Today’s pilot is the best drama pilot I’ve read since Breaking Bad and will likely turn actor Jason Bateman into the next Walter White.

Genre: TV pilot – 1 hour drama
Series Premise: A family man moves from the city to the Ozarks to begin repaying the money-laundering debt he owes a ruthless drug lord.
About: Today’s pilot is one of Netflix’s big new shows. It’s written by The Judge screenwriter, Bill Dubuque, and it will be directed and starred in by Jason Bateman.
Writer: Bill Dubuque (story by Bill Dubuque & Mark Williams)
Details: 67 pages

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Whenever I talk to people “in the know,” they tell me to watch out for screenwriter Bill Dubuque. That he’s the next big thing. Now if you’re like me, you probably respond to that with, “The guy who wrote The Judge??” I remember reading that script and thinking, “There isn’t much here.” Assuming I must’ve missed something, I went to see the movie, and I left thinking, “There still isn’t much here.”

But see while the rest of us peasant folk judge movies on whether they’re good or they do well, Hollywood has another barometer for success, which is if you’re the guy who writes something that attracts a major movie star that propels a movie into production. If you do that, you’re considered a screenwriting superstar.

And Bill Dubuque didn’t nab Downey Jr. with anybody-could’ve-written-it Iron Man 3. He nabbed him with a quirky character piece, which is one of the hardest things in town to pull off. People figure you have God’s private number if you can do that. Which, I presume, is why people are so high on Bill Dubuque. And after reading Ozark? I probably should’ve paid them more attention.

40-something Marty Bird drives a Camry. He’s got two kids in their teens, a boy and a girl, and the perfect wife for almost twenty years. He works as a financial advisor for a two-man firm, along with his best friend, Bruce, the fast-cars and fast-women version of Marty, who can’t stop talking about this new opportunity down in the Ozarks. All the young families are moving and vacationing there. And they all have money.

At first we get the impression that Marty envies Bruce. In fact, as he’s pitching a young couple on his company’s merits, he’s also discreetly watching amateur porn on his desktop, something it seems like old Brucey would do.

But we’re going to realize that problem’s much bigger than we could’ve guessed. When Marty goes home that night, he sees his 15 year-old daughter, who believes he sucks the fun out of anything approaching happiness. And his 13 year-old son, one of those weird kids who can rattle off creepy facts that nobody else knows, like how armadillos are the only animals who can carry leprosy.

Oh, and then we meet Marty’s wife, Wendy, who we realize was the woman in that amateur porn, which wasn’t amateur porn at all. It was a camera Marty’d secretly installed in his bedroom to catch what he’d suspected for awhile, that his wife was cheating on him.

Before we can recover from that surprise, Marty gets an ASAP call from Bruce saying he needs to come to their off-site office immediately. Marty heads over to meet Bruce, Bruce’s fiancé, and some guy named Del, who makes Tuco from Breaking Bad look like Urkle from Family Matters. This is when we learn that Marty and Bruce launder 1 billion dollars a year for one of Mexico’s major drug cartels. And Del’s here because 8 million dollars of that money is missing.

In a harrowing scene, Del figures out that Bruce is the culprit (a total surprise to Marty) and shoots him and his fiancé dead. He then explains, in a very business-like way, that he not only has to kill Marty, but his family as well. Marty begs for his life, and somehow convinces Del that that tourist haven down in the Ozarks will allow him to triple his profits.

Del relents, but only if Marty can get him the 8 million Bruce screwed him out of WITHIN 48 HOURS. And so for the next two days, Marty goes on a harrowing journey to wrangle up 8 million George Washingtons, sell his house, and tell his family that they’re moving. But nothing happens the way you think it’s going to happen in Ozark, and there are many casualties along the way.

I wish I had more time for this review because if there’s any script that deserves it, it’s this one. But I don’t. So you’ll have to excuse the frantic presentation.

I’m going to make a prediction. This is going to be a mega-series that will take America by storm the same way Breaking Bad did. I mean unless the writing takes a nosedive after the pilot. But if we’re going on this pilot alone, this series will be a show-stopper.

Why is it amazing?

The writing is complex. What happens with a lot of new or average writers is that they think very linearly, and they don’t map their story out on expanded levels. They’re only thinking about what comes right before the moment they’re writing and right after. As a result, the story feels very basic – very “and then this happens, and then this happens, and then this happens, and then this happens.” Snore attack.

In comparison, Ozark feels like it was mapped out in 9 dimensions.

Take the opening scene. Marty is trying to sell this new couple on his firm while simultaneously watching porn. So we’re forming these opinions on Marty. He’s a sleaze ball. He doesn’t care about work. But then later, we meet his wife and realize SHE’S THE WOMAN in the video, which means she’s cheating on him, which means this is a camera he installed to catch her. So we do this total about-face, and see Marty in a whole new sympathetic light.

What’s even better? That revelation now adds dramatic irony to the mix. It gives the scenes between Marty and his wife an extra charge since we know that he knows her secret… but she doesn’t know.

That’s a theme here. Dubuque will use one thing, like that twist, to add another dimension to another part of the story.

So for instance, the very tool Dubuque uses to build sympathy for his protagonist, the fact that his wife has been cheating on him, is then used to show how layered Marty is. When Del is about to kill him, and tells Marty that he’s going to kill his wife next, Marty is a thousand times more worried about his wife than himself. The very wife who’s betrayed him is the person he’s trying to protect. That’s complex writing right there.

There are little things as well. One of my favorite moments is when, before Del kills Bruce, he tells everyone in the room a story about how his grandfather once caught his maid stealing money from the till. Before telling everyone how his grandfather handled the situation, he asks everyone what the grandfather should’ve done.

In typical Dubque fashion, this choice will create two great moments instead of one. The first is something countless writers fail to do. Del’s story builds suspense. We know Del is going to kill everyone here. So Dubuque draws it out. Even better, he makes us wonder if their answers might save them. A brilliant use of the device.

So one of the henchmen answers and then Bruce answers, and Del turns to Marty, wanting his answer. Instead of playing along, Marty thinks he’s bluffing. So he calls him on it. He says “You’re intimidating us in the hopes of catching us in something. But we didn’t do jack shit.”

Marty turns out to be wrong which is when Del starts killing. But the great part comes many scenes later, after we’ve forgotten Del’s monologue. Del, once again, is at odds with Marty, and revisits his story, “You never answered the question. What should my grandfather have done?” It’s a simple payoff to a simple setup, but the great part is just how unexpected it is, and how much we realized we wanted Marty’s answer. And what’s great is that Marty gives us an even better answer than we had hoped for.

Again, average writers would’ve wrapped that whole episode up in a single scene (linear and obvious). Dubuque knew he had something good, so extended Del’s monologue/question out beyond the scene. I love that shit.

But the best thing of all about Ozark? What really made it stand out? Is that it kept going where everyone else would’ve stopped. I guarantee 99 out of 100 writers would’ve written the version of this pilot where the Del/Bruce/Marty standoff was the climax of the episode. With Marty saving himself by convincing Del of the Ozark opportunity. CUT TO BLACK.

But Dubuque KEEPS FUCKING GOING. And I thought he was crazy. I was like, “How are you going to top THAT SCENE???” And somehow, HE DOES! Watching Marty scramble for 8 million in 48 hours with his cheating wife dishing Marty’s secret to her lover, putting all sorts of new people at risk, including her own kids… I mean I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

If you want to write a drama pilot, FIND THIS SCRIPT NOW. This is writing. This is the standard. This is what you need to live up to. This pilot is a course in pilot-writing. I didn’t even get to half the great things here (like the fact that Dubuque repeatedly did more than one thing with each scene). It’s so freaking good.

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[x] genius

What I learned: Take your story to where everyone else would normally stop, and then go further.

  • Scott Crawford

    Genius! Fucking hell.

    mr.scottcrawford@hotmail.com if you want to have a look at it. I’m indoors all day.

    • steveblair

      i’d love to read it – writersteveblair@gmail.com – thanks, Scott.

      • Scott Crawford

        Sent!

        • Myster82

          Hi Scott, could you send it to me as well. Mystergeneral@yahoo.co.uk

          Thanks!

          Out of interest Scott, what is your view on the script?

          • Scott Crawford

            Sent! Haven’t read it yet. But I might later.

        • Sean Reardon

          Scott- if you would send the script, I would really appreciate it. spreardon81(at)gmail(dot)com

    • Magga
    • hickeyyy
    • LL

      Hey Scott! If you don’t mind sending another, I’d love to check out the script! llamovec@gmail.com

    • 95Forty Productions

      Hey man! Do you mind sending that script my way?

      eric@95Forty.com

      Thanks in advance!

    • Steex

      If you wouldn’t mind sending another copy out, I’d really love to give it a read. Steexsteexsteex@gmail.com

    • http://joelthomaswrites.com writerjoel
    • Poe_Serling

      Even though I’ve never requested a script from you, I think your treasure trove of scripts is a great resource for all the writers on this site.

      Like the old story/joke…

      Everybody living outside of LA knows someone who has been to a wild Hollywood party.

      But in reality it’s probably not true.

      You’re the real deal however…

      Though you’re across the Big Pond, you obviously have a connection(s) to the latest projects bouncing around town and can deliver the goods.

      • Frankie Hollywood

        I’ve read 10 pilots in the last 4 days thanks to Scott, He’s an invaluable resource. Really glad he’s a part of our little community.

        • scottdow01

          one thousand percent agree

    • Lucid Walk

      Please send it my way, Scott. Many thanks!
      seames120@gmail.com

    • J.C

      Please email. at jcosbourne118@gmail.com Thanks!

    • bellstone

      I’d love to read it – ibellstone@gmail.com – Many thanks, Scott.

  • steveblair

    genius?!? must read. can’t wait.

  • ripleyy

    It’s been a long time since I’ve been engrossed in a review like this one. It also goes to show that you can absolutely write a bad script – but you shouldn’t judge (pun not intended!), because that writer might actually have a killer script like this one.

  • leitskev

    Wow, thanks for the review. It does sound intense. Sounds great!

    Have to say I think the Judge is unappreciated. No, it’s not a great movie. It’s filled with flaws and cheap trickery and plotting that’s a little far fetched. But it pushes emotional buttons effectively. It deals with a very relevant topic, one that effects many millions now: relations with an aging parent. And it adds in just enough quirkiness and humor to lighten the load. If I had read that as a spec script I would absolutely have said yup, this is a keeper. I think it’s somewhat revealing that too many script reviewers would have laughed and dropkicked it into the trash. The job of a script reader is to weigh a project’s potential value. Will it appeal to mass audiences? Will it appeal to critics? Will it appeal to A list actors? Will it find a niche audience? All different questions. Unfortunately it seems that script buffs seem to be asking different questions. They have a measuring stick developed from watching their favorite movies, perhaps developed in their training. And every script gets measured against that same stick. Movie critics are often guilty of the same exact thing. I think to evaluate something you have to first comprehend what it’s actually trying to do. What audience it is trying to reach. There’s Citizen Kane and there’s Caddyshack. They aren’t measured the same way.

    • garrett_h

      ” If I had read that as a spec script I would absolutely have said yup, this is a keeper.”

      Funny you should say that. I read The Judge before they made it and really liked it. Then the trailers came out and it kinda had a Lifetime MOTW feel to it. And it didn’t hurt that they basically had the whole movie in the trailer. Still haven’t seen it. But it just goes to show, sometimes what works on the page doesn’t work on the screen, or put butts in seats.

      • leitskev

        I saw it in the theater with someone who isn’t a writer or film guru, and she enjoyed it. I have to say I did too, despite its flaws. My mother rented it on TV and liked it as well.

        The most important questions are usually: did we like the characters? did the events move us emotionally? did it entertain us?

        It succeeded enough on those levels. It was competently done.

        Let’s compare it to a movie critics loved: Django Unchained. Did anything…anything…in that movie create an emotional reaction? Did any part of it move you? I’m a QT fan, but that film is certainly as preposterous as anything that happened in the Judge. It has cleverness and entertainment value. Most QT films get better each time you watch them. Django I couldn’t get through a second sitting, and I tried. But critics loved it.

        Both Django and the Judge did what the writers set out to do. Both deserve credit.

        • garrett_h

          I’ll have to check out the finished product of The Judge one day. I did like the script, and as you said it hits all those checkboxes. With the lukewarm commercial and critical reception, I passed on seeing it. But I’ll give it a look one day.

          I’m probably the wrong person to ask about Django lol. Really liked the script, loved the movie. I’m not sure if me being black had anything to do with that. But I do know that slave owners and racist white men getting their comeuppance via the hands of a former slave was entertaining and emotional. I also thought Sam Jackson’s character was extremely clever. And when Christoph Waltz died, it struck an emotional chord for me. Also, when Django finally won in the end, I was emotional. I’ve watched it maybe 4 or 5 times since then. So yeah, definitely not the right person to ask lol.

  • Magga

    Sounds good

  • Dean

    dean.w.law@gmail.com if it’s not so much trouble.

  • BMCHB

    WOW. That is an excellent pilot indeed. Great review. Way to sell it, Carson.

    Nitpicks?

    Could there be a case that there’s actually too much going on even if it has a full 60 mins to play with?

    Wife is a bit underdeveloped and nothing original about the kids, though. The pilot is all about Marty, I suppose.

    Great role for Bateman and I suspect Emmys and Golden Globes will be vacationing in the Ozarks in the near future.

  • Scott Crawford

    Another film from Bill Dubuque, out in October:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Accountant_(2016_film)

    • Andrew Parker

      Based off a script that Carson gave a “What the Hell Did I Just Read?”: http://scriptshadow.blogspot.com/2012/07/screenplay-review-accountant.html

      This show has a long way to go to reach Breaking Bad’s heights, even at the pilot level. The pilot to BB had so many good setups, so much empathetic humanity, and so much humor. Really a one-of-a-kind gem that you can’t fully appreciate until you’ve seen subsequent BB episodes.

  • Scott Crawford

    Sent!!

  • Daivon Stuckey

    Anybody could have written it Iron Man 3? That script is super Shane Black

  • BMCHB

    Also, RE Nitpicks

    SPOILERS

    Marty’s savings were conveniently close to the required 8 million. Not a whole lot of struggle there.

    Didn’t like the ‘Two Broke Girls’ balance SUPER.

    Minor gripes, when the writing is this strong and script has such pageturnability.

    • Citizen M

      Talk about nitpicks — the FIRST SENTENCE of the script was “An insolated cove.”

      Insolated means the sun is shining on it. Now according to the slugline it was dusk, so this could be a fancy way of saying that the dying rays of the setting sun were illuminating the cove, but I’m pretty sure it was a typo and the writer meant to say “isolated”.

      • Matthew Garry

        Okay, I’m impressed now.

  • Andrew Parker

    I am going to posit something here that might be completely wrong — I think Carson’s brain has been tuned to features because he’s read so many of them. This would be a good Act 1 of a feature — probably starring Kevin Costner — but I don’t think that necessarily means it’s a great pilot.

    Things I love about the Breaking Bad pilot, in no particular order:
    – Great pre-credits teaser (a lot of shows do this though)
    – Amazing opening credits
    – Great act one opening scene, with life having kicked Walter in the balls so hard he has to eat Sizzle Lean
    – Life kicking him in the balls with the chemistry students who are apathetic in class + great writing by VG with Walt explaining chemistry is the study of change
    – Life kicking him in the balls with a son with cerebral palsy, but VG still makes the kid an engaging character rather than a trope
    – Life kicking him in the balls with the car wash job
    – Life kicking him in the balls with cancer diagnosis combined with a pregnant wife
    – Life kicking him in the balls with a brother-in-law who is in the DEA, so his son thinks is cooler than him
    – The fist pumping “yeah!” scene of Walt quitting his car wash job (with the car wash being a setup to a great later episode payoff)
    – The great combo and irony of his new cook partner being the kid he used to flunk in chemistry class for not being a good student
    – Krazy-8 and Emilio, two characters who carryover from the pilot in interesting ways
    – The great and creative way Walt gets them out of the impossible situation in the RV
    – The DVD cover worthy image of Walt in tidy whities escaping the RV
    – The leaving behind the gas mask, which is a clue that kicks off an investigation
    – Ending with Walt being able to maintain an erection; we’ve come full circle from Sizzle Lean to erections

    • hickeyyy

      I believe Breaking Bad is the best TV show of all time. I’ve seen arguments for The Wire, The Sopranos, and a few others, but none have the level of consistent quality of Breaking Bad.

      You just outlined a bunch of great decisions the writers made – and that’s just the pilot! These are throughout the entirety of the series. It just doesn’t get better.

      I received the Ozark pilot from Scott, and I’m excited to check it out – but I HIGHLY doubt this reaches Breaking Bad quality.

      • Magga

        There’s Mad Men, then there’s everything else. Season 4 of Breaking Bad is definitely up there with the best shows

        • BMCHB

          Just last week I tried Mad Men again and have no compulsion to keep going after S01E05. Everyone I know loves it but just isn’t clicking for me. AND I worked as an advertising creative for a number of years…but maybe that’s the reason…

          • hickeyyy

            I watched the pilot and was interested, but not enough to continue on. It’s on my watchlist.

        • Andrew Parker

          I love Mad Men. But in pure writing terms — knowing what comes after it — the Breaking Bad pilot is superior to Mad Men’s. Plus Mad Men got to work with a larger cast, whereas Breaking Bad had the hurdle of making a very intimate story incredibly engaging and addictive.

      • Midnight Luck

        I rewatched BB over the last few weeks. I hadn’t gone back to it since it was on the air.
        I am once again, just blown away.
        The creative, amazing choices made throughout the entire show were unbelievable.
        Constantly surprising, constantly changing it up, doing things you couldn’t guess.
        Breaking Bad was so well orchestrated, I have to agree, BEST SHOW of all time.
        Anyone wants to talk about being a writer with skill, needs to look at BB as a master class in creative writing.

        I keep hoping something else comes close to it, as the TV world seems so empty without it. I think FARGO does a fairly good job, but still isn’t quite as fresh, unique, and surprising as BB was.

        • Casper Chris

          I still haven’t seen anything that can rival Breaking Bad.

        • hickeyyy

          I agree 100%. It is just always interesting and always surprising. No choice made by the writers end up as arbitrary, maybe with the exception of the pizza throw.

    • BMCHB

      The Ozarks pilot is a strange beast in that it does feel almost self-contained.

      I don’t think it’s a spoiler to reveal Marty here ends up in the Ozarks at the end of the pilot. We’re talking a circa. 600 mile move so I think episode 2 will be where we’ll be introduced to most ongoing supporting characters. Hopefully there’ll be some great ones.

    • Andrew Parker

      I forgot to add my favorite scene of them all:

      At the clothing store, when RJ is getting made of fun by bullies for trying to pull up his “big boy pants.” Walt, who RJ had already emasculated at the birthday party, stands up for his son and scares the bullies off. The internal transformation of Walt — from getting kicked in the balls to kicking other people’s balls — is complete.*

      *I’ve written the word balls today more than any other day in my life.

      • hickeyyy

        You could get ballsier. I think you have it in you.

    • garrett_h

      I’m with you on this being a better movie than a tv show. I just don’t see where this goes from here. Is Del going to move to the Ozarks too? What’s going to happen there? Is there some kind of criminal underworld in this place?

      Also, (SPOILERS AHEAD) this is just like Breaking Bad… if Jesse dies in the Pilot. I mean the majority of the main characters bite the bullet, including two of the main conflict-inducing characters. Bold moves indeed, but now you need brand new characters to stir the pot in a new setting.

      I still liked the story overall. But I agree. It needs a few more plot threads to make it a great show.

  • Andrea Moss

    Ozark seems legit, but I think it seems too much a remake of Breaking Bad for my taste. I’m curious to see what will happen with another pilots that are flying under the radar, like Snowfall or Designated Survivor. Strong loglines and true talent behind the scenes. But I’m still on the fence with 24: Legacy. Sorry, Fox: No Jack, no way.

  • Eddie Panta

    This sounds great… but genius?

    OZARKS has the family at risk thriller element of BREAKING BAD, but not the “every man” angle that Walter White brought to the show. The male leads here is rich, and already corrupt. Also, a large part of Breaking Bad was about showcasing Walter’s skills, he was the new MacGyver. What is it that gives Marty depth when he’s not trying to save his life and family?.

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      As you say, great but not genius. Well, I’d say “very, very good” ‘cos the new BB, it ain’t. Too much talk, too many endless monologues and not much new under the sun as in not much we haven’t already seen in similar-themed movies. Still, I’m gonna give it a watch and this pilot is definitely worth the read :)

    • BMCHB

      it’ll probably be his financial wizardry which allows him to escape situations. It’s emphasized 2/3 times that he basically has a preternatural ability in this field. That’s how I read it anyway.

      Be tough to make that work visually on screen but here’s hoping.

      • BMCHB

        Hmmm…now I think about it, I hope they don’t try and turn this into BECOMING GOOD.

        They wouldn’t, would they?

      • Eddie Panta

        Marty, played by Bateman, isn’t going to die in the pilot? The scene highlighted in the article where Marty begs for his life, would never be suspenseful with a linear approach, adding another layer to the scene is mandatory.

        The question really is whether or not Marty is a victim, someone who is thrust into extraordinary circumstances or is he someone who chooses to get in over his head.

        What makes Walter White so appealing is that he is a victim of cancer, but no one forces him to turn into a criminal.

        • BMCHB

          Yeah, for sure. Maybe if we knew Walt was a 60 smokes a day guy for 30 years that would shade his character differently.

  • pabloamigo

    I would love to read this too if not too much trouble, Scott! paulf82 (at) gmail (d.o.t.) com

  • Randy Williams

    Genius huh? You sure this is not a review of “Canary”?
    Anyway, thanks for the heads up. I’m one of those who had to catch up
    on Breaking Bad. I’ll get on the ground floor of this one and not be a watercooler loser.

  • brenkilco

    I know series are where it’s happening. But does it bother anybody else that pilots, with their uncontained expansiveness and ultimate aim of tantalizing irresolution are sort of anti-movies

    • BMCHB

      Would this be a serial or a series? I always get mixed up.

      On Netflix I would assume that with a full season order from the outset they would have a ‘resolution’ in mind for each season making it a longform narrative.

      I stand ready to be corrected here, though.

      • garrett_h

        I think what he means here is, with a pilot, you want to introduce several different questions that will drive the story for several seasons.

        So for Breaking Bad, it’s will Walt make enough money to put away for his family? Will he die from cancer? Will his DEA brother-in-law (and the rest of his family) find out he’s selling drugs? What’s going to happen with the two dead drug dealers in his SUV, surely they have bosses? Is he really going to make this work, chemistry teacher to drug dealer?

        Whereas with a feature, you want everything wrapped up and resolved by the end. If they audience has all those questions when they leave the theater, a lot of people will be pissed.

        So in that way, the pilot is kind of anti-movie. And it takes two different kinds of storytelling to work in their different mediums.

        • BMCHB

          Definitely.

          I think they’ll just go with the overarching theme as stated, I think, on the opening page: ‘What is money, really?’

  • James Inez

    I think it’s mandatory now if your screenplay has a husband/father, that their wife and kids have to hate him or dislike him or think he is uncool.

    • Scott Strybos

      I agree this family hate has become a staple of fiction, or rather cliché. But on the flip side, while watching a happy family could be refreshing—it is rarely seen, and watching a spouse be loved and supported is very endearing—this will quickly become stale from lack of conflict. You really should want to jam in conflict absolutely anywhere you can.

      Into every single act, even if it is as simple as your protagonist buying a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

      And into every single relationship: mother, father, wife, child, drycleaner…

      • BMCHB

        His father is having an affair with his wife.
        His child is really the drycleaner’s.
        The drycleaner is laundering money for his mother.
        His mother tells him he’s adopted.

        Drama?

        Or an episode of Days of Our Lives.

        • Scott Strybos

          Say want you want about Days of our Lives, mostly because I don’t watch it myself so I wont be offended, but the show has been on the air for over FIFTY YEARS. They hook viewers young and keep them hooked for decades with these hyper-conflict storylines.

        • Midnight Luck

          The dry cleaner is really his mother, and is laundering money for his daughter, who is really his sister/daughter because of his messy dirty sheets with his mother, years ago.

          Wait, I think that WAS a Days of our lives episode…

      • James Inez

        I understand. I think it’s one of the best ways to show that your protagonists life sucks. And it mirrors real life.. A lot of times people with issues have disfunctional families.

  • jw

    This sounds pretty dope and I’m a huge Bateman fan, but I have to say one thing I’ve seen fairly recently and something I believe pilot writers should pay attention to. Pilots that open with a question that seems to have a singular answer (will he get the cash to pay them back?) really don’t go on for very long. How to Get Away With Murder averaged 9.7 million viewers in the initial season (while the question of who murdered Sam was still in the air), only to lose 2.7 million viewers in the season after the reveal. That should really speak to people, especially writers. When crafting a pilot you have to have multiple layers and questions to characters and plot that go beyond the answering of a single question. If not, mass exodus will ensue.

    • garrett_h

      Another dimension to that, is when you only have one question driving the story, you keep having to put red herrings, misleads, and more questions regarding that same thing. With more and more questions and no answers, the audience gets frustrated. I know, because my wife got EXTREMELY frustrated with How To Get Away With Murder.

      If you’ve got multiple layers and several different questions, you can sprinkle in the answers to those so that the audience feels like we’re making some kind of progress.

    • Midnight Luck

      Huge Bateman fan as well.
      The issue you bring up is the exact issue I bring up and worry about with new shows, or people writing TV pilots.
      If the question is a singular, simplistic one, how is it going to be carried farther out than one season?
      Most murder shows where the question is “who dunnit?”, run into this problem big-time.
      Yet so many others do as well.
      I believe the more layered a show is, the less likely the simple question will cause a problem.
      In breaking bad, the fact he has cancer is something that isn’t easily resolved, and we have no idea how it might turn out, so it can be carried out a while. Add that to everything else going on, and you have something with legs.
      I don’t know enough about Ozarks yet to know but I am a little worried about the size and complexity of the ” question ” Central to it.
      The layering of the show and complexity of it sounds like it could hold its own though.
      Know more once I’ve finished.

  • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

    Yeah, Carson, this “Ozark” thing–and the writer who penned it sound A-MAZING! Thanks for the intro/warning. Will definately be looking for “Ozark” when it comes out. So nice to FINALLY read some good news out there of a project that sounds highly entertaining and interesting.

  • kent

    Scott — thanks for sending! I thought this was very well-written and I could picture Jason Bateman in the part. Not sure I agree that’s it’s 9-dimensional chess or genius.

    SPOILER:

    If I read it right, the FBI suspects something’s going on with Marty’s partner Bruce and are bugging his new digs. After Bruce and his girlfriend are KILLED, and Marty’s wife’s boyfriend is KILLED, and Marty takes $7M out of the bank in cash and moves, they would be watching him 24/7. A triple murder (or two missing persons and a possible suicide) surrounding financial horseplay is a HUGE deal and wold get a lot of attention. What made Breaking Bad so interesting is that Walt was under the radar.

    • garrett_h

      SPOILERS

      I kinda felt the same at the end with the FBI scene. Your would-be informant and his wife go missing for 48 hours, their business partner withdraws $8 million, and their old office was ransacked… And it seemed like they didn’t care. I guess they really think Bruce and Liz are kidnapped? So they’re just waiting it out? I dunno. I didn’t see any scenario where the Feds would let Marty and family skip town. They’d be stopped in their driveway. So that scene didn’t really ring true to me.

  • Frankie Hollywood

    I really liked the script but I’m not sure I would’ve been brave enough to compare it to Breaking Bad. The whole empathy/sympathy difference is colossal. Ozark’s Marty is rich, healthy and already a criminal while Walter White is financially barely getting by, has cancer and is a “good man.”

    Maybe Marty wasn’t the one doing the stealing but his hands have been dirty for years. Walter only gets his hands dirty to help his struggling family.

    Plus everyone’s just talking about Marty being a financial genius while Walter shows us in the pilot that he’s a chemistry maestro.

    Again, really enjoyed the pilot (the writing is excellent) but comparing anything to one of the best dramas ever is…

    • BMCHB

      You’ve got to hope that there’s a reason that Marty’s character starts the Pilot as he does. If there is then I hope the show doesn’t resort to lots of flashbacks.

      If I had to guess, there was a set up/foreshadowing/backshadowing implied with his conversation with the couple RE swimming pools not adding value to a home.

      Later he traces his foot around a ‘circular impression’ in the garden. He also pushes down the molehills there.

      My money’s on there being a connection between that and the reason he agreed to launder money…

      • Frankie Hollywood

        Good points.

        With only a page or 2 left I kept thinking about the opening scene, “How in the hell are they gonna get to that, there’s not enough time left?” Foreshadowing, I’m guessing. Unless Marty was playing dumb, acting like he didn’t know anything about the Ozarks.

        The garden impressions? Be cool if the FBI found a body buried under there. That’d take things to a whole new level.

        • BMCHB

          Even the opening V.O. was in the present. His pitch to the couple. It was only overlayed on future events. So, it’s a case of that being his state of mind, or belief, now, rather than necessarily during those future events.

          I’ll definitely be maintaining my Netflix subs anyway.

      • Citizen M

        I though the circular impression was where the kids’ trampoline stood. I didn’t see anything sinister about it. It represented memories of happier times.

        I hope there won’t be many flashbacks, and the accent will be more on them learning to cope in a totally different social set, i.e. rednecks, particularly of the more criminal sort, given Marty’s real profession.

        Could be quite a culture shock.

  • garrett_h

    This was a really good pilot. I’ve been reading a bunch lately (gearing up to write a couple of my own) so it was really refreshing to read something good for a change. A lot of em were so-so (or WORSE!) and I wonder how in the heck they get picked up and ordered.

    I didn’t have to wonder about how this one got picked up.

    I will say, it started off slow for me. But then again, so did Breaking Bad. After the crazy opening, there’s a lot of mundane scenes of Walt’s daily life. It’s similar here, except the opening isn’t nearly as interesting as Breaking Bad’s.

    Also, the “amateur porn” scene Carson referred to, I knew right away it was his wife. Or someone he knew. It was 100% going to be someone involved in the story. So I wasn’t surprised at the reveal, I was just waiting for it. I guess that’s just because I’ve read so many scripts, so I’ve seen this trick a million times, but I wasn’t fooled. (Also, Carson: it wasn’t a maid who stole money, it was a cashier at his father’s grocery store).

    What made the difference for me, after the slow opening, was when Del showed up. He’s going to be an awesome villain. Unpredictable, charismatic, smart…The whole script went up a level when he showed up. And it’s kinda like a Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird situation. When Del showed up, Marty raised his game, and vice versa. They are going to make great rivals.

    I do have one concern though, and it’s pretty major as it’s regarding the series as a whole: where do we go from here? The family moves to the Ozarks. Got it. Are there going to be Mexican Cartel Thugs showing up in town and shootouts on Main St.? They completely relocated the show at the end of the pilot. So I’m not sure what’s going to happen next. There’s no way they can keep the body count going. And the villain even said HE DOESN’T WANT TO GO to Missouri. So if your bad guy doesn’t show up, who is the bad guy going to be?

    Which reminds me of the STILLWATER pilot and the “Series Proposal” it had at the end. It explained where each character would go over the course of a season or two, revealed some secrets, etc. Told us how things would go in town. We don’t have that here. So at the end I was a little lost. We’re going to need brand new characters, a brand new villain, and a brand new setting. Luckily the overarching goal is clear. Make the money or your family dies. Just not sure how they’ll maintain the momentum from the pilot.

    All said, great script. Great story. A part of me wonders if this would’ve been better as a standalone film (think The Counselor, except a million times better). But I’m hoping they do something great with it. Definitely a good start.

  • klmn

    I think you’d all spare Scott a little work if you’d email him as he asked, rather than posting in this thread.

  • BMCHB

    Read it for second time.

    Ozarks… Lake of the Ozarks…
    Giant Catfish myths… submerged city myths…
    Catfish are predictors of earthquakes in Japanese mythology… moles pushing up the earth…

    Ha ha. I read too much into these things.

    It is an excellently ‘sculpted’ script. I reckon it’ll do really well via forums and social media as it reads as if it has many layers deliberately inserted into to it.

  • Midnight Luck

    I would love to read this if anyone has it it is exactly my kind of thing.
    Thanks millions if anyone could send it along.

    M ((at) black luck dott com

  • Citizen M

    This was pretty damn good. A genuine drama in that the interest is more in the characters than in the plot. At times it got a bit Tarantino-ish with characters rabbiting on about nothing in particular, but there was always a fresh turn in the plot to rescue things and keep it interesting.

    One thing that really impressed me was the very low character count. It was no problem at all to follow who was who.

    Another thing I noticed was the mysteries were resolved fairly quickly. Who was the blonde in the porno video? We soon learn it was his wife. Who was the guy? We soon learn it was Gary the lawyer. What was the money in the cooler box? We soon learn it’s drug money. Amateurs tend to stretch out mysteries too long, hoping they’ll hold our interest. But they don’t. We forget they were there after a while.

    Do I want to know what happens to the Bird family in redneck Hicksville? Absolutely. And that’s what you want from a pilot.

  • carsonreeves1

    Not Scott. Don’t have enough time to comment that frequently. :)

  • Eddie Panta

    OT: FINAL DRAFT
    Anyone else get the email from FD that they sold the company to the Los Angeles based PAYROLL firm: Cast and Crew Ent.
    Is this a new beginning, or the beginning of the end?

    • Midnight Luck

      What?
      Why would they do that? (Rhetorical)
      usually when there is a big buyout it is the beginning of the end.
      I’ve been using it since the beginning, I’ll hope for the best.

    • hickeyyy

      I didn’t get that, but I don’t use FD. I use Writer Duet, which in my personal opinion is the best software out there. I gladly shill for them whenever possible.

    • ABHews

      Got it. Read it. Not to worried about it. From what I can tell nothing is going to change over at FD, same people, building and so on. Who knows if FD was/is profitable, my guess, it’s not/wasn’t, hence the sale.

      Boring as it is, I work for a large “logo” company that does this type of thing often. We buy smaller, well loved, companies that aren’t doing so well for two reasons. First, it’s a tax right off, not just once but every year if it under preforms. The company that bought FD will most likely make more money on tax right offs this year then FD made in profits in the last several years combined.

      Second, it makes the new company look cool. Helps attract younger, hipper talent and at the same time lets the new company say “yay for us, we saved screenwriting, love us deep. Now buy our other products to prove your love”.

      Sadly, it works. On the positive side Final Draft should be fine for next couple of years, that is until the new company is sold to an even large company.

      • Eddie Panta

        They probably have a very large customer serv network that FD lacked.
        Plus, they’ll bundle it with the other products they offer studios I suppose.

  • Tyler Givens

    Wow! This script sounds awesome! Can anyone send me a copy, pretty please?

    tlrgivens@gmail.com

    • ScottWC

      Sent

  • Casper Chris

    I don’t remember Carson ever using the Genius rating before. Wow.

  • Stephjones

    Read it. Felt as if it was WRITTEN for Bateman. He’s one of my favorite actors and has the ability to elicit a sympathetic response by his demeanor alone, which is critical for this story IMO. Without Bateman pictured in my head I couldn’t say I would ever be sympathetic to the character’s plight.
    The writer is trying to say some interesting things about our relationship with money but it was kind of a yawn fest, seen this before, until I became invested in Marty…which wasn’t right away, even with Bateman driving the story in my head. His genuine concern for his kids started swaying me his way. His intelligence helped but didn’t seal the deal. I dunno. I’ve seen scarier bad guys and smarter con men.
    And, of course, all the women are sluts, whores, unfaithful wives. Even the daughter wouldn’t take proper care of her gerbils. Doesn’t feel especially inspired to me, but, whatever. Risking everything in the pursuit of money is a very hard sell to me.

  • Casper Chris

    Then we you get it, perhaps you’d be so kind as to forward it to csprchrs AT gmail DOT com

  • gazrow

    I guarantee that Carson and Scott are NOT one and the same.

  • lesbiancannibal

    would love a copy if possible, prtaylorfreelance@gmail.com

  • hickeyyy

    Reading through and this is really cool. Really well done. I would watch this show without a doubt. My only concern is naming a character Bob Evans. WTF.

    • Poe_Serling

      Because of the producer or the restaurant chain? ;-)

      • hickeyyy

        Personally, I was thinking the restaurant chain. That name will just always be associated with sausage no matter what this show does!

        • Midnight Luck

          Bob Evans? Never heard of it. Is it an East coast thing, or the South?

          I remember I had never heard of HARDEES before, then came to find out it was this huge thing in the South / Southeast (I think?).

          Yet Here in the West? Well, STILL, years later, nowhere out here.

          Seems so many things never to be heard of out West.

          Then again, you probably don’t have BURGERVILLE’s out there either, since they are only in Oregon and S.W. Washington.

          • Frankie Hollywood

            Hardees is the same restaurant as Carl’s Jr., just different branding in the west — same Star logo though: https://twitter.com/Hardees?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

            I grew up in Tulsa, OK and Hardees were there, I think they’re mid-west to east. Still no White Castle anywhere near the left coast.

            Though Oregon finally got an In-N-Out, it’s only a 9 hour round trip to Medford from PDX. But you can join the cause to put one down the street: https://www.facebook.com/BringInNOutBurgerToPortlandOregon/

            5 Guys is pretty damn good.

          • Midnight Luck

            Yeah I ate at a Hardee’s many moons ago when I lived in Santa Fe, NM. I had no idea what it was, seemed like a low rent cheap-o burger joint. Didn’t know it was a big company. Literally looked like some crappy place, and the burger was terrible. (of course SF, NM also has a bunch of Blake’s Lotaburger’s, which sounded like a made up company, I ‘d never heard of it. But they do some serious business)

            Now of course, all the places you list are out of my zone, since I’m a (cover your ears everyone) Vegan and all.

            But I used to be the worlds biggest fan of In-N-Out when I lived in San Diego. I freaking loved that place. Simple ingredients. Simple menu. Loved it.

            Never had White Castle, closest I came was these tiny plastic and cardboard sandwiches they microwave when you are going cross country on Amtrak. Talk about disgusting looking. I think I was somewhere between Chicago and Boston on Amtrak at the time I came across those. Here in the West Amtrak only serves terrible looking plastic hotdogs, or barkdust burgers, microwaved.

            It is difficult to take a 3 day journey on Amtrak when you eat the way I do, the closest thing to food you can get on the rails is Lays Potato chips, a Pepsi (though I don’t drink Pop either) and maybe a few peanuts (plain).

            I just wait it out. Eventually I land somewhere I can get a bite, or I have their dinner service if something vegetable-ish is served over rice.

            FYI: so Chik-fil-A is this big thing for many people, and it seems to have a big presence in So Cal, but it used to be in Oregon. I actually used to get it when I was younger at the Mall, because there was one here. Then it left at some point. Not sure why. Now people are trying to convince them to come to Portland, like they’ve never been here, but they were here. Strange.

            Anyhow, this Chef duo has just announced they are launching a restaurant called CHKCHK this friday and giving out free chicken sandwiches. They are these simple bun, simple deep fried chicken (or garbonzo bean) patties with pickles and secret sauce.

            Oh Portland. Always so painfully super hip.

            Here’s the info if you want it:

            http://www.chkchk.com/
            https://www.facebook.com/chkchkpdx

          • Bluedust

            Bob Evans is all over the Midwest.

          • klmn

            Midwestern. Southern Ohio.

            Not too far from Poe Serling territory.

            Even Carson could find something he likes on the menu. Vegetarians need not apply.

          • Poe_Serling

            Yeah, no Bob Evans in the part of woods where I grew up. I think I’ve eaten at one or two – both times while driving through Illinois.

            The place I really miss – Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips. I believe there’s only a handful left… in New York, Ohio, etc.

          • Midnight Luck

            Yeah, Think I’ll skip it.
            Since I’m a big V supporter.

          • Paul Schellens

            Yeah. I like that team too.

            Oh, sorry. You meant vegetarian. Whoops.

  • carsonreeves1

    Lumi, I can’t find your comment, which I tried to reply to earlier, so I’ll reply here. I TOTALLY FORGOT that Dubuque wrote The Accountant, which I absolutely hated. Wow. I am so glad I forgot that. I would’ve come into this with such a prejudice.

    This is shocking. I guess it’s good news though. It shows that writers who write a shitty script are still capable of writing something great. Each script is its own thing. Some have the potential to shine while others are doomed from the start, regardless of the writer’s ability. Clearly, Dubuque knew he had something special here and really understood the story he wanted to write.

  • Malibo Jackk

    “Jonathan Sothcott is revered as one of the UK’s most prolific and
    dynamic filmmakers, passionately championing homegrown talent and
    leading a crusade to save Britain’s independent movie industry.

    In the past five years alone, the multi-award-winning producer and
    entrepreneur has cemented his position as silverscreen kingpin, making
    more than two dozen feature films starring cinema’s greatest treasures,
    including Ray Winstone, Richard E Grant, Peter Capaldi, Mark Hamill,
    Robert Englund, Danny Dyer, Rik Mayall and Steven Berkoff.”
    — THE HUFFINGTON POST

    He must be paying someone.

    • BMCHB

      Why did the dumb blonde sleep with screenwriters?

      She was hoping to get ahead in the film business.

  • ScriptChick

    Would absolutely love to read this as well. botts100@gmail.com

  • Midnight Luck

    “Why do you have children, if you want them to act like Adults?”
    — good line.

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      … Word for word something that I asked my own mother when I was a teenager.
      Dubuque is a very good writer and also has an ear for dialogue even though there was too much of it for my own taste. Also, I’m really wondering where the show will go from this pilot that felt more like a summary of a self-contained feature.

  • BigDeskPictures

    Where are they going to shoot the series? Does Missouri have a film tax credit? They’ll probably end up somewhere in Georgia.

    I would love for Bateman to play Marty. IMDb Pro has him listed as Director/EP of the pilot. Is he playing Marty?

    • BMCHB

      It has The Missouri [Tax] Breaks.

      Badum-Tish

  • Paul Schellens

    Even though someone winds up a company, it may still be fraud. Seek legal advice.

    It shouldn’t be too hard to chase down other cast and crew in order to gather evidence. Unlikely they’ll be here though.

  • fourjacks

    Derivative drivel. Opening with a flash forward is owned lock, stock and barrel by Breaking Bad. Anyone who uses it – is a hack. This is why the Golden Age of TV is almost dead. It only lasted 2 generations before Hollywood ruined it with pale knock offs.

    The hen pecked husband, the cheating wife, the annoying kids, the desire for riches, the fun of dealing with homicidal drug dealers…BEEN THERE DONE THAT.

    This is such a lame ripoff of Breaking Bad it makes me laugh. The fact that so many like it, makes me scared.

    Enough of JJ Abrams and the Imitators and more originality!

  • jridge32

    I so miss the days of reading your critiques, Carson, getting excited to check out the script for myself then just tapping the link to said script. Why did life have to go and get so complicated..