Month: March 2019

The Republic of Sarah (CBS) pilot preview: Escape To Rural Mountain Town

SERIES TITLE: The Republic Of Sarah
GENRE: Political Soap Drama

LOGLINE: Morrisville, a small New Hampshire rural mountain town, is thrust onto the world stage when the discovery of a valuable resource within its borders compels the residents to utilize a cartographical loophole to declare themselves an independent nation, thus setting the unlikely young mayor Sarah Chambers and her cabinet of inexperienced locals on the path of running a brand-new country…

Pilot Cast: Sarah Drew (Grey’s Anatomy, Everwood, Mad Men), James Lesure (Good Girls, Las Vegas), Carlos Leal (El Internado), Jonathan Slavin (Better Off Ted, Santa Clarita Diet, Dr Ken), Daniel Ings (The Crown, Lovesick, Instinct), Annie Funke (Criminal Minds Beyond Borders), Kirsten Nelson (Psych), Victoria Gabrielle Platt, Kimberly Guerrero
Series Creator: Jeffrey Paul King (Elementary). 
Pilot Director: Marc Webb (500 Days Of Summer, The Amazing Spider-Man, Gifted, Limitless, Instinct, Lone Star).
Producers: Leo Pearlman, Jeff Grosvenor, Jeffrey King, James Corden (Carpool Karaoke, The Late Late Show) & Marc Webb.

Studios: CBS Television Studios, Marc Webb Productions & Fulwell 72.

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.



You’ll Like It If You Already Like: Northern Exposure, Everwood, Men In Trees, Providence…

Likely Timeslot: Sounds like a sunday show; or pushing it after Survivor on Wednesday could make sense thematically.


WRITTEN BY: Jeffrey Paul King.

PAGECOUNT: 61 pages

DRAFT:  Revised network draft 1/17/19


BACKGROUND: While a Northern Exposure revival is in the works at CBS -which would be centered on Dr. Joel Fleischman (Rob Morrow) returning to Cicely, Alaska, for the funeral of an old friend and staying (again) longer than he expected- the network has decided to move forward with a project in the same vein, already compared to it. The Republic of Sarah would reunite Sarah Drew, who’s the female lead, with CBS & CBS Television Studios after playing one of the title roles in another drama pilot last season, Cagney and Lacey’s remake, that was not picked up to series. Drew was a very popular Grey’s Anatomy cast member and she exited -not by choice- at the end of season 14, after nine seasons on the hit medical drama playing Dr. April Kepner. Before that, she was best known for her portrayal of Hannah in The WB’s Everwood. Now she’s back to a mountain town.


SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: SARAH CHAMBERS (30s) is a community sweetheart, she gets along with everyone in Morrisville from mayor to barista. Open on her in a Tiananmen style standoff with the governor of New Hampshire OTTIS TAGGERT (50s) and several earthmovers. The first half of the pilot shows the previous two days, beginning when rich mineral deposits are discovered under Morrisville. Sarah, part of the town council, urges her companions to resist the corporation that the governor has chosen to open a mine in their town. That corporation‘s key lobbyist is Sarah’s older brother, DANNY (30s), returning to the town after a tenyear absence, leaving behind an alcoholic politician mother ELLEN (60s) and a fiancée, CORINNE (30s)Sarah’s best friend. Sarah doesn’t like the idea of being a politician, but shows true promise as she supports a crazy strategy to saving their town from the intrusive miningdeclaring independence. The siblings face off to get the townspeople on their side, with the governor breathing down Danny’s neck. A vote is held and the townspeople narrowly declare independence thanks to a 1800s topographical loophole. After all is said in done, the people overwhelmingly want Sarah to be their leader. Coming to terms with her mother’s past and her brother’s reemergence, she resigns to give leadership a go, knowing that the true test of the resilience Morrisville is just beginning…


COMMENTS: There’s nothing that makes me happier this pilot season than the return to good ol’ serialized relationship dramas, based on family values and emotional issues, far from always failing high-concept shows with endless mysteries and tired detective TV series piling up corpses. We can probably thank This Is Us & A Million Little Things for that. A few years ago, CBS might have developed such a show, but they wouldn’t have picked it up to pilot. The Republic of Sarah is the perfect illustration of this trend, with the “wow effect” that could help it stand out from the crowd. Because it’s not just about townspeople doing townspeople’s things, it’s also very much political, deeply rooted in today’s America, offering an escape and a beacon of hope to viewers who don’t think there’s any left. It might seem radical but the script refers a few times to the official motto of the U.S. state of New Hampshire: “Live Free or Die“. There’s definitely a wind of freedom blowing on this town and on this script. And I think it’s beautiful.

Apart from the fact that it starts with a flashfoward -which I hate in general but it’s an intense one- The Republic of Sarah takes first the right amount of time to establish the bucolic beauty of its rural mountain town, with our leading lady having her morning routine which consists of a wild run from the valley bathed in sunrise to the forest, and finally up to the hills. It’s supposed to be magnificient and I’m pretty sure the production found the fitting landcapes around Vancouver. But this run is not just about the atmosphere, it’s also about introducing us to some of the secondary (and quirky) characters Sarah meets on her way, like a salt-of-the-earth elderly couple Betty and Ralph, or Russell, a 50 year-old naturist painting completely naked in his garden. The quirkiness is all around in the script, but just like in Northern Exposure it doesn’t feel fake. It’s part of the town’s identity and charm. There’s this restaurant, the Sweetie Pie, with meals and treats named after video games. There’s the Moose Manor, a hotel where everything, really everything, is based on moose, from lamps to wallpapers and pillows. And there’s also the character of Paula Judge, a gruff mountain of a woman who’s… a judge. Judge Judge! See. Those are sweet details that help you fall in love with the place and make it so alive and special.

But more importantly, there’s a family drama within. Or a family within the family, ‘cos the whole town forms a giant family in a way. The Chambers are very much at the center of the story, between our heroine Sarah and her complicated relationships with her mother, her brother and her father, who may or may not be back after decades of disappearance into thin air. Nothing here is completely earth-shattering but it works and it’s not emotionally manipulative, as This Is Us can be sometimes. It goes straight to the point, probably because there’s a ton of other things going on. Like creating from scratch a micro-nation. Just so you know, even though the idea seems far-fetched and unrealistic, it’s something that happens in the real world, more and more. And it’s quite exciting. The script takes the time it needs to make it believable. Sometimes it’s a bit technical, and it could bore people, but at least they’re not taking too many shortcuts. It wants to be a credible political drama. The real political part will have to wait for the subsequent episodes though, once Sarah will officially be the new Mayor. Or the President, I’m not how sure how we’re supposed to call her. It really has a ton of potential, both on the personal soapy stories and the bigger picture. Did I tell you about the secret lesbian love story? There’s that too. And many other secrets.

I didn’t introduce you to the characters properly. It’s a lot of strong women and it’s particularly notable for a CBS drama. Sarah is a quintessential New Englander: sharply intelligent, fiercely loyal, and always willing to lend a hand. Perfect for Sarah Drew, isn’t it? She’s a force nature and natural-born leader, she just doesn’t known it yet. We talk a lot about positive leading roles these days, like The Good Doctor, as opposed to the anti-heros. She could become a part of this group. Corinne is Sarah’s devoted, bubbly best friend. Like Sarah, she’s a teacher and possesses warmth, wit and savvy. Mary is a self-reliant badass whose steady support has made her the strong maternal figure in Sarah’s life. There’s also Francine, Morrisville’s sheriff. Unflappable and resolute, she lives her life according to old-school principles of honor and duty and isn’t afraid to speak her mind when she feels those principles are being ignored. We love them all!

On the men side, there’s Sarah’s brother Danny, who had to endure a difficult childhood at the hands of his mother. When he returns to his hometown, he must confront the faces of his troubled past. He was fragile, he’s stronger now. But he’s still vulnerable and that’s a sensible portrait of a male character. Tim is Sarah’s new antagonist: a banker who has always been considered as the smartest and most powerful guy in Morrisville… until the town chooses -against his advice- to put its faith in Sarah and her plan for independence. So he fights to stop her and her new nation. We hate him of course. He’s here for that. But maybe he’s more complex. We’ll see. Last but not least: Eugene. A brilliant, bizarre librarian with a hummingbird energy and encyclopedic knowledge of sociopolitical minutiae. He’s a invaluable asset to Sarah and her team as the brand-new government of Morrisville gets up and running. He’s her Giles (from Buffy), but quirkier. And believe it or not, there’s no real love interest waiting for Sarah. Or I missed it. That’s good. She has other -and better- things to take care of for now.


FINAL RECOMMENDATION: Symbolically, CBS would really make a point by ordering The Republic of Sarah to series. It would show their indepedence now Les Moonves is gone and it would be fierce. Yes, they can put a show on the air that is not a crime drama and that is mostly centered around women. More realistically, it’s a riské proposition for them that may not fit with the rest of their line-up. But they desperately need to evolve and that could be a first, smart step to take. I declare The Republic of Sarah one of the best scripts of this pilot season.



[  ] PASS

Emergence (NBC) pilot preview: Another day, another plane crash

GENRE: Mystery Thriller Drama

LOGLINE: Jo, the sheriff of a small town, takes in a young child that she finds near the site of a mysterious accident who has no memory of what has happened. The investigation draws her into a conspiracy larger than she ever imagined, and the child’s identity is at the center of it all. Determined to discover the truth and to protect her as well as her family, she takes all the risks…

Pilot Cast: Allison Tolman (Fargo, Downward Dog, Good Girls), Alexa Skye Swinton (Billions), Donald Faison (Scrubs, The Exes), Clancy Brown (Billions, Thor Ragnarok, The Shawshank Redemption), Owain Yeoman (The Mentalist, Generation Kill), Robert Bailey Jr (The Night Shift), Ashley Aufderheide (The Slap US), Zabryna Guevara (New Amsterdam, Gotham)…
Series Creator: Michele Fazekas & Tara Butters (Kevin Probably Saves The World, Agent Carter, Resurrection, Reaper).
Pilot Director: Paul McGuigan (Sherlock, Designated Survivor, Devious Maids)
Producers: Paul McGuigan, Robert Atwood, Michele Fazekas & Tara Butters. 

Studios: ABC Studios and Fazekas & Butters Productions

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.



You’ll Like It If You Already Like: The Passage, Believe, Kevin Probably Saves The World, The Crossing, Fringe…

Likely Timeslot: Monday 10pm (midseason?). There’s honestly no other and better place for it.


WRITTEN BY: Michele Fazekas & Tara Butters

PAGECOUNT: 64 pages

DRAFT: 2rd Revised Network Draft. 1/8/19


BACKGROUND: Emergence marks a reunion for writers Michelle Fazekas and Tara Butters & director Paul McGuigan after working together on the 2017 ABC fantasy dramedy Kevin (Probably) Saves the World, which went to pilot and then to series at ABC. Sent to the tuesday 10pm death slot, it lasted a full season of 16 episodes without generating any real buzz. You don’t change a winning team, as they say! But this time, ABC Studios didn’t keep the project for themselves. It ended up at NBC with a put pilot commitment (for some reason). Since it’s not produced in-house, the pilot only has a tiny chance to get ordered to series. Meanwhile, Allison Tolman was among the most sough-after actors for pilots this season, fielding multiple offers both in comedy and drama.


SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: One night, JO TORRES (40s), a recently divorced mother and Chief of Police in the sleepy town of Southold on Long Island is awaken by a boom in the distance that causes all the lights to go out. She is called to the scene of a small aircraft crash. Nearby Jo finds a young girl allalone, who is physically perfectly fine, but has no memory of who she is. At the hospital as they asset the girl, federal agents who are investigating the crash show up demanding to see her and her chart. Red flags go off for Jo and her doctor friend ABBY FRASIER (50s). They are confirmed when one of her officers, CHRIS MINETTO (20s), calls saying those federal agents from earlier weren’t from NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board). Fearing for the girl after an abduction scare, Jo decides to keep her close at home with her teenage daughter, BREE (14) and her ill father ED (60s). Jo even recruits her exhusband, ALEX (40s), to help keep the girl, now called PIPER, safe as she tries to figure out who she is, who these mysterious people are, and what they want with her…

COMMENTS: I don’t want to sound cynical or bitter but I have no clue, only theory, that could explain why NBC decided to order a pilot for such a show, especially since it comes from an outside studio. Is this some sort of gift to ABC Studios? Were they forced to do it for some reason? Was it just love at first sight and it’s something you can never explain? So the biggest mystery here is not within the show itself. I wouldn’t go as far as to say there’s definitely a conspiracy behind Emergence‘s birth but it smells like it, folks! The thing is it’s a decent script. Yeah, surprise! I didn’t hate it in fact. I could even say I quite liked it. It’s a page turner. You want to know what’s gonna happen next. But it’s also very deceiving in the end. You get no answers, you’re just even more confused than you were at the beginning and more importantly: you don’t know what this show is and where it wants to go.

That’s always the same story, over and over again, with those TV series billed as “mystery thriller dramas”. You’re irresistibly attracted to it, you know it’s bad for you, you know you’re gonna have a headache the morning after, but you still need your fix. Am I suddenly comparing them to drugs or alcohol? I think I do. There’s a pretty big difference though: it’s way easier to quit. And as ratings often suggest: many viewers don’t hesitate to stop when they get the feeling they’re being played or lied to. You know the famous “we have a plan, don’t worry! A 6-year plan!” and you’re only at the sixth episode and it makes no sense already? This is not working anymore. NBC’s Manifest is not proving me wrong. It started way stronger than anybody expected but it lost more and more steam as the season went on and it ended at a level that would require a cancellation, if network television was not so complicated these days. It will probably get a second season –Revolution and Timeless style- but moved to another slot, a more difficult one, and you can say bye to the six-year plan and to the promised answers. That’s hours of life you will never get back. Emergence gives me the same feeling, though it doesn’t seem to be as ambitious as previous offers. Which should be a bad thing, but in this case it’s what saves it from a disaster. At least for now.

Let’s see what the strenghths of Emergence are. First: the atmosphere. On the page, this isolated, bay town that feels almost like an island is a place where you want to spend some spooky time. The lighthouse, the ferry, the house by the sea… It’s a postcard waiting to be destroyed by bizarre happenings and strange mysteries. The cold open set during the night is a great way to start with lights flickering, a small safety pin sliding across a surface on its own and then flying across the room, the alarm’s clock digits cycling through weird hieroglyphs… and then you can hear a distant boom when suddenly all the electrical power in the city goes out. That’s the moment when the crash happened, we learn later. Magnetic field. Plane crash. Gosh, it’s hard not to have a déjà vu. From Lost to Manifest, we’re in well-known territory. Somehow it works. And that’s thanks to the writing mostly.

Second: the characters. No high-concept show can work with uninteresting protagonists. Most of those which didn’t make it on the long haul had a deficit in that department. I have to say it’s refreshing to have a central character who’s a woman. Too often mystery shows are associated with men. And she’s a sheriff, which is another way to shake things up a little bit. As the choice of the great Allison Tolman to play her suggests, she’s not a beauty queen, she’s not your typical heroine. She’s a single mother, she takes care of her ill father who’s living with her and her teenage daughter, she doesn’t know her mother who abandoned her when she was a baby, she’s strong, and a smart ass, and she’s beloved in her hometown and we can only love her too. Also she’s a divorcee but with her ex, things are not completely settled yet. It’s her whole family which is at the center of Emergence and that’s a better and simpler way to go than concept shows with 15 strangers and 15 stories to tell at the same time. Plus, they all have a good sense of humor in this family. A few jokes are always welcomed to release the tension a bit.

And of course there’s this strange little girl, that they decide to call Piper. She’s intelligent, curious and mysterious. The relationship that Jo starts to share with her is very reminiscent to similar ones in shows like NBC’s Believe of FOX’s The Passage. It’s déjà vu all over again. But this time it’s between a child with no mother she can remember of and a woman who’s already a mother. Not with a man who doesn’t want to be father and who has no clue how to act like one. So it’s a bit different, maybe easier, and less moving in a way. We’ll see if the magic happens between the actresses. That’s the key. We have the cliché character of Benny who presents himself as an investigative reporter but who’s in fact a bad guy. You can smell it for miles away but Jo doesn’t. She may be under his spell. He’s charming of course. Bad guys in those shows always are at first. The pilot script ends up on some sort of cliffhanger that’s confusing. We’re never clearly in a sci-fi show. But maybe we are. We don’t know. They don’t want us to know. Will we ever know?


FINAL RECOMMENDATION: After the Timeless wreck and soon-to-be a wreck Manifest, NBC should better stay out of the high-concept game for a while. They don’t really have a place for Emergence or any other mystery shows on their schedule and making it a summer fare would equal giving it a ticket to dumpsterland. It’s a series that could have made sense 10 or 15 years ago before all the other similar ones crashed, but today it would just be adding another corpse to the pile. 



[ X ] PASS

Perfect Harmony, Uninsured, The Kenan Show… NBC 2019 comedy pilots ranked from best to worst


After years of disaster in the comedy department, Superstore was considered as a beacon of hope for NBC when it arrived on the air in 2015. Four seasons later, we can’t call it a hit, we can’t even say it helped launch a new brand, but at least it keeps the lights on on an otherwise uneventful night, facing CBS’ sitcoms and ABC’s Shonda-fueled TGIT. Thanks to its Netflix deal, The Good Place showed some promise during its second season but that didn’t last long. Even though the show will be back for a fourth and is creatively still amazing, NBC can’t count on it ratings-wise. And then there’s cult sitcom Will & Grace that came back strong for its ninth season but has lost some steam since then. During its current tenth season, it’s regularly the strongest comedy of the night by a very slim margin but really nothing to rave about. When FOX decided to get rid of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, NBC saved it since it’s an in-house production. Here again, despite the promotion the move gave it, the cop comedy returned at a low level. What to say about fall “sensation” I Feel Bad, that never should have been ordered in the first place? It’s virtually dead. Why did NBC decide to treat exciting outdoor-shot multicam Abby’s like shit? No one knows. It deserved a better chance than a late spring launch. And don’t even get me started on A.P. Bio… To summarize: NBC still has a big comedy problem, with no hits, no brand… and nothing crazy good to offer next season it seems…



  1. PERFECT HARMONY (20th Century FOX Television)

 about a rural church choir that gets the director it never thought it needed when a salty, in mourning Ivy League music professor (Bradley Whitford) stumbles through their door and helps them find their voices…

From the network that brought you The Voice, Smash (and Rise). This musical comedy totally fits with NBC, though it’s not exactly the proof it’s a hit in the making. It could be billed as an adult version of Glee, in a church instead of a high-school. With a music professor a little more interesting and funny than this poor Will Schuester. No offense, gleeks! Was that even a word? Anyway, Perfect Harmony is not surprising, or groundbreaking, or anything else really than a good script introducing a promising group of characters with both funny and sweet moments, and creating its own world with its own rules and gimmicks (one being very similar to The Good Place‘s “safe language”). And somehow that’s enough. Also, the jokes are top-notch, sometimes they go a little too far but they stop at the right moment. Plus Bradley Whitford, y’all! And Anna Camp. Hallelujah! Rooting for this one. Could make sense paired with Will & Grace, ‘cos the gay audience will stan this. Hopefully, it will skew larger than that.


2. UNINSURED (Sony Pictures Television)

 around young parents Dave and Rebecca (Adam Pally & Abby Elliott) who end up having to take care of Dave’s parents (Fran Drescher & Steven Weber) who have mishandled their finances and need help to pay down a sizable debt….

NBC only has two multicam pilots this year and Uninsured is a really good one, despite a pitch that not is exactly earth-shattering. Except it fits the bill, sort of. It’s nice to have a show centered around “normal” people, having to deal with real life issues, with not much money in the bank. A bit like Superstore. Too bad it was not developed for ABC. It would have worked well with The Conners. For those who are nostalgic of The Nanny, it has a very strong argument: it would mark Fran Drescher’s network sitcom return in a role that was clearly written with her in mind. She’s a grandmother in there! Gosh. Fran is now Sylvia, in a way. Same type of character. It should be fun. Those who are familiar with Adam Pally & Abby Elliott know they should mesh well. There’s not much not to like in Uninsured, unless you’re allergic to good ol’ sitcoms.


3. THE KENAN SHOW (Universal Television)

a newly widowed dad (Kenan Thompson) is determined to be everything for his kids while begrudgingly letting his persistent father-in-law (Andy Garcia) become more involved in their lives…

This one is a question mark but also the most likely to get ordered to series: NBC seems very high on Kenan Thompson, they managed to convince Andy Garcia to sign up whereas he refused a lot of offers the past few years, and it’s a broad concept. That being said, I didn’t find the pilot script exceptionally good, though it’s okay. The voice-over of the deceased mother is surprising at first, destabilizing but sweet. At some point, it feels like they use it too much. I’m not convinced it can work this way for a long time. But if they dump it after the pilot, they’re loosing what makes it original. Tough call! It has lot of heart and it’s sometimes fun. Maybe that’s enough to get a series order, but to find an audience on NBC? Unlikely.



4. SUNNYSIDE (Universal Television)

Former New York City Councilman Garrett Shah (Kal Penn) finds his calling when faced with six recent immigrants in need of his help and in search of the American Dream…

Okay. So this one has a concept, and a star, and a LOT OF diversity, and… a confusing start. It’s typically the kind of niche comedy that could become great after a while, like Parks And Recreation or Community, but I’m not sure it fits with today’s NBC and more importantly with today’s network television. You need to be effective from the get-go if you want people to stick around. And this pilot is not effective. It certainly shows some promise, the show it could become if they’re lucky enough to get the chance to last more than three episodes, but we’re not there yet. Too much exposure, too many characters. Tough sell. Also, this title doesn’t make much sense. Come back with a better one if it’s picked-up!


5. VILLAGE GAZETTE (Universal Television)

Amber (Amber Ruffin), the editor of the Benson Village Gazette, loves her safe small town life writing fluff pieces about gardening and nursing baby squirrels back to health. That is until the newspaper owners hire a disgraced big city reporter, Randall (Tommy Dewey), who immediately challenges the happy denial Amber (and the Benson Village town folk) have been living in. Now, Amber is forced to recognize that everything isn’t always sunshine and rainbows and that she has a lot to say if she could get the courage to push against the rose–colored protective bubble she has created for both herself and the Gazette…

It’s a nope. And it’s a sad nope because on paper I liked the idea of a workplace comedy set in a small town inside a newspaper, with characters who are journalists. It’s uncommon and timely. The thing is the script gave me very few smiles and no laughs. It made me roll my eyes too many times, it’s way too cheesy for its own good and it’s so damn predictable all the time. The central character tries too hard to be the new Leslie Knope. And it doesn’t work ‘cos there’s only one Knope. While the “grumpy” character is way too cliché to be appealing, even as a villain. So for me, it’s nope, nope, nope. NBC only ordered a pilot presentation so they don’t seem to be totally sold either.


6. LIKE MAGIC (Universal Television)

an optimistic young woman (Jee Young Han) is pursuing her dream to be a headlining magician in the eccentric and ego-driven world of the Magic Palace…

I may be too harsh with this one, but I can’t see something that can be saved in there. Yes, the magic part of the show is unusual and makes it different on the surface. But on the inside… it’s just a lazy workplace comedy, already seen too many times, rarely funny, predictable, cringy and well… ’nuff said! Want it to disappear in a magic hat.


The script for the new version of multicam “Friends-in-Law” is not available. And no one has been cast in it yet. It may be dead. The first version was okay and would have been a good companion for Will & Grace.

Prodigal Son (FOX) pilot preview: “The Surgeon” will see you now

SERIES TITLE: Prodigal Son
GENRE: Crime Drama

LOGLINE: Malcolm Bright knows how killers think, how their minds work. Why? His father was one of the worst — a notorious serial killer called “The Surgeon.” That’s why Bright is the best criminal psychologist around; murder is the family business. He will use his twisted genius to help the NYPD solve crimes and stop killers, all while dealing with a manipulative mother, annoyingly normal sister, a homicidal father still looking to bond with his prodigal son, and his own constantly evolving neuroses…

Pilot Cast: Tom Payne (The Walking Dead, Luck), Michael Sheen (Masters Of Sex, Good Omens, The Good Fight), Bellamy Young (Scandal, Criminal Minds, Dirty Sexy Money), Lou Diamond Phillips (Longmire, Stargate Universe), Aurora Perrineau (When They See Us), Frank Harts (The Path, The Leftovers), Keiko Agena (The First, 13 Reasons Why), Halston Sage (The Orville)…

Series Creators: Chris Fedak (Chuck, Deception, Forever) & Sam Sklaver (American Housewife, Deception). 
Pilot Director: Lee Toland Krieger (Riverdale, You, Celeste & Jesse Forever).
Producers: Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter, Chris Fedak & Sam Sklaver.

Studios: Warner Bros. Television & Berlanti Productions.

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.



You’ll Like It If You Already Like: The Blacklist, The Following, The Mentalist, Deception, Forever, Lucifer, Criminal Minds…

Likely Timeslot: It’s hard to predict what New FOX gonna look like at this point. But it could pair fairly well with 9-1-1 on monday.


WRITTEN BY: Chris Fedak & Sam Sklaver.

PAGECOUNT: 58 pages.

DRAFT: Revised Network draft 1/14/19


BACKGROUND: Believe it or not, mega-producer Greg Berlanti only has three pilots in the running this season! The CW’s Batwoman, The CW’s Riverdale spin-off Katy Keene & FOX’s Prodigal Son. It would be a lot for any other producer in town who’s not Dick Wolf, Ryan Murphy or Shonda Rhimes, but for him it’s very little. He still has many shows in production (close to 15!) and probably more coming on the future WarnerMedia streaming platform. Regarding Prodigal Son, we’re in a territory he knows well after Blindspot & Deception: something that has the ambition to be a fresh take on a crime franchise with a provocative and outrageous lead character and a comedic tone. Others did it well too, and before him, with The Mentalist, Castle, The Blacklist or even gone-too-soon Forever. Is this trend, like many others on the networks, is dying? Outside of their international sales potential, they tend to underachieve in their US first run ratings. Very few procedurals were picked up to pilot this time around, compared to previous years. Still, FOX will try their luck!

Berlanti was able to assemble quite an impressive cast, starting with Michael Sheen and Bellamy Young, while the lead had to be recast after the table read. Iron Fist‘s Finn Jones was the first choice, it was a straight offer and his deal closed on the eve of the pilot’s table read. Seeing him embodying Malcolm Bright for the first time, the producers realized that he was not a good fit with the character (it was pretty obvious!), which led to his quick demise. Tom Payne, who had tested for the role previously, was finally chosen down to the wire.


SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: In 1998, DR. MARTIN WHITLY –THE SURGEON, is arrested for murder as his wife, daughter and son, MALCOLM, watch. In 2019, MALCOLM BRIGHT (30’s), is now an FBI agent, who tracks down serials killers. After he punches a sheriff in Tennessee while on a case, he is let go. When he goes back home to NYC, DETECTIVE GIL MARTINEZ (60’s) hires Malcolm to work alongside his team to find a killer who is mimicking his father’s murders. Malcolm works alongside Gil, DETECTIVE DANI COFFER (20s), and DETECTIVE JT TARMEL (30s) to figure out who is killing women who frequent sex dungeons, which Malcolm guessed by the bruising on the victims arms. AINSLEY, Malcolm’s younger sister and a TV News Reporter blackmails Malcolm in to dinner with their mother. JESSICA (50’s), Malcolm and Ainsley’s mother, begs Ainsley not to include Malcolm in her coverage of The Surgeon’s copycat. Malcolm visits his father, to figures out who could have gotten access to his drawing to copy his methods. Martin’s drawing were stole from his room when they rebuilt his cell…


COMMENTS: Every pilot season, there’s one or two very well-crafted procedural pilot scripts you know their network will bet on. Prodigal Son is this year’s Blindspot, Lucifer, Forever, Deception and Whiskey Cavalier which were all produced by Warner Bros. Television by the way. It can’t be a coincidence. They definitely know how to make those. And writer Chris Fedak is one of the best in this department, with Matt Miller & Martin Gero. But as I said before, no matter how well it’s done, you can’t make similar shows year after year and expect the same results. People are not stupid and they know when they’re offered something that was entirely built for them based on their previous favorites. And they don’t like that. Nobody likes to be considered predictable. Prodigal Son has this cynical ambition and it’s hard not to see it to concentrate on the result only. So yeah, it’s good. But the impression of déjà vu is quite high.

What could save it from being dumped after one rendez-vous with the audience is the characters. The four leads work both individually and all together. And with those actors, that should be a real pleasure to watch. The fact that they form a very special family makes it distinctive from previous similar offers. Let’s start with Malcolm Bright. He’s intelligent but also deeply damaged. He has a self-deprecating sense of humor, he’s a narcissist of course but he also has a surprising level of compassion. In other words: he’s not Gregory House. But he’s very much like Henry Morgan, Patrick Jane and Cameron Black. And the writers don’t forget to mention that he’s handsome as hell. You’ll get your shirtless scene, don’t worry. What’s interesting about him is that he’s not so confident. He gives to others the impression he is, but on the inside he’s a big mess. It’s hard not to like him honestly.

On the other hand, you have his father, Martin Whitly, an intelligent, wealthy and charismatic man, who also happens to be a predatory sociopath who murdered more than 20 people. Who wouldn’t want to see Michael Sheen in that role? As seen through flashbacks, Martin once was a devoted family man and successful cardiothoracic surgeon with high-profile patients. For that reason, he still has great connections despite being in prison for more than 10 years. His cell is impressive and luxurious. It just doesn’t make sense, but Prodigal Son never really tries to be realistic. Martin is fascinating, but I wouldn’t say it’s an innovative character. He’s similar to The Blacklist‘s Raymond Reddington and even closer to The Following‘s Ryan Hardy, remember… The scenes between Malcolm and Martin are strong and will sell the show, but after a few episodes, I’m not sure their association will bring something new to the table. Unless they serialize it more by revealing Martin is manipulating his son and he’s behind most of the crimes happening out there… It’s obvious but it’s the only right way to go.

Jessica, Malcolm’s mother and Martin’s wife, is less present but everytime she appears, it’s a pleasure. She’s an elegant WASPy New Yorker who wields sarcasm like a samurai sword. She taught Malcom well. As the wife of a serial killer, she is a disgraced member of high society, but she refuses to hide from her truth and she wishes her son would follow suit. So far, he doesn’t. It’s a role made for Bellamy Young. I would have loved to see her in a very different role -too bad ABC didn’t order False Profits last year- but at least we know she will perfect here. Her daughter, Ainsley, who’s Malcolm’s younger sister, is a successful TV journalist with a good sense of humor. More normal(ish) than him, they have a good relationship but she’s an emotional spark plug. She’s promising too.

What about the investigation, you’re probably asking? It’s a special one since it’s about a Whitly’s copycat. The easiest way to raise the stakes. Well. It works smoothly, it’s fast-paced, it’s pretty dark and surprising in terms of setting since it embarks us in the BDSM world, and more precisely in a sex dungeon. It’s a bit unusual, especially for a pilot, and it goes far beyond what I expected, like when Malcolm has to fight with a dominatrix. It could be a lot of fun, it could be ridiculous, depending on how it’s directed. It’s constantly over-the-top, which is both good news and bad news. The good news is you never get bored, the bad news is you’re rolling your eyes a lot. But you might like it. So there are heads in jars, a bomb threat and a hand amputation while the “patient” is totally awake, among other exciting things. Wjat about romance, you’re probably asking too? That’s probably the most surprising thing in this pilot: there is NONE! We’re so used to the sexy partnerings in those shows that it almost seems like a risk not to feature one. It’ll probably come later, but for now there is just one flirtatious scene when Malcom meets Edrisa, a slightly off-center medical examiner who’s very responsive to his charm.


FINAL RECOMMENDATION: Prodigal Son is a by-the-book dark comedic procedural like we’ve seen many before, but it manages to have a distinctive charm based on its characters and its family-driven plot. It’s poised to be considered by critics and a portion of the audience as something way too over-the-top and unrealistic but another portion and the international buyers might find it attractive enough to give it a chance. While New FOX is trying to understand what it is and where they stand, this project seems like a no-brainer, a safe bet. 



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The Hypnotist’s Love Story (ABC) pilot preview: You, female stalker edition

SERIES TITLE: The Hypnotist’s Love Story
GENRE: Soap Drama

LOGLINE: After a string of failed romances, Ellen, a successful hypnotherapist, is optimistic about her current boyfriend, a charming widower… until he reveals a disturbing truth: a stalker ex-girlfriend Sasha who has been following him and his son for years. Ellen finds herself intrigued, and oddly thrilled by the stalker, entirely unaware that they’ve already met…

Pilot Cast: Juliet Rylance (McMafia, The Knick), Heather Graham (Austin Powers, Boogie Nights, Californication), Adan Canto (Designated Survivor, The Following), Jane Seymour (Dr. Quinn, Jane The Virgin), Liza Lapira (9JKL, Don’t Trust The Bitch, Dollhouse), Skye P. Marshall (Black Lightning)…
Series Creator: Katie Wech (Star, The Secret Circle, Rizolli & Isles, Once Upon A Time In Wonderland).
Pilot Director: Francesca Gregorini (Humans, Electric Dreams).
Producers: Katie Wech, Heather Graham, David Hoberman (Monk), Todd Lieberman & Laurie Zaks (Castle, The Family, Wicked City).

Studios: ABC Studios & Mandeville Television.

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.



You’ll Like It If You Already Like: You, Dirty John, Lifetime and Hallmark Channel movies…

Likely Timeslot: Paired with The Bachelor in midseason or with The Bachelorette in the summer. Or sent to Lifetime or Hallmark Channel.


WRITTEN BY: Katie Welch

PAGECOUNT: 61 pages

DRAFT: 3rd Revised Network Draft. 1/11/19


BACKGROUND: The Hypnotist’s Love Story was the first pilot season order for ABC (NYPD Blue‘s happened off-cycle) and the first pilot order for the network’s new entertainment president Karey Burke, who comes from Disney’s cable channel Freeform. She wants to target women to lure them back at ABC and take back that number one crown they lost to NBC. The pilot is based on australian writer Liane Moriarty’s book published in 2011. It’s one of the seven international bestselling novels she wrote, with Big Little Lies, The Husband’s Secret and Truly Madly Guilty, each claiming the No. 1 spot on The New York Times Best Seller list. As you all know, Big Little Lies‘ HBO adaptation became a hit and won multiple Emmy Awards, while a second installment is on its way. If The Hypnotist’s Love Story were to be ordered to series, it would become the second adaptation to come to our TV screens, which is an indeniable strong selling argument for ABC.

Heather Graham, who plays the stalker character, has been the driving force behind the project from the get-go. She brought the book to Mandeville Television and ABC Studios after meeting with several producers. The pitch led to a buy, then a script and now a pilot.


SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: ELLEN (38) is a hypnotherapist who excels at helping others with their relationships, but can’t seem to find one of her own. Four dates in with PATRICK SCOTT (38), a handsome widower and single dad, Ellen finally thinks she may have found her soulmate. She remains undeterred after Patrick is forced to reveal that he has a stalker, an exgirlfriend named SASHA (40s), when she suddenly appears at their dinner date, but Ellen’s best friend JULIA (38) is immediately concerned. Back at work, Ellen convinces her client ROSIE (28) to break off her engagement with media mogul IAN ROMAN (40s), who in turn publishes disparaging articles about Ellen and threatens her. Ellen eventually meets Patrick’s son JACK (10), which enrages Sasha, who had a very close relationship with him. Sasha breaks into Ellen’s house after seeing where she leaves the spare key, bakes banana bread in her kitchen, and then gives it to Jack. Ellen ends up in need of new clients after Ian’s articles scare off her old ones, and she ends up unknowingly in a session with Sasha.

COMMENTS: I guess sometimes you can’t resist to a strong selling argument and it feels like that’s what happened here with ABC’s top execs when they greenlighted the pilot, based on a weak script but coming from a name. Also, they made their decision while You became a hit on Netflix and Dirty John started to get some traction over there too. They probably saw an opportunity to tell a similar stalker-could-be-a-serial-killer story but more focused on women this time. By the way, I have a suggestion for a better title: Crazy In Love. It’s more attractive and it fits better with what’s at stake honestly. It’s two women madly in love and slighlty deranged. And I don’t think a network that launched so many female empowering shows should ruin it with such a dull thing. Of course, women can be stalkers, and they can go crazy, and they can make mistakes and love too much, and badly, but then you have the responsibility to portray them with subtlety and dignity, tell how they got there in the first place. And pitting them against each others is not very 2019… unless you’re doing Killing Eve and have Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s talent and intelligence.

I don’t know if the book it’s adapted from was any good -reviews seem to mixed overall- but there’s always such an efficiency and a great deal of suspense and twists in Liane Moriarty’s work that you can’t really hate it. It’s definitely chick lit but with an edge and the surprising depth that comes with it. The Hypnotist’s Love Story may be the outlier though. There’s no such thing as edge and depth here, I’m not even sure there’s a story. Probably more of a lack of story. I don’t think it’s a good pilot and I don’t think it could become a good TV series either. The foundations and the characters are simply not solid enough and it’s overall very predictable. I even felt kind of insulted sometimes. The writer sets some straps for us -why not? let’s play!- but gosh, they are so obvious. How could she think we would jump in? And in terms of twists and craziness I’m very disappointed too. The craziest thing the stalker Sasha does is… baking banada bread in her rival’s kitchen. I mean, WTF??! If it’s supposed to give us an idea of how far she’s able to go, please stop right there! Which leads me to a reflexion I had during the whole reading: those characters don’t act like functionning adults. There is teenage angst and obsessive behavior that just doesn’t feel appropriate for the age group they’re supposed to be in. And it’s mostly painful to watch. It’s not fun. It’s probably not supposed to be but at least we would enjoy it more if it was. What it is supposed to be though it’s thrilling. And it’s not that either. It’s too cheesy to be.

In the end, can something be saved from this mess? Certainly not Patrick’s character, who’s one-dimensional and too good to be true. You have a hard time understanding why both Ellen and Sasha desire him so much, he’s so boring… It all rests on the actor’s shoulders now to make him at least charming and damn hot. Adan Canto should be able to. Fans of Big Little Lies, you’ll get a good amount of normal (and uninteresting?) chit-chat with friends and family, around coffees, cup of teas or glasses of wine. But most of it sounds fake sadly. And Ellen’s best friend is one more flat protagonist. One character I liked though is Ellen’s extravagant mother, played by Jane Seymour. She’s actually funny, that’s a breath of fresh air. So no, not much can be saved from this mess. But it’s watchable if you have time to spare and a fondness for these things.


FINAL RECOMMENDATION: Since both You and Dirty John are uniformly dull shows that worked anyway, there’s hope for The Hypnotist’s Love Story. But maybe this one would have a better chance on Netflix thanks to the system of recommendations or on Disney+ to stay in the family. Coming back week after week would suppose a need of better writing, more appealing characters and stronger hooks. I want to believe ABC wants to win women back with shows that are more empowering and less insulting. 



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Nana, Hannah, Happy Accident… ABC 2019 comedy pilots ranked from best to worst

It was bound to happen sooner or later and this time is now: the “ABC Funny” brand of single-camera family-oriented comedies is going through a rough patch after years of success and may be heading towards a slow death. It took form back in 2009, when both critically-acclaimed Modern Family and dearly beloved The Middle started. They were joined over the years by other strong and more modest performers such as The Goldbergs, Fresh Off The Boat, Blackish and American Housewife. Every single time they tried to deviate from the formula (Trophy Wife, The Real O’Neals) or totally go into other directions (Happy Endings, Don’t Trust the Bitch, Selfie, The Mayor), they got slapped in the face with terrible ratings. Most of those shows were pretty good by the way, with the exception of some iconic failures like Work It and Super Fun Night.

Now that everything has been made, from 70s, 80s and 90s settings to big pushes on diversity, the audience seems to be tired of them. The Middle is gone, Modern Family is about to go. New entries Single Parents and The Kids are Alright started well before settling down at disappoiting levels, while the sophomore season of unowned Splitting Up Together is nothing to rave about. It leaves the network with a huge comedy problem and one decent hit, The Conners, even though it lost steam compared to mothership Roseanne. ABC may think the answer is in the multicamera genre, that they tried to revive occasionnally, with Last Man Standing (cancelled and now on FOX) and Cristela among others. From the nine pilots ordered, one has already been passed on –The Middle spin-off Sue Sue In The City, which was probably not on-brand- one is a second spin-off from modest performer Blackish, similar to Young Sheldon centered around Young Bow, 4 are single cams and 3 are multicams. The number of comedy ordered in may will depend on ABC’s decision about reducing or not their comedy slots. They may very well only take one of each. But one thing’s for sure: they had a weak development season in that department… Which leads to our ranking based on the scripts.





  1. HAPPY ACCIDENT (20th Century FOX Television & ABC Studios)

Around two Pittsburgh families — a father (Matt Walsh) with three adult daughters (JoAnna Garcia Swisher, Kether Donohue, Jessie Pinnick), and a hotel lounge singer (Vanessa Williams) with her med student son (Elliot Knight) — who are forced together after a decades-old secret is revealed… 

Ordered off-cycle, Happy Accident might very well be ABC’s last chance to capitalize on Modern Family‘s lead-in to launch a new family comedy with potential. I wouldn’t consider this script as a no-brainer -the whole story is very predictable and it’s not laugh-out-loud funny- but it’s actually not bad at all with a few sweet moments and good dialogues. It’s more adult-oriented -there’s only one kid in there- than ABC’s usual fare and it may be a good thing though it makes it a harder fit with the last comedies standing. It’s very diverse, blending a white traditional family with a more excentric black one, and it includes a gay son and a tomboy daughter. The cast is really great and that’s what could save it from being mediocre. Vanessa Williams will go back to what she does best: being a queen diva. Veep‘s Matt Walsh is a nice get for ABC. Joanna Garcia is a show killer but a nice gal we’re always happy to watch. And You’re The Worst‘s revelation Kether Donohue -that I consider as the new Megan Mullally- could become the main attraction. So unless Happy Accident tests poorly, I can totally see it on the schedule next year. Becoming a hit though is a whole other story…


2. UNTITLED JESSICA GAO PROJECT (ABC Studios, CBS Television Studios & Imagine Television)

about Janet Zhao (Holly Chou), a first generation Chinese-American woman who struggles to set healthy boundaries with her crazy, exhausting family. When her wealthy grandmother dies and names Janet the sole inheritor, she suddenly finds herself the unwilling new matriarch of the family she’s spent her life trying to keep at arm’s length…

Originally known as “Lazy Rich Asians'”, this comedy pilot written by Jessica Gao, who worked on Silicon Valley and who won an Emmy for writing “Pickle Rick,” a standout episode of Rick and Morty that aired in 2017, totally and confidently surf on summer 2018 box-office smash Crazy Rich Asians. The plot is very similar though the genre is different since it’s more of a family comedy than a romcom. It’s fresh, funny, sometimes moving, and it sounds like something that comes from a place of respect and love for a community without being cheesy. Fresh Off the Boat became the first Asian family comedy in the U.S. in more that two decades. It would be nice to get a second one now, not in two more decades…


3. HANNAH (ABC Studios)

The story of Hannah (Hannah Simone) and her Indian-American immigrant father. They always have been close, but after she admits to herself that she’s in a dead-end job and he reveals his marriage is over, they’re starting over together and each finding a new path. This new chapter will either make them crazy close — or just crazy…

I have nothing against Hannah Simone, really, but I’m not sure why ABC is so eager to give her a starring vehicle. Last year’s The Greatest American Hero female reboot she was on was definitely not a good fit with the network and it made total sense to pass on itn whatever the result may have been. This one is said to be semi-autobiographical and ABC loves that. It’s a weird and not entirely effective mix between a family single-cam and a romantic/girly comedy that is not designed for a large audience. The daughter/father relationship dynamics is cute, but the rest is weak. It would be great to have a nontraditional Indian family at the center of a show, it has not been made yet, but this one is not THE one, sorry.


4. WOMAN UP (20th Century FOX Television)

about two former teen moms (Mary-Elizabeth Ellis & Tawny Newsome) who have worked their asses off to see their daughters all the way through high school graduation; and now, at 35, they’re ready to make up for the youth they never had…

Damn ABC. You’re supposed to do better than this! First, why is this a single-cam? It would have worked better as a multicam in the vein of 2 Broke Girls and Mom. Okay, ABC is not CBS and they probably couldn’t have found the right slot for it but why ordering it in the first placee? It barely works as a single-cam, but it has its moments. This is not a straight family comedy, though there are strong family elements, and those single mothers-teenage daughters relationships are not as innovative as they want to be. Nobody remembers FOX’s one-season-and-done I Hate my Teenage Daughter, but it’s the same concept. They had other very similar pilots in the past and with better scripts, like last year Most Likely To. Maybe it would have had a chance with a better cast but it’s a really weak one, with no recognizable faces. They have better options!




  1. NANA (20th Century FOX Television & ABC Studios)

After the death of his wife, an obsessive, overprotective dad (Josh Lawson) is forced to invite his brash and bawdy mother-in-law (Katey Sagal) into his home to help raise the two granddaughters she barely knows…

Loved Nana! Made me think a bit of One Day At A Time, shamelessly cancelled by Netflix just a few days ago. It’s both (very) funny and emotional, though it’s less diverse. It’s set in Minneapolis and it’s not about a wealthy family but about midwestern americans having real problems. It’s easy to imagine it paired with The Conners. It’s the best option they have in that regard, with a central character that is different from Roseanne but who still could be compared to her because she’s an irreverent and noisy woman with lots of love to give… but in her own way. It’s so easy to close your eyes and imagine Katey Sagal knocking the part out of the park. She’s perfect for this. It would be a nice addition to ABC’s line up and it could help them expand the multicam genre. It’s not original or anything, it’s just good. And sometimes that’s just what we ask for.


2. UNITED WE FALL (Sony Pictures Television)

Based on writer Julius Sharpe’s life, the parents (Will Sasso & Christina Vidal) of two young kids struggle to achieve the ordinary. When two people with young children and overzealous extended families truly love each other, barely anything is possible, even with an extremely judgmental mother (Jane Curtin) at home….

The writing here is strong. Some lines and situations really made me laugh out loud, it’s a bit more racy than ABC’s usual comedies, more realistic too, and with the right chemistry it could be a really enjoyable sitcom. The problem with United We Fall is that there’s no hook. What’s different? Seems like a sitcom from 15 years ago, except it’s multicultural! It might do the trick behind The Conners, but Nana has a slight advantage because of Katey Sagal and a more modern feel. Then again, the writing is top-notch.


Leslie and Hope (Leslie Odom Jr & Kelly Jenrette) are joint pastors at a young, hip, diverse church in Los Angeles. Through their services, online streams and books they are experts at uniting people across different races, genders, orientations and opinions. But when it comes to uniting the people in their blended family, they are way out of their comfort zone and as a result, the teachers often find themselves the pupils…

This one is a clear disappointment. The concept seemed cool and modern based on the pitch, and in some ways it is. But the jokes will only make you smile, best case scenario. There’s a B story with the kids that is really uninteresting and too weak for a pilot. And well, it doesn’t fit with The Conners. It would have been great for TV Land, when the channel still had original sitcoms on its roster. On ABC, it’s a huge pass.