Author: Lulla

Carol’s Second Chance, Bob <3 Abishola… CBS 2019 comedy pilots ranked from best to worst

Next year will be crucial for CBS since it will be their first without The Big Bang Theory, which is ending this spring after 12 seasons of success. It’s the end of an era, but the franchise will still be a small part of their slate thanks to Young Sheldon enterings its 3rd season. It’s the only sitcom that really benefited from its lead-in after years of multiple attempts (who remembers The Great Indoors for example?). Other than that, the Eye Network can still count on Mom, which was recently renewed for two more seasons (7th & 8th), which may or may not be the last… and that’s it!

This year’s new entry The Neighborhood did a tad better than expected but calling it a hit would be very generous. Other new comedies didn’t get enough traction, that includes the Murphy Brown sequel series, as well as Nina Dobrev’s Fam & Damon Wayans Jr.’s Happy Together. Probably way too generic to find a large audience these days. And then there’s two pity renewals trying to survive: fully-owned Man With The Plan and now Disney-owned Life In Pieces. If the Matt Le Blanc-starrer still has a chance, the family single-cam seems to be dead. It leaves CBS with only one single-cam: Young Sheldon. The network definitely needs a new hit to fill The Big Bang Theory‘s void. They definitely take out their checkbook to lure some star. We’ll see if that translates into ratings since it’s rarely how it works…

 

 

  1. CAROL’S SECOND CHANCE (CBS Television Studios)

around Carol Chambers (Patricia Heaton), who after raising her two children and retiring from teaching, embarks on a unique second act: she’s going to become a doctor.

What you think you’ll get is exactly what you get with Carol’s Second Chance. It’s funny and comfy, and yet a little different since it’s set in a hospital and no comedy since Scrubs got that right. Patricia Heaton is playing the same kind of mom character you loved in Everybody Loves Raymond and The Middle; she’s just older and ready to leave home to go back to work. Every scene is at the hospital, by the way. It’s a workplace comedy, but the medical cases are not at the center. It’s very much about how annoying and yet adorable she can be surrounded by younger people, at the exception of Kyle MacLachlan. Yeah! I still don’t know how CBS managed to convince him to join the sitcom but here he is. Of course, he will be great, even if it’s a waste of his talent. There’s no way it doesn’t get picked up. I can totally see it paired with Mom, or sandwiched between Young Sheldon & Mom. No other project has the strength that this one has.

 

2. OUR HOUSE (Sony Pictures Television & CBS Television Studios)

a devoted mom and dad (Katherine Heigl & Malcolm Barrett), who are committed to raising their children with the love and support the mom never got as a kid but discover how difficult that is with her insane parents (Nancy Lenehan & Phil Hendrie) and siblings back in the picture.

So now, Katherine “movie star” Heigl is doing comedy… multicamera comedy! I mean, there’s no shame in this but it’s quite surprising. After two drama flops and a short stint in dying Suits, perhaps it was the only way to go. I’m really curious to see if she would be a draw for the audience and if she can be good at it. I have a feeling she has found the right fit. And also that it could be paired with The Neighborhood and doing okay. Anyway, it’s a good sitcom, that doesn’t really feel new, or inventive, it’s the same story over and over again (ABC & NBC have similar projects), but there’s heart in there. The “house” of the title really is the central character and the heart of the show. And somehow that’s the refreshing element. The pairing of Heigl and Malcolm Barrett seems odd on paper but I’m confident they didn’t put them together for no reason. There must be chemistry. To my own surprise, Our House is one project I’m betting on!

 

3. THE UNICORN (CBS Television Studios)

A widower (Walton Goggins) is eager to move on from the most difficult year of his life, only to realize he’s utterly unprepared to raise his two daughters on his own and equally unprepared for the dating world — where, to his shock, he’s suddenly a hot commodity.

Didn’t expect to like this one as much either. By the way, it’s the only straight single-cam CBS has in its roster. That may help its chances somehow. Again, it’s pretty generic and NBC also has a show based on a widower’s experience (The Kenan Show) but I feel like this one is less manipulative and funny enough. The central character is quite interesting and charming but not in a obvious, easy way. Yes he’s a widower, and yes it’s hard but that’s not really the point and they’re not even trying to make us cry a little between two laughs. The writing is sharper than you would expect in a CBS sitcom. And yet it’s not tonally different from their other shows. Plus, they have Walton Goggins in the lead role. Not sure how they convinced him, but that’s a very good news for the project. He may transcend the material.

 

4. THE EMPEROR OF MALIBU (Warner Bros. Television)

When the son (Max Willems) of a Chinese billionaire (Ken Jeong) announces his engagement to an American woman, his outrageous family descends upon the couple to win their son back and test drive the American dream.

Let’s adress the elephant in the room first: yes, it’s a rip-off of mega hit Crazy Rich Asians. There’s the similar East-meets-West theme as in Kevin Kwan’s popular book and its movie adaptation. And Kwan is the writer as well, while Ken Jeong is back in the father role. They found a cheaper version of Henry Golding in Max Willems, and he seems just as good-looking. And maybe he’s funnier, which wouldn’t be that hard. I prefer ABC’s attempt (Untitled Jessica Gao Project) ‘cos at least they tried to re-arrange it so it doesn’t sound exactly the same, plus it’s female-focused, but The Emperor of Malibu works too. It’s predictable as fuck -even if you haven’t seen the movie, which was predictable as well, and quite boring if you ask me- and that’s a pity because other than that, the characters are engaging and they tone down the romantic aspect to focus on the family and more importantly on the funny.

 

 

4. BROKE IN RESEDA (CBS Television Studios)

Two siblings (Pauley Perrette & Nathasha Leggero) are forced to reconnect when an outrageously wealthy trust fund baby (Jaime Camil) is cut off by his father, and he and his wife move into her estranged sister’s Reseda condo.

It’s hard to picture CBS giving a greenlight to both Our House and Broke In Reseda, which are very similar offers. Here, the star is not Heigl but NCIS’ Pauley Perrette. It would be her first project since she left the long-running show, and that’s a draw in itself for a lot of CBS’ viewers. Would it be enough though? There’s also a tiny Jane The Virgin vibe, thanks to Jaime Camil playing exactly the same role as in The CW series and Jennie Snyder Urman producing it as well. But Jane is not exactly a huge hit, even by The CW standarts, so I don’t think CBS should bet on Broke In Reseda for that reason. There are other ones, like the fact that it’s funny sometimes and pretty much on-brand. It may be too generic but playing the “we’re broke” card might resonate with viewers these days so…

 

5. TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN (CBS Television Studios)

Evan (Michael Angarano) sets out with his group of 20-something friends to accomplish a list of challenges he wrote for himself years ago in an effort to turn around his banal life.

Like every year since How I Met Your Mother went off the air, CBS tries to find the perfect formula for another romantic hybrid comedy around a group of friends which would be different enough to warrant a series order. And it never happens because one way or another, they are the same, but less original. They could have tried last year with History Of Them from One Day at a Time creator Gloria Calderon Kellett which had that special thing going for it. But the pilot wasn’t picked up to series for some reason and they’re back at it with new propostions. To Whom It May Concern is okay, and the concept of the “list of challenges”, though not entirely new, is working. It’s the characters who are not totally working. They’re not special. They’re expected. How I Met Your Mother worked because they had Barney, and Robin, and Marshall, and even Ted. Where are they here? Nowhere, I’m afraid. Performances could change everything but I’m not convinced.

 

5. SUPER SIMPLE LOVE STORY (Sony Pictures Television & CBS Television Studios)

a story told through interviews and vignettes spanning 10 years, about how an unlikely couple (David Walton & Elizabeth Alderfer) becomes an unlikely family.

Well. Here’s another candidate in the never-ending How I Met Your Mother‘s replacement race, from One Day at A Time executive producer Mike Royce. I didn’t hate it but I didn’t like it either. I found it messy on the page, and what’s messy on the page is messy on the screen too, in general. As the title suggests, it’s a super simple love story. Is it ironic? I’m not sure. My take on it is that it is indeed a super simple love story but told in a way that makes it way more complicated than it really is. It’s irritating sometimes, frustrating also, and the only real thing that differentiates it from HIMYM in the end is that there are those interview scenes and it’s not something groundbreaking as you know. So, neh. Let’s keep it even more simple CBS: don’t order it!

 

6. BOB HEARTS ABISHOLA (Warner Bros. Television)

after having a heart attack (Billy Gardell), a man falls in love with his Nigerian nurse (Christine Ebersole) and sets his sights on getting her to give him a chance…

After an unconvicing trip to Netflix with pot comedy Disjointed -I’m pretty sure the network version of this with the same cast could have worked- and critical darling The Kominsky Method -that nobody I know watches- hit-maker Chuck Lorre is back at CBS with Bob <3 Abishola, which is somewhat original because of its title but that’s about it. It’s a romantic comedy that turns into a family comedy, like he did before with Dharma & Greg and Mike & Molly. He even called back Billy Gardell! It’s not bad – CBS doesn’t really have any bad comedy pilot this year- but its potential for a long run seems quite low and he have had way better ideas in the past. They needed to be four to write this? Damn! It should be funnier… Also, maybe that’s just me, but I found the way the hero tries to seduce his nurse very pre-#MeToo. He’s a little too insistant. He’s not creepy or anything and there’s nothing to be furious about in his behaviour but I don’t know, it made me a bit uncomfortable for a little while. Let’s just say CBS has better options. But I’m not stupid: they will want to make Lorre happy and order it anyway!

 

The Lost Boys (The CW) pilot preview: Yet Another Vampire Show

SERIES TITLE: The Lost Boys

NETWORK: The CW
GENRE: Fantasy Drama

LOGLINE: Welcome to sunny seaside Santa Carla, home to a beautiful boardwalk, all the cotton candy you can eat…and a secret underworld of vampires. After the sudden death of their father, two brothers move to Santa Carla with their mother, who hopes to start anew in the town where she grew up. But the brothers find themselves drawn deeper and deeper into the seductive world of Santa Carla’s eternally beautiful and youthful undead…

Pilot Cast: Tyler Posey (Teen Wolf, Now Apocalypse, Jane the Virgin), Rio Mangini (Everything Sucks!), Kiele Sanchez (Lost, Kingdom), Medalion Rahimi (Still Star-Crossed, NCIS Los Angeles), Sarah Hay (Flesh and bone), Dakota Shapiro (Valley of the Boom), Haley Tju, Cheyenne Haynes (Camping, Just Add Magic), Del Zamora (Sneaky Pete)…
Series Creator: Heather Mitchell (Still Star-Crossed, Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy).
Pilot Director: Catherine Hardwick (Twilight, Thirteen, Lords of Dogtwon).
Producers: Heather Mitchell, Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars, iZombie, Party Down), Dan Etheridge, Mike Karz & Bill Bindley.

Studios: Warner Bros. Television, Spondoolie Productions & Gulfstream 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: The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, Teen Wolf...

Likely Timeslot: Summer fare if The CW is finally ready to spend some money for this period.

 

WRITTEN BY: Heather Mitchell.

PAGECOUNT: 61 pages

DRAFT: Network draft 1/2/19

BACKGROUND: The CW originally developed a series adaptation of the iconic 1987 Warner Bros horror comedy movie The Lost Boys with Rob Thomas writing during the 2016-17 development season. While the project didn’t go to pilot, the network brass remained very high on the title and had been looking to redevelop it. While Thomas has been busy with his Veronica Mars reboot for Hulu, a take by writer Heather Mitchell (Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy) got everyone excited, and the new incarnation picked up steam this development season.

Envisioned for a seven-season, anthology-style run, The Lost Boys series was originally supposed to tell a story spanning 70 years, each season chronicling a decade. Season 1 would have been set in San Francisco during the Summer of Love, 1967. Each season, the humans, the setting, the antagonist and the story would have all changed — only the vampires, the famous Lost Boys, who like the Peter Pan characters never grow up, would have remained the same. It has not been said if the new version was also envisioned as an anthology, but it doesn’t seem like it.

 

SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: After the sudden death of their father, diametrically opposite brothers MICHAEL (21) and SAM (15) move with their mother LUCY (40s), who caused a scandal 27 years ago when she ditched her boyfriend to run off with another man, to her seaside hometown of Santa Carla, a covert home for vampires. On the beautiful boardwalk, Michael experiences an undeniable spark with STELLA (20s), enraging her vampire boyfriend, DAVID, while Sam meets sisters CASSIE AND LIZA FROG (16), who confirm that there’s something peculiar about Santa Carla. Things escalate when David reveals Stella is the Queen of all vampires and Michael discovers he has the same heart condition that killed his father. Concluding on a suspenseful note, both Sam and Michael uncover the town’s secret inhabitantsSam and the Frog sisters witness David break the vampire law by murdering humans, and Michael walks in on Stella and David having vampire intercourse, all fangs out…

COMMENTS: I’m not sure why this is even a thing. Was it so crucial for The CW to have yet another show about vampires on the air, after The Vampire Diaries and The Originals ended, with Legacies still breathing life into the franchise? I wouldn’t mind that much if The Lost Boys had something very special and different going on for it. But it doesn’t. I mean, it’s very much the same as The Vampire Diaries, centered on two brothers arriving in a new town which is apparently populated by vampires for decades. Why did they choose such a sunny one, in California? It doesn’t make much sense but there may be a reason… The main difference is the brothers are not vampires… yet. But for how long? It’s more adult than the Kevin Williamson’s show, but it’s not True Blood either. It’s more like a weak, lifeless mix, with the younger brother offering an innocent, romantic vibe to the show and the older one introducing a little bit of sex and danger, while the vampires give it a soft debauchery style (we’re not on HBO, they can’t go very far). It wants to have it all and ends with nothing much. There’s an undeniable 80s movies vibe, that comes from the source material and that is preserved because it’s trendy since Stranger Things but it’s less cooler; it takes itself too seriously.

So Michael, the elder brother, plans to attend Columbia Medical school but he is thrown off by the diagnosis that he shares the same genetic weakness that killed his father. The only thing that consoles him is the friendship he strikes up with Stella, a young woman who runs a concession stand on the Santa Carla boardwalk. And who may not be human, after all… He didn’t plan to stay for long, but now that he could die whenever, why spending so much time studying when he could help his family and fall in love? The immediate spark between Stella and Michael seems a little fake on paper, it’s really way too quick, but chemistry between the actors could help it make it believable, or at least enjoyable enough to close our eyes on this. Her boyfriend is the sexy, dangerous and immortal vampire David, who is sometimes scary and always intense. The leader of a vampire gang, he’s wildly in love with Stella, and she’s the only one who can control him, if you see what I mean. It’s nice to have a switch in the usual formula that way but it doesn’t make the show original.

Sam, Michael’s younger brother, has a high level of literacy, matched by an equally high level of snark. He seems to be the only one not enchanted by Santa Carla — a sentiment he shares with a pair of local girls, the Frog Sisters. Since a wild threesome is not in the cards, he may have to choose only one at some point. In the meantime, he will have to go to school and help the show going the same route as many others on The CW before: high-school dramas and the same stories that go with it over and over again. There’s the (young) mother Lucy, who’s a nice gal who did bad things in yer youth, but now she’s a widow, she’s looking for redemption. And of course, she bumps into her old flame who’s now… the sherif! Classic. Last but not least, there’s Frank Garcia, Lucy’s father, a cantankerous old hippie who owns a beloved local bed and breakfast. In spite of his laid-back appearance, he’s a strict disciplinarian who probably knows more about the dark side of town than he cares to tell. And he’s probably the most unexpected character in this, though he stays in the background. He’s way too old to be at the center. And I woudn’t be surprised if they kill him after a few episodes. I give him one season tops.

 

FINAL RECOMMENDATION: Unless The CW unexpectedly decides to order all of its pilots to series -which would be a first in its history- The Lost Boys seems to be the weakest contender of them all. If you want to tell another vampire tale in 2019, you have to make sure it will be vastly different from the previous offers and this one is not original at all, in any way. 

 

OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:

[ X ] PASS
 ] CONSIDER
[  ] RECOMMEND

Until The Wedding (ABC) pilot preview: Not worth a longtime commitment

SERIES TITLE: Until The Wedding
NETWORK: ABC
GENRE: Soap Drama

LOGLINE: The story of how one couple’s decision to get married can affect everyone in their lives. The show explores the intimate relationships of a group of friends and family as they are forced to reckon with their own romantic lives and come to terms with the realities of love and marriage.

Pilot Cast: Olivia Thirlby (Juno, Dredd, Goliath), E.J. Bonilla (Bull, Revenge, The Long Road Home), Britt Lower (Man Seeking Woman, Unforgettable), Michael Stahl-David (Narcos, Chambers, Cloverfield), Trent Garrett (Splitting Up Together, All My Children), Christian Coulson (Mozart in the Jungle, Nashville), Christian Borle (Smash, The Good Wife), Juani Feliz, Michael Benjamin Washington, Liza Colon-Zayas, Vered Blonstein…
Series Creator: Becky Mode (Smash, Feed the Beast).
Pilot Director: Susannah Grant (Erin Brokovitch, In Her Shoes, Confirmation, The 5th Wave).
Producers: Becky Mode, Susannah Grant, Alon Aranya, Avi Zvi, Ami Amir, Carl Beverly & Sarah Timberman (SEAL Team, Masters of Sex, Elementary).

Studios: ABC Studios, Matar Productions, Reshet 13 & Paper Plane 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: A Million Little Things, What About Brian, October Road

Likely Timeslot: Midseason replacement for A Million Little Things right after Grey’s Anatomy on thursday 9pm; or The Bachelor’s companion if they ever want to give it one.

 

WRITTEN BY: Becky Mode

PAGECOUNT: 62 pages

DRAFT: 2nd Revised Network Draft. 1/17/19

 

BACKGROUND: This year, ABC’s high on remakes of israeli shows. They have The Baker and the Beauty (read the preview here), and Until The Wedding, known in hebrew as Ad Hahatuna. It was not a huge hit but it ran for two seasons on Reshet beginning in 2008.

 

SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: DANNY and ADRIENNE (30s) have a seemingly great relationship. Adrienne is caught off guard when her exboyfriend, WILL, a philanthropic doctor who unexpectedly left her for the Congo, shows up at the wedding. Will claims he is friends with the groom, but his intentions of getting Adrienne back are later revealed. NAOMI is the constant third wheel in Danny and Adrienne’s relationship. She spends the wedding flirting with a British boy looking for US citizenship JAMES, only to find him entangled with another woman at the end o f the night. Adrienne’s brother, MILES, and his husband, SAM, bicker about their daughter. Danny’s sister, LAURA, has autism and makes a special connection with BEN, a wedding guest who also has autism. Danny’s ready to take the next step in his relationship but recognizes that Adrienne isn’t. However, he interrupts the wedding reception toast to propose her in front of everyone. The look on her face is unreadable, leaving us with the cliffhanger of the pilot…

COMMENTS: What motivated ABC to develop and pick-up a show based on a 11 year-old israeli moderated hit is not clear, but this surely isn’t groundbreaking. And that’s probably why no other network tried it before. Sure, it fits with the Alphabet’s mandate to lure back women but like with The Hypnotist’s Love Story, I want to believe women are worth better than that. It’s less stupid though, it just doesn’t have much of a hook and it doesn’t give enough good reasons to stay, unless you’re instantly drawn towards those characters but they don’t come out as special or anything. Some may even be quite irritating. This plus the messy soapy cliché storylines is a lot to accept. Good actors and a lot of chemistry could at least make it somewhat entertaining, especially since of course they’re all very easy on the eye. But today’s TV landscape probably doesn’t allow such a show to bloom.

Also, I have to say I was quite surprised by the fact that the married couple is almost nowhere to be seen. It’s set at their wedding but they are treated like secondary characters, especially the man. I read the script a few hours ago and I can’t even remember their names. That’s quite telling. It’s a choice -‘cos I guess it can only be- that I’m not a fan of. How can you be invested in a pilot set at a wedding if you don’t care about those who should be at the center of the attention in the first place? It gives the feeling that the guests are not even remotely interested in their friends’ big day, like they’re all deep in their own dramas. It doesn’t make them very sympathetic. One thing’s for sure: a wedding is a terrible place to be at, especially when you’re single and not happy about it. But that’s not really what it’s about. It’s mostly about couples in crises. The soon-to-become-a-thing pairing of autistic people Laura & Ben is the cute story that I liked the most. But I’m not sure where they can go from there…

Let’s meet the three leads, just in case you’re still interested in them after what I said: Adrienne is the one all her friends go to first for advice. She’s super empathic and warm with a biting sense of humor. Idealistic, ambitious and really smart, Adrienne has an especially high EQ. She’s a highly skilled psychologist who’s sometimes better at taking care of other people than she is of herself. Naomi is Adrienne’s roommate and best friend. Defiantly single, defiant in general — there’s nothing Naomi loves more than a good fight. Uncensored and funny, she’s an up- and-coming writer with a new book of essays that’s getting serious traction. Though Naomi would say anything to anyone, there are very few people she truly lets in. A fiercely loyal friend, Naomi would go to the end of Earth for the people she loves. Danny Garcia is a serious mensch, warm, who wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s not afraid to say what he thinks or express emotion. He’s the kind of guy who was born 40, and then had to shoulder a lot of responsibility growing up. Danny came from nothing. He built an online fraud detection company that’s about to go public, but he’s a family guy first. He’s a romantic, and madly in love with his girlfriend, Adrienne. Things get complicated when Adrienne’s ex-boyfriend shows up on the weekend Danny plans to propose. See: they’re good people after all. And it could be nice to spend some time with them but do we really want it?

 

FINAL RECOMMENDATION: With ABC already having A Million Little Things for its quota of friendship drama about relatable, complicated and attractive human beings, Until The Wedding doesn’t seem like something they need or worth a longtime commitment. And since it’s pretty forgettable on the page, though entertaining, perhaps it’d be best left at the altar.

 

OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:

X ] PASS
 ] CONSIDER
 ] RECOMMEND

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

SERIES TITLE: The Republic Of Sarah
NETWORK: CBS
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.

 

OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:

[  ] PASS
[  ] CONSIDER
[ X ] RECOMMEND

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

SERIES TITLE: Emergence
NETWORK: NBC
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. 

 

OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:

[ X ] PASS
[  ] CONSIDER
 ] RECOMMEND

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.