Genre: 1 hour TV Drama/Sci-fi
Premise: A Secret Service agent goes to Wayward Pines, Idaho in search of two federal agents who have gone missing in the bucolic town. He soon learns that he may never get out of Wayward Pines alive.
About: The show was bought on a spec by Chad Hodge, which was based on a book. Hodge has been working in TV for awhile, getting on-air with the shows “Runaway” and “The Playboy Club,” but hasn’t been able to cross that mighty threshold known as the “2+ season show.” Ahh, don’t we all wish we could be there. He’ll have a little help this time, however, from M. Night Shyalaman, who’s executive producing the series at Fox. The show has some serious actors to help as well. Matt Dillon, Carla Gugino, Terrance Howard, Melissa Leo, and Juliette Lewis will all partake in this maze of a story. I thought the show was coming out this year, but apparently it’s not premiering until 2014. It’s either a Fox or FX show (it’s not totally clear which).
Creator: Chad Hodge (based on the ebook by Blake Crouch)
Details: 63 pages (October 23, 2012 draft)
There was a time when anything M. Night Shyalaman did was shrouded in secrecy. He was the master of the mystery (before JJ Abrams came along). Nowadays things are a little different. However, there’s a part of me (and I assume, us) that’s still curious whenever M. Night introduces a new project. Will he bring us back to that Sixth Sense magic? And when you hear that they’re going for a “Twin Peaks” feel with this – well, the mind is definitely curious. All on top of a show based on an e-book (keep writing those e-books people – Hollywood is snatching them up!). Might this unique equation result in the next big thing on TV??
37 year-old special agent Ethan Burke is driving along in the middle of Idaho with his partner, Pete Stallings, discussing how the heck two other secret agents could’ve disappeared. That’s why they’re here in Idaho, heading to “Wayward Pines.” Two special agents were sent there on a mission last week and never reported back. Now these guys have to find out what’s up.
Turns out only one of them will figure that out. A MACK truck appears out of nowhere, slamming into the car and instantly killing Stallings (ironically in a very un-stall’ish maneuver). That’s our teaser. When the cops finally find the car, it’s all but annihilated. But there’s a curious difference from the last time we were inside of it. Ethan’s no longer in it!
Turns out Ethan flew a hundred feet out of the car into the forest, and no one saw him. Which is where we pick him up. Bruised and bloodied, he stumbles along the road where he finally reaches a small town. And wouldn’t you know it – that town is Wayward Pines!
That much is good. But what isn’t good is that everyone treats poor Ethan like he’s a moron from outer space. Nobody seems helpful, and even after he ends up at the hospital, no one seems to know where his burned up car is, where his stuff is, or why he keeps babbling on about being a secret service agent. Eventually Ethan gets so fed up that he sneaks out of the hospital and into town, where he meets a waitress, Beverly, who, after a little chat, tells him to stop by her place if he needs help.
He does, only to find one of the agents he was looking for brutally tortured and burned to a crisp. Not cool! Ethan goes running back into town, telling the sheriff that his co-worker has been tortured and killed, but just like everyone in this getup, Large N’In Charge doesn’t seem to be that interested. What the hell does a guy need to do to get a drink around here!
Later, Ethan meets up with Beverly again, who tells him that she’s just like him. She got stuck in this town and has been here for an entire year. “What year is it?” Ethan asks. It’s 1986! Holy debut of the Oprah Winfery Show! If that isn’t weird enough, Ethan eventually DOES run into that other female agent he was looking for. There’s only one problem, she’s 13 YEARS OLDER than the last time he saw her. What in the Challenger crash is going on here?
And that’s only a fraction of the questions asked in the debut of Wayward Pines. You get the feeling that this show is going to have Lost-level story threads to resolve. But is it a good enough show to warrant all those threads? Or is this just gobbledy-gook covering up the fact that there’s no story?
Well that’s a good question. I don’t know! You see, with feature screenplays, the answer’s always there for you. If you read to the end, you find out if the writer knew what he was doing or not. With a TV pilot, there’s no way for you to tell. Because many of these questions don’t have to be answered for weeks, sometimes even years!
That’s why it’s so hard to write these types of shows for TV. If you don’t have a set amount of seasons, you have no way of knowing whether to speed up your storyline or hang back. And a show’s lifespan is often hanging in the balance unless you’re Gray’s Anatomy or Modern Family.
But getting back to Wayward Pines, I thought this was pretty damn good. We may only have questions to judge this on, but the questions were definitely entertaining. I want to know how we went 20 years back in time and yet one person has aged 13 years while another has only aged one.
And the writers were smart. One of the agents our hero is looking for is a former flame who almost broke up his marriage. In other words, there’s a CONNECTION there, and you need those relationship connections in a movie to balance out the relationships that are new to the character. And plus I just like the idea of this unresolved love affair that’s complicated by a strange nefarious town, the aging of one of them 13 years, and the fact that she’s now married to one of the Wayward Pinians! These are not your average issues you have to deal with. And that’s what you want when you write any type of script. You want relatable, but the ‘on-steroids’ heightened version of relatable.
And then it’s got that “Lost” goal going for it as well – that goal that’s always going to be there for every episode: GET OUT. They had to find a way to get off that island. This guy’s gotta find a way to get out of this town. As long as you have that pull dominating every episode, it gives your show a little more juice. It’s not as exciting, obviously, if this show was framed as a man going to a strange town, looking for missing people, who could leave whenever he wanted.
As for the script’s faults, there were a few here and there. Our character’s partner is killed but he pretty much forgets about that after five seconds. True he’s frustrated and wants to get out of this town. But we probably need more than a “You’re kidding me,” when he finds out his partner’s dead. And it was frustrating that every single person was so unhelpful. I couldn’t figure out if this was being done because people were purposefully trying to mislead him or because it made the script cooler. I guess it makes sense if everyone’s in on it, but I find that hard to believe. And even if they were in on it, you’d think they’d at least PRETEND like they weren’t. So when he says to the Sheriff, “an agent’s been tortured and burned to death,” why isn’t the Sheriff pretend-acting like a real person would. “Oh shit! Where!?” The fact that he’s more interested in getting a drink is basically proof that he’s a bad guy. And if that’s the case, why not just tell Ethan. “Yo, I’m a bad guy and you’re now stuck in this town. Get used to it.”
Then again, that’s the dance you’re always doing with these kinds of scripts. How long can you keep the secrets and reveals before it gets ridiculous?
This kind of thing has been done before (most recently in the underrated The Prisoner). I thought that was pretty good but it got cancelled. So I’m not sure what’s the formula for success here. But from this pilot alone, I think they have something pretty cool. With that talent pool they’re working with, I find it difficult to believe that people won’t at least check out the first few episodes. Where it goes from there is up to the TV gods.
[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[xx] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: A technical tip today. There are times where you have to change a character’s name in a script. For example, if a character has a secret identity, then later reveals himself to be someone else, you have to start using that new name. Problem is, the reader’s used to the old name. So cold-turkey changing the name can be jarring. In these cases, for the first few times you use the character’s changed name, include both names – the previous and the new, divided by a slash.
So in this pretend scene in a back alley, a mysterious man named Anderson hands a character we’ve seen before (Frank) a bag of money.
How’s it going, Ray? It’s all in there.
It’s Frank, the doctor who chatted Ethan up back at the bar. But Anderson just called him “Ray.”
Welcome. We all good?
We’re all good.
Frank/Ray struts over to his car, gets in, and drives away.