SERIES TITLE: The Society (aka Hamelins)
GENRE: Teen Adventure Drama
LOGLINE: A group of teenagers are mysteriously transported to a facsimile of their wealthy New England town, left without any trace of their parents. As they struggle to figure out what has happened to them and how to get home, they must establish order and form alliances if they want to survive.
Pilot Cast: Kathryn Newton (Big Little Lies, Lady Bird, Ben is Back), Rachel Keller (Legion, Fargo), Gideon Adlon (Blockers, Mustang), Kristine Froseth (Sierra Burgess Is A Loser, The Truth About Harry Quebert), Jose Julian (A Better Life, Shameless), Olivia DeJonge (The Visit), Jacques Colimon (Duat), Grace Victoria Cox (Heathers, Under The Dome), Sean Berdy (Switched at Birth), Alex MacNicoll (Transparent), Alex Fitzalan (Slenderman), Toby Wallace…
Series Creators: Chris Keyser (The Last Tycoon, Tyrant, Party of Five)
Pilot Director: Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer, The Amazing Spider-Man, Limitless)
Producers: Chris Keyser & Marc Webb.
Ever wonder how TV executives wade through the dozens of pilot scripts they’re pitched each year? They have staff script readers, who provide what’s called “Script Coverage,” an executive summary and a recommendation for each script. Now you too can preview some of the season’s most buzzed about pilots and find out whether we’d recommend them for pickup. Note that all opinions are our own, and all plot, casting and other creative details described here are subject to change.
WRITTEN BY: Chris Keyser
PAGECOUNT: 62 pages.
BACKGROUND: The Society is one of many originals aimed at teenagers/young-adults that Netflix will release in 2019/2020, alongside The Umbrella Academy, Sex Education, I Am Not Okay With This, Jinn… and returning series Stranger Things, 13 Reasons Why, Elite, and The Rain. These are some of the streamer’s biggest and most talked about series, and you can add to them Riverdale, a Netflix original in countries outside of the US, and their latest hit, the saved-from-Lifetime-obscurity You. While the younger demo is barely watching network television anymore, there seems to be plenty of demand online; so much so that streaming rival Amazon is also making a big push for programming in this space under new exec Jennifer Salke. So, does The Society have the stuff to be Netflix’s next big hit? Read on…
SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: We’re in a cornfield in rural Connecticut. It’s 1966. Young men and women are working under the sun. There’s a river over there, and an ancient burial ground here. A female narrator tells us about the town, the houses, the suburban streets, the school, the gas station, and the mountains all around… Now we’re in 1684. Same place. One day, the hills begin to move. We’re told one hundred and nine children were buried while they sat at their school desks, by 200,000 cubic yards of waste.
But let’s go back to nowadays, and the privileged West Ham high school. In the auditorium, parents, family and friends are hugging their children at the end of a performance of the school’s play. Meet Cassandra, the lead actress, a crowd around her. She’s popular, a natural born leader. Nearby, Harry, her longtime rival, also has a crowd around him. He’s handsome, wealthy and ambitious. Allie, Cassandra’s sister, a little less confident, is there too, watching. She’s lived her entire life in the shadow of her sister, but they love each other deeply. Backstage, we’re introduced to most of the other principal characters.
The next morning, it’s the great departure for our high schoolers. Luke, the quarterback, is passing along the side of the town’s church when something catches his eye. It’s a bible quote, spray-painted on the wall: “You’ve been weighed in the balance and found wanting.” Not far from here, six buses are lined up. It’s time for goodbyes between the children and their parents, at least those who came. Soon, they’re out of town. An hour later or so, a bibilical storm is in full force. There’s a blinding crack of lightning and a boom of thunder. On the inside of the buses, the kids are groggy and disoriented. The bus driver, whose face is hidden from camera, tells them there’s been a change of plan: they’re back home. It’s night, the town is dark and empty. The children return to their respective homes, to find them empty as well. Where are the adults?
COMMENTS: Described as a modern take on Lord of the Flies, The Society definitely has a compelling hook, but the pilot script is all over the place. There must be 15 principal characters, each a cliché, and virtually all unlikable. As a consequence, we want them to die. Quickly. Atrociously. But they won’t, and we’re as stuck with them as they are to each other.
I can’t say I’m not interesed in the mystery that surrounds this town but I’m not convinced the show’s answers will be satisfying. There aren’t a lot options: the origin of the event is either mystical or natural. Or both. Religious references are thrown at us without any kind of subtlety, and the premise that the kids being sent out of town without their parents is confounding.
The rest of the script is no better. Once they’re back in town, all the kids want to do is party, drink, and cruise in cars. They don’t seem scared or taken aback that their parents are missing, which is hard to swallow. Okay, they’re teenagers, and we know they can be frivolous and reckless, but could they be just a little less stupid? The pilot’s most important goal seems to be surfacing potential couples, and as much as I understand that’s inevitable in a teen drama, as written, the mystery takes backseat. Most of the end of the pilot is about rivalries and leadership with Cassandra, who’s inspired by her sister Allie to take charge of the group. There are a lot of similarities with The 100 in this area and that doesn’t help the show feel any fresher.
FINAL RECOMMENDATION: A good pitch doesn’t always make a good show, and from the looks of it, The Society is not as ambitious or as good as it should be. It’s one of those shows that would likely never survive on broadcast or cable, but may just find an audience online, especially if Netflix decides to push it hard. And I have a feeling they will.
OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:
[ X ] PASS
[ ] CONSIDER
[ ] RECOMMEND