Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Pilot script review: "Untitled Tina Fey Project"

Once again, don't ask how I came into possession of this. Just know that it came to me (assume it dropped from the sky).

Anyway. . .the SECOND of NBC's two behind-the-scenes-of-a-sketch-comedy-show pilots is capably done and has plenty of funny moments, but it's not up to the level of Aaron Sorkin's "Studio 7" (or whatever they're calling it nowadays). And that's a shame, because this is the sort of show that TV needs right now: a smart sitcom with strong characters.

Unfortunately, the laughs in this pilot are squeezed in awkwardly between bits of exposition. There's a long, long runner with bagels that just is never as funny as Fey (the script's author) thinks it is. And many of the other jokes that take place in the "real world" of the script are too crude for the milieu or just not funny. (The flashbacks, think Scrubs or Arrested Development, are pretty uniform in their amusement.)

But it gets funnier as it goes along. And you start to see how these characters (though there are too many of them, as though Fey wanted to transport EVERY type she met working on SNL into the show) might become fun over the long haul (I'm particularly fond of the central character who would be played by Fey and her head writing partner). What's more, you start to see how the central conflicts could play out over 100 episodes (which is deeply important in a pilot).

But I think the reason Studio 7 is going to beat this one is because Studio just drops you into the middle of the situation, while Fey's script starts at the very beginning. It's the difference between a premise pilot (which takes pains to show how everything in the show came to be -- think of Gilligan's Island, where the boat crashes) and a story pilot (which drops you in right in the middle of the story). More and more pilots are dropping you into an unfamiliar situation, so a premise pilot like this one (which, admittedly, is only about half a premise pilot) just feels. . .awkward. And kind of slowly paced.

In an ideal world, both backstage projects would be picked up, but I don't think this one will be. It's a shame. It could have turned into a great show, but it's probably going to be undone by an underwhelming pilot.

Too bad. We could have used a backstage Scrubs.

Coming soon: Why season two of Veronica Mars is much better than season one.

1 comment:

David Sims said...

I read it too, and was amused but not blown away. There's promise in the characters, but Tina Fey has always been a little hit-and-miss for me. I'd still like to see this on the air, though. I'm sure it's better than most comedy prospects for next year.