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.


Anonymous said...

We are now in an era where writers of pilot scripts and movie treatments are evoking or riffing on dearly departed 'Veronica Mars'.

I can't say that I'm impressed with the pilots under consideration at The CW this development cycle. It's a pity that Miss Ostroff doesn't put the Slaverats card from Mr. Rob Thomas back into her Rolodex, because I'm sure he'd activate that unpicked-up 'Veronica Mars: FBI Academy' pilot in a flash, just to help out the grim decline-in-motion CW.

Anonymously, DuMont.

Postscript - you have put together a commendable website, one that is worthy of my bookmarking and continued visits. Thank you, travisyanan.

Travis Yanan said...

@Anonymously, DuMont

Actually, CW has kept Rob Thomas and Slaverats on its Rolodex. Thomas developed a sci-fi show called "Plymouth Rock" with CW and WBTV this season, but it was not picked up to shoot a pilot (or even a pilot presentation), I hear, because of the budget.

Anonymous said...

I'm actually very thankful that Rob Thomas wasn't tapped for anything here. He's a hack and that Veronica Mars: FBI thing was the worst piece of poo I think I've ever seen. It seems that once people started noting the greatness of Veronica Mars Season 1, it all went to Rob's head and the rest... is crap.

Remember he also gave us the characters from the 90210 pilot.

Matheus said...

This one seems interesting. Anyway, let me be random ans ask you if you know the name of Matt Bomer's project. Didn't you get to read it?

Travis Yanan said...

@Matheus I haven't read it / don't have it. I believe whatever project he was working on, he just turned his script in and it would be under consideration for next season (or, potentially, to shoot an off-season pilot for midseason consideration).

Anonymous said...

Hi thank's so much for this reviews i was really looking forward to read something about this but about betwixt did the character start to interact and discovers powers in the pilot? There is some action parts?? And it's better than the scripts of last season Vampire diaries and Melroose place

Thnx Fran

michelle said...

I really hope this will get picked up.

May I ask how you get all these scripts? Gimme some.