Friday, April 15, 2011

Pilot Script Review - Hail Mary

Network: CBS
Written By: Jeff Wadlow
Draft Date: January 7, 2011
Pages: 59

It's the madcap amateur private investigation adventures of crazy white woman and drug-dealing black guy!

No, seriously, that's what it is. Plus a little Southern charm to go with it.

Set in Atlanta, Mary Beth Baker, a polite but tough Southern belle in the vein of Leigh Ann Tuohy from The Blind Side (prone to cover up swear words with phrases like "son of a biscuit") is a guidance counselor out to help her students, preferring creative tough love over punishment and constantly butting heads with the principal at the high school, a rabid Georgia Tech football fan, and a grieving mother whose son, Josh, was murdered a year ago in what seemed to be an altercation involving drugs. The crime was never solved and Mary Beth spent her savings on a PI who, well, never solved the case. Her dead son's best friend, KZ, is a small time thug and fast-talking con-artist. The two are brought together by a case eerily similar to Josh's death. By solving it they hope to find the truth about what happened to Josh. Along the way, Mary Beth manages to butt heads with what seems to be the entire Atlanta PD.

That they succeed shouldn't surprise you. What did surprise me was that Josh's death isn't a long arc. The ramifications of a reveal involving corruption within the police department seem to be the long-odds Mary Beth and KZ will find themselves up against in series.

There's a lot of what feels, to me, like way-too-on-the-nose dialogue. No one will accuse this script of subtlety. There's also an out of place (for me, dawg) character in Billy Shifflet, a 10-year old neighbor of Mary Beth's who stops by three times during the script to impart extremely eloquent and beyond-his-years wisdom to anyone and everyone. Mary Beth's technological incompetence (itself rather unbelievable for a woman of modest means in her late-30s... it's not like she's 70 and can't use a computer or, like, the answering machine... we're definitely in caricature-land here) necessitates the character Ingrid, a mid-20s punk-rock tech-geek administrative assistant at the high school who helps Mary Beth out in her investigation.

I... think it's okay? I think it's surprising as a CBS show, because there's so much off-beat, caricature-y humor or at least many attempts at it. And that humor will make or break the show. I think it would be really refreshing to have something with a peculiar sense of humor to upend the musty old crime shows on CBS. I'll have to see if it plays or falls flat on its face.

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