Saturday, April 24, 2010


I'm going to be away from the computer this weekend, but I'm bringing some scripts with me to try and cut down on the pile!

A little tease (um, because I'm not done with the script yet... about 15 pages to go) on HAWAII 5-0, which if you believe Nikki Finke's PRIMETIME PILOT PANIC word-of-mouth polling from about 7 people across the various networks, studios, agencies, etc all trying to push their clients' and favorite projects' buzz, has come in fantastic.

The script is AMAZING.

The original series is WAY before my time and I've never seen an episode of it. I don't know (and, frankly, don't care) how close it is to the original. I mean, it is a remake.

Doesn't change the fact that GOD DAMN this script knows drama and conflict and theme and...

Anyway, I'm excited. By a CBS procedural script.

Of course, we all know that my ability to judge these is poor at best since they aren't traditionally my cup of tea. What with my really liking the Washington Field script last season and it turning into the campiest piece of camp that ever camped when the screener came out. But Hawaii 5-0 has something on WF in that it spends the first 9 pages making us really, really, really give a flying f*** about the lead character. While also blowing up tanks and helicopters in South Korea and giving us a universal theme to sink our teeth into.

Anyway... there's your tease. Seeya in another life, bruthas.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pilot Script Review - Betwixt

Network: CW
Written By: Elizabeth Chandler
Draft Date: N/A
Pages: 61

If you know anything about me, you know that my interest is always piqued when there's something supernatural afoot in a TV show. Just so we're clear.

There are some interesting character turns and cliffhangers presented at the end of the draft of the pilot I read, as well as love triangle set up. So I see the series... and I'm incredibly interested in seeing what happens next on Betwixt, though I'm not sure how long that interest will remain. The pilot is one of those things that seems to do too much and give too much away and progress the plot too quickly. That kind of thing can be AWESOME for a pilot and can lead to a really lame series that spins its wheels too much, can lead to an AWESOME first season and then the story feels played and burnt out... or the writers can rise above and keep the series going strong. Or the pilot can come in incredibly confusing / long / in need of cuts and fixes.

But, also to be clear, I far prefer an overly ambitious pilot script to something with no aspirations.

It seems that Betwixt has been designed to lead out of The Vampire Diaries (a series that, if you'll recall, I was incredibly harsh on in its pilot stages - both script and screener - but have absolutely fallen in love with as the show took off after a bumpy first couple of episodes). You've got the mystical element. You've got a sense of history / show mythology that promises to go much deeper. You've got high school characters and love triangles a plenty to see what actually works between the cast. You've got some dark flair (actually, Betwixt is a lot darker on its surface than Vampire Diaries, with a lead character making some pretty dark choices by episode's end).

Sorry, let me highlight something. Betwixt is about fairies, though the term is introduced and quickly swapped for "changeling" (which are fairies / fey who replaced human children at a young age). I fear this will present a giant marketing challenge to the CW. It's just not as simple to sell as a show about vampires (to paraphrase Buffy, "Vampires are real, a lot of them live in Mystic Falls").

Anyway. Marketing hurdles aside... there's a show here. The script started a bit rough for me (and, again, it's likely an earlier draft than the shooting version, so plenty of opportunity for improvement / smoothing out here as well as for other projects). After a dark, tension-building tease, we flit between what will become our three lead characters - Nix (who is a guy, BTW), Celine, and Morgan (le Fay, get it! Hah!) It's very staccato and we aren't really attached to any single one of them yet. But we should be intrigued because they have powers. Powers that confuse and scare them. This is important to know because the next 10 pages until a bus crash, action-y Act One climax are pure teen soap (an element that gets a little lost in the back half of the script as the action ramps up) with these three and various people in their lives. There are also two adult-ish (because they aren't teens but they aren't parents, so, adult-ish) characters in "Moth" and "Bleek." Guess which one is evil. Seriously. Guess.

I mean, it's good, evocative naming, but that the plot asks us to be mislead... didn't quite work for me. Just because of a name.

The pilot deals with the fallout from the bus crash, but not in a Veronica Mars season mystery sense. These kids need answers. And they're going to get them. As are we. Lots of answers and mythology and backstory. Again... I felt the script, at times, leaned too heavily on explaining things outright here and now. It gets a little bogged down in the exposition and giving names and classifications to various elements of the mythology (dust! cutters! fairies! powers! guides! fairies' weaknesses!) It's a lot to take in on the page, though we'll see how it plays coming out of an actor's mouth. I suspect that quite a bit of it will have to be cut down either in revisions or in the editing bay.

There are some specific things in the script I wish weren't there. For instance, I'm REALLY tired or hearing or reading the line "if I/they wanted you dead, you'd already be dead." It was on Tuesday night's episode of V and I rolled my eyes at the "wow, that's an overused line" and then it showed up in this script, so... yeah. Please change it! Also, we really need to find new ways to describe people "going over to the dark side" because "going over to the dark side" is also overused.

I'm also not 100% certain what the intended tone of the show is. The characters don't have enough fun so I wonder just how campy it's all going to come across.

But I will be curious to see how it comes out.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Pilot Script Review - Hellcats

Network: CW
Written By: Kevin Murphy
Draft Date: January 12, 2010
Pages: 58

I'm not going to spend much time on this review, as there's really very little to review. Remember when all those Grey's Anatomy "in the world of ____" scripts were coming out a few years ago? Well, this is the first of the Glee rehashes. The title Cheer made a lot of sense, as it's ostensibly Glee in the world of collegiate cheerleading. And you can also see why it had to be changed. Too close for comfort.

The actual content of Hellcats is close enough on the surface to Glee, with several helpings of Bring It On (a film that is name checked when Marty, the ex-gymnast brainy girl who needs help renewing her scholarship or she'll get kicked out of college and thus is trying out for cheerleading despite making a habit of mocking the cheerleaders with her townie friend during their practices, rents the movie prior to her tryout... and, SHOCK!, is brought on the team because her infusion of cheerleading and dance moves makes the cheer coach excited). Honestly, why not just do a TV branded version of Bring It On? Yes, yes, I know, they come out with direct-to-DVD sequels every year or so.

Back to the Glee comparisons. Let's checklist this stuff, shall we? There are some direct parallels.
- team: McKinley High Glee Club / Lancer cheer squad
- a visit to see the big future competition: Vocal Adrenaline / Southern Christian cheer squad
- former champion in club when it was a strong program and is now back as coach: Will Schuester / Vanessa somethingorother
- other coach in school conniving to get funds sent back their way: Sue Sylvester / Red somethingorother (and, no, Red doesn't come close in the script to standing out the way Sue does... despite elements of carbon copying, Hellcats doesn't have the tone and zingers of Glee... and certainly not the musical performances)
- member of team working to various degrees with other coach to hurt the performance of the team: Quinn, Santana, and Brittany / Alice (who is injured and Marty replaces her)
- authority figure who tells coach that if they don't win at ____ level of competition, the club is over: Principal Figgins / Bill somethingorother, the head of athletics
- lovable outcasts: Rachel, Artie, Kurt, Mercedes, Tina / Marty (kinda?)
- budding romance between lead female and lead male jock type: Rachel & Finn / Marty & Luis
- shower scene with lead male jock type: yes (for Will to discover Finn's voice) / yes (for Luis to surreptitiously give Marty his towel when her clothing has been stolen from the locker room)

Um... yeah... so... who's suing who? Well, I guess Kevin Murphy got away with it when he crappily ripped off Cupid and made it into Valentine... though this is far closer to Glee than Valentine was to Cupid.

There are some things that are different. As above... no musical performances in Hellcats. Though there are cheer sequences (so, basically, we get dance montages instead). There are no Sue Sylvester zingers, but, well, Jane Lynch is incomparable so there was never going to be anything close.

Oh! And let's not forget the speed with with the Hellcats have to prove themselves. While Glee took 14 episodes (if you include the pilot) to get us through the first round of competition (but only the qualifying round that makes sure that sometime in the future they will have to face their true competition), Hellcats accomplishes that by the end of the pilot because the qualifying round is just one week away from the start of the action. And, oh boy, does it feel rushed. So much so that there is absolutely no room for aftermath... the final page of the script has a disembodied announcer telling us that Lancer has received a great score from the judges and qualified to fight another day mere seconds after the Hellcats complete their routine.

Pass. For the love of god, CW, pass on this project.

Pilot Script Review - Nikita

In an effort to decrease the length (and thus, hopefully, increase the frequency) of these script reviews, I'm not going to be writing the reviews as I go along and then editing after I'm done.

Network: CW
Written By: Craig Silverstein
Draft Date: January 8, 2010
Pages: 61

First, let me say that while I may have seen bits of the original La Femme Nikita series, I've never seen a full episode. I also haven't seen the movie. In an effort to see where this reboot differentiates from those two incarnations, I used Wikipedia (oh, substitute for actual research, I love you).

I liked Nikita, but I didn't love it the way I loved Nomads. Nikita is simply more standard spyfare, and more standard CW-fare. Meaning I'm much more certain of its pickup than I am of un-CW Nomads.

Nikita is sexy. It's actiony. It's got a TON of characters to the point that the pilot feels sprawling (but not in a bad way). It's got pathos.

But I didn't love it. Why? Well, just because something has the above doesn't mean I have to like it let alone love it... but the reason reason?

I loved Alias. And Nikita feels like Alias-light.

The key difference between CW's Nikita and the ones that came before? The Nikita in the CW version has gone rogue. She is out to take down Division (oh, ominous and nondescriptive names for government agencies... I missed you). You see... Division is now corrupt because it takes it orders from corrupt / unscrupulous bankers. Gotta have financiers to run the place... I do love how bankers are the villain du jour.

Unlike Sydney Bristow, she's not taking Division down from within with the help of the CIA (as far as we know, anyway) giving us one and a half seasons of double agent tension. Nikita's basically doing it herself. And not from within... since they know she's rogue.

LIKE Sydney Bristow, Nikita has gone rogue because Division killed her boyfriend Daniel when she got too close / told him about what she does (okay, it's been a couple days since I read the script, I know we don't see her tell him, but I think it's implied elsewhere that's why he had to die). I mean... come on. Many names in the English language. Doesn't even need to be an English name. WHY CHOOSE DANIEL? For those who don't recall, Sydney's fiance was named Daniel and SD-6 killed him when it got wind that Sydney had told him what she really did.

So... Alias-light. My opinion? Alias is one of the most perfectly crafted pilots ever. You can't touch it. Ever. And Nikita doesn't come close (even though, again, it's not bad... I did like it).

We're also introduced to a new recruit in Division whose story plays more like the "traditional" Nikita backstory of a girl involved in a bank robbery, but that plot seemed tangential for much of the pilot (though I am interested to see where it's going given the twist that I won't reveal).

My hope is that CW doesn't see Nikita and Nomads and say "well, we can only have one spy show." Though it's in the realm of probability.

Pilot Script Review - Untitled Wyoming Project

Network: CW
Written By: Daniel Palladino & Amy Sherman-Palladino
Draft Date: January 12, 2010
Pages: 67

Blissfully, this 67 page script, like so many Gilmore Girls scripts before it, did not read like a 67 pages script.

UWP is about a family and about a town. You'd think Amy Sherman Palladino would be the person to write a show like that. I liked about half of the seasons of Gilmore Girls, so it's not that I don't like her distinct style Amy Sherman-Palladino. And I can definitely see, sometime in the future, caring about these characters as time passes.

But in the pilot? It's really hard. Mostly because of one character / sideplot in particular, but the "isn't this town populated by quirky characters?" thing just bothered me. Been there, seen that.

Things start off poorly when the first 3 pages of the script are flashes between the present and various times in the past of some man whose face we don't see until page 4 (even though we're following him for 3 pages). It's exposition, it's not done in a fantastic or even acceptable way... if I were the executive on the show, I'd say cut it and start at page 4 (and then the script would be a totally manageable network draft of 64 pages!)

The show is about the Thorpe family and their ranch in a town in Wyoming. Gideon, the man in the expository flashbacks, is a ranch hand and something of a horse whisperer, thanks to his deceased father. Oh, Gideon is only 22, but he's the oldest in his family of 5 siblings. Empthy! I should be feeling it! And I do. I also feel empathy for Dinah, the 16 year old and oldest sister, who spends a lot more time being a parent (even during school hours) than being a teenager. That's a story I'm interested in. The other 2 siblings, Maggie and Bird (both female, FYI), who live in the town (no, I don't recall what the town's name is... I'm not sure if it was mentioned) are young and plot devices. The final sibling and Gideon's only brother, Dakin, returns to town by the end of the script from Stanford University and OMG CONFLICT finally occurs. Seriously. Finally. It takes until page 50+ for there to really be conflict in this script.

And that's a problem. There's plenty of opportunity for conflict. For instance, Gideon is sleeping with the wife of a rich man, who Gideon knows. That's an acceptable, soap-y seed laid for later in series should it come to that.

But that man also wants to buy some of the Thorpe's land. And the sale of the ranch becomes a point of contention in the pilot. So here's a question... when Gideon goes to the family accountant, why does said accountant tell him that there's cash flow now and for the foreseeable future, and he'll warn Gideon if it gets to the point that they're in dire straits?


Anyway. So, with the exception of Dakin coming way too late for my tastes and once he does being confused about what happened because so much internal family conflict happened so fast... I like the Thorpe family. I'd watch a show about them and their struggles. I'm not saying it's the most original thing ever, but there's definitely SOMETHING there.

And then there's 21 year old Lucy. Lucy December. She comes to town on page 20. And has over a page of crazy-person-talking-to-herself monologue.

She is, instantly, the the most intolerable person on the planet and I don't wish to spend a single minute with her, let alone allow her to suck away screentime from the Thorpe family. But we're subjected to her, and all of her self-aware Little House on the Prairie references, for a good deal of the script. She hates New York City, where she was born and has lived all her life, and has come out to help her grandmother, who just had a stroke. Only it turns out her grandmother is fully functional, and had not returned any of Lucy's phone calls about coming out to Wyoming because she wanted nothing to do with Lucy or the rest of the family. We're supposed to care about Lucy because two townies who own a clothing store take advantage of her (and we do smile when Gideon, crossing paths for the first time with Lucy, simply tells the women to give Lucy her money back). Sadly, their paths cross again and again until Lucy is attending the family dinner when Dakin comes home (even if there were some confusing time jumps and day count references that hopefully get resolved in script revisions).

I would be happier if their paths crossed with Lucy underhoof of Gideon's white horse.

Maybe an actress will be able to pull it off... I don't know. Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.