Pilot Script Review of At That Age
At That Age (formerly known as Legacy) comes from writer Carla Banks-Waddles, currently a consulting producer on NBC's Good Girls. She has a sitcom background, with credits on That's So Raven, Half and Half and The Soul Man. Night School and Girls Trip director Malcolm D. Lee is producing through his shingle Blackmaled Productions, alongside Debra Martin Chase (Princess Diaries, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants). Chase is one of the over-achievers of the year with another pilot order at CBS for The Equalizer reboot starring Queen Latifah (read my review).
WRITTEN BY: Carla Banks Waddles
DRAFT DATE: 1/1/20 (Revised Network Draft)
PAGE COUNT: 63 pages
SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: We open on beauty shots of HARLEM, from the legendary Apollo Theater to Frederick Douglass Boulevard, ultimately landing on a residential street filled with construction equipment. We hear the sound of a helicopter as the camera passes a tall construction crane. Inside the helicopter is the beautiful VICTORIA COOPER-HARGROVE (37) and her equally handsome big brother AVERY COOPER (41). They're admiring their family real estate that started with their mom and dad's storefront realty shop. Avery is all about the future of the company as he's about to sign a big contract to create condos just for seniors. But the competition is fierce and he hopes his friends at the mayor's office will help them. Victoria is less enthusiastic — as their projects get bigger and bigger, she feels they're demolishing the city's history. While she's clearly feeling guilty and worried, Avery doesn't understand the problem.
That night is their father's retirement party. Everyone will be there and as Victoria confesses to her husband JUSTIN HARGROVE (37) on the way, she's not exactly thrilled. Meanwhile, Avery is about to arrive in a black limo, with his wife savvy SAMANTHA (41) and their two daughters, wild child KENDALL (16) and the sweet JOLIE (13). Avery's phone is buzzing , the caller ID reads "FIJI". He doesn't answer. It's not a conversation he can have right now, apparently. A few seconds later, his phone buzzes again but it's someone else. This time he answers and it seems urgent. He doesn't like what he's hearing and it seems to be about the contract. A third car, another limo, parks in front of the swanky Harlem Hotel. Getting out of it are Victoria and Avery's father HORACE COOPER (60s) and his wife GRACE (60s). They're welcomed by everyone except Avery who had to make a detour.
Cut to the lavish rooftop party. Close to the fondue bar, Victoria and Justin are joined by JABARI PATTERSON (35), a smart playboy and Avery's brother-in-law. They're quickly interrupted when Victoria overhears COUNCILWOMAN SUSAN ELLISON (50s) criticizing the Coopers with a few guests nearby. Victoria can't help but defend her family and their next project, but Avery stops her before things get heated. Later, Horace clinks his glass, and officially announces that Victoria and Avery will be taking the helm of the company after his 40-year tenure. The crowd erupts with applause, and after a long beat, Victoria takes Avery's arm as they begin to make their way to the front. Suddenly Avery stops in his tracks, tries to support himself on a high cocktail table, before collapsing. The family rushes over and screams "911"...
COMMENTS: What were the odds that both NBC and ABC would order two soapy pilots set in Harlem in the same year? Oddly, At That Age and Harlem's Kitchen (read my review) have a lot more in common besides a shared setting. Both are about a family business and its legacy, competition between the children, and the dirty secrets that are revealed along the way. (To be fair, these same themes have been present in countless primetime soaps over the last 40 years, from Dallas to Dynasty to, most recently, Empire.)
For all of their commonalities however, one of the two pilot scripts is vibrant and exciting and seems like a real winner, while the other is predictable, and frankly comes off as a bit lazy. If you've already read my Harlem's Kitchen review, you likely know by now which I think is the inferior one. Let me explain why.
At That Age is efficiently written and packed with twists, but unfortunately the twists are often predictable and not very compelling. One has to do with the handsome older brother Avery having an affair (duh!) and wanting a divorce. The clues are so obvious from the get-go that there's no surprise here. Granted it sets up another scenario by episode's end that's more promising, but will it be enough? I don't think so. Even more troubling are the show's characters. They're not likable, nor are they funny or gross or crazy enough to keep our attention. (To be clear, this is no Succession.) Avery is the confident golden child. Victoria is the competitive, daddy's girl. Layton is the black sheep of the family, rough around the edges (or so we're told). Samantha is the savvy, former party girl who's never taken seriously. Horace and Grace are the cliched patriarch and matriarch characters. And Avery and Samantha's daughters are non-existent.
In a different time, there could be a place for a show like At That Age, but it just doesn't seem like the kind of soap people want right now. Unlike This is Us, it doesn't feel particularly modern in the way it tells its story, and while I can't blame NBC for trying to go in a different direction after failing to replicate that show's success, an uninspired show about the 1% feels particularly dull compared to Succession, or for that matter the real-time travails of the Trump dynasty.
FINAL RECOMMENDATION: In many ways, At That Age feels like an 80s era soap, and not in a good way. Uninspired in both its story and its storytelling, this one feels like a misfire, especially on NBC. The network would be better off betting on one of this year's high-concept pilots than it would this one, which feels like it has a 1% chance of working.
OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:
[ ] CONSIDER
[ ] RECOMMEND