Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Pilot Script Review - Damage Control fka In Crisis

Network: ABC
Written By: Shonda Rhimes
Draft Date: undated
Pages: 66

You have to give Shonda Rhimes credit. She knows from juicy. I am still pretty ticked off ABC didn't pick Inside the Box up two development cycles ago (perhaps it would have saved us all from enduring even a minute of Off the Map?)

Shonda dips back into the Washington DC pool with Damage Control, a relationship-laden procedural about Olivia Price, a renowned crisis manager, and her staff.

What, exactly, does a procedural about crisis management entail?

If our introduction to Olivia were all the show was, then it Damage Control would pretty much be a higher stakes, less-quirky version of USA's Fairly Legal. I bumped on the scene only because, well, the mediation has now been done (and, frankly, I enjoyed our introduction to mediation through Kate Reed's negotiation between a coffee shop owner and an armed robber more). But, whereas Fairly Legal is entirely about Kate and rests/succeeds squarely on the shoulders/considerable charms of Sarah Shahi, Damage Control isn't all about Olivia. In fact, the show begins with the a fun scene between one of Olivia's staff, Harrison, and Quinn, a lawyer. Quinn believes she's been set up on a blind date and showed up to tell him that she does do blind dates. Harrison is there to hire Quinn.

Oh, the mediation, as it were, where we meet Olivia is between two armed gangs of Russians over the split of a massive stack of money in exchange for the contents of a basket... which turns out to be the kidnapped baby son of an Arabic ambassador to the United States. In order to keep it from becoming an international incident, the ambassador called Olivia. She's the go to if things can't go public or need to be kept unofficial. Olivia has quite the reputation as a problem solver, and notoriety from her time working with Fitz(gerald) Grant, the President of the United States. Olivia helped get him elected.

Olivia Price and Associates is not a law firm. There are lawyers. There are also investigators. The case of the pilot and our/Quinn's introduction to what Olivia Price and Associates does is about Lieutenant Colonel Sully Sinclair, 32, the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War (at least in this fictional universe). Paige Montgomery, his girlfriend and best friend, is dead and the police think he killed her.

The goal: clear Sully's name.

On a procedural level, Damage Control isn't the most surprising of investigations. I kind of rolled my eyes (a bit) when Sully was presented with a moral choice of clearing his name or coming clean about something else (can you guess what it is without me hinting at anything about his character besides knowing that he's a decorated war hero? If so, then it'll seem glaringly obvious when you actually know more about him...)

What I did like about it, though, is that the murder isn't solved. That's not the goal. The goal, as stated above, is to clear Sully's name. These people are not cops. They do not solve murders. And I'm glad that, here, they didn't.

I like the open world Shonda has created here. Just about anything could walk in through the elevator doors as one of the cases of the week. A crisis to be solved. Olivia demands only one thing from her clients: they don't lie to her. Ever.

This being a Shonda Rhimes show, of course, there's more to it than a procedural A-story and it's through the B-story that we really get to know Olivia. Because none other than the President of the United States calls for her help with a problem (that must be dealt with quietly and unofficially)... an aide is accusing him of sleeping with her, and he didn't. Okay, technically, she gets a call from Cyrus, meets him, and then demands face time with the President (to look in his eyes and determine if he's lying). Olivia and Fitz meet, she takes the case, utterly destroys the aide's life to the point that the girl attempts to commit suicide (and fails), then in a last minute twist, hears something that makes her believe Fitz was lying to her and did have the affair. "Sweet baby." It's the same thing Fitz called Olivia. When they were having their affair (she left him because he said he wanted to work on / rebuild his marriage). So, Olivia goes to the White House on the night of a State Dinner for the French President and First Lady (believable... not really), confronts Fitz, and punches him in the face. And totally gets away with it. Juicy, no?

This being a Shonda Rhimes show, there's also a tendency for characters to repeat things three times in the exact same wording in the same scene to get their way. Hey, if the audience keeps buying it as an immovable object/irresistible force thing, fine.

A C-story involves Stephen, one of Olivia's more senior lawyers and her right hand man (who says "law firms are for pansies"), gathering the courage to ask his longtime girlfriend to marry him.

You see, it's all about relationships. Like I said... it is a Shonda show.

The remaining members of the crisis management firm need a little fleshing out... but this pilot, really, is all about Olivia. In that way, it's slightly like House. A screen-commanding lead character with a big problem to solve, seen at first through the eyes of a new staffer (here, Quinn, in House, Foreman... both picked because of their not-so-upper-class backgrounds).

I don't think ABC is going to pick up two Washington DC set shows. Of what I've read so far, they have this, and they have Georgetown. This comes from the producer of (still) their number one drama (not that that's meant a ton for the success of subsequent series) and has a procedural element and doesn't really play around with red/blue politics, while Georgetown comes from Fake Empire and is straight up soap that plays exclusively with politics. My intuitive tells me Damage Control is the far more likely candidate of the two for a series pickup.

1 comment:

DuMont said...

I do love the work of Miss Shonda Rhimes, so I am pulling for this one to get a pick-up.

My only concern is that the premise seems somewhat limited. While I applaud Miss Rhimes's attempt to get out of the overused genres of crimer, medico and legaler series, if I were ABC, I'd pay particularly close attention to her series bible and determine whether there are enough intriguing and varied storylines to be told by this crisis management team.

On pedigree alone, a pick-up, hopefully for mid-season, just to give everyone involved enough time to really pull this show together.