Sunday, April 18, 2010

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.


Anonymous said...

This project looks like a crib of 'Heartland', an exceptionally well-done CBC hour-long teen soap drama that has just completed its third season with 49 episodes in the can.

It's a family saga with impossibly good-looking young cowgirls and cowboys set upon an Alberta ranch, and I'm sure it could be picked up for a pocket change...rumour has it that the CBC licenced 'Just for Laughs' to ABC a few summers back for a $50k per episode pittance.

If Miss Ostroff paid any attention to what works and what doesn't on her affiliates (ahem, lets look at the Tribune group of stations, for example), she would learn that teen-soaps-from-Canada can be powerful ratings gatherers...hello 'Degrassi: The Next Generation', bonjour 'Edgemont'.

But this all makes too much sense for The CW. I'm sure this pilot pick-up will help Miss Ostroff patch things up with Miss Sherman-Palladino after that disastrous final season of 'Gilmore Girls' that was snatched away from her grasp.

Anonymously, DuMont

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