Tag: cbs

Surveillance (CBS) pilot preview: The Sophia Bush Show

SERIES TITLE: Surveillance
GENRE: Thriller Spy Drama

LOGLINE: Madeline Yardley, the head of communications for the NSA for 13 years, finds her loyalties torn between protecting the government’s secrets and her own when an investigative journalist she met dies unexpectedly in mysterious circumstances…

Pilot Cast: Sophia Bush (Chicago PD, One Tree Hill), Dennis Haysbert (24, The Unit), Matthew Modine (Stranger Things, Weeds, Full Metal Jacket), Catalina Sandino-Moreno (The Affair, The Bridge), Allan Leech (Bohemian RhapsodyDownton Abbey), Raphael Acloque (Tyrant, 24: Legacy), Nick Blood (Agents of SHIELD)…
Series Creators: David C. White (The Bridge, Sons of Liberty).
Pilot Director: Patricia Riggen.
Producers: Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, The Passage, Planet of the Apes), Sophia Bush, Patricia Riggen & David C. White.
Studios: 20th Century Fox Television, CBS Television Studios & 6th & Idaho.

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: Person of Interest, Scandal, Homeland, 24…

Likely Timeslot: Monday at 9? Thursday at 10?

WRITTEN BY: David C. White

PAGECOUNT: 63 pages

DRAFT: Revised Network Draft, 1/12/19

BACKGROUND: Surveillance was picked up to pilot by CBS back in September 2018, long before the start of traditional pilot season. It was one of the biggest sales of pitch season, and marked a breakthrough in the relationship between CBS and 20th Century FOX Television as the network’s first buy from the outside studio in three years. A different incarnation of the project was originally set up at FOX for development last year, but didn’t make it to pilot stage. Instead, the script was reworked and the studio brought Sophia Bush and Patricia Riggen on board before taking the package out.

The project is a return to television for Sophia Bush, who most recently played Detective Erin Lindsay for four seasons on NBC’s Chicago PD, before exiting in 2017. The set of the cop drama has been described as a tough environment for Bush, who is said to have exited when it was clear that nothing would be done to make things right. In Surveillance, she’s not only the star of the show but also an executive producer. And she may have found a way to send a message or two to her old team through this show and this character.

SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: The pilot opens in a convenience store parking lot, with a man named JACK HERBERT leaving a payphone and returning to his mess of a car. There are laptops, cell phones, legal pads and takeout containers everywhere. We next see him cruising down empty downtown city streets, before approaching a large brick wall… and crashing right into it. The car explodes instantly. Is Jack dead? A surveillance camera filmed the whole scene.

Cut to: a hotel room. Separated from her husband and far away from her two children, this is where our heroine MADDY lives. She’s the director of Strategic Communications for the NSA. She was sleeping but is awakened her phone. She grabs it and our question is answered: Jack Herbert is indeed dead. But Maddy has no idea who’s giving her this information. Her next call is from BARRY, telling her to get to work ASAP. Barry is the NSA Deputy Director, basically her boss, but also her mentor/father figure.

At NSA headquarters, Maddy is welcomed by her close colleague and longtime friend NATALIE. Natalie oversees all active operations at the NSA, and is the first woman to do so. Maddy has a favor to ask of her: trace the call she received a few hours before, off book. Natalie accepts, but not without some hesitation. Maddy goes to the conference room, where Barry and a group of other NSA higher-ups are waiting for her. She knows all of them, except one. THE MAN IN THE RED TIE. His identity and true mission are shrouded in secrecy. They have questions for her about Jack Herbert. Turns out she met him, perhaps more than once, and she’s asked to explain what she knows about him, what he was looking for when he came to her the first time… We’re transported to that moment through a flashback and it’s clear that Maddy is lying to the committee. But why?? What is she hiding?

COMMENTS: As discussed earlier, Surveillance was not originally developed as a vehicle for Sophia Bush, and I can’t help but wonder if she’s the right fit. Part of that may be because I know her from One Tree Hill, where she signed brighter than most of her co-stars, and from the short-lived sitcom Partners, where she proved she could be very funny. And although I’m less familiar with her work on Chicago PD (for which she was also lauded), her character in Surveillance feels very different. For one, she’s described in the script as a woman in her forties. (Bush herself is in her mid-thirties.) In addition, this isn’t just a leading role, the entire show is built her character, with Maddy appearing in nearly every scene of the pilot. That’s a lot to put on Bush in her first go as series lead, but clearly 20th Century FOX & CBS think she’s ready. Let’s hope they’re right.

The first season of the series has a title — “Operation Blackwash” — suggesting there will be one central storyline each year, with most of the cast and characters returning for subsequent seasons, except those who will die. Because this is the kind of show where people die, a lot. And, um, un-die sometimes. This is a big conspiracy thriller, with no holds barred. But as different as that may seem from the typical CBS formula show, it’s not revolutionary, either. At this point, you really can’t make a TV show about the inner workings of a federal institution, whether it be the FBI, the CIA or the NSA, without being compared to what’s been done (and done well) before. Which brings us to Homeland. The Showtime drama is definitely an influence on Surveillance, and there’s a lot of Carrie Mathison in Madeline Yardley, not only because she’s a woman in a world of powerful men — which is resonant with Bush’s own story — but also because she’s basically the same character: brilliant, determined, complex, and married to her job. She also has a messy private life — is an affair going on there? — and the requisite stress that comes with a job where a single mistake can lead to death and destruction.

The pilot plays the suspense card very well, revealing plenty of tantalizing details along the way. This isn’t Scandal — it’s not an over-the-top spectacle with characters over-reacting to everything — but Maddy’s job is pretty similar to Olivia Pope’s: she fixes problems, she sometimes hides the truth for the greater good, she manipulates, she bargains, and she threatens. This is serious stuff, but it’s also quite exciting. That it manages this may be the script’s greatest achievement. The NSA is about people working behind desks, making phone calls, watching, listening, and taking meetings, but the script’s fast pace compensates for that, and then some.

The show’s secondary characters stay mostly in Maddy’s shadow in the pilot script, but that’s not a problem at this point. If the show gets picked up to a full network-sized season, they’ll definitely need to be developed in later episodes to be more than just pawns in this wicked game but also actual human beings with their own stories.

FINAL RECOMMENDATION: Surveillance is a little risky, but it’s too good a script not to try. It’s timely and captivating, and has the potential to do for CBS what The Good Wifeand Person Of Interest have done in seasons past. Poor execution or an unconvincing performance from Sophia Bush could quickly turn it into something less compelling but let’s be optimistic!



[  ] PASS


CBS 2018/2019 Schedule (THOUGHTS & TRAILERS)





10- BULL



9- F.B.I.









10- S.W.A.T.



9- HAWAII 5-0










– CBS apparently got too afraid to break up The Big Bang Theory & Young Sheldon to help new comedies. As a result, the monday ones will have to fight for themselves without any support. That might ugly real quick! Hopefully, they have a few more to launch midseason. Though none of them are strong.

Magnum, P.I. will also have to self start but at least there will be curiosity for it that might help it get sampled the first weeks of its run. Other than that, I’ll probably be a struggle… Dick Wolf’s F.B.I. got luckier with the NCIS’ lead-in. Bull moving to monday at 10 could be a real challenge, facing both The Good Doctor & Manifest, but CBS probably wanted to put something that’s strong and not a dying show. Though Bull could die in the process.

– Not buzzy at all Murphy Brown revival is exactly where it should be: paired with Mom in a slot that’s not so important for them. But wasting Young Sheldon on Mom once again is a bit of a waste.

God Friended Me on sunday? I know it’s church day but this show that’s supposed to skew younger than other CBS dramas will never find this audience here in this slot, between 60 Minutes and NCIS: Los Angeles… Gone by december! Welcome back Instinct!










CBS | 2018/2019 – Fantasy Schedule

Those are predictions based on feelings and CBS final schedule may end up very differently! It will be announced on Wednesday. Stay tuned and until then, enjoy the read!













Tough season for CBS: they’re still winning in total viewers but they skew older and older each year. And while ABC has a drama problem, CBS has a big comedy one. With The Big Bang Theory possibly ending next season -they’ll fight like crazy to get more I guess- and Young Sheldon being the only newbie doing good numbers, they’d better up their game and schedule them better. They surprisingly got rid of Kevin Can Wait but they still have some stones in their shoes like Man With A Plan or Life In Pieces, doing barely okay. Will their Murphy Brown revival help them like Will & Grace helped NCB and Roseanne helped ABC? Unlikely. The political-fueled show has many good reasons to come back in this troubled climate and will probably have relevant things to say but it’s not a comedy that left such a huge mark in pop culture. I’m not sure people will welcome it so warmly. In the drama department, CBS looks more and more like a syndication farm. Which is fine when you can find a home for your new shows. But as Scorpion proved after 4 seasons: if your show is weak from the get-go, nobody will buy it… CBS’s schedule is pretty unpredictable. They’d need to make drastic changes and bold moves to improve. But it’s not like them. Here’s what I would do:






Yep. I feel like the only way for CBS to be back in the comedy game as they used to on monday is to bring back The Big Bang Theory the night it started more than 10 years ago. That’s also where it aired for a few weeks at the beginning of the past seasons when there was football on thursday and it always did great. This way, it will be able help a new comedy instead of helping Young Sheldon that should be fine without it now. Can’t decide which one between Happy Together with Damon Wayans Jr. or Fam with Nina Dobrev is the best option since they’re like twins based on the scripts. At 9, it’s a bit unconventional I know but I would give the slot to God Friended Me, first because it’s a dramedy, then because it’s CBS’ only chance next year at skewing younger. I have a feeling it won’t work, but I don’t see this show airing anywhere else. They ordered it so… At 10, NCIS: New Orleans would be used as a safe weapon when the other networks are bringing out the big guns (The Good Doctor on ABC and Manifest on NBC). Better not launch something new there…






NCIS is starting to show its age on tuesday and it’s the occasion for CBS to use it to launch something new one last time before it’s too late. Dick Wolf’s F.B.I. looks generic as hell but could make an efficient lead-out. Bull may lose a bit of its loyal audience at 10, especially since Michael Weatherly will have to face Nathan Fillion (The Rookie) on ABC, but it should be strong enough by now to survive. Tuesday would look fresher overall and it needs to if they want to stay competitive on the night. Swim or sink!






After wasting Survivor‘s lead-in with Seal Team last year, that never really took off, CBS should not insist and give it to a more promising newbie… aka Magnum, P.I. new generation. With Justin Lin driving the project, it may be modern enough to be worth a slot that is not on friday or sunday. Plus, the Hawaiian-set show looks like a good fit with Survivor, based on the beaches. At 10, Criminal Minds is doing okay business and should stay there, whether it’s for a 13-episode (final) season or a full one.






With Young Sheldon leading the night, CBS should bet on shows with a strong family element and The Neighborhood might be a good candidate as a consequence. Mom should stay where it is doing solid business and that’s where Murphy Brown comes in. It’d be a female-fueled comedy hour and if the revival doesn’t work, they won’t look too dumb since it was not in a high-priority slot. Life In Pieces can comeback there once the shorten season is done. SWAT doesn’t have to move.






No adjustement to make. Magnum P.I. will end up there sooner or later anyway…







So I would put serious Seal Team after serious news magazine 60 Minutes, where it should have aired from the get go! (Schedulet it there last year already). The rest of the night should stay intact, though Madam Secretary does horrible numbers. But it has a rich syndication deal so…



MAN WITH A PLAN – The show got a pity renewal because it’s fully owned but it should be benched until there’s a slot available for it. If God Friended Me doesn’t work on monday, it would be easy to put it here paired with either Fam or Happy Together.

ELEMENTARY – Shoud be back in deep spring again, airing mostly during the summer.

INSTINCT – Whenever to plug a hole.

THE CODE – If Criminal Minds is limited this year, it could take over in spring.

THE RED LINE – This one feels like a limited-show. Don’t know what they can do with it but it’s clearly something that they will be proud of but that they won’t be able to schedule properly…

Magnum, PI (CBS) pilot preview: By the people who already brought back Hawaii 5-0 & MacGyver

I saw the sun rise” written and executive produced by Peter Lenkov (MacGyver, Hawaii 5-0, Salvation, 24) & Eric Guggenheim (Hawaii 5-0, Parenthood). Based on the series by Donald P. Bellisario & Glen A. Larson. Also produced by John Davis (The Blacklist, Shaft, Predator, Waterworld, Paycheck) & John Fox (Timeless, The Blacklist, Joy). Directed by Justin Lin (Fast & Furious 6, Star Trek Beyond, SWAT, Scorpion). For CBSUniversal TelevisionCBS Television Studios & Davis Entertainment. 60 pages. Revised Network Draft. 12/12/2017.

Description: Thomas Magnum, a decorated ex-Navy SEAL, upon returning home from Afghanistan, repurposes his military skills to become a private investigator in Hawaii. With help from fellow vets Theodore “TC” Calvin and Orville “Rick” Wright, as well as that of disavowed former MI:6 agent Juliet Higgins, Magnum takes on the cases no one else will, helping those who have no one else to turn to…

With Jay Hernandez (Bright, Suicide Squad, Bad Moms, Scandal, Hang Time), Perdita Weeks (Penny Dreadful, The Tudors), Zachary Knighton (Happy Endings, FlashForward, Parenthood), Stephen Hill


You’ll Like It If You Already Like: Letting you guess.

Likely Timeslot: Monday at 10, wednesday at 9 or friday somewhere.


Haven’t we suffered enough? Was rebooting Hawaii 5-0 and more recently MacGyver enough already? Since both worked, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Lazy CBS is ready for another try and this time it’s the classic 1980s Tom Selleck series set in Hawaii that’s getting the remake treatment. And once again, it’s CBS Television Studios’ go-to writer for rebooting iconic procedurals Peter Lenkov who’s behind the wheel. Per Deadline, it is said to be CBS’ most expensive pilot this season. I’m not surprised after reading the script. It looks expensive. But first, let me tell you Magnum could have come back earlier, last season, when ABC developed a new version, which was supposed to follow Magnum’s daughter, Lily “Tommy” Magnum, who returns to Hawaii to take up the mantle of her father’s PI firm. She and her tribe of friends would have mixed tropical beaches with the seedy underbelly of international crime and modern espionage. It fell through. And you know what? It sounded way better and more modern than what CBS is cooking up. More respectful to the original also, not that this one is not respectful.

In case you were wondering, there were discussions about Tom Selleck getting involved in the reboot but he opted not to get formally on board but gave the project his blessing. He’s still the star of Blue Bloods on CBS and unless there’s a surprise cancellation this may, it will be on the air at least one more year, meaning he won’t be able to say hello to the new Magnum. But after that, everything’s possible. And there’s a role for him actually. Like in the original show, Magnum is “sponsored” by the pulp novelist Robin Masters, and lives in the beautiful oceanfront Hawaiian estate owned by the millionaire called “Robin’s Nest”. Only his voice was heard in the show, he never appeared. Though there’s a theory his majordomo Higgins was in fact Masters. Anyway, if he were to appear in the new version, it would be fun if he were played by Tom Selleck himself! Unlikely, but who knows? So, the big difference between the old Magnum and the new one -and probably the only one in terms of story- is Higgins. She’s a female now. Jonathan is now Juliet. She is commanding, confident, tough, uses sarcasm to deflect emotion and hard to get to know. She’s also strict and often in conflict with Magnum and his more easy-going methods. Very much like out old pair! But there’s something else going on there. Yeah, we’re having yet another “will they?won’t they? situation” as they clearly about to become more than just friends who act like they hate each other. Can’t blame CBS for this but I’m not sure this trope can still win the audience, unless there’s something special about it.

Our other principal characters are kinda non-existent in the pilot. It includes Rick, a former door gunner with the Marines who now runs Oahu’s coolest nightclub, he’s well-connected – if you want something on the island, Rick is the man to see; Theodore “TC” Calvin, an ex-Marine chopper pilot who’s still a chopper pilot.; and well Sebastian Nuzo, ex-Seal, who’s now… dead! He’s kidnapped, tortured and killed in the pilot, which gives a good reason for Magnum to investigate. There’s also another woman, Hannah Boyle, a former CIA Intel Analyst and Magnum’s ex-girlfriend. She was supposed to be dead, until we learn she’s not. She’s connected to the somber story of a sunken ship full of gold. Yeah, you read right. But it leads to what will probably a very good-looking and impressive scene that takes place underwater, with Magnum catching bad guys on scuba gear. We’ll also find our hero on his surf ski, wearing bord-shorts, paddling. Because he’s cool. And the opening scene includes a next-generation space capsule, a space-suit, a parachute and a water Buffalo. Just sayin’! Magnum wants to be cooler than Hawaii 5-0, Macgyver & Scorpion reunited so they’re going over the top and only a good director can make this look good and not too ridiculous. Fast & Furious‘ Justin Lin is probably the right guy for the job. He also gets the chance to film him in a Ferrari, and other cars I’ve never heard of. That’s the spirit! Landscape views are described as impossibly stunning and since they’re really shooting in Hawaii, they will be for sure.

They kept Magnum’s voice-over as part of the storytelling, which is not a good idea if you ask me. It makes it sound old-fashioned. It was not needed but one can argue it’s part of the charm of the original show and it would have been a pity not to use it again. Let’s just hope Jay Hernandez will do it right. Not sure what else I can tell you about this pilot. I didn’t describe Magnum but he’s exactly like you think he is. Exactly like other CBS’s leading men. Nothing new. Well, he’s a latino guy, so there’s that. And about the investigation, it works exactly as in any other CBS procedural. If you like that and if you’re not tired of it, then you should have a ball! Happy you! Something really bugged me: the patriotic message that’s all over the script and in the least subtle form. The end of the episode is a military funeral and OMG the speech of Magnum is just too much, full of clichés about brotherhood, soldiers for life… “As corny as it sounds” he says. Well at least they’re conscious about what they’re doing. And when I think about it, it’s really the perfect show for Republicans. And it’s way way more dangerous than Roseanne, believe me… But that’s what most of the CBS audience wants, right?

Compared to new Macgyver‘s pilot, Magnum P.I. ‘s is way more effective and less ridiculous, though Magnum sometimes acts like he’s MacGyver and there’s not much difference between him and Hawaii 5-O‘s McGarrett either. It’s the same show over and over again and there’s no reason why it wouldn’t work at least a little for CBS. It’s fun to watch if it’s your kind of fun, and if you’re into very patriotic shows, it’s like heaven for you! The great thing for the eye network is that they can put it anywhere. It’ll do the trick!

Cagney & Lacey (CBS) pilot preview: Stuck in the 80s

Pilot “Smile” written and executive produced by Bridget Carpenter (11.22.63, Westworld, Friday Night Lights, Parenthood). Based on the iconic 1980s police procedural by Barbara Avedon & Barbara Corday. Directed by Rosemary Rodriguez (The Good Wife, Jessica Jones). For CBSCBS Television Studios & MGM Television. 62 pages.

Description: LAPD Homicide dectectives Christine Cagney & Monique Lacey are partners and close friends who solve crimes with experience, street smarts, and team work. They investigate a different murder each week hoping to bring victims and survivors closure while keeping the streets of L.A. safe…

With Sarah Drew (Grey’s Anatomy, Everwood, Mad Men), Michelle Hurd (Lethal Weapon, Blindspot, Daredevil), Ving Rhames (Mission: Impossible I, II, III, IV, Pulp Fiction)…


You’ll like if you already like: Any CBS cop show.

Likely timeslot: Where there’s a hole in the schedule


The original Cagney & Lacey that ran from 1982 to 1988 and won multiple awards -including 2 “Best Drama” Emmy- never became as iconic as other buddy cop shows from the same time period like Starsky & Hutch, Miami Vice or The Streets of San Francisco, at least on the international market. How come? Maybe because it was not about men. There has not been any successful equivalent since then, apart from Rizzoli & Isles I think. Things are about to change, finally, with a slew of pilots starring female cops. CBS also has Chiefs -and they probably won’t pick-up both- while NBC has the Bad Boys spin-off I already talked you about (HERE). For some reason, they all take place in Los Angeles. Is it because of the blue sky making them look like lighter fares? The original Cagney & Lacey was set in New York. Like ABC’s The Finest, also in the running this year. While reading this script, I thought a lot about ABC’s pilot The Trustee, that was not ordered to series last year. My review (HERE) was called “Cagney & Lacey New Generation”, and it was before we knew a reboot would be in the works. In fact, we learned about it the day they picked up the pilot, never before. Anyway, The Trustee was a superior script despite its flaws because it was really modern, different and also funnier. 2018 Cagney & Lacey‘s is lazy and gives the impression that nothing really changed since the 1980s. And when I look at CBS schedule, sometimes I feel the same…

What CBS could have done -but it was probably too much to ask- was to course correct what happened the first year of the original show. Hear this story: Cagney was originally played by actress Meg Foster but she was fired at the end of the first season because CBS deemed her too aggressive and too likely to be perceived as a lesbian by the viewers. Yeah, they really did that! She was then replaced by Sharon Gless who was asked to play Cagney as a more conventionally “feminine” character and a more “high-class”, snobbish woman from wealthy parents. This is sad. It would have been bold if, 35 years later, the new Cagney reverted back to how she was originally conceived and… what if she were a proud lesbian? I know. Crazy. As soon as she appears in the script, she’s described as stylish, feminine and we’re given the important detail that “She NEVER wears cheap shoes”. She’s also messy, headstrong and single. I’m sorry but it feels like a missed opportunity to me… Anyway, the great news is that Lacey is now a black woman and that’s probably CBS’s way of saying “We’re diverse now”. 10 years after the other networks. Never too late, hum? Monique is polished, cool and married. And also very feminine, don’t worry. When we meet her she wears a dress and stack-heel boots. It’s funny -or a big problem?- but Sarah Drew & Michelle Hurd don’t seem to correspond to their characters’ descriptions. So there are two solutions: either they were forced to reconceive the characters a little bit so they fit better, or the actresses will need to go out of their comfort zone to play them.

For some reasons, there’s no real balance between Cagney & Lacey in terms of screen time and character’s exposition. We don’t learn a lot about Lacey’s personal life though we meet her husband briefly, but on the other hand we already know a ton of things on Cagney, especially since there are several flashbacks from 15 years ago about when her twin brother Clinton died. And we meet her father, an alcoholic retired cop still haunted by the death of his son; while we learn about her mother we haven’t met yet who’s “the rich one” since she remarried. The relationship between our two heroines deviate from the original show for two main reasons. They are not the same age: Cagney is in her thirties, Lacey in her fourties. And they don’t have the same experience at all since Cagney is only a homicide detective for 2 years. She’s still learning. Lacey is her mentor, and that’s her who investigated Cagney’s brother’s murder back then but the case is still unsolved to this day. That gives us hope for a serialized story at some point and it makes their relationship more complex. The rest of the pilot is all about the case of the week, that reminds them both of Clinton: the murder of Kyle, a 19-year old black man. Lacey has a son about the same age, we’re told. And that’s where it’s lazy. Can’t say the investigation is boring but nothing stands out. It’s very classical with no surprise along the way and even though there are some funny dialogues here and there, it’s never really fun. “Expected” is what defines it best. You know… CBS.

The feminist underlying text which was already present in the original show is still there to some extant -and I’m not refering to the fact that Lacey listens to Beyoncé’s Run The World (Girls) in the cold open, though you can’t be more obvious than that- inside the office, Cagney and Lacey battle sexism when the men around them constantly ask each of them to smile. Both detectives refuse and point out that male officers are never asked to smile, empowering the other female cops in the office. It’s not much and I fear the show will never really go further than that but well, not every show with women at the center has to be woke after all. Other than that, the writer tries to make it look cool and modern with desperate moves like putting Coldplay’s Trouble when there’s actually some trouble and Sam Smith’s One Last Song towards the end. No subtlety allowed. Also, there’s a police officer talking about The Crown and later someone’s refering to The Handmaid’s Tale. Like “look how modern and pop we are”. Ugh! That’s not it. My last concern is about the number of secondary characters. We’re introduced to so many Cagney & Lacey’s colleagues… It’s exhausting. You don’t remember any in the end, especially since they come with no description other than if they’re male or female. They’ll have plenty of time to make them exist later, hopefully.

Cagney & Lacey’s reboot could have been a stepping stone for CBS in the way they portray women characters in their shows, with more complexity and diversity, embracing modernity, but instead they decided to stay stuck in the 20th century with the same old tropes. They want to make you believe it’s different but it’s not. Who are they kidding exactly? It’s just another cop show, a smooth production with no ambition. 

Charmed 2018 (The CW) pilot preview: Is the #STOPCHARMEDREBOOT movement worth the trouble?

Written and executive produced by Jennie Snyder Urman (Jane The Virgin, Emily Owens, MD, 90210, Gilmore Girls), Jessica O’Toole & Amy Rardin (Jane The Virgin, Selfie, The Carrie Diaries, Greek). Based on the 90’s hit series from Aaron Spelling. Also produced by Ben Silverman (Jane The Virgin, No Tomorrow, The Office, Ugly Betty). Directed by Brad Silberling (Jane The Virgin, Dynasty, Reign, Casper, A Series of Unfortunate Events). For The CW & CBS Television Studios. 61 pages. 2nd Revised Network Draft. 2/27/2018.

Description: Three sisters in a college town discover they are witches right after their mother died in mysterious circumstances. Between vanquishing supernatural demons, tearing down the patriarchy and maintaining familial bonds, a witch’s work is never done. Mel, Maggie & Macy will learn it the hard way…

With Melonie Diaz (Fruitvale Station, The Breaks, Nip/Tuck), Sarah Jaffery (Shades Of Blue, Disney’s The Descendants, Wayward Pines), Madeleine Mantock (Into The Badlands, The Tomorrow People), Rupert Evans (The Man In The High Castle), Ser’Darius Blain (Jane By Design, Jumanji), Charlie Gillepsie, Ellen Tamaki


Ever since The CW announced they were working on a Charmed reboot back in january 2017 -we were first to break the news and it was a prequel at the time, which is no longer the case- many outraged fans of the original show expressed their discontent -let’s call it like that- around the globe, while the actresses had some harsh words about it on their respective social media accounts. One year later, the network proceeded with a pilot pick-up anyway, that unleashed hell on earth. Original star Holly Marie Combs unloaded a magical amount of tweets to shade CBS -which owns the rights- like this one:

And she went on and on… In the meantime, a group of hardcore fans launched a Twitter campaign called #StopCharmedReboot, hoping it would discourage The CW but so far it didn’t work, as expected: new actresses were hired to play the three new incarnations of the story and a shooting date has been set (it starts march 19 in Vancouver). The movement is still going strong, with people airing their grievances every day but let’s be honest: unless the network is not happy with the finished product AT ALL, it’s gonna get picked-up to series, it’s gonna air next fall, it will get big streaming deals, it will be successfully sold internationally and even the most infuriated fans will take a look at it no matter what they say. The truth is: in the era of peak TV it’s getting harder and harder for your show to get some attention, that’s why there are so many reboots and sequels, and all this fuss about Charmed is helping it more than anything else; any press is still good press, right? If I had one advice to give to people who don’t want this show to work: STOP. TALKING. ABOUT. IT. Indifference is the strongest force in this universe! Right after The Power of Three, of course.

Without any further ado, I’m gonna tell you what I think of this pilot script. But first, just know I wasn’t a huge fan of the original show, I didn’t watch the entire thing, I never considered it as a must-see and I never understood why it was so popular and why it still is. But I have nothing but respect for a show that was able to please such a devoted and vibrant fanbase all around the world. It’s rare and precious. Also, what will follow is MY opinion only, from a business perspective more than anything else. Is it a promising script? Does it have the potential to become a hit for The CW? That’s what I’m interested in. Feel free to comment but please be respectful!

Back when the pilot was picked up in january, the network described it as “a fierce, funny, feminist reboot”, which was understood by many people as a provocation implying that the original show was not fierce, funny and feminist. Well, things have change, time has passed. What was feminist in the early 2000s -“girl power” and everything- looks a bit soft and cheesy nowadays. It was a first step. An important one. Charmed was a good example of female empowerment for little girls but it was no Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I don’t mean to belittle what was accomplished but let’s not rewrite history either. It was not groundbreaking. More than a decade later, in a world with the #MeToo movement -Rose McGowan is a huge part of it and it’s no coincidence- and shows like The Handmaid’s Tale, a straight follow-up wouldn’t have made a lot of sense. We can’t blame the new writers and producers for wanting to be timely. Their goal is to appeal to a new generation -with younger characters- and address the most pressing issues women face nowadays (the “case of the week” part is about a professor who’s a predator). So let me rephrase it: the Charmed reboot is fiercier, funnier and more feminist than the original show. I’m not sure it sounds better but you’ll have to deal with it! That being said, the script tries way too hard to look “woke”. More subtlety wouldn’t have hurt anyone. They’re clearly making a statement here, let’s just hope they relax a little after the pilot, not making it too heavy all the time.

The whole Mel character, the middle sister who’s a passionate feminist and an outspoken activist -with the ability to freeze time- sounds a little too cliché, especially when you add the fact that she’s a lesbian. Hear me out: it’s great there’s a lesbian sister in the show, that’s one of the reasons why this version is modern. BUT it might have been more interesting to give the feminist attribute to another character, so we don’t fall into the usual “feminists are homosexuals (who hate men)” trap. Still, she’s probably the most interesting character here; after the family tragedy, she becomes angry and violent, she loses her way, she loses her girlfriend too -Nico, who’s a detective in Hilltowne- so she adds darkness to a show that’s not light-hearted. Maybe that’s the biggest difference with the original Charmed: it can be funny because the dialogues are sometimes great and inspired -and we recognize the Jane The Virgin team here- but it’s pretty gloomy overall. The family manor is right in the middle of frightening woods, not in a sunny street of San Francisco. The opening sequence leans towards the horrific genre, with jump scares, fog, crows, murder of crows even… Same goes for the end with a Ouija board in the attic, and whisperings… A totally different atmosphere that is closer to Buffy, Riverdale or American Horror Story than good ol’ Charmed.

The younger sister, Maggie, is the complete opposite of Mel. She’s 18, your typical millenial girl who’s worried about her social identity -too bad for her, she can hear other people’s thoughts- and she’s not happy at all to discover that she’s a witch. She has a wry sense of humor and she’s part of a sorority that will probably play a major role in the subsequent episodes, between the mean girls she wants to be friends with and the weird guys that are lurking around her. She will probably become a fan favorite. Last but not least, the older sister who didn’t know she had sisters until recently: Macy, a “science nerd” in her late 20s with a Ph.D. in quantum physics. She’s moving with her boyfriend named Galvin to Hilltowne to do lab work. She possesses the power of telekinesis. Her love story is already totally boring and I’m not sure Gavin will stick around much longer. Finally, there’s Harry, the girls’ “devilishly handsome” advisor, refered to as a “whitelighter” like Leo was, who adds a lot of humor and eccentricity whenever he appears. Think Eliot in The Magicians. But he’s not exactly who he says he is…

You’re probably wondering if the Book of Shadows is still part of the story and the answer is yes. The Power of Three? Yes, of course. Are the Halliwell sisters part of the story or even refered to? Not at all. I don’t think they will ever exist in this version. It’s not a sequel. If the overall tone is darker, they kept most of the original show’s premice. They’re still the most powerful witches ever known, destined to protect both innocents and the world at large from demons and other devil creatures. They didn’t lie: it really is an update of the same concept with characters that are more diverse. It’s not just using the show’s name and popularity to do something totally different. It’s fast-paced, with transitions throughout that consist of three quick cuts which are in fact small slices of each women’s stories. Think How To Get Away Murder. They do something similar. I find it irritating on paper here and it doesn’t add much but why the hell not after all… We’re promised monsters of the week cases as well as ongoing stories about the witches’ love lives while the bigger picture is probably kept for later, once they will be familiar with their powers.

The Charmed fans will be pissed to read this but this pilot script is pretty decent. It’s not an insult to the original though they’re doing like The Halliwells never existed (and some might find that insulting, I get it). It’s modern and as feminist as they claimed, though subtlety is not their strong suit. The characters have things to say and stories to tell that should be heard in those troubled times. In other words, it’s not revolutionary in any way but it’s not the trainwreck haters would like it to be and there’s really nothing to rally against. Ignore it, don’t watch it, just let it be. There are more important battles worth fighting for.