Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pilot Script Review - Grace

Network: ABC
Written By: Krista Vernoff
Draft Date: January 7, 2011
Pages: 58

I thought I'd get things rolling with an inoffensive review of a merely passable script rather than start with something I'd be praising to high heaven.

Grace is a family drama centered around an aging choreographer and his, well, brood. The script has a very light touch with fast, breezy dialogue (think the flippant clip of Grey's Anatomy... remember, this is from Krista and Shonda is producing) and an occasional stylistic flair when Michael Grace, family patriarch and said choreographer, witnesses something and goes into DANCE VISION MODE, where his brain transforms interactions between people (often an argument) into dance numbers taking place in the "blackbox theater of his mind." It a nice, visual shorthand for the creative process of a choreographer.

Michael is the catalyst of this script. He is the force of nature, the center of the universe around which all else revolves. But he's not the protagonist. His second daughter, ex-dancer-turned-lawyer Sarah, is the main character. And, though she is partner at a law practice, she is pulled into Michael's orbit to help him in legal matters.

Like his financial shortcomings since losing his spot as an in demand choreographer for Hollywood. And a lawsuit from an 18-year old girl, Eden, who wants the 18 years of child support payments due her even though her mother never asked for a thing from Michael. Which, given his financial problems... is a big problem. Compound interest and all that. But, wouldn't you know, Eden happens to be a dancer (just like her mother... yes, the dance world is just that incestuous and philandering, at least in this script) and so Michael attempts to appease her by offering her a spot in his troupe and helping her improve her skills.

Michael was something of a hound dog back in the day. Sarah was the product of an affair Michael had while married to Helen, who is the mother of Shayna (aka Shay). Sarah's mother is no longer in the picture. Sarah and Shay are close in age and the best of friends and sisters. Then there's Eden (honestly, it's enough to make any of Brothers & Sisters' Walkers' heads spin). Interestingly, from a casting perspective, Michael was an equal-opportunity-philanderer in the sense that Helen is African-American, Sarah's mother (I believe) was Caucasian, and Eden's mother is Latina.

The weakest part(s) of the script is(are), honestly, anything and everything outside of Michael. He's just that charismatic and interesting that, when he's not involved... you just kind of want to go back to the dance studio.

Sarah is married to Adam, also a partner at the law firm, and she suspects he's having an affair (which he is) and decides to take action based on the sagely wisdom of 55-year old Helen (who, per the above, knows a thing or two about being cheated on). I'm all for thematic unity, but, honestly, I'm so sick of the sagely older African-American woman trope. Especially when Helen utters the word "Child." COME ON. Really?

Shay has her own problems. Dylan, the father of her teenage son is back in the picture and almost a year sober. So... that should be fun. Joe (the son), for his part, is sentenced to work at Michael's studio following an altercation with law enforcement (Sarah gets him out of true legal problems in one of those oh-so-typical "put upon, overwhelmed woman convinces a police officer to be lenient just this one more time" scenes that is all about Sarah and I have no idea why the cop lets her go on and on and on like that and... wait, I'm rambling). Though Joe at first snickers at Michael and his old hat ways, Joe is something of a street dancer and, wouldn't you know, Michael knows the lingo and is able to instruct Joe.

It's all in line with the easy, breeze, vaguely romantic sensibility that permeates Grace. And, yes, there are dance numbers. For what it is (I'm going to be using this qualifier a lot in these reviews), a light family drama set in the world of dance, it's perfectly acceptable. I never really felt like the family, or the dance company, were in danger (by the end of the pilot, Sarah takes the reins as manager of his dance company... so they're primed to butt heads, but the whole financial thing is kind of out the window and merely serves to put Sarah squarely back in Michael's world). So stakes may be an issue in the long run, but by then, I think the series will be trading on you loving the characters. Besides, Michael, I don't think I do. Yet. Perhaps seeing it all put together will improve some of his satellites.


Anonymous said...

any plans to review the CW scripts?

Travis Yanan said...

Yup. All in time. Haven't read any of them yet (but requests have already poured in for Awakening and Secret Circle, so those'll be the first two CW pilot scripts).

Anonymous said...

I would agree with you, had I not been honey-child-ed last Fall. So, yeah, really.

DuMont said...

This one should be lateraled by Mr. Paul Lee over to his former cohorts at ABC Family.

As nicely laid out as you've reviewed it, I just can't imagine sustaining interest in this concept and ensemble of characters through the fall season, let alone multiple seasons.

ABC has succeeded in the past with nicely crafted relationship dramas ('Once And Again', 'Thirtysomething' both come to mind), but this one sounds like an attempt to glom 'Glee'/'Dancing with the Stars' on to a drama.

Where are the innovative, ground-breaking dramas that have long been your brand, ABC?