masters of Sex, The Divide), Margo Martindale (The Americans, The Millers, Justified), Peter Gerety (The Wire, Homicide, Prime Suspect), Shane McRae (The Following, Still Alice), Lile Barer (Parenthood)…

UPDATE: After CBS passed on it last May, Sony Pictures Television closed a deal with streaming platform Amazon to broadcast Sneaky Pete pilot episode (after a few reshoots) as part of its semiannual pilot season event. If it gets good grades from viewers, Amazon will order a full season for 2016. Pilot will be available on the platform August 7th.

 

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What happened with Battle Creek at CBS is still a mystery to me. Sure, Scorpion, NCIS: New Orleans, Stalker, Madam Secretary & CSI:Cyber were safer bets and most of them found some kind of success, but Battle Creek was way more special -a dark-humored old school gritty buddy cop show-  and needed to be taken care of properly. “By the creators of Breaking Bad & Dr House, with Las Vegas’ Josh Duhamel” must have been a strong enough slogan to sell it to the masses. Instead, the network decided not to promote it much and sent it into the worst timeslot they had: sundays at 10 after very old-skewing The Good Wife. No new show could have survived this. The fact that it’s produced by Sony Pictures and not CBS Television Studios didn’t help, that’s for sure. It was not a priority. So, as much as I liked Sneaky Pete pilot script, I am more afraid than excited by what future may hold for it…

Like Battle Creek, this show imagined by David Shore & Breaking Bad‘s Bryan Cranston doesn’t try to be all shiny and beautiful. It’s not as dark and dirty, but it’s not your smooth cop show with sexy people investigating and/or dying. Look at the cast! Giovanni Ribisi is a great actor, perfectly at ease in both drama and comedy, and no doubt a right fit for the role of Marius/Pete, but he is no Josh Duhamel, or Shemar Moore, or Jonny Lee Miller. He’s little, skinny, not cute or even charming. He looks like a red neck, as Marin Ireland, her fake cousin and partner in the show, is not your classical female lead. They could totally have played weird and incestuous brother & sister in an X-Files episode back in the days, with beloved Margo Martindale playing their creepy mother. It certainly is a departure from what CBS offers. Most of the action takes place in Connecticut, between an old farm and a sea of fields. But fortunately, towards the end, they infiltrate a charity event with rich people all around. Oh and did I tell you? It’s not a cop show! Well, not really. They investigate and have to catch bad guys, but they are not cops (but a real one, another cousin, help them from time to time).

I let grandpa Otto (Peter Gerety) explains to you what the family business is about: “When someone gets arrested, a judge sets bail. A certain amount of money that they have to post with the court to get out until trial. Most people don’t have the money. That’s where we come in. We charge a fee and put the money up for them. When they show up for trial, we get the money back and keep our fee of course.“. Grandma Audrey (Martindale) adds: “And if they don’t show up, we have to find them or we lose our money“. So Sneaky Pete will partly be about those weekly cases when they’re looking for them. The pilot’s one is kind of funny and action-packed and sets up an efficient template that could work for years. Add to that the weird chemistry between Pete and Julia. They are clearly attracted to each other but officially, they’re cousins. That’s gross. The family scenes totally work, and I’m pretty sure Martindale’s character will be dope, as always. The fact that Pete is not who he claims to be, wanted by guys whom he owes money to, helps raising the stakes of the show and making it more serialized than it seems to be at first sight. David Shore knows how to handle appealing bad guys, Bryan Cranston played one himself for years, and it shows in the script.

Sneaky Pete is the first CBS drama pilot I read this year, so it’s hard to tell whether or not it’s a front runner in the pilot race but it certainly is a keeper and an easier sell than Battle Creek was tonally. I hope CBS won’t screw it up this time, won’t be sneaky with it, and find a way to give it a not so skinny chance to succeed.

 

WATCH THE TRAILER

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