Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pilot Script Review - HMS

Network: CW
Written By: Amy Holden Jones
Draft Date: January 6, 2010
Pages: 58

HMS (aka Harvard Medical School... not the Her Majesty's Ship Pinafore... oh, if only) begins with its lead-ish character, Nell Larson, arriving at medical school on a city bus and handing her bags to an elderly woman (potentially homeless, just saying) so that she can run into the middle of the academic quad, spin around, and call her boyfriend Zack / send him pictures. And it makes less dramatic sense as it goes on.

Although it's probably a good thing that Nell begins as merely flighty and naive instead of flighty and incredibly unlucky (i.e. had all her belongings been stolen). Not that anyone is watching, but didn't Scrubs try the upbeat med student thing already this year with Lucy?

Ms. Holden-Jones commits a Script Reading Cardinal Sin by naming a character Nate when we already have a Nell. Note to writers: there are 1000s of names and 26 letters in the English language. Start character names (especially regular characters) with different letters. And if you MUST start a character's name with the same letter at least make the names different lengths. It just makes the reader's job easier. Exceptions to the rule: when it's a thing, like how the Scavo kids on Desperate Housewives all have first names starting with the letter P (Parker, Preston, Porter, Penny).

Nate, go figure, is supposed to be drop-dead gorgeous. Just once I want the CW to cast a lead character who isn't from the factory.

We meet Elle Woods, er, I mean Brittany Lace. Thankfully, the super-rich super-hot girl presents herself as Kind and Caring rather than the Snooty Bitch archetype. Also she later proves her self both knowledgeable and entirely capable.

Next is Autumn Lee... an Asian stereotype and then some. Essentially-humorless and over-studious. I wonder what shenanigans these crazy kids will get into trying to get Autumn out of her shell while they're supposed to be cutting open cadavers.

By page 10 we have also been introduced to 3 more charming stereotypes: Indian (as in India) uber-greek Krishna, tall and basketball-playing African-American Ace, and ostensibly-religious-and-gay-Latino-of-nondescript-origin Carlos, while also getting our Grey's Anatomy-ish warning about how OMGZHARD Harvard Med School will be (apparently 1/10th will consider suicide, which prompts Autumn to "humorously" - I suppose - write "consider suicide" in her notebook... yeah...)

Page 10 is really where I ought to put this down and if I weren't doing these damned reviews, I would. I know it's super passe, but... bored now? Oh, wait, now Nate and Ace are playing SHIRTLESS pick-up basketball. That'll hold my interest for another quarter-page.

Now that we've gotten past character introductions, I'm going to stop the play-by-play. Because, y'know, plot... meh. Basically, Lucy, um, I mean Nell fails miserably at her First Attempt To Be A Doctor. But, heart-warmingly, the random people she's met and apparently calls her friends (despite the fact that we really haven't seen much evidence of a connection or even interaction between them besides lockers in a hallway and possibly living somewhere in the same dormitory if not on the same floor and happen to be in the same class as her) totally rally around her immediately. But she's still completely down in the dumps bad-moody about it.

Prescription? Apply ample amounts alcohol. We meet more characters at the party (so many stock characters...) and we find out that EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER HAS A BACKGROUND THAT HAS LED TO THEM KNOWING THE SPECIALTY THEY WANT. Only Nell's chosen specialty is an unimpressive "general practitioner" and thus she is to be shunned according to the assholic character, Alex, er, I mean Leo. And, again, Her True Friends rally around her.

While this is a totally acceptable way to get background out... lame?

You might not be aware of this, certainly the characters don't seem to be, but medicine saves lives and has made several heart-string tugging advances in the last several years. Finally, halfway through the pilot, we get to what seems to be the main medical case of the pilot (only it's not really a case... first week med students...), a comatose 23-year old girl. OMG, you guys... the characters are, like, totally 23-ish, too. Empathy! Also! The cause of soon-to-be-death was Bad Doctoring (by way of staph infection from a not-properly sterilized IV needle). And, of course, our lead character will develop an Inappropriate Personal Connection to this probable corpse (which the girl quickly seems to become, we don't see the face of the cadaver but Nell recognizes enough to assume... and assume incorrectly, of course, because otherwise there wouldn't be a Necessary Twist).

Utterly atrocious sequence where Nate and Nell can't resist each other any longer and Nate is super complimentary about how Nell will one day become Dr. House but not a jerk because She Notices Things... in the room full of cadavers, and Leo gets them in trouble and the Crusty Old Dean tells N&N how disappointed his is in them and goes so far as to tell Nell that they took a chance on her thanks to a glowing recommendation letter. PLEASE CUT MUCH OF THIS REPRIMAND FROM THE FINAL PRODUCT KTHXBAI.

Nell has an anxiety attack and goes home for the weekend so we can meet the boyfriend and he can pick her up literally in his arms and swing her around and figuratively. And no guiltily-blurted-out revelation from Nell about macking on Nate. They must be saving that for sweeps. Nell visits her mentor, who wrote that totally awesome recommendation letter. He gives her another pep talk and she saves a woman's life (someone she knew back home) thanks to her New Doctor Skill Set of Asking Questions and Getting Patient Histories and Using a Stethoscope. Which is great, because, you'll find this crazy, but that's exactly what Nell's teachers were saying was important earlier in the pilot.

Then we get nine characters' reasons for why they want to be doctors (which is a more longwinded version of the "what specialty do you want" from before that, in comparison to this schlock, was both efficient and understated).

Final Verdict: Pass the bucket from the Gross Anatomy classroom. VOMIT.


Julia Honeyman said...

And you know they are going to pick it up.

Travis Yanan said...

@Julia it certainly is "on brand" for the CW... so I wouldn't be shocked... just disappointed.

And, who knows, there could be magic in the air with the final, filmed product. I hated the script for Life Unexpected (or, Parental Discretion Advised) but the pilot turned out well, there were script changes after the draft I read, and the cast made it work.

Anonymous said...

Life Unexpected is amazing, and they need to renew that show. This pilot sounds terrible, and if they pick up Hellcats that will flop as well. I don't think Nomads would be that successful, because it's sort of like Jack & Bobby on The WB. Strong show, but before it's time. The CW is the network that no one takes seriously. If they wanted to watch that kind of show they'd watch NBC, Fox, CBS, e.t.c , and definitely not The CW.

Anonymous said...

You read a draft that is five years old, not the shooting draft. Harvard medical school first year students read it and loved it, for what it's worth.