Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Pilot Script Review - FOX Pilots

You know the drill. Reviews in brief, and though I've seen screeners on two of them (Lonestar, Ride Along) thoughts on those will (hopefully) not bleed into these reviewlets.


Unseen, Fox picked up the right shows. That's pretty much all there is to say. With the possible exception of Pleading Guilty (a script that really didn't seem to know what it was within the complex relationship-y, crime procedural, lawyer/cop/PI amalgam it had going on) not getting a pickup. But, hey, FOX has the good fortune of having success on its side and not having as many holes to fill this fall as it usually does (though, let's all be thankful there's no second go at a Fall season of SYTYCD... not that I dislike the show, but it was too much, it's a summer show, leave it for the summer).


Lonestar - Though I still think it needs a new title as neither Lonestar nor Midland (its prior title) are as engaging and unique as the script itself. I actually read two versions of this script, a longer, earlier version, and a pre-production draft that had been culled down. Some wise cuts were made, some good additions made. Lonestar is about a man named Bob Allen. A charming man. A fast talker. Successful. A con artist. Son of a con artist. A con artist who married one of the marks in a long con to get access to a Texas oil company and wipe them out. A con artist who fell in love with that woman... and also fell in love with a mark in a small suburban section of Texas. The two women provide him with different things... and both of them are real. And real is something this son of a con artist has never known, and something he desperately wants. Goddammit this story is so engaging and, at times, challenging, that it's hard to believe it's on network TV. It reads more like an AMC show and I hope that continues into the series. But, hey, Fox said to the world last season with Glee "dare to be different" and Lonestar is definitely that. There are little moments in this script that say everything with a simple visual and it's just... it's nice to read in a network script because I don't feel like I'm being hit over the head with it. The key moment I'm thinking about comes late in the script when Bob, having been handed the keys to the oil kingdom, confronts his father and says that he wants out. He'll give his father (have I mentioned the father is a con artist yet?) money, lots of money, to let him just have this one real thing. Bob leaves after an argument and John reaches across the table at the diner and stabs into Bob's stack of pancakes. It says everything about what John plans to do (and without the anvil-y dialogue of an earlier draft where John tells his son that "when they offer you money, that's when you have them" and so, with Bob offering John money... well, we'll see how it all develops).

RIDE ALONG - Shawn Ryan doing what Shawn Ryan does: crafting an intense, complex police show. Ride Along, like Lonestar, really uses its setting as a character. In Ride Along, that setting is Chicago. The reason it's called "Ride Along?" Not because there's a reporter in the car. We're in the car. We're never in the precinct. Not your usual cop show. The case of the week in the pilot is pretty complex, to the point of perhaps being too complicated because with the amount going on in addition to the primary case... it's a lot to keep your mind on. But it all works (for me). The only thing that doesn't work for me are the damn voiceovers the begin each act (and conclude some of them) from various characters. Yes, it's used to dramatic effect when one is cut off (due to circumstances I won't spoil), but... well, if you've been following me on Twitter, you know that I've had more than my fill with voiceover (with some exceptions, yes). The only other drawback to Shawn Ryan doing what Shawn Ryan does is that you're so laser focused on the intensity of the plots and characters... there's not much time for other emotions.


Terra Nova - Read a draft from last summer. 100+ years in the future, we've frakked the planet up something fierce, overpopulated, overpopulated, overdeveloped, and we've apparently been able to invent time travel, but not interstellar travel, so the solution posed is to go back in time 154 million years and... well, I'm not entirely sure. Maybe that was the only distance they could go back? It's something that's going to need to be seen. As is, the human villain is way too mustache-twirling for me, but there's a lot that works. I like the main family (who are part of the 10th trip to the past, so it's not like they're the first people to cross over/back and having to figure everything out, build shelters, etc). There's a big world being set up... here's hoping for payoff.

Pleading Guilty - Again, this script was kind of an amalgam. Too many things at once. I read the Hart Hanson draft and it was too quirky by half. Felt more like a USA show with a bigger cast than USA shows usually have. It wasn't offensively bad, it just made me feel like Kara Dioguardi, constantly trying to figure out what box Siobhan was supposed to be in and failing. But it also wasn't so far removed from things I've seen/read before so it didn't have that new car smell.


Breakout Kings - Not my cup of tea. I don't need my characters to all be likable. But I have to give a shit about them and enjoy their company enough to invite them into my home each week. And, really, the USMS can't find any profilers who aren't racist, lecherous, thieving convicts (and offering to lower the number of years they have left in prison for every mark they bring in)? I know for a fact that they can. And even if they couldn't... the special skills of the people brought together amounted to little more than making my stomach turn. The plot itself played out twistingly enough... but at the same time felt, well, played out by pilot's end. No need for a return visit.

Worthy - Oh, boy. Bad time to be writing about Arizona politics. Even if there weren't the big illegal immigration fracas going on... this was just a shitty, shitty read. Like, start to finish. Thankfully, with it not getting picked up, we've all been spared innumerable puns on the title. Worthy, BTW, was the surname of the lead character, a Representative running for governor against the incumbent after the incumbent was caught in a Larry Craig airport restroom sting. Also, there's a Mexican mob boss who I kept picturing as Paula Deen with an axe to grind for some reason (hey, *I* didn't write the description or the dialogue). I just take issue with scripts that attempt politics and then fail to really do anything with it other than have caricatures parade around limousines and press conferences and back room deals while being bafflingly terrible at their jobs.