Pilot Script Review of Katy Keene
After Netflix kind of stole The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina out from under The CW, where it had originally been envisioned as a Riverdale spin-off, the network asked creator/executive producer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa to develop another Archie comics-based show. He came back with the idea of Katy Keene, a character who got her own comic for 12 years beginning in 1949 before a revival in the 80s. The link with Riverdale is made through Josie McCoy, who leaves her hometown to pursue a solo career in New York City. No crossovers between the two series are planned, since the shows exist in two different timelines, with the events depicted in Katy Keene taking place after Riverdale's high school years.
The show's producer Greg Berlanti recently explained at the INTV conference that Katy Keene is a personal project for Aguirre-Sacasa and his co-writer Michael Grassi : "It speaks to Roberto and Michael and what they’re passionate about as it’s a story of young artists and storytellers... There are elements of [Robert'os} life as a playwright, living in New York and all those young days that he really wants to capture." Whether that's the spin-off The CW hoped for is unclear, but they've gladly embraced it, and they aren't likely to let anyone steal it from them this time...
WRITTEN BY: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa & Michael Grassi
DRAFT DATE: Network Draft 1/17/19
PAGE COUNT: 62 pages
SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: The eponymous KATY KEENE (20s) is an aspiring fashion designer who works by day as an assistant to luxury personal shopper GLORIA GRANDBILT (40s) at Lacy’s Department store on 5th Ave. Katy is surrounded by a band of diverse and creative twenty-somethings, including her roommate JORGE LOPEZ (20s), a failing Broadway dancer who performs in drag as GINGER LOPEZ at The Ballroom nightclub, and their new roommate JOSIE MCCOY (20s), who just moved to New York City from Riverdale. Josie’s dream to become a professional singer is almost realized when ALEXANDER CABOT III (20s) discovers her busking in a subway station and tries to make her the face of his parents’ media empire, but Alex’s sister ALEXANDRA CABOT (20s) squashes Josie’s hopes just as a spark between Alex and the young musician begins to form. Gloria and Jorge’s friend PEPPER SMITH (20s), a seemingly affluent and well-connected young socialite, tells them of her plan to create a twenty-first century version of Andy Warhol’s Factory, but those plans are derailed when her money runs out. After Katy is passed over for a promotion at work, her boyfriend KO (20s) asks if she'll move to Philadelphia with him so that he can pursue a career as a professional boxer. When she declines and suggests that they try long-distance, he proposes to her instead...
COMMENTS: If it wasn't for Josie McCoy and a line at the beginning of the pilot when Katy Keene informs the audience that she's friends with Veronica Lodge, you really wouldn't know this show is a Riverdale spin-off. Which is both good news and bad news. It's bad news for Riverdale fans expecting more Archie & Friends -- gone are the mysteries, the teen spirit, the small city atmosphere, and the conscious silliness of it all (and let us not forget KJ Apa's abs). On the other hand, it's good news for those who are looking for a new Gossip Girl-like obsession. Because Katy Keene is basically Gossip Girl meets Glee with a little Carrie Diaries and The Bold Type thrown in for good measure. Big city, big dreams, music, fashion, and yes, some new attractive abs. Amidst the multiple DC comics and fantasy series on The CW, it feels like a breath of (somewhat) fresh air. Yes, we've seen variations of this show before, but there's reason to believe there's an audience who craves it.
One thing Gossip Girl was not is woke. It presented a mostly white cast playing mostly rich people, having mostly rich people problems. In this way Katy Keene is entirely different, presenting young talented characters from different backgrounds forming their own family as they chase their twentysomething dreams in New York City. It's billed by the network as a "musical dramedy" but that's a bit reductive. Yes, music is a component since it's what Josie McCoy lives for, but she's not the center of the whole show. She's one of four aspiring artists trying to make it, whether it's on Broadway, on the runway or in her case in the recording studio. Based on the pilot, it would be more apt to describe it as a "fashion drama," since we spend a good of time in the department store with Katy. In fact, the first 12 pages are all about Katy as she struggles with issues and humiliations that will be familiar to anyone who's read (or seen) The Devil wears Prada. But don't worry, there's a love story forming at the same time -- more of a love triangle, to be precise -- between Katy, her boyfriend KO and her saviour Prince Erroll. Katy may be a little too nice, talented and perfect overall to be true, but you want to be on her team regardless.
Josie McCoy isn't the most obvious character to be spun-off from Riverdale, but I'm pretty sure Katy Keene is the perfect vehicle for both the character and the actress Ashleigh Murray to bloom. The material she's given here is bigger and better. Much like Katy, she's a little too nice in the pilot, and more naive than I remember her being in Riverdale, but there's a lot of potential for the character in this setting. Next, there's Pepper. She's a bit more in the background than Katy and Josie in the pilot, but she adds a different flavor to the show. She comes off as a bit entitled and I'm always suspicious of characters who seem to be good at everything, but she's definitely rougher and not cut from the same cloth as Katy and Josie. And since she's well-connected -- we're told she knows everyone in the biz -- she might provide producers the opportunity to invite guest stars to help make some buzz from time to time. Speaking of star-power: as written, the pilot starts with a montage put to the sound of Lady Gaga's Fashion.
Which is a perfect segue to the character of Jorge Lopez, aka Ginger Lopez when he's in drag, a character clearly designed to bait the queer community on to Katy Keene. It's not exactly groundbreaking, but it's still great to see pilots picking up where Ryan Murphy's Pose and Ru Paul's Drag Race leave off -- it's opportunistic, but in a good way. There's a great ball room scene and Jorge is a beautiful character. The thing is, The CW also has the Glamorous pilot in its development slate, which has more or less the same character, and a way better script by the way (read the preview here). Both shows share a lot of DNA and are very similar thematically. It would be sad if the network had to make a choice between them.
FINAL RECOMMENDATION: Yes, it's wildly diferent from Riverdale, but that doesn't make Katy Keene any less of a sure thing for The CW. They need a soap like this, especially with Jane The Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend gone. And they know this one will find an audience, whether it's through live viewing, the CW apps or a Netflix deal. The script is decent, the show will be too.
OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:
[ ] PASS
[ ] CONSIDER
BEST FIT: Far away from Riverdale. A pairing on Fridays with Dynasty would make sense, but The CW may have bigger ambitions.