Apocalypse!! Superhumans!! Zombies!! Red States V. Blue!! TickleBiscuit's Fall 2006 Pilot Script Round-Up: Part 1!!
He’s back to look at four “outside the box”-ish pilot scripts likely inspired by the ongoing blockbuster success of ABC’s “Lost”:
* “JERICHO” (CBS): A small Kansas town is cut off from the rest of the world when a sudden nuclear war makes all the big towns evaporate.
“HEROES” (ABC): People all over the world begin to discover that they have super-powers.
“A HOUSE DIVIDED” (ABC): A liberal Democrat is elected president (making this the most unlikely of the sci-fi premises discussed here) and a red state (Kansas again!) secedes from the union, precipitating The American Civil War II!
“UNTITLED ZOMBIE PROJECT” (FOX): An apparent “homage” to “Dawn of the Dead” from Kevin Williamson, the “genius” screenwriter who gave us “Dawson’s Creek,” “Glory Days,” “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” the first two “Scream” movies, “Cursed” and “Teaching Mrs. Tingle.”
Thought I'd drop word on what's worth getting excited
about for the next television season. And there are
things worth getting excited about. I thought we'd
first take a look at the pilot scripts that hit the
sci-fi/horror/supernatural vein pretty hard, since
we're all geek addicts, and that stuff is our heroin.
Of course the breakout hit two years ago was "Lost".
It's about people on and island. Weird stuff happens
to them. Maybe you've heard about it. Last year, the
rush to copy the breakout hit brought us "Threshold",
"Invasion", "Surface", all of which I'm pretty sure
are no longer with us. So why did "Lost" work and
those shows didn't? They all had spooky stuff. Lost
has spooky stuff. Bummer.
So you'd think the networks apparent failure to clone
"Lost" would scare them off high-concept genre
programming for at least another season. Well, think
again. It seems the problem wasn't that the shows were
too out there--it's that they weren't Highy-Concepty
enough. What trumps "spooky mystery island" in one
sentence? How about the END OF THE FUCKIN' WORLD?
That's right, each television network is hoping you'll
plunk your ass down for an hour this fall and watch
their version of the Apocalypse.
Apocalyptic Scenario No 1: Nuclear War
"Jericho" - Network: CBS
Writer: Steven Chbosky (The Perks of Being A
Odds You'll Be Seeing It On The Air: 50/50
Our young protagonist returns to his incredibly
isolated hometown, Jericho, tucked neatly away in
Kansas, where he reconciles with his estranged
brother, father/town mayor, and the
now-engaged-to-someone-else girl he left behind. Life
is good in this small, cozy slice-of-Americana.
And then, on the eve of the President's State of the
Union address, the country gets blown up. Oops.
Mushroom clouds over Boulder, Atlanta (the only two
confirmed in the pilot, but things aren't looking
good), but Jericho remains. It's citizens, however,
are starting to go a little nuts. But, I mean, who
The entire pilot takes place on the first night, and
it's jam-packed with end-of-the-world goodness. A bus
crash. Missing children. A crazy old coot with a CB
radio. A new resident with a secret. Escaped
prisoners. Geiger counters. On-screen amateur
tracheotomy. All topped off with some solid Lost-style
Sure it's a nuclear war, but not the messy kind. It
might as well have been an alien invasion, or
conveniently dispersed asteroids that wiped out
America. No skin peeling off or hair falling out of
flipper babies here. But who wants to see that anyway?
The nukes aren't what's important. What's important is
that the people of Jericho are alone, cut off from
everything else, and are going to have to learn to
survive together. I know, sounds familiar. But it
works. My favorite drama pilot of the year.
Apocalyptic Scenario #2: Superhuman Evolution
"Heroes" - Network: NBC
Writer: Tim Kring (Crossing Jordan)
Odds You'll Be Seeing It In The Fall: 100%
There are no absolutes when it comes to
pilot-to-series guarantee. Unless you're Aaron Sorkin.
But "Heroes" is about as safe a bet as you can make.
In Manhattan, a male nurse in his mid-30s dreams he
can fly. In Texas, a perky teenage cheerleader throws
herself off a cliff and bemusedly watches as her bones
snap back together. In Utah, a death-row inmate wakes
up each morning on the outside of his cell. In Japan,
an office drone believes he can alter the space-time
That's just half the cast. I didn't include the
psychic artist or the stripper with a killer
reflection. Or the Indian professor, trying to piece
it all together. Or the priest, who...well, he's bad
news. Strange things are happening all over the world
to seemingly random people. Some connections are made.
Some don't connect at all. Yet.
"Heroes" is BIG. Globe-spanning. Every character's
story is compelling enough to stand on its own. Put
'em together and you've got a two-hour pilot script
feels like a feature. And after a summer comic-book
film feast courtesy of X-Men 3 and Superman Returns,
these non spandex-clad "Heroes" are going to be the
delicious soft-serve ice cream bar with unlimited
toppings. And hot fudge.
Oh, and by the end of the pilot, it's clear that the
emergence of our "Heroes" might not be the best thing
for the rest of us non-Tomorrow People.
Two more tidbits: Best line - Disbelieving Japanese
co-worker: "We are not special! We are Japanese!"
And to those who shun any sort of superhero-related
project that doesn't give props to its comic book
inspiration, the script is chock full of gorgeous
illustrations by famed artist Tim Sale, and one hopes
they'll be incorporated into the show somehow.
Apocalyptic Scenario #3: American Civil War - Part
"A House Divided" - Network: ABC
Writer: Andrew David Chapman
Odds You'll Be Seeing it in the Fall: I'll put this
one at 30%.
In the near-future, the unthinkable has happened. A
Liberal President is back in power. How liberal? Well,
he's raised taxes to the point where Middle America
has had just about enough. A small group of farmers
have decided "Hell No!" They're not paying anymore.
One of these farmers, a good-natured retired Gulf War
II vet, just trying to get by and raise his family,
through a series of highly believable government
mishaps, and the manipulations of a well-stocked
Kansas militia, ends up becoming the head of this
escalating conflict. As the pilot ends, Northern
Kansas succeeds from the United States.
What's great about "House" is that my one-paragraph
summary barely scratches the surface of what's going
on in this pilot. Once I was done reading it, I
realized I had no idea where I really stood in this
hypothetical conflict. There is no right side and
wrong side in this one. It's complicated. It's
relevant. It's worth having on the air, just so the
angry talking heads on cable news have something in
Hollywood to bloviate about once Brokeback-mania dies
down. It's incendiary stuff, and it's solid, powerful
It's going to take some ABC execs with brass ones to
risk throwing this one on the air. But the free media
exposure it's going to get is going to make even Matt
Drudge forget that Geena Davis was once the President.
Apocalyptic Scenario #4 - Cannibal Holocaust
"Untitled Zombie Project" - Network: FOX
Writer: Kevin Williamson (Dawson's Creek, Scream)
Odds You'll Be Seeing It In Fall: 0%
A hazy Los Angeles morning. A small earthquake rattles
you from your bed. You walk out to your car and find
that a thick yellow dust of unknown origin has settled
all over the city. A few hours later, people start
acting strangely. Even for LA. Soon, you find yourself
in a city gone insane, trying to escape your
zombie-infested office building or college campus or,
yes, finally, a preschool.
From what I've heard this project is as dead as the
zombies brain-munching their way through Los Angeles
in Kevin Williamson's awesome script. I guess network
TV isn't ready for Heather Graham or disease-ridden
flesh-eating pre-schoolers. I know I am though, and so
are the millions of other people who are probably
salivating to learn that America came close this year
to getting it's first ongoing zombie serial.
I know Kevin Williamson doesn't probably seem like the
first guy you'd go to for zombie horror, but damned if
he's not the man for the job. What's UZP like?
Remember the first fifteen minutes of 2004's "Dawn of
the Dead" remake? Stretch that into an hour, ratchet
up the intensity, and you've got UZP in a nutshell. So
yeah, the answer to the million dollar question - Fast
Structured in the multi-character format that's become
so popular, Williamson delivers us some solid
character work in the first fifteen minutes, and then
let's us watch them run for their lives from the
walking (running) dead.
In the end, our survivors, made up of a healthy stable
of zombie-movie players (A cop, a criminal, two
teenagers, a cute kid, a homeless guy, a Korean Woman
with an arsenal, and our strong, reserved, tortured
protagonist. And the Professor and Mary-Ann) all take
refuge in the USC Coliseum, and we're left waiting to
see what happens next. And there's a conspiracy afoot
as to what caused this outbreak, involving a group of
safely bunkered scientists. It's not terribly
original, but it's a helluva ride.
And I doubt it'll ever get made. Pity too. If Fox
doesn't think there's an audience for this, they're
out of their Prison-Breakin' minds.
Well, that's it for Network Apocalypse Dramas '06.
There's still People On The Run From Government
Conspiracy Dramas, Cops With Quirky Abilities Dramas,
and Sexy Secrets in the Suburbs Dramas. Again, at
least one for each network. I guess this says
something about the networks views on the zeitgeist of
America. Of course, they also think we want a new Paul
Reiser sitcom (wacky used car salesmen!).
Until next time,
Find more HUGELY encheapened Fox season-sets - including those for "24," "Lost in Space," "King of the Hill," "Angel" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" - here!!