Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pilot Script Review - Georgetown fka The Inner Circle

Network: ABC
Written By: Will Fetters
Draft Date: January 19, 2011
Pages: 62

I'd like to begin this review by making a political complaint about it.

It's wrong.

And it really bothers me that the writers didn't do the research on something as simple as the number of votes needed to pass legislation in the US House of Representatives. I know The West Wing is years gone, and holding anything to its political accuracy and detail standard is a fool's errand.

But there are some things that are so simple to get right that when someone gets them wrong, it makes me not consider their point of view valid.

You are not entitled to your own facts.

So, when on page 3 of Georgetown, the script points out the cheers of celebration erupt in the West Wing when the 216th vote is cast on a landmark piece of legislation... it's wrong. There are 435 members of the US House of Representatives. You need 218 votes to pass unless there are vacancies.

Now, the entire situation this script bases itself in is a(n incredibly) thin facsimile of the Health Care Reform bill from 2009 and 2010. For that bill, 216 votes were needed to pass the final version in the House... because there were 4 vacancies. But the script never specifies that, and so, I worry.

So, um... minor quibble? Totally. But it really got my goat.

While we're on that note, this script feels incredibly anachronistic for something in contention to air in the Fall of 2011. It's based on the politics of a year ago. Political parties ramping up for a midterm election after a contentious, major bill is passed. Republicans in the minority (one must assume, in the House, though it's never specified) and saying "no" to anything and everything because it will help them in the midterm elections.

The issue, here, is that it's too close to reality... but one that is already antiquated. The disillusionment of the Left that swept Obama into office. The West Wing? It was a departure in the post-Lewinsky era of Clinton's season term.

Also, we never meet the President. We meet the First Lady (known only as "Elegant Woman"). It feels a little weird... given everything. We see the end of his secret service detail as he leaves a room. Also, we never hear his name. Honestly, he's referred to as "The President." BY EVERYONE. GIVE ME A SURNAME, DAMMIT.

Anyway. What was I supposed to be talking about? Oh, right, the script. I've been asked what I think of this versus The Body Politic (CW, 2009) script. I don't really remember TPB's script. I remember really enjoying the pilot presentation and being pissed off it didn't get picked up (especially in light of The Beautiful Life: TBL). That script was very much a mid-20something teen drama among the Washington set. Georgetown plays like it wants to be more adult. It wants gravitas. It wants to be serious.

Andrew Pierce is President Obama's Something's Director of Speechwriting, based loosely on Jon Favreau. He's the youngest to ever hold the job. He's credited in the script with turning President No Surname from someone who gave good speeches as a Senator to someone who gave great speeches on the campaign trail. Andrew dropped out of Yale to help a friend, Monty, with a business venture that would eventually become incredibly successful (a hedge fund to the tune of $10B), but he followed a girl into politics. He's an idealist and, in the wake of the "landmark legislation" passing, he drunkenly gives an interview to a reporter where, rather than commend the bill, he says that the Administration has failed because it came to change and rise above the political game, and hasn't, and the bill wound up not nearly as good as it should have been.

Andrew believes these things. Whether or not you do, in reality, about Obama and Health Care, ought to be besides the point, but I have a feeling that this is a show that won't be attracting anyone who leans too far right of the middle.

Naturally, Andrew finds himself in a predicament and though, through various machinations, he isn't going to be fired, he quits on his principles. And, by playing on those ideals and principles, he winds up being lured to the office of Senator Wallace, the Republican minority leader. This development is supposed to interest us and tease us into the next episode. As if Andrew is selling his soul to the Devil or something, or just to see if he can survive on the other side of the fence. But, again... I kind of feel like the presentation of "the Right" will be only as "the Left" sees it. It will feel pandering.

Also, the same night he gave his life-altering interview / drunkenly spoke his mind, Andrew has sex in a bar with a "gorgeous girl" who is a college student, the head of the President of the Georgetown Democrats, and who turns out to be Senator Wallace's rebellious daughter, Erica.

Oh, yes, there are other characters. And, natrually, many of them live in the same apartment.

There's Sam Whitman, the girl Andrew followed into politics. It's implied that she's rich, her father is mentioned though it's never said what he does or did (the past tense is used, so perhaps he's dead). She's the assistant to Michael Kline, a White House Senior Advisor. Through the pilot, Sam discovers that Michael's wife, Deanna, is cheating on him, and that he knows.

There's Nikki Argo, who does PR / works for Gale Sullivan, the Communications Director. She's invited into a closed-doors meeting between the Administration and Senator Wallace, where Wallace actually gives voice to the "saying no is good for my party until the midterm elections, so no compromise" and afterward talks to Bryce, a lesbian reporter friend trying to climb out from the Style section.

There's Peter Brooks, who works for White House Chief of Staff Vincent Feig. He's a smart, timid fellow with a crush on Andrew's assistant, Harper. Vincent promotes him to the head of a team of analysts and Peter is unprepared to lead. He also accidentally hires Harper as his assistant when he thinks he's asking her out on a date. One of his team members, Stacy, is clearly gunning for his job.

Outside this group, there's Monty Knox, the college friend running the $10B hedge fund. He's opening a Washington office and wants Andrew to work for him. And there's Jack McManus, who works for Wallace, and is describes as the "Southern Conservative" version of Andrew.

I just... outside of Andrew, there's nothing really special here, just on the page. And even with Andrew, it's Politics 101 talking points without insight. It's a reflection on the recent past instead of taking place in the present or near-future. And the soap opera conventions are just that. Conventional.


DuMont said...

I too would have liked to see The CW's 'The Body Politic' activated, and I liked the sound of Miss Shonda Rhimes 'Inside the Box' for ABC.

Maybe it's just the cryptic "elegant woman" character reference, but this one sounds, given the ABC pedigree, like an attempt to do a 'Dirty Sexy Money' on the Beltway.

ABC would be better off calling the creatives behind 'The Body Politic' or Miss Shonda Rhimes if they want to do a Washingtoner set series, because they both had a better feel for the town and its power play structure.

Anonymous said...

The idea looks good but the application looks terrible - not enough detail. I hope they work on the script.
There was a decent political show in 2004, "Jack and Bobby"; it was liberal but the two main characters didn't go overboard to make us agree with democrats v. republicans - there was one fairly unpleasant liberal feminist professor and one reasonable republican Dean of the University. The mother was actually not so bad but in 2004 the war in Iraq seemed like a good idea so the idea of a feminist, atheist, unmarried woman who listened to NPR and didn't watch TV was just too much to bear for some apparently. ;-p
One current political show is The Good WIfe. There's a lot about running a campaign and Chicago politics in it and it's done subtly.
I wish this "Georgetown" show could be good. Right now, it sounds disappointing but the change in title is a step in the right direction. Who knows, maybe the spirits of The West Wing and Jack&Bobby will descend upon its writers. :)