HOLY SMOKES! A GREAT SUBMISSION SCRIPT IS COMING YOUR WAY NEXT WEEK! STAY TUNED!
Genre: Drama/Light Sci-Fi
Premise: Set in the near future, a group of women partake in an experiment at a mysterious company that promises to solve their inability to find love, albeit do so in controversial ways.
About: Darren Aronofsky. Need I say more? He’s one of the executive producers on this show, which is written by a fairly new writer, Kit Steinkellner, who created the Elizabeth Olsen series, “Sorry for Your Loss.” The Answers, which will premiere on FX, is based on the book by Catherine Lacey. This is her second novel.
Writer: Kit Steinkellner
Details: 56 pages
Letitia Wright for Mary??
Okay, so I’ve got some awesome news!
I just read a submission script that was an “[X] IMPRESSIVE.” You know how rare that is around these parts so it’s time to get excited! What I’m going to do is reach out to a few people and see if I can help the writer out. And, then, what I’m going to do is review the script next Tuesday. I’ll post the script as well so you can all read it. It’s *really* good, guys. It totally took me by surprise. You’re going to love it.
NEXT TUESDAY – BE THERE!
Okay, moving on to the constantly evolving TV space. This medium is a strange beast. Every four months, the pieces seem to shift on the chess board. Outside of HBO, I don’t know if there’s a legitimate second tier contender for consistent quality television.
FX used to be high on that list with shows like Fargo and The Americans and Legion. Now, I’m not sure what they are. They do have The Bear, which is a great show. But they’re also torturing us with series like Y The Last Man.
I guess every network has their hits and misses. But it feels like FX is missing a lot more than they’re hitting these days. Let’s see if today’s script changes that.
Our pilot starts out with a series of interviews. Various women in their 20s and 30s are explaining their disastrous dating lives. One woman says she loves having sex but doesn’t ever like the men she has sex with. Another says that she’s so forgettable that men who she hooked up with literally forget her face the next day. Still another is angry that society tells her it’s bad to have high standards of men. And then, finally, we have our heroine, Mary, who is a year out of a relationship and she’s still not over the man.
We pull back to learn we’re in a place called “The Center,” which is run by doctor/therapist/CEO, Lawrence Crowe. Crowe assures all of these women that along with his principle assistant, Doctor Sylvie Ellis, that he can fix their problems for good. But, in order to do so, they will need to enter an experimental program. They all agree, of course, because they’re desperate.
As soon as our five candidates are confirmed, they’re told that they will be dating Christopher Sky, a movie star and one of the most recognizable celebrities on the planet. Apparently, Christopher is having relationship issues as well so he’s volunteered himself. Each woman will date Christopher in a different capacity. One will be his “emotional” girlfriend. One will be his “intellectual” girlfriend. One will be his “sexual” girlfriend.
Mary’s date comes first and she makes the mistake of telling Christopher that all his failed relationships, which he thinks were the girls’ fault, are actually his fault, since he is the common denominator (Mary’s flaw is that she says whatever she’s thinking). This causes Christopher to end the date abruptly and Mary considers leaving the experiment. But after Christopher has a couple more dates, he realizes Mary was right and asks her to stay so they can give this a shot. Which means, “Tune in next week when the experiment continues!”
I don’t see “The Answers” helping FX anytime soon. There are some pretty big errors at the core of the pilot script that I don’t think are possible to overcome. The biggest sin of all is that, after reading the pilot, I still don’t know what the series is about.
Mary is here because she’s broken-hearted. But another girl is here because she can’t fall in love with men. Another girl expects too much from men. Another girl is here because guys always ghost her after they hook up.
All of these problems are so different that I was never sure what the program was attempting to accomplish. The best answer we get comes at the end of the pilot when Crowe excitedly tells Ellis that they’re going to “hack love.” The moment is delivered with such emphasis that you’d think it would clear things up. But it just made me more confused. How does “hacking love” stop guys from ghosting you? They seem like two different things.
It sounds obvious but if you’re not 100% clear with what your show is about, your show is dead before it gets started. Even though a show like Severance doesn’t tell us everything right away, it makes it very clear what the core story is – that these workers have decided to sever their work lives and personal lives so that the two will never meet.
The experiment is also sketchy, strange, and, quite frankly, hard to buy into. They’ve recruited an A-list Oscar-winning DiCaprio type supermodel famous actor to date all the women in different capacities, one of those capacities being straight sex. I mean, we’ve got the very hard buy-in that Leonardo DiCaprio said yes to such a thing that, if anybody found out about, he’d be canceled immediately. And then we’ve got regular women agreeing to de facto prostitution in a post #metoo era.
Buy-in buy-in buy-in. The audience will buy into one big ask. In rare situations, two asks. But if you keep piling on the insane situations, trust me, they’re going to stop buying in.
You’ve also got cliche backstories like the main character growing up in a cult. Let me just tell you guys this in case you don’t know. I read a LOT OF SCRIPTS with cult backstories. They’re not as frequent as DKB (dead kid backstory) but they’re the go-to backstory if you want to create mystery around your female character and make them weird, which Mary is.
I dare give this show the worst comparison any show can get, which is that this is the TV version of Spiderhead. It’s got a lot of that same murky purpose and weak rule-set combined with two evil (but seemingly nice) lab experimenters – and if I remember correctly, that movie was about making people love each other too. Whatever the case, that’s definitely not a movie you want to be compared to.
Was it all bad? No. I thought some of the dialogue was quite good. Here’s Mary sharing what went wrong in her previous relationship: “I made all this space for him. It’s like my life is this house and I built this huge room in the center of myself for him and now he’s gone and I can’t fill the space and I can’t get rid of the room. So am I just going to be empty forever? Because I think that’s going to kill me.”
I love when metaphors aren’t just there to be admired, but when they actually create some insight that you wouldn’t be able to convey otherwise. That’s how this read to me. That was the pilot’s biggest strength, its dialogue. The characters were all quite verbose and intelligent and I was engaged by most of the conversations.
But the script just can’t overcome how unrealistic it is. I understand that this is set in the near future when, maybe, the world is a little more lenient about these things. But the second this celebrity came in to just offer his services to these women so that they’ll get better – as if Leonardo DiCaprio doesn’t have better things to do – I mentally gave up on the pilot right there. There’s just no way that happens.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: I think this wants to be the next Handmaid’s Tale. But if you want to be the next Handmaid’s Tale, you have to have a clear hook. The Handmaid’s Tale has a great clear hook. In the future, fertile women are forced into child-bearing slavery. The concept is so clear and powerful. “Hacking love” is way too vague. Audiences don’t do well with blurry concepts. They just don’t. If they’re even a little bit confused about what a show is about, they won’t watch it.