Written By: Michael Seitzman
Draft Date: January 22, 2009
Category: Thumbs Up
Easily my favorite of the "non-CBS" CBS drama pilot scripts, House Rules actually plays very close to CW's The Body Politic, but centered more around 30-somethings (and Congressmen/Congresswomen instead of staffers in / around the Senate). Which, being for CBS instead of CW... makes sense.
House Rules follows Julia Bryce (Dirty Sexy Money's Zoe McLellan), a high school history teacher just elected to the House of Representatives (and a Democrat).
Through Julia, we're introduced to a number of other Congresspeople ("freshmen" and otherwise) and staffers:
- Robin Calhoun, a Democrat from Virginia, daughter of a general, one of Julia's roommates by episode's end
- Kathy McAdams, a Democrat from California and self-described "soccer mom," Julia's other roommate by episode's end
- Alan Levi, a Republican (can't recall what state he's from), who Julia has a confrontation with on her plane to DC in the opening and who eventually helps Julia out with a bill she needs passed urgently. They have across-the-aisle chemistry.
- Cameron Drummer, not yet an actual representative, he is in a recount in his district (and, wouldn't you know it, he wins by the end of the episode... not that we ever meet his opponent so it's hardly shocking)
- Scotty Fisher, aide to the Speaker of the House (Alice Hardy)
- Nate Tiernan, Speaker Hardy's chief of staff and an ex of Julia's from college
- Speaker Alice Hardy, a Democrat from Louisiana, who ultimately proves more an obstacle to what Julia needs to get done than an ally
- John Granger, an experienced Republican Representative who campaigned for the man Julia defeated, but Julia is able to convince him to help her on her issue.
- Peter Chiba, a student of Julia's who ran her campaign for election and is transferring from Harvard to to Georgetown in order to work in Julia's office
House Rules plays much more legal than soap, so there is a tonal difference with The Body Politic, and the pilot of HR presents an interesting, pressing issue (always a problem with shows that aren't "lives in peril!" occupations like cops, doctors, and to some extent lawyers). Two of Julia's constituents' son just died. Their son, Jared, who was a teacher with Julia, was married to a woman named Maria, from Panama, for five years. They filed for residency, but were told it was "in process." Now, with Jared dead, Maria is being threatened with deportation (in two weeks... that's what we call a ticking clock). Oh, and they have a child together. So, mother could be torn from child, or grandparents torn from both.
Julia is not happy with the idea of a family being torn apart because of a technicality (Maria not being married to a US citizen at time of processing, instead of time of filing). But! She's a freshman representative. She doesn't have the clout to get something like this passed in time! So she talks with Speaker Hardy, who offers to support Julia's initiative if Julia changes her position on private school vouchers (Julia claims she is the lone Democrat who is pro-voucher because of her upbringing). But the timetable doesn't for for Julia (yay, ticking clock), so Julia reaches across the aisle, convincing John Granger (who is very anti-immigration) that the issue isn't about jobs or security, it's about family. He falls in line, and Maria isn't deported... and Julia becomes a rising star.
Yeah, the politics and intrigue could either play really well on screen or be dreadfully boring. I'm hoping it plays well! As with The Body Politic, the idea of having a political show back on the air excites me (though the idea of having two, remotely similar ones frightens me as it could potentially lead to a world with neither...) and this is certainly an "if not now, when?" climate. Of course, I have no idea where on CBS's schedule this thing goes, as it's so incredibly off-brand...