Wait a minute. You’re telling me that the creator of Breaking Bad had Max Landis’s cop-monster idea 10 years before Max Landis???

Genre: TV Pilot – Half-Hour Drama? (didn’t know they made half-hour dramas)
Premise: In a near-future Los Angeles, LAPD is dealing with a new epidemic — people are mutating into monsters, and wreaking havoc all across the city.
About: This 2006 pilot hails from Breaking Bad creator, Vince Gilligan, and his fellow former X-Files writer Frank Spotnitz. However, because this was the pre-Breaking Bad days, the pilot never gained traction. I believe they shot it but it never made it to air. Let’s find out why.
Writers: Vince Gilligan and Frank Spotnitz
Details: 22 pages (edit: full 1 hour pilot, pages cut out)

Screen Shot 2017-06-20 at 12.54.55 AM

Hey guys. I’ve just been informed that this draft I read was missing half its pages. So I’m going to take my original analysis down. However, I’m leaving up the What I Learned section, as I still think it’s helpful.

What I learned: I want to challenge you today. Open your current script and randomly go to a scene. Read that scene. Ask yourself, “Is this the best I can do with this scene?” It doesn’t matter what your answer is. Cause you’re going to try to write something better. Can you add more conflict somewhere? More suspense? Can you throw an unexpected twist into the middle of the scene? Can you increase the stakes? Can you tell the scene from a different, unexpected, point of view? Can you use dramatic irony, cluing in the audience, but not the characters, that something bad is about to happen? Can you change the location to the last place we’d expect? Can you bring in a new character? Can you be brave and throw a curveball into the scene that you didn’t originally plan for? If you manage to write something better, feel free to post how you improved your scene. It might end up helping someone else with their script.


    Yahoo! First in, best dressed.

    My lucky day…

    Hmm. Half-hour drama. That is new.

    • PQOTD

      Hmm. Where is everyone?

      • andyjaxfl

        Unfortunately I was not writing and I missed my normal writing window. Might have to use my lunch break to get caught up today.

  • ripleyy

    I think every writer has written one of these ideas. I know I have. But perhaps the only series that was able to capture this story and make it work is the highly underrated, obscure “Ugly Americans” show.

    If you’re going this route, then drop us in it like Travis Beacham did with “Carnival Row” (which is a similar humans-among-monsters story). Building up to that point isn’t very exciting, like this pilot tried to do.

  • moog

    I agree with Carson’s take on the blank page and I’d like to share what could be another aspect of this.

    I think the blank page also represents the writer’s future and reminds us of the raw uncertainty that accompanies it. That ‘giant hole of impossibility,’ is also the ‘giant hole of uncertainty’ – not knowing what’s in store either for the story or you, the writer – in terms of career, success etc.

    I’m sure everyone has a different way around that problem, but it helped me to know that when I seize up, it’s usually because I’m putting the pressure to do better, before the pleasure of telling stories.

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t work hard at our ideas and push hard to make them cut through. That’s a given. Just that, if it’s the blank page that you’re fighting, play more, ponder and tolerate the discomfort of not have a great solution for longer. (to quote John Cleese)

  • Magga

    Honest question: are we going too far with adding twists and conflict to all the scenes? I think the site gives great advice for adding drama and underlying tension, but do we sometimes lose sight of just writing hang-out moments or even the calm before the storm? One of the issues I have with a lot of post-golden age TV is that everything is so amped up, so full of reversals and scene agitators, that it somehow becomes bland. Sometimes I just wanna watch a couple of characters talk without someone bursting into the scene to interrupt, or some third character making every line of dialogue ironic. I know it can go too far in the opposite direction. The tensions in the newest season of The Americans was so subtle that it almost didn’t exist for me, for example. But sometimes it feels like we’re being asked to turn the guitars up to 11. My favorite scene of the year was when Twin Peaks revealed what Dr. Jakoby was up to. Not important to the plot at all, but it took five episodes to slowly and confusingly set it up, making the punchline even more brilliant. (Cut to me finding out that everyone on here thinks the new Twin Peaks is lame or something)

    • brenkilco

      I think sometimes a scene should be allowed to breathe a little. The audience doesn’t have to be pinned to the wall every minute. And while I appreciate Carson’s advice to make scenes better, if the scene works and serves a purpose than it should not be easy to simply add extrinsic elements to jazz it up. You’re going to unbalance it or otherwise harm its shape. If you find it easy to twist the scene around chances are it’s not all that necessary and maybe the best thing is to just get rid of it.

      One of the perverse things about these Marvel shows on Netflix is that they are frequently slow as molasses. There are more getting to know you scenes and acting turns than you can shake a stick at. I wonder if binge watching is starting to create a new immersive dynamic with drama shows.

  • brenkilco

    “Didn’t know they made half hour dramas.”

    They don’t anymore. But way back. I mean way, way back they were a TV staple: Peter Gun, M Squad, Have Gun Will Travel, Gunsmoke in its earliest incarnation. Lots of others. And I find the form sort of fascinating. Just because it is so artificial. It’s just an unnatural length for a dramatic story. The best of them were fast, inventive and overstuffed with plot. The time limits demanded a certain kind of ingenuity from writers.

  • BoSoxBoy

    Missing half its pages…must have read like David Lynch.

  • carsonreeves1

    After giving up on Fargo, I’m out of shows to watch! I gave up on the slower than molasses in quicksand Better Call Saul a few weeks ago.

    Am I on my own here with Fargo? Does this season suck? Did they completely give up in that dumb convict bus crash episode? I have a sneaking suspicion Noah Hawley is spreading himself too thin, since he’s also showrunning Legion. Which means poor Fargo gets the B-writers.

  • Randy Williams

    The things that jumped out at me were the “giant bite marks on the counter” and Paige is on her first day on her job, so I’d work around that.
    1. Open with Paige and Katrina at a mirror adjusting their uniforms in the restroom. Katrina notices a large birthmark on Paige’s skin somewhere private and a few lines that suggest our bodies sometimes do things that have no explanation, setting up the mutant theme. Paige notices Katrina has a large hickey. Katrina hints its one of their fellow cops but wont tell which. So, first day Paige has a goal. Who did it? They are interrupted. Robbery gone bad at the bodega.
    2. The girls are assigned to calm a freaked out female mutant who sweeps the floors there and witnessed something. They wrestle with her while the guys pick up clues.
    Thr scenes there end with Paige finding something odd about the giant bite marks. In doing so, she says something to try to get a facial reaction from the one who dug their teeth into Katrina.
    3. The girls take the female mutant back home. There we see that this girl was once a spelling bee champion, valevictorian, Doctorate student, etc until mutation entered her selfie with Alex Trebeck life. While there the girls pick up on something she tells them. The clue is tantalizing.
    4. Meanwhile the cops are investigating and are chasing someone. You have to have a chase. It’s L.A.
    5. The girls follow the clue. It leads them back to the bodega because I love scenes where people return to places and discover things that were right under their noses the first time.
    6. The male cops lose the one they were chasing.
    7. Everyone meets back up at the station. The clues are reviewed. Jacocks (love this name)is pissed the chase was a clusterf*ck and angry he didnt collar the driver. Katrina tells him theres noone better at collaring and rubs her hickey. Paige wonders.

    8. I get fired for pitching this lame idea but I got a bottle of water out of it.