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.


DuMont said...

You've encapsulated 'The Selection' intriguingly and compellingly.

However, this one sounds kind of complicated for audiences to embrace, and I hope the producers have a good handle on how they plan to tell the story. When I read grand ambition Romeo & Julietish storytelling like this, set 300 years in the future, the back of my mind turns into a calculator toting up how much for the big caste, all the sets, costumes, miniatures, CGI... how does one make it pay with an 1.2 A18-34?

I must at this point say a kind word for NBC's abandoned 'Wonder Woman' project as a potential sked builder for The CW, something that has a good prospect to deliver A18-34s in the 2.0 range.

I had seen scenes from the pilot, and was underwhelmed. Then, I thought Mr. David Kelley did an interesting turn by casting Miss Erica Durance as a delusional Wonder Woman in 'Harry's Law'.

Then somebody sent me a link to a sizzle reel from the pilot, recut as an opening credit sequence, and I was absolutely mezmerized by Miss Adrianne Palicki. To the naysayers and disbelievers, take a look:

The CW needs to roll the dice on a few chancey projects such as 'The Selection', but it also needs a few brand-builders like the new re-booted 'Wonder Woman'.

"Get CW out from under, Wonder Woman.
All our hopes are pinned on you.
And the magic that you do."

KryptonSite said...

Wonder Woman would be great for The CW... but not THAT Wonder Woman project, and not anything even remotely to do with David E. Kelley.

A Wonder Woman series done Smallville-style, without even a traditional costume? Possibly. After all, the tale of Diana leaving Paradise Island for Man's World is identifiable to a young girl leaving for college.

If Arrow does well, maybe they'd consider it.

But having seen the entire WW pilot - I love that Adrianne Palicki is tall, but ultimately I don't think that she was right. To me, Wonder Woman should be someone who is considered beautiful to anyone... can anyone dare say Lynda Carter is ugly? And a new WW would have to have that. Adrianne... didn't.

But back to The Selection... this sounds intriguing, and on-brand for The CW, though I'd have to question the budget needed for something like this. If it looks good though... it sounds like Thursday might find its Vampire Diaries companion.

Anonymous said...

BWUH? Way too complicated, sounds like a real mess. I hope this one doesn't make it.

Anonymous said...

FYI: Aimee Teegarden has been cast as the lead in "The Selection."

Orange said...

Does anyone have access to the latest retooled script for The Selection? Any opinions about it?