Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Pilot Script Review - The Asset

Network: FOX
Written By: Josh Friedman
Draft Date: January 13, 2012
Pages: 63


Spy fare on television has run the gamut over the last decade. We've had twisty spy-fi from Alias, the increasingly unbelievable real-time antics of 24, nerdy rom-com with Chuck, the dark revenge story of Nikita, and the light-hearted naivete of Covert Affairs

The spy series of the moment is Showtime's Homeland. It's startling, in comparison to the above examples, in its attempted realism and its flawed protagonists.

You certainly can't accuse The Asset of shying away from the same. This show is dark, and its lead both complicated and flawed. The lead, Anna King, is the best at what she does, we're told. And she seems very in control, a superb people-reader, capable of lying to anyone and having them believe her. She compartmentalizes, able to betray even those she loves (for instance, a sting operation on her case officer, who she is sleeping with... the script thinks her involvement is veiled but it's really not, at least to this reader). Sex, it turns out, is a lot of what Anna does. She is a spy-hooker and has, apparently, no qualms about it. I'd like to know more about what made her that way, but the pilot gives us little-to-no indication, instead taking us down a mission of the week involving a bomb going off at a hotel in Mexico that serves to introduce us to Anna and the team around her. We see Anna fuck and betray, notice and uncover, and ultimately the case is over.

My issue here is that I'm not sure what I'm coming back for next week. She doesn't seem to have much of a world outside of her job.

Homeland posed a question about Sergeant Brody that seemed like a yes or no (is he a prisoner of war turned terrorist?), but while stringing that answer out and making us wonder what was mislead and what wasn't, it presented a fascinating situation for both him and his family (Jessica's "infidelity" if it can be called that) as well as Carrie Mathison and the whole of the CIA world around her.

I can't even go into what the Alias pilot (which, seriously, go back and rewatch that pilot... it's among the best ever, IMO) served up, the number of balls it tossed in the air. The world fell apart around Sydney Bristow.

24 had its once-fresh-later-gimmicky real-time premise and screamed "there is a terrorist plot!" and didn't wrap things up at all by the end of the first out.

I could go on, but I think you get the point.

I'm not sure what about this series makes it different or special besides its darkness. And, again, it does have darkness. I'm intrigued by Anna King, but I don't know how much more, if any, I want. Or need. It's a good script, really it is... but is it enough? That's the question. And I don't have an answer for it... though, in the past when I've had that question and the pilots have turned out well and gone to series, I generally am out by episode four.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Pilot Script Review - The Selection

Network: CW
Written By: Elizabeth Craft & Sarah Fain (based on the novel by Kiera Cass)
Draft Date: January 19, 2012
Pages: 61


YES (with a couple quibbles / questions / reservations / etc).

Guys, I'm in love with this project in a way that I didn't expect to be. Its logline (300 years in the future, America doesn't exist anymore, but there's a caste system of 8 levels and a monarchy and potential future Queens are picked in a lottery, one from each of the 35 Districts Sections of the post-America country, and enter a competition to become the Queen) is a little long and eye-roll-y and I've read way too much of the glut of dystopian YA lit that's been published post-Hunger Games (and can I get a SQUEE!!!! that the first movie is barely a month away?) for this to ever really register as fully original.

And, y'know what? It's not fully original. But that doesn't mean it doesn't work. And it's the first attempt to adapt dystopian YA to a weekly television series format, so it'll wind up feeling very different than the Hunger Games' movies. Whereas the Hunger Games is an annualized totalitarian method of oppression via a reality TV version of Battle Royale, The Selection is more like The Bachelor.


Any time there's a Prince in IlleĆ”, 35 girls are chosen to compete to become his bride.

See? The Bachelor.

But there's so much more to The Selection than that.

First off, our lead character, the semi-eye-rollingly-named America, is a "Five." In the caste system, that places America squarely in the middle. The Ones are the royal family. The Twos are super-duper wealthy. The Eights... they're mentally ill, homeless, and felons. So, things could be worse for America. She's a singer. Her mother plays the piano. Her sister, May, the violin. Her dad used to be a cobbler, but he's been injured. There's not much hope of upward mobility.

That's where The Selection comes in. You marry the prince... you become a One. You even make it to "The Elite," the final six girls in the competition for his heart... your family gets elevated to Two. That's kinda huge.

May is really, really interested in being Selected. America... not so much. She's fallen in love, you see.

With a Six.


His name is Aspen, and he's a waiter. And their love is pretty much illegal. They're saving up money to pay the fine for marrying between castes... and once they have it, they're gonna get hitched. Which will make America a Six, too (no idea if it's because he's the man in the relationship and you inherit your husband's caste... but that seems to make sense).

That isn't hugely important, though, because, of course, America is Selected (while performing at a party for local Two, 19-year old Jasmine Grantham (WINK, DOWNTON ABBEY), who is hoping / expecting to be Selected (there are undertones that become overtones that, even though The Selection is one of few ways to be upwardly mobile in this society, it's a rigged lottery and The Selected are more based on political ties and monetary needs).

So, of course, America bitches and moans until the people around her convince her that going and trying to win is really the only thing to do.

Yes, America is yet another YA female protagonist to whom things happened, and not someone who really acts that much. Sigh. Bella Swan. You set such a horrible template. Although, America's "fuck the caste system" attitude is quite attractive from a modern/real-world stand point.

In America's case, the convincing comes via Aspen enlisting in the Army without telling her (which means he's not allowed to marry or even have a girlfriend until his ten years are done... at which point his caste is elevated... to a Two! Wow, IlleĆ” really respects their veterans... but, hey, there's a war going on, as always, and also a rebellion brewing so Aspen's chances are kind of terrible) and her family guilt-begging her into doing it for them (see above, re the family getting elevated to Two if she makes it to the final six).

And all of this is the set-up. The first act. I haven't even touched on the other competitors (pretty much all Twos and Threes, America is the only Five who was Selected in the who country), the gowns and designer shoes (America really stands out here with regards to her level of disinterest in these things) and Prince Maxon (instant love triangle) and Queen Amberly (OH MY GOD, THE QUEEN, SHE WINS, I CAN'T EVEN TELL YOU HOW MADE OF WIN SHE IS).

Oh, and the rebellion. There's that going on, too. So, danger.

Obviously, as it hasn't been published yet, I can't compare Craft & Fain's script to the novel. I don't know where the novel goes (though I certainly have more than serious suspicions based on the pilot). But I'm *SO EXCITED* to see this thing realized and on my television machine on a weekly basis.

My biggest question mark / quibble (beyond America's relative passivity at certain points and the limitations of not really getting to know too many of the other girls in the competition so most of them beyond chief competitor / presumptive winner / manipulative bitch Celeste seem like so many Red Shirts) is where Aspen winds up.



Aspen winds up, unbeknownst to America, one of the newest royal guards at the Palace. I understand this as a way, perhaps the only way, to put the love triangle in an immediate front and center position. But it doesn't track for me, timing wise... as Aspen seems to have gone through basic training and been assigned in a matter of 96 hours. I mean, you can picture Aspen guarding Maxon at some point and it being fraught with love triangle tension, and America even finding out about Aspen's presence and being tempted to rekindle her love with him... which would be problematic for both of them in their new positions (her, because she's supposed to be competing for the prince's heart and certain parts of it are televised - though not all of it; him, because though there's a great reward if you survive being a soldier for 10 years, you apparently have to do it celibate and unattached).

But, really... cannot wait to see what happens next.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Pilot Script Review - Applebaum

Network: CBS
Written By: Ayelet Waldman
Revisions By: Sherri Cooper & Jennifer Levin
Draft Date: January 23, 2012
Pages: 65


I love these kinds of reviews. Short, sweet, very little to think about.

Ladies and gentleman, welcome to mediocrity... the kind of television show that I raise my nose at, but CBS shoves on the air and gets 10+ million viewers every week showing. It goes down easy. You don't have to think about it. A question is posed and then it is answered and, just maybe, there's a little emotional story for the investigator characters. Bing, bang, boom, you're done.

Ugh, I'm so bored by it all!

The "take" of this particular iteration of the crime procedural is a light-hearted mix of family and investigation. That, and the main character, Juliet, is a PI, not a cop (though her PI partner is an ex-cop). Juliet is a happily married mother of three and an ex-public defender. No, I'm not entirely sure why, after having her third child, she went into a life of being a PI instead of going back to her job as a PD. I think we're supposed to read/watch and think, "Oh, it's so amusing how she's balancing being a mother and a PI, and how her perspective and relationships as a mother help her solve crimes!"

Juliet Applebaum isn't exactly Gregory House or Patrick Jane, though, in the sense of "I'm dying to come back and watch this magnetic, flawed character every week." Things, really, are good in her life. No conflict at home (except whether her six-year-old daughter, Ruby, has an eating disorder and if Juliet can survive a visit from her mother, who happens to be a judge). No sexual tension with Al Hockey, the ex-cop who is her partner in crime solving. But there is a fun, light flippancy about a lot of it, and it comes across as more grounded and believable and comes together better than CBS's attempt last season at a quirky PI show, Hail Mary.

The case of the week in the pilot is the death/murder of the assistant principal of the charter school Juliet is trying to get Ruby into. I'm not sure if Juliet and Al Hockey will be looking into murders on a week-to-week basis, Jessica Fletcher-style, or if some weeks may be more traditional PI work. The benefit of murder is that there are life and death stakes. It was a problem, I think, shows like Veronica Mars (which I loved... for the first two seasons... in retrospect am kind of ambivalent on the third) ran into... week to week it was a crapshoot whether the mystery of the week held water. Veronica Mars had the additional elements of teen drama, social status clashes, and long-arc mysteries tiding over the weaker MotWs... and that stuff isn't really present in Applebaum.

So perhaps a murder of the week formula is what the series, should it get there, needs. But I think this show would stand a better chance of getting to series with a touch more drama to look forward to, whether we're talking UST or simply wanting to watch a unique force of nature get the bad guy in the end. Juliet's not there yet.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Smash Series Premiere Quarter Hour TV Ratings Breakdown


- 14.124 million viewers
- 8.6/13 HH
- 4.9/12 A18-49

- 11.302 million viewers
- 7.3/12 HH
- 3.7/9 A18-49

- 10.227 million viewers
- 6.8/11 HH
- 3.4/9 A18-49

- 10.120 million viewers
- 6.7/12 HH
- 3.4/9 A18-49

So, big semi-immediate rejection, but the lack of massive continual bleed could be encouraging. I was asked about the effect of it being available to stream for weeks in advance on whether week two would have the typical drop, or if those people had seen it and will tune in next week. I haven't done enough research into the matter to weigh-in in any informed way, but I suspect The Voice will be down next week, and that may have more to do with how much Smash decreases than any effect of "viewers not tuning back in" vs "previewers tuning in now that it's episode two."

Pilot Script Review - Arrow

Network: CW
Story By: Greg Berlanti & Marc Guggenheim
Teleplay By: Marc Guggenheim & Andrew Kreisberg
Draft Date: January 11, 2012
Pages: 60


"This city deserves a better class of criminal."

I keep contemplating that quote from Heath Ledger's The Joker in The Dark Knight when thinking about this script. But I'll get back to that.

At first blush, I was largely underwhelmed by Arrow. It's an origin story and, being a DC Comics character, it's both a fairly familiar one and one that doesn't inspire a ton of empathy. DC doesn't really do flawed or pitiable heroes the way Marvel does (*he says, remembering that as a boy he read both and currently reads neither, but always had a purile affinity of the unquestionable awe-striking heroics of Superman and Friends). Oliver Queen is a spoiled rich kid who got lost at sea with his massively wealthy CEO father, their head of security, and the girl Oliver was banging. Five years later, Oliver is rescued from an island in the South China Sea. Somehow, he survived (none of the others on the boat did). And he's been changed. He's strong, wily, and is on a mission to clean up Starling City (something we later learn is basically his father's dying wish). We go through the motions of meeting family members and friends and ex-lovers who used to know Oliver. He tries to convince them he's okay and is the same person, all the while crafting his secret identify (that he seems to have had in mind, but is only able to legitimize / begin to put into action when he and his best friend are kidnapped - ooh, conspiracy! - and he rescues himself while his best friend is supposedly but probably not unconscious).

The cast of characters are...
- Moira, overwhelmed mother
- Thea, younger sister, who was the only one who believed Oliver was still alive but is royally fucked up because of his five-year absence (because it's a CW show and it apparently needs a sexy female teenager who does drugs)
- Tommy, best friend and still a rich party boy
- Laurel, do-gooder attorney, Oliver's ex, the older sister of the girl who died in the boat accident (so... awkward...), and currently dating Tommy
- Walter, Moira's new husband and head of the Queen Consolidated conglomerate

Let's stop there. We meet Walter on page 8 and know he's with Moira shortly thereafter... so if you're smelling a Hamlet adaptation format, you'd be living in my olfactory senses as I read. And you'd be right. Except for the twist at the end that I won't spoil, but thankfully there was a twist and it's not a literal Hamlet adaptation of "uncle killed my father and married my wife and now there's something rotten in Denmark."

There are more characters, too, including Laurel's father who happens to be the detective on the trail of "The Arrow," but the one I want to focus - sort of - on is the villain of the piece, Adam Hunt.

"This city deserves a better class of criminal."

Adam Hunt is a terrible villain. Not terrible like terrifying. Terrible like... pathetic. We're made aware of him through Laurel's legal story, a class action against him for fraud and predatory lending. It isn't going her way because, from the get-go, we're told what he did was deplorable but technically legal. So Oliver, on the outs with Laurel but hearing her plight, goes outside the justice system to rectify the situation by scaring the bejesus out of Hunt, telling him to wire $40M to an account by such and such a time, or else. Hunt doesn't do it, of course, but surrounds himself with guards and calls in the cops, and Oliver is still able to get inside the supposed stronghold and hack his way into Hunt's computers / accounts, and escape largely-unscathed (there's a close call with Hunt tossing a grenade - both a laughable action villain line and an actual grenade - as he runs into a panic room), then anonymously transfer $50K each to the people in Laurel's class action law suit. So, fear not, there's very much the expected Robin Hood aspect to the story.

Look, origin story villains are hard. They're either the villain that forces the hero's journey, or an existing problem that the nascent hero can take down. But they can't be the biggest of the big bads because where does the hero grow from that? And they aren't a villain created in a response to the hero's presence. But besides being a privileged rich guy who hides behind guards instead of taking action like changed privileged rich guy Oliver... I don't really know what Adam Hunt says as a villain about Oliver Queen as a hero. So, I found him kind of unworthy and I hope the series is able to provide a better class of criminal in the future. And I don't know if Adam Hunt continues past the pilot, but I'm curious what the week-to-week villainy/antagonists will be like on this show (if any... the MOTW format seems to be a relic at this point, though I'm sure it will one day be dusted off and done in a fresh way). I imagine the conspiracy around the boat accident and Oliver and Tommy's kidnapping are long-arc villains and not a week-to-week antagonist presence. But we'll see.

And by that I mean that I expect to see. Now that I'd read more pilots from the season, I'm thinking back on this project more positively because I think it works emotionally, even if it's not breaking any new ground. It's solid, broad-audience popcorn entertainment (action! suspense! love triangles! family secrets! conspiracies!) and unless there's some epic fail in rest of the process, I have to think this gets picked up.

And, please, don't complain about Justin Hartley / the Smallville version of Green Arrow and this being different.

Super Bowl XLVI, Post Game, and The Voice Quarter Hour TV Ratings Breakdown

Oh, very well, Internetz.


- 96.089 million viewers
- 41.6/68 HH
- 34.4/77 A18-49

- 102.106 million viewers
- 43.4/70 HH
- 36.6/78 A18-49

- 106.719 million viewers
- 45.1/71 HH
- 38.3/79 A18-49

- 109.070 million viewers
- 45.8/71 HH
- 39.2/78 A18-49

- 111.339 million viewers
- 46.6/72 HH
- 40.0/79 A18-49

- 110.468 million viewers
- 46.1/70 HH
- 39.9/78 A18-49

- 115.925 million viewers
- 48.4/73 HH
- 42.3/81 A18-49

- 112.135 million viewers
- 46.4/69 HH
- 40.7/77 A18-49

- 114.088 million viewers
- 47.4/70 HH
- 41.7/78 A18-49

- 114.601 million viewers
- 48.1/70 HH
- 42.0/77 A18-49

- 114.825 million viewers
- 48.4/70 HH
- 42.3/77 A18-49

- 115.944 million viewers
- 49.3/70 HH
- 42.9/77 A18-49

- 118.355 million viewers
- 50.9/72 HH
- 43.9/78 A18-49

- 116.909 million viewers
- 50.4/72 HH
- 43.5/77 A18-49


- 93.076 million viewers
- 39.8/59 HH
- 35.7/66 A18-49

- 78.843 million viewers
- 34.7/53 HH
- 30.7/60 A18-49

- 61.013 million viewers
- 27.0/42 HH
- 24.8/51 A18-49


- 46.786 million viewers
- 21.4/34 HH
- 19.6/42 A18-49

- 39.494 million viewers
- 18.7/31 HH
- 17.2/38 A18-49

- 36.310 million viewers
- 18.1/30 HH
- 16.0/37 A18-49

- 32.630 million viewers
- 16.9/29 HH
- 14.3/35 A18-49

- 31.792 million viewers
- 17.1/30 HH
- 13.9/35 A18-49

Monday, February 6, 2012

Pilot Script Review - Beauty and the Beast (ABC)

Network: ABC
Written By: Jon Steinberg
Draft Date: January 18, 2012
Pages: 59


Okay, I'm just ripping the wax off with this one...

I hate this script.

There's really not much else to say, though I'm going to try and find words instead of impolite expletives.


Sorry. I'm better. Thanks.

I'm going to make an attempt to describe what it is, then expound on why I'm so incensed.

The basic story here is a girl trying to help her father, in her quest to help him she gets herself held captive, and then perhaps falls for her captor, who then allows her to leave to save her dad.

So, yes, the basic plot twists and turns are very reminiscent of a certain animated feature film version of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale.

But then there's how the details of those broad strokes are filled out, and everything else.

I've spent a few hours now, off and on, trying to figure out the best way to describe what, exactly, those details are without coming off like a flame thrower in an oxygen tent. For the moment, I find myself incapable of expressing anything but my visceral reaction.

There is a lot going on and a lot of characters (courtiers and council meetings and soldier fiancees and old crones with obscure wisdom and fights with monsters and rebel encampments and daring rescue attempts and toad-ish nonhumans that only talk in grunts but can be understood by a select group of people, Chewbacca-style), and there is also very little going on and almost no one who could be described beyond stock.

I'm not sure what's being fought for, or what's truly at stake, or why I as a viewer in 2012 should care or be invested.

I don't feel the epic romance connection between the beauty/princess and the supposed beast/seven-foot-tall giant soldier rebel samurai-ish guy.

Even rules of the world feel arbitrary and constantly shifting, down to the system of government (which had been based on "Emperor dies and we find someone born that same day and make him the new Emperor because maybe he has the old one's soul" and following a rebellion/assassination is now semi-hereditary although I think the script implied the crown princess needs to marry to actually ascend to her throne, but now there's another rebellion brewing trying to go back to the old ways... or something).

I've decided that this is simply something that I will need to see to judge, because I can't do it from the page. I'm confused. I'm an avid reader of fantasy fiction and I'm confused by what I just read. Of anyone I know... I think I should be the one who understands this stuff. And I'm confused.

A confused viewer (not the same thing as an intrigued viewer) is one who turns the channel.

And this is a broadcast network's first attempt at a pure fantasy show post-HBO's Game of Thrones? No wonder I'm not on board. Calling this Beauty and the Beast is a mistake, too. Sure, it may have the basics of the story, but it sets up wildly unmet expectations.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Pilot Script Review - Beauty & the Beast (CW)

Network: CW
Written By: Sherri Cooper & Jennifer Levin
Draft Date: January 11, 2012
Pages: 65


Two things to note going into this review. One, I have not yet read the ABC / Jon Steinberg B&TB script. There will be no apples to potentially-different-fruit comparisons. Two, the only familiarity I have with the 1987 Linda Hamilton / Ron Perlman CBS series that the CW version is a remake / reimagining of is a quick glance at Wikipedia.

Based on that Wikipedia entry, a whole heckuva lot is different about the 2012 Cooper & Levin version. The only things that really seem to remain are the leads' names. Catherine is our Beauty. Vincent is our Beast.

Catherine Chandler wanted to be a lawyer.

In 2003, she was working as a bar over the summer as she studied for the LSATs and one night, she left her car's vanity mirror open the whole shift. Her car's battery died, so her mother came to pick her up. They were attacked. Catherine's mother died. Catherine ran, and was chased. She was saved by... some creature. A beast. Of course, her psychologists tell her that description is just a trick her mind played on her because her attackers were "beasts."

It's nine years later. Catherine is unlucky in love, has a history of choosing jerks. And a jerk has just pulled her heart out and stomped on it (outside an Adele concert, no less!) Catherine is roommates with her younger sister, Heather (who, thanks to this being a premise pilot, is mostly just a sounding board/counterpoint to Catherine vis a vis her relationship with men, their father, etc... it's a good, fun, believable sisterly relationship and I'm sure in series we'd get to know Heather better). Catherine is also... a homicide detective.

That summer night in 2003 really did change her life.

Catherine and her partner Tess are brought in on the case of a murdered Vogue fashion editor, where the first piece of evidence is a mysterious fingerprint on the victim's clothes. Mysterious not because it's a fingerprint, but because it belongs to Specialist Vincent Koslow, MD, who died in Afghanistan in 2002.

Catherine explores this lead, trying to find people from Vincent's past. He was an ER resident before 9/11, then enlisted after... because his family died in the towers.

Now, I'll pause here. In general, I have a problem with using 9/11 in fiction. I know. It's a thing. We're over 10 years later. You can't just ignore it if you want to tell the truth. It changed a lot of people lives, maybe every American's life and however much further you care to extrapolate/globalize that, directly and indirectly. It's my issue and I have to get over it. But it's still an issue I feel I need to bring up, because I think we're going to be seeing a lot more of this kind of thing. My major problem, being an East Coaster who lived in an NYC commuter area, is when it's used for emotional exploitation (I refuse to see Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close). Thankfully, here it's simply part of a character's backstory.

Okay, back to the script and away from my baggage.

Catherine tracks one of Vincent's old friends (his last known roommate) down... at an abandoned chemical warehouse... and though Catherine and Tess are turned away, we find out Vincent is alive, living in the chemical warehouse, and is the "beast" who saved Catherine's life in 2003 (per a news clipping he's held onto).

What proceeds is a light, banter-y crime procedural with strong character elements. There's an investigation, the murder is solved (are you surprised?), Vincent and Catherine meet and have sexual tension... though I'm not sure if it's UST. The script gives no indication of what, exactly, this "beast" looks like. As far as I really know, he's fast and strong and reclusive and has some rage issues... but not incredibly inhuman (and there is no secret utopian underground society). So I'm kind of picturing a werewolf at this point and not some grotesque monster that needs to hide in the shadows. The backstory there is that he's been experimented on, so he's got some genetic mutations. There's a conspiracy/company (Muirfield) behind it, and he's trying to stay off their radar, but Catherine accidentally alerts them because Vincent (who tried to save the murder victim's life) left some trace DNA evidence that matches exactly to Catherine's mother's murder... and it's not entirely human.

CW needs to crack its version of a crime procedural (yes, yes, they have Supernatural). This may be it, with its mythical Gothic romance trappings. I won't pretend this is groundbreaking, but what it is... is enjoyable. I love the characters Cooper & Levin have created. There's a comfort and familiarity and breeziness to the way they talk and interact on the page and, ultimately, I think that's why a lot of people like the TV they like. Hopefully that translates to the screen.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Pilot Script Review - The Carrie Diaries

Network: CW
Written By: Amy Harris
Draft Date: December 20, 2011
Pages: 60


Remember that one time when Gossip Girl, at the height of its ratings and buzz (aka: season 2) tried to do a backdoor pilot about Lily Rhodes in the 1980s? Well, for some reason / many reasons, that didn't wind up happening. Now, three years later, CW is a changing network with new leadership, Gossip Girl is gasping for its last breath / apparently is getting one last season for some reason... and we have another 1980s-set teen drama that's a prequel to an iconic New York City-set series (that also happens to share two out of three words in its title with CW's lone, um, successful? show, The Vampire Diaries... so that will be fun and confusing if this is picked up... and before you jump down my throat, TVDers, please keep in mind that I think TVD has developed into one of the best network dramas on the air right now).

Where was I. Oh, right! Carrie Bradshaw.

I will say that, having sat through 94 Sex and the City episodes and 2 SATC movies (or, really, one movie and one horror show where depressingly materialistic women try to ignore that they're aging and throw everything that's bad about Western culture into the face of the Middle East), I could very, very clearly hear Carrie saying these lines (write Amy Harris did work on SATC), especially the abundant and theme-explicating voiceovers (which I'd ordinarily complain about... except that TCD is just following the SATC template). In fact, I heard Sarah Jessica Parker in my head while reading those lines. A very large part of me wonders if the show could get SJP to record the voiceovers like Kristen Bell does for/as Gossip Girl and Bob Saget does for How I Met Your Mother.

If you're a stickler for continuity... The Carrie Diaries is just a tad different than what was "established" in SATC (then again, SATC never really talked much about Carrie's backstory). So, try and forget anything you knew about Carrie. And that sound you hear is all of the gentlemen readers who are, somehow, still reading this review after the prior paragraph shrugging.

The year is 1984. Carrie Bradshaw is a sixteen-year old about to start the first day of a new year at high school. But there's a change... because her mother died of cancer three months ago. This year is different. Carrie's fourteen-year old younger sister, Dorrit, has reacted to the trauma by developing a pot habit and biting Carrie when they fight. Their father, Tom, is generally clueless to the fact that Carrie's mother always took her shopping for a new outfit for the first day of school, and so, being Carrie Bradshaw, Carrie Bradshaw is depressed and passive-agressive about this until Tom does the unthinkable, and opens the doors to his late wife's untouched closet for her to peruse.

Hey, it's 1984 and she's 16. I'm okay with her being materialistic in the Age of the Material Girl. The show isn't quite playing to the "isn't this ridiculous" tone of Clueless with it, but whatever.

Carrie lives in generally affluent suburban utopia somewhere in Connecticut. Sucks to be her, right? She has a smart, loyal friend who spent the summer interning in DC, Jill aka "The Mouse." Then there's Maggie, overtly sexy, who is the son of the chief of police / sheriff. Maggie is dating a very obviously in the closet (he says, looking back from 2012) boy, Walt. And so we have our core group of friends that are a close proximation but not exact copies of Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha. Being high school, there's a mean girl (the somewhat hilariously, somewhat laughably named Donna LaDonna) and her minions (The Jens). Maggie lost her virginity, The Mouse lost her virginity... but Carrie is still a virgin. There's a very frank discussion of what happens when a girl loses her virginity.

In walks Sebastian Kydd, the new boy in school. And he knows Carrie from two summers ago. And they kissed. But Donna LaDonna has her sights set on the fresh meat, too.

But then, a shocking twist! As Carrie is about to ask Sebastian out, she sees her dad in the school hallway, reminding her of when/how she found out about her mother, and she passes out. Tom and Carrie's guidance counselor develop a way to help Carrie get a new beginning: intern once a week in Manhattan at a law firm (because Carrie wants, at this point, to be a lawyer).

So, it's not quite Jane by Design, but you can kind of tell that's where it may be going, right?

Anyway, Carrie goes to Manhattan for the first time, and hates doing filing work at the firm. But she ripped her panty hose on the way to work, so took them off and, being the 1980s, receives a very stern talking to about that from what I assume is The Horrific Future Version of Joan Holloway. She's told to go the Century 21 to get a pair of hose during her lunch break, and when she walks in, she finds herself in "what will become her fashion mecca." There, she meets Larissa, a female style editor at Interview magazine, who basically sweeps Carrie along for a crazy, glamorous night in Manhattan that will set a template for Carrie's life 20 years later.

This section reminded me of that episode the The Simpsons where Homer becomes a famous artist for five seconds because he smashes a failed attempt at a backyard BBQ pit. "Carrie, this is everybody. Everybody, this is Carrie. That's Dominick, he's an artist who works with found objects and wax..." (this is a direct quote from TCD).

There is some actual conflict with her home life, because this magical night in Manhattan is happening on the same night as The New Beginnings dance at high school, where Carrie and Sebastian may become an item and/or do the nasty and she has a curfew (of midnight). Instead, Carrie pops her Manhattan cherry (*the script makes this thematic point, it's not me being crude*) and Donna gets Sebastian... for now. But Carrie has been changed forever.

This is a definite, "um, we'll see how it turns out." Combine the soap of teen drama, the overt sexual nature of SATC, and the challenges of a period piece... who knows. It seems to fit in what the CW's old wheelhouse was, under Dawn Ostroff. You don't want to completely alienate that audience by completely changing the nature of every series, but this seems more risque than risky. But maybe risque can pay off.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Pilot Script Review - Cult

Network: CW
Written By: Rockne S. O'Bannon
Draft Date: January 6, 2011 (I suspect the title page means 2012, but that's what's on it)
Pages: 63


Scripts like Cult are what I like to read. It's imaginative and ambitious, to say the least. Ambition and a distinct voice are what broadcast shows need if the networks want to stop ceding ground to cable and its supposed hands-off executives and creator/showrunners' creative license and freedom.

Which is not to say that Cult is going to work, mind you, as either a pilot or a series. I just like the fact that someone (Mark Pedowitz) picked something like this up to shoot. This was the third CW script I read and, IIRC, the first pickup made. When I read it (and I held off on reviews until I'd read all five of the dramas picked up so far), my first thought was "If Cult is the vision Mark Pedowitz has for the post-Dawn Ostroff CW, then things are really going to change on the netlet." Now having read and reviewed Mile High Medical and read The Carrie Diaries... well, let's just say that some bets are being hedged.

Cult is about as far away from Gossip Girl as you can imagine. It's a swing-for-the-fences kind of show. The thing about trying to hit a home run is (*note: I have no idea if this is actually true in baseball*) you're going to miss more often than if trying to just get a solid on-base hit.

Or something about a pop fly to left field? I don't know. Sports aren't really my thing.

Anyway, Cult is one of those shows that is either going to be a hit or a spectacular failure. These kinds of big idea shows tend to be one or the other, and for every Lost or Heroes, there's... every show that was spawned by the networks trying to make a compatible lead-out or get their own version of said hit.

But what is Cult? I'm still trying to answer that question. It's a show so darkly meta I don't quite know what to make of it, where obsession with television and television shows and the delusion that fiction might be bleeding into reality is, itself, the point. It kind of winks at you and says "it's just TV!" then asks, "but wait... is it?"

Cult is about a detective, Eric Collins, whose family has been kidnapped, he believes, by this really nefarious cult leader, Billy Grimm. But Billy's smart. He has minions, lots of minions. Brainwashed minions. They do his bidding, so his hands are clean. But our hero is sure that he's responsible. And, naturally he wants his family back.

But wait. That's just the plot of Cult, the television show within the show Cult. This show. Man, people are obsessed with it. It's kind of creepy, and it's got all of these audience-participation add-ons, online components, etc. It's the kind of show you watch with a group or people but no one is allowed to talk, or alone in a dark and you turn your cell phone off because god forbid someone calls you during it. It's the kind of show where even if you work on it, like go-fer Skye Yarrow, you don't know what's coming next. You've never met the boss, Steven Rae. The crew gets annoyed when they're told some small detail, like a graffiti symbol in the background, isn't right because, dammit, the smallest details are just that important because THE FANS WILL NOTICE. The network brass want to make the show more accessible, etc.

But, really, Cult is about Jeff Sefton, a shamed reporter trying to rebuild his reputation whose younger brother, Nate, is obsessed with the show Cult (and we're talking way beyond the obsession of, say, a Lost fan who wrote 4 8 15 16 23 42 on a chalkboard after Numbers aired in 2005... not that I'm admitting to anything...), who is scared for his life, believes that the show Cult is something more than just a show, and goes missing or, perhaps, has been murdered... leaving clues only Jeff can pick up on. Will Jeff jump down the rabbit hole for his brother? Can he believe that something more than a TV show is happening? Jeff's first attempt at finding the truth is to visit the set of the show, where he meets Skye, and eventually an unlikely partnership is forged between a skeptic and a believer.

Oh, and there are a helluva lot of other plots and characters (like meeting the actors who play the characters on the TV, a number of scenes from the show (which is, actually, kinda of arch/big), and more.

So... is your head spinning?

There are elements I don't love. I think that some of the crosses between the show-within-the-show perilously teeter from "thematic" to "redundant." What with the hero-detectives and their missing-maybe-murdered family members and such. But, again, that's the point. Some of the in-show marketing for the show-within-the-show is... well, let's just say that it's probably not how an actual marketing department would market anything.

I don't know if Cult is going to work, if it can find an audience, or if it can keep that audience hooked without confusing the crap out of everyone. But I'm excited to find out, and I want to know more. And that's really all any TV pilot script can ask.

Pilot Script Review - Mile High Medical

Network: CW
Written By: Jennie Snyder Urman
Draft Date: December 22, 2011
Pages: 63


If you ever watched Grey's Anatomy (particularly the pilot) and thought "this is just too subtle for me" and "gosh, I wish Meredith had a lot more voiceover" and "that Meredith is just too put together, I wish she were more neurotic," then Mile High Medical is for you.

Emily Barnes was not a popular girl in high school. She was insecure and lacked confidence. Now she's a surgical intern starting her first year at Denver Memorial Hospital and she is still insecure and lacks confidence. So much so that she yells at a frizzy-haired high school girl who she kind of creepily watches before walking into her first day (because the high school is across the street from the hospital, naturally) because the girl called her a loser.

Honey. You're a mess.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for flawed characters. I prefer them, really. But Emily comes off as so needy and pathetic that it's a major problem for me (also a major problem: her pervasive voiceover where she spells out her thoughts and/or the subtext of everything, i.e. "He's touching you. Do not spaz out. Do not. Spaz. Out" or, when a patient starts to code she yells "I need a doctor!" is told she is a doctor, and then thinks "A real doctor! Get a real doctor!" WE GET IT). Her one saving grace is her super ability to have bedside manner. But it doesn't really help her escape the bottomless pitiable pit she's jumped into. And this is the show's lead?

The show seems to make the point that we don't grow up. We are all the children/teenagers/whatever we always were, just trying to ignore the fact that we're older and still the same. I get it. I just don't want to watch it.

The other interns:

- Cassandra Kopelson. She's the mean girl who made Emily's high school life hell and just happens to also be starting the internship program. Neither Emily nor Cassandra seem to be able to let certain elements of high school go. Tell me if you've heard this one before... hospitals are like high school. Seriously. Seriously! Pretty sure the hospital departments as different high school cliques was in the Grey's pilot (even if the various departments were labelled differently). Seriously. But that phrase is repeated so often and so verbatim that I actually think Denver Memorial is more akin to kindergarten than high school. Now, of course, Cassandra has some hidden damage that Emily wasn't aware of... but she's still that mean girl you wished would get run over by a bus. And wouldn't you know it, she seems to be romantic rivals with Emily for...

- Will Rider. Charming, went to med school with Emily. Emily spends approximately every waking moment lusting after him, and even has a heavy-handed metaphor-patient in the form of a 12-year old girl who talking about Twilight (hmmm, maybe Emily is cut from the same cloth as Bella... that would explain some of my frustration with her) is also dealing with the issue of being too worried about rejection to ask the cute boy out. It goes better for the patient than it does for Emily, who overshares in her startling confession to Will, and then is treated to the most on-the-nose rejection I think I've ever seen: "I'm so sorry. I just don't see you like that. But I'm so touched by what you said, I really am. And I hope that we can still be friends, because I really value your friendship." I have no doubt that passage has been uttered in real life. But, come on. That's the first draft cardboard dialogue block you write when you just need to power through the vomit draft and you're going to come back and write something more specific to the character and not nearly so cut-and-dry.

- Tyra Granger, who has very little to do in the pilot except explicitly tell Emily on the first moment of their meeting that she is the Chief of Surgery's daughter and a lesbian. Which would be fine if Tyra were at all presented as out-and-proud (it turns out she isn't actually out to her dad). She kind of disappears (since she and Emily don't share a medical case in the pilot). The Chief, for his part, has a long-winded speech and also basically disappears

Then there's the interns' resident, Micah, who we're clearly supposed to believe will eventually be Emily's love interest post-Will rejection. His mother is dying of pancreatic cancer. And, of course, the hard-nosed, famous-within-the-world-of-the-story attending surgeon Gina, who has terrible bedside manner and whom Emily must prove herself to if she hopes to survive.

You know what this show is. Interns struggling to survive (although if I read the times indicated on the slug lines correctly, the first shift was a whopping 10 hours from 8AM to 6PM... and I totally buy that a patient who needs her heart reconstructed can be closed up and awake and texting 65 minutes later, so, thanks for the specificity). Being competitors, friends, rivals, and lovers. And patients and surgeries reflecting on the characters' personal journeys.

I'm not saying the Grey's formula can't be done ever again, but... come on. Who are we kidding with this one, folks. At least try and make it a little different.

Pilot Read 2012 Disclaimer


I only review drama scripts. I'm a drama writer and so, when there are already 1000 things I'm behind on reading/writing/doing, I don't have the time to read comedy scripts. Sorry.

All pilot script reviews will, when available, give the draft date of the script. I can't recall a single instance of a final shooting script for pilots being circulated in the industry over the last few years since I've been doing script reviews. Often, scripts are way too long and need significant cuts to get down to a target run time. Plus... studios and networks give notes. So, it's important to keep in mind that THINGS CAN CHANGE, and often do (but not too often for the better).

And things can often turn out much better on screen after casting (I try to read/review without casting in mind and ideally before casting is done) and filming and editing happen that I am simply too shortsighted and ill-visioned to see or appreciate at the script stage.

It's also very important to keep in mind that these are my opinions. I have a... particular taste in what I watch and enjoy. It may not be yours. In fact, it probably isn't. You may disagree with me (whether you've read the script or not). That's okay.

I don't like writing reviews of bad material. I wish every script could be the best script I've ever read, and that's the attitude I try and go into every script with. I want to be wowed, either by concept or character or even a line or a moment that just lands and hits me hard. I want to be jealous that someone else wrote this, and I didn't. There are plenty of reasons I may dislike a script, and they'll probably be enumerated in individual reviews.

If you disagree with me and you haven't actually read the script, let's just accept that it's a waste of mutual time for you to lambaste my opinion.

If you have read the script and disagree, I'm game for a discussion. Especially when I dislike something, I'm always more than happy to be proven wrong by the finished product or by someone else's point of view.

There are spoilers inherent in writing reviews. After all, how can I give an opinion if I can't talk about what I'm opining? When I feel something is a GIANT TWIST however, I will do my best to not spoil it, especially twists that come towards the end of a script.

Finally, if you are the writer of a project that I have, let's say, ripped to shreds, I hope you don't take it as a personal attack (and I'll do my best to not make any personal attacks like "sometimes you have to wonder how X got an agent," etc). Hey, you're the one who got a pilot picked up to be produced by a broadcast network, right?