Ain't It Cool News (

Apocalypse!! Superhumans!! Zombies!! Red States V. Blue!! TickleBiscuit's Fall 2006 Pilot Script Round-Up: Part 1!!

I am – Hercules!!

TickleBiscuit earlier supplied script reviews of Hans Beimler & Robert Hewitt Wolfe’s “Dresden Files” pilot for SciFi and David Goyer and Geoff Johns’ “Blade” pilot for Spike.

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.”

Here’s TickleBiscuit:

Hey Herc,

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 Wallflower)
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 wouldn't?

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 characterization.

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. Why?

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 continuum.

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 Deux!
"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 writing.

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 Zombies.

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,
Tickle Biscuit

$19.47 Volume One
$24.97 Volume Two
$24.97 Volume Three
$24.97 Volume Four

$19.97 The Complete First Season
$24.97 The Complete Second Season
$24.97 The Complete Third Season
$24.97 The Complete Fourth Season
$24.97 The Complete Fifth Season
$24.97 The Complete Sixth Season
$31.99 The Complete Seventh Season

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!!

Readers Talkback
comments powered by Disqus