Month: October 2015

EXCLUSIVE: ABC on the verge to pick-up John Ridley “Presence” to pilot

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Screenwriter John Ridley poses for a portrait at the 86th Academy Awards nominee luncheon at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 10, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jeff Vespa/Getty Images)


UPDATE: ABC has now made the order official.

Originally published 10.22.15

While ABC’s only police procedural drama Castle is dying and may not come back next year after all, ABC bets on American Crime‘s John Ridley to find its next hit: Presence is expected to be picked-up to pilot soon, off-cycle, competing for a spot on the schedule in 2016/2017.

Like American Crime -coming back in 2016 for a second season- John Ridley (12 Years A Slave) will write, direct and executive produce the pilot with Michael McDonald. Presence is described as a stylish update of the classic detective genre. It follows Presence Foster, a former Army Counter Insurgency Operative who finds herself navigating a widely divergent and highly colorful cross section of Los Angeles as she unintentionally begins a career as an unlicensed (unlic) Private Investigator. It is produced by ABC Studios, where Ridley has an overall deal.


EXCLUSIVE: “Wild” director Jean-Marc Vallée reteams with Reese Witherspoon for HBO’s “Big Little Lies”


HBO miniseries “Big Little Lies” starring Nicole Kidman & Reese Witherspoon will be directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (Wild, Dallas Buyers Club, CRAZY). 

Produced by Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and writer David E. Kelley (Ally McBeal, The Practice, Boston Justice) for his first foray into premium cable, the show, based on a best selling novel by australian Liane Moriarty, is in the same vein as The Slap and tells the story of three mothers of kindergartners, each at crossroads, whose apparently perfect lives unravel to the point of murder. Kidman will play Celeste, the kind of beauty who makes the world around her stop and stare. Whitherspoon will play Madeline, a force to be reckoned with, funny, biting and passionnate. New to town single mother Jane has yet to be cast. When Celeste and Madeline takes her under their wing, none of them realize how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all. It’s a show about ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

Shooting is expected to start next January and will resume in May. French Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée has been chosen to direct the episodes -the exact number has not been announced yet. It’s a reunion with Reese Witherspoon, whom he directed on Wild in 2014. His previous movie Dallas Buyers Club received a ton of nominations in 2013, including two wins at the Oscars for Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto’s performances. His next movie, Demolition, starring Jack Gyllenhaal and Naomi Watts, will be released on April 2016.






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


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…

EXCLUSIVE: Freeform (aka ABC Family) orders “Pretty Little Liars” creator/Bella Thorne pilot



After ordering a script last march, ABC Family now called Freeform is moving forward with the new project from Pretty Little Liars creator with a pilot order.

Famous in Love, written by I. Marlene King and adapted from Rebecca Serle’s book, is a romantic soap about a college student plucked from obscurity to star in a major Hollywood movie franchise opposite of one of Hollywood’s hottest movie stars. She then struggles with her new-found fame… The heroine will be played by Disney’s Bella Thorne, seen in the series Scream last summer. Miguel Arteta (The Carrie Diaries) will direct the pilot this december in Los Angeles, for Warner Horizon Television, Farah Films & Management.




EXCLUSIVE: FOX orders “Bad Family”, “Married with children” meets “Borat”


While Lee Daniels’ new musical drama pilot is expected to shoot earlier than previously announced -december instead of march- FOX keeps on ordering new projects, this time a traditional family comedy but with a twist!

The pilot called Bad Family, described by the network as Borat or Grandpa meets Married With Children, is a partially scripted television show that includes real unsuspecting people of the real world to help the narrative. To be clear, they’re adding a hidden camera element to the comedy that becomes part of the story. The concept and script have been imagined by Dave Jeser and Matt Silverstein, who worked on animated comedies Axe Cop and Golan the Insatiable, but also for 30 Rock and 3rd rock from the sun back in the days. They have another put pilot commitment for comedy Straight Outta Calabas. Bad Family is on the fast track: the pilot stats shooting this month. David Garfinkle, Jeff Gaspin and Jay Renfroe are producing, for 20th Century FOX Television and Renegade 83 Entertainment.


EXCLUSIVE: FOX orders racially charged pilot “Indictment”


UPDATE: The project is now offically announced, as an event series with Sanaa Lathan as the lead. Per Deadline, “A pilot script has been completed, which the network has followed up by ordering a bible with the intention of picking up the project straight to series once the bible is delivered”.

FOX really is distancing from pilot season with another drama pilot ordered now for next year (after Star, Urban Cowboy & Son of Zahn). The racially charged project called “Indictment” could be compared to ABC’s “American Crime” and resonates with what’s happening right now in the US.

Written by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Beyond the lies, The secret life of bees) and produced by Brian Grazer & Francie Calfo for Imagine Television, the show starts when a black officer shoots a white teen in a racially charged Tennessee town. Considering the unusual circumstances of this case, two out-of-town black prosecutors are brought in to sort through the evidence and find out what really happened. As the community grows anxious and the country is buzzing, Preston Terry and Ashe Bell must keep personal bias and suspicions to themselves to seek the truth…

In spite of the early order, the pilot is not expected to shoot until March during the traditional pilot season but casting starts now before the pool of talents available shrinks.