Urban Cowboy (FOX) pilot preview: The same old tired rodeo…

URBAN

Written, directed & produced by Craig Brewer (Black Snake Moan, Footloose, Terriers, Empire). Also produced by Sue Naegle (Outcast), Chris Levinson (Tyrant, Charmed, Dawson’s Creek, Law & Order) & Robert Evans (Sliver, Chinatown, The Godfather). Based on 1980 movie Urban Cowboy. For Paramount Television & 20th Century FOX Television. 57 pages.

Description: Juan Miguel, a country boy from Mexico, known as “El Tornado” in the rodeo world, moves illegally in Houston, Texas, with his baby sister, after their parents have been killed because of a cartel. Now they have to change their identity -he becomes Kyle- and start anew with the help of their uncle, Al. At the popular local bar called Gilley’s, he meets the daughter of the owner, Gaby, a young immigrant lawyer, who’s taking over the business since her dad is dying. There’s a spark between them… This is the story of young lovers as they pursue their dreams and passions through the dust of the rodeo, the grime of the oil refineries, the sweat of line-dancing in honky tonks, the glamour of modern Texas, but the drug cartels are never far from them…

With Alfonso Herrera (Sense8, Terminales, El Equipo, El Diez), Nathalie Kelley (UnREAL, Body Of Proof), Jim Belushi (According to Jim, Red Heat), Edward James Olmos (Battlestar Galactica, Blade Runner), Lindsey Gort (The Carrie Diaries, Impastor), Riley Smith (The Messengers, 90210, True Blood), Billy Miller (General Hospital, The Young & The Restless), Bryana Salaz

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While every network, especially NBC, is looking for the next Empire, a soap that will draw huge numbers and become a phenomenon -can lightning strike twice?- FOX is already searching for a suitable companion for Empire, since Rosewood is just a temporary solution that will collapse sooner or later, and move to another night (where it will get cancelled eventually). They speed up the process and picked-up two pilots: Star, from Empire‘s Lee Daniels, but without a script ready at the time the shooting is postponed to december, and Urban Cowboy, based on the 1980 movie with John Travolta & Debra Winger. The first one is musical while the second one only contains one little musical element. But it’s a soap, meant to attract latino viewers the same way Empire did with african-americans. Urban Cowboy has just finished shooting. FOX should decide in the next few days if they order it to series, probably for a spring launch.

Urban Cowboy‘s pilot script doesn’t really convince me that it is THE ONE. It’s just not good enough. And it doesn’t have any Cookie in it. In many ways, it reminded of Blood and oil, the soap ABC just launched with mediocre ratings, and of course Dallas, not just because it is set in Texas, with a oil refinery component -‘cos apparently Texas economy only revolves around oil and nothing else- but also because it’s the same old tired story of drug cartels screwing everything up that was the worst part of the Dallas remake. The dialogues are dull, the characters are too kind and innocent -of course there is one villain or two- and it misses the key of Empire‘s success: the fun! Urban Cowboy is only fun (and sexy) when the character of Vivian (played by Lindsey Gort), a young woman with the western style -jeans, vest with fringe and hat- comes into action to shake things up a little bit. A classic love triangle between Kyle, Gaby and him is to expect. And to be clear: every development of the pilot is predictable.

My biggest concern about the show it could become is the fact that it is based prominently on a love story between the two leads. It’s okay for a romantic movie or even a romantic TV comedy, but for a drama, especially a soap, it can turn into a curse. Of course there are secondary characters and many other stories to tell, but the central focus of the writers will be making them a couple -there are still not at the end of the pilot- and then making them marry like in the movie and then break up. And then what? Putting them back together? I’m already fed up with it and it hasn’t even started yet! And it’s not like the other stories are that promising either. Even though the show starts with Kyle’s sister Ana Sofia -later known as Anita- playing the piano and writing a song, the musical part doesn’t really exist as of now. Sure, she’s listening to an Ariana Grande song with her cousin at some point, but that’s all. Of course, it will be revisited but it’s not enough to make a good pairing with Empire. Plus the fact that there is not any african-american character. It’s either you do a show for latinos or for black people but you can’t mix them. That’s stupid and sad. Studio City did that, but FOX didn’t want it past pilot season, for reasons still unknown.

Urban Cowboy could have been an interesting soap with more time to develop it and maybe another writer, ‘cos the rodeo background is a good idea. But in the end, it’s just the same thing we’ve already seen failing a thousand times. FOX probably rushed things to have something to pair Empire with but they didn’t bet on the right horse. We’ll see if they order it to series but don’t hold your breath on this one…

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