Friday, April 1, 2011

Pilot Script Review - Heavenly

Network: CW
Written By: Richard Hatem
Draft Date: undated
Pages: 67

Oooh, so close.

Guys, I am so close to liking this script. And then it just schmaltzes out. WHY OH WHY!?

Heavenly is the story of Dashiell Coffee. Dashiell was an angel. His job was saving people in moments of crisis, and after having saved the same woman twice (once when she was a child and once just now, when she is an adult... it's the first time in hundreds of years that Dashiell saved the same person) something sparks in Dashiell. Emotion. Feelings. He wants to experience them and so he asks God to make him human so he can live among us... provided he can still save people. God agrees (but with the twist of removing most of Dashiell's powers, so he must help in more conventional and convoluted ways... the power that remains seems to be that his touch influences people to open up and be honest about their feeling with him).

Or did God agree?

Dashiell might just be a crazy person. It's just a question of whether or not you believe. The signs and narrative certainly seem to point around 99% to "yes, he was an angel." But there is a tiny bit of room for doubt. Just not much.

I wish the room for doubt were bigger. Is he or isn't he?

There are echoes of Rob Thomas's Cupid here. In fact, if I had to pitch Heavenly as X meets Y, it would be Cupid meets Touched by an Angel (you see where the schmaltz comes in...)

Dashiell Coffee, much like Trevor Hale, assumed his name from found objects when he is first asked to identify himself (after he tries to work his brand of magic/miracle and discovers that his heavenly powers have left him). He has moments where he seems like a child or certainly has that sense of wide-eyed innocence... after all, being human is quite new to him. Dashiell isn't as big a personality as Trevor, though, and the script doesn't have the same wit as Cupid.

There are two people filling the "Claire" function from Cupid here. In Cupid, Claire simultaneously played the voice of reason and the love interest. Here, the voice of reason is Owen, a pastor seemingly without faith. Dashiell stumbles into his church tells Owen his story, expecting a man of God to believe him. Maybe helping Owen find his faith is part of Dashiell's quest... on top of finding the woman whose life he saved twice. Owen helps Dashiell on his way, and naturally, the woman he's sent to, Lily, is the very woman in question (and the "love interest" side of Claire... and of course there's a triangle brewing because Owen and Lily used to be a thing). She's a lawyer at the pro bono wing of a big law firm and currently questioning if she's really doing any good. Dashiell talks his way into becoming her paralegal and we're seemingly set up to have Dashiell and Lily "save" people on a weekly basis through sheer force of will and the occasional court scene (but not with anywhere close to the banter of Trevor/Claire).

The case in the pilot involves Lily defending Jared, a straight-A pre-med student, accused of killing his best friend in a car accident. It won't shock you to know that the emotions on both sides are played to the fullest and that the student didn't commit the crime. Dashiell at first complicates and almost ruins the case, but then is actually able to do more than the justice system ever could: get two families who used to be close talking again, and forgiveness. Sch-mal-tz.

I call into question the end of the lawyer side of the pilot, where the crack team has figured out that Jared is innocent and calls back to the witness stand the person who actually committed the crime and, with little persuasion, he actually confesses. It's called taking the 5th. I don't understand why people don't do this.

There's also a confusing bit at the end where it appears that Dashiell, who all the while has avoided telling Lily about his being an angel, seems to, but doesn't quite, or maybe did? The script read like a dialogue block had been chopped out and I was missing the part where Dashiell either implied or explicitly said it. One moment he says "I worked in crisis management. In a context I can't really get into" and then in his next line, where Lily has said nothing, he says, "I asked for a transfer. And it was granted. That's when I became a human being."

Unlike Cupid... I'm not sure what Dashiell's series arc is. Not that Cupid ever got there in either rendition, but we knew, off the bat, that he believed if he matched 100 true loves, he'd be let back to Mount Olympus. Dashiell doesn't have anything comparable. His drive here is murky. Is it to help Lily? Owen? The world? I'm not sure. And it's not like Lily and Owen are trying to find Dashiell's "true" mortal identity.

One final thing. Dashiell is something of a slut. After getting drunk for the first time (on a mai tai), he goes home with Lily and kisses her (she pushes him away) and then after the case, he gets drunk on mai tais and winds up sleeping with Sasha Nouri, the opposing counsel (and one of two yoga practitioners who saw him naked in Lafayette Park when he "arrived" from heaven). This is probably a good thing because as of yet, besides women who take him home, I'm not certain where he's living.

Sasha, of course, says, "Oh... God" as Dashiell beds her.

There are a couple conveniences taken in the script. I don't mind that Lily is the person Owen sends Dashiell to, or Owen and Lily's relationship. That's just part of the setting up the soap. There's a needless, at least for me, "sign" involving an origami bird that is on the sign to the legal clinic Lily works at that connects to an origami bird Dashiell received from a convenience store clerk when he touches her and she opens up about her very sick grandson. I just didn't need the extra "sign."

I can't say I disliked this. I just hope that some of the more treacle-y parts can be scrubbed out. Then again, Cupid was tried twice and failed both times, while Touched by an Angel ran for nine seasons. So maybe it's best for CW if the schmaltz stays in. I certainly think there's an audience for it. I might even be among them if I ever need a particularly feel good hour.


Anonymous said...

Dashiell sounds a lot like Castiel from Supernatural, the horndog act being the biggest difference. Even their names sound similar. Nicknames too. Das/Cas anyone? I think I'll stick with the original CW angel and just watch SN.

Travis Yanan said...

Dashiell didn't remind me much of Castiel (and the el/ell suffix is common in naming angels). Castiel is comically dry. Dashiell is more of an earnest puppy dog.

Anonymous said...

Travis is right. Ending the name with -el/ell is typical of angel names in the Christian Bible.

DuMont said...

I say greenlight it. 'Cupid' and 'Valentine' were both my kind of shows, and The CW needs to balance their sked with a more hopeful fantasy series to go with their current gloomeisters 'Supernatural' and 'The Vampire Diaries'.