Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pilot Script Review - The Body Politic

Teleplay By: Jason Rothenberg & Bill Robinson
Story By: Jason Rothenberg & Bill Robinson & Peter Horton
Draft Date: January 30, 2009
Pages: 64
Network: CW
Category: Jury's Out

Please see the first paragraph of Pilot Script Review - The Vampire Diaries for my disclaimer about why this is Jury's Out. Though, as a congressional soap opera, the characters are in their 20s... the same rules apply. I believe that only a presentation is being shot, however.

This is a project that, I'm told, was saved from the brink by casting Minka Kelly in the lead. I agree. Minka is definitely an up-and-coming TV star, and while Friday Night Lights didn't rocket her up in the stratosphere, this starring role could be the ticket.

Please note, all character names subject to change (and I believe they have since the draft I read).

Minka plays Lily Foster, a 25-year old whose mother just passed away. She leaves home, and boyfriend David, and heads to DC in search of... something unspecified (at first) that her mother told her in her "open in case of death" letter. We find out that Republican Senator Robert Webster is Lily's father. Lily, too, is a Republican. Not that I expect the politics of BP to be anything remotely like The West Wing's, but it's refreshing that not all of the characters are Democrats / liberals... and having the lead be a Republican, I think, is rather ballsy on the script's part. In addition, Lily is a moderate Republican... a dying breed!

Lily arrives in DC rather unprepared for the world of staffer-being and without many connections. She also arrives when a Democratic Senator (Adamson) who was going to be made into the Attorney General dies from a heart attack, and the President (not seen, presumed to actually be Obama, though we get info to and from him via Lucky Evans - Brian Austin Green's character and an advisor to the President) needs to tap someone else to be AG. There's a choice, essentially, between Webster and Senator Ellen Buckley, a Democrat. Politics politics politics (if Webster is appointed, the governor of his state will likely pick a Democrat, giving the Democrats a filibuster-proof 60 seats in the Senate). There's also a plot about Buckley killing a foreclosure freeze bill to get back at a Democrat senator endorsing the Republican for Attorney General.

That's all backdrop for the sex lives and romances of our younger characters (who, IIRC, all wind up living together, or at least in the same building as I don't think Jessica would live with her assistant... but such small details escape me).

First, there's Jessica Sharp, a career-minded and rather bitchy legislative aid to Adamson who is having an affair with him. With him dead, (a) she has a problem on her hands because she was "in the act" when he died, and (b) she needs a new job. So she sleeps around (with Lucky, even).

Then there's Charlie Morris, a Washington Post reporter (Jason Dohring). He plays the game, and Lily believes he's betrayed him by using her as a source, though he actually didn't.

Third is Ben McGrath, the heartthrob, ex-Navy officer, currently working for Senator Buckley. He and Lily have bad romantic timing, but clearly are hot for each other.

More minor are Miles, Jessica's assistant, and Eve Cooke... perky.

There's room to grow here. After all, the background for the relationship drama is a world of backstabbing, backroom deals, alliances, etc.

So... enjoyable. My favorite of the three "Jury's Out" CW pilots... on the other hand, politics on youth-oriented network CW could be stretch (vampires and models are an easier sell).


Nathan said...

This is my second favorite script of this season. It was great and I loved the mix of teen drama and politic. Really great script but I do think that this is the least likely pilot to be picked up by CW. It is sad.

Annie said...

Lily is now Hope, and while I think that name is cheesy, I see why they changed it in light of the Gossip Girl spinoff.

I agree about chemistry being a big factor here, but I do think the script is very good. They assembled a really good cast and it has a lot of promise. I just hope that the CW will want to take a chance on something that's not exactly like so many of their other projects.

They did shoot an entire pilot for it. It was filmed in Richmond from March 23rd to the 30th, and it might be filmed there permanently if it were to be picked up. Which I really, really hope it is. :/

Travis Yanan said...


I can't believe I forgot to mention that! I was so troubled by the fact that the lead character in TBP was also named Lily... glad they changed it (although... Hope? Wow, okay).

Only 8 days for a pilot shoot (including a weekend so only 6 shooting days)? I think that's a presentation, then. Hourlong pilots usually have 13-14 shooting days, then in series (depending on the budget), most network shows have 8 actual shooting days (I know some cable dramas have 7 and really low budget shows like Friday Night Lights manage to do it in 6!)

Annie said...

Yeah, the name Hope is amazingly cheesy, but I guess it's better for them than sticking with Lily.

Only 8 days for a pilot shoot (including a weekend so only 6 shooting days)? I think that's a presentation, then. Hourlong pilots usually have 13-14 shooting days, then in series (depending on the budget), most network shows have 8 actual shooting days (I know some cable dramas have 7 and really low budget shows like Friday Night Lights manage to do it in 6!) Hmm, everything I've read seems to indicate that it was a pilot, and I've been following it a lot. Would they be casting all of the minor roles and tons of extras just for a presentation? All of the media in Richmond mentioned the pilot filming.

Travis Yanan said...


Well, they still call it a pilot, but based on the number of shooting days, no way they shot the entire thing. Usually for a sale presentation, what you're doing is saving the network (and studio) money by shooting key scenes.

You cast the major roles (and whatever else you need to shoot for the key scenes), and certainly populate the background with extras (as you'd need to do in order to make Congress, Senate hallways, and parties feel real). Then the network looks at it and says yes or no, and they go back and shoot whatever else needs to be shot and reshoot scenes where you've made casting decisions... or just reshoot the whole thing.

It's usually a purely financial decision (CW has a far more limited budget than the major networks so in order to do more projects and make the decisions, I heard they were going to do a few presentations).

For instance, Buffy had a presentation and they recast Willow with Alyson Hannigan (and the presentation was done reeeeeally low budget so they reshot everything). And last season Privileged shot a presentation, didn't cast the lead character's sister or the love interest (that wasn't Michael Cassidy) roles, and eventually recast the grandmother character with Anne Archer (And so had to reshoot her scenes).

Annie said...

I'll try to ask around to see if I can get a definite answer. I would think that it would be another strike against the show if BP was only a presentation while VD got a full pilot.

I know that BP cast all of the major roles (and I'm loving the idea of Gabrielle Union as Jessica) and the only minor roles I don't know about are Miles and Sen. Buckley, but I figure both had to have been cast because any key scene for a pilot presentation would have to have them (especially Buckley).

Do you know if any of the other pilots were only presenations?

Travis Yanan said...

As on a document I have dated March 23rd, Body Politic and Beautiful Life were presentations.

I don't think it has any bearing on them being viable for the fall versus Vampire Diaries, and I also don't think it's an either-or-but-not-both BP vs BL decision. CW has a lot of gaps to fill next season, didn't do a ton of development (and did no comedy development), and if it's wise is going to order a midseason backup. Honestly, if CW doesn't bring back Privileged and Reaper, I can see five of its drama pilots (all except for Light Years) being ordered to series.

My justification is that VD is going to be more special-effects heavy than the others, and you don't want to skimp on the money otherwise it looks super cheesy (see the Buffy presentation...) whereas neither BP and BL have much in the ways of effects work. What you see is what you get.

Nathan said...

Presentations are not on a different level I do not believe at CW. Last years Privileged that was picked up was shot as a presentation.

Annie said...

Okay, cool. Thanks for the info!

It's good to hear that you think there's a possibility 5 pilots could happen. I'm pessimistic but I'll hold out hope for BP. It's the only one of any of the pilots that I would watch.

Anita said...

That makes sense that the CW would try and save money where they could by doing presentations, instead of pilots. I read The Light Years, Vampire Diaries and Body Politic and Body Politic was the only one I actually loved! VD (That's definitely going to catch on!) - had that super cheesy, Scream vibe and I was bored before I got to page 20! I really do think it's success will depend on cast chemistry and seeing the female lead, I'm not sure if she can pull off such a heavy role.

For BP, I love the casting as well as the script and I have no doubt that Minka everyone can pull off their roles and we'll see that chemistry on screen. While, Ben, Charlie, Miles, Eve, Jessica (and soon to be Hope) live in the same brownstone, Jessica has her own apartment and isn't roommates with any one. She's also involved with both the Senator and Lucky at the same time and while the Senator knows about Lucky, I'm not sure if Lucky knows about the Senator. :)

I really, really hope Body Politic gets picked up!

TBPfan said...

This is a great show and should be on the air for a LONG time!