Pilot Script Review of Lincoln
Lincoln was one of the biggest drama pitch buys this development season and NBC snatched it as a rare "premium script commitment," meaning there was little to no chance it didn't get orderd to pilot. And given how much money they've already spent on it, it seems an almost sure thing to be picked up to series. All of this is due to the fact that it's based on a rich IP: the bestselling book series by Jeffery Deaver, which spawned 11 volumes; and the 1999 movie The Bone Collector which starred Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. The series is expected to draw from the entire collection.
The project hails from writers-partners VJ Boyd and Mark Bianculli (S.W.A.T.), who really need a win after their two most recent pilots -- The Jury and Doomsday, both for ABC -- were passed on (I thought the scripts were really good). The pilot is being produced by Universal Television and Sony Pictures Television, whose feature sibling studios shared distribution of the film, in association with Keshet Studios, which has deals with NBC and Uni TV. That's a look of cooks in the kitchen, but hopefully it means the pilot got a big budget.
WRITTEN BY: VJ Boyd & Mark Bianculli
DRAFT DATE: Network Draft, 4th revision, 1/11/19
PAGE COUNT: 61 pages
SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: LINCOLN RHYME (40s) is the most brilliant forensic detective in New York. He's also bound to his bed after a failed attempt at catching the serial killer known as the BONE COLLECTOR rendered much of his body immobile. Three years after that incident, AMELIA SACHS (30) discovers a new victim of the killer, whose pattern is always three victims in a day, with three clues left at each crime scene as hints for who will be his next victim. Thrown into the investigation, Amelia dons a special bodycam rig that allows her to act as eyes for Lincoln, who is pulled out of retirement by his old partner RICK SELLITTO (40s). Along with a small team of forensic analysts, the three cops manage to track down the second would-be-victim using the first set of clues, saving her just in time. Notoriously difficult to get along with, Lincoln develops a soft spot for Amelia as the case continues, especially after he determines the third victim to be Amelia's sister. The NYPD commissioner (and Lincoln's former teacher) convinces him to re-join the force in an advisory role, pairing him with Amelia on the ground. As the pilot comes to a close, the Bone Collector is still plotting, Lincoln Rhyme always on his mind.
COMMENTS: The latest in a string of attempts by NBC to find their next semi-serialized procedural hit after The Blacklist, the pilot script for Lincoln is promising, with an identity all its own. We're definitely the high-octane thriller territory, and the writers are giving all they have.
It starts with the famous operation when Lincoln Rhyme almost got killed by the Bone Collector and it's a hell of an introduction -- a life or death situation with a ticking bomb that's supposed to explode in 2 minutes. We're living it real time, and while many will be familiar with the story, it works. This first confrontation between the detective and the criminal is exciting with the type of clichéd yet exciting dialogue one can only accept in those situations, especially if Bruce Willis is involved (sadly he isn't). Our hero's sardonic attitude definitely gives the show a Die Hard vibe, but it's bit darker: it ends with the Bone Collector stabbing the victim, crunching the knife through their flesh and bone. There are several more action scenes in the pilot, including one with a victim tied to a train track in Grand Central -- another cliché -- and a "treasure" hunt in Central Park. The grand finale is set at the docks, with Amelia saving a would-be victim underwater.
Lincoln is not reinventing anything here, but what makes it stand out -- apart from the efficient writing and the fast pace -- is the trick cat and mouse game between the serial killer and the police. The clues and the staging of the crimes, combined with the humor is what makes it exciting, fun, and often surprising. There are a good deal of clever plot twists, and though we know where we're going -- the Bone Collector always wins or it's the end of the series -- we don't know how we're getting there. About the identity of the serial killer: we know how he looks from the get-go.. There are a few scenes showing his seemingly normal life at the beginning, and by the end we know who he is, and most importantly: who he is for Lincoln. Because it turns out they met a long time ago...
Also working for show is a strong ensemble. Lincoln, Amelia and Sellito are the main characters, but every person on the team has something going for them. Amelia is an extremely bright young cop with a complicated family history. Her intuition and loyalty quickly earn her the respect of Rhyme and their paring feels like a natural fit. Arielle Kebbel and Russell Hornsby have big shoes to fill in taking on the roles originated by Washington & Jolie in the feature film, but hopefully they'll have the chemistry to carry the day. Sellitto is the old-school cop who deflects everything with humor. Right up in Michael Imperiolli's alley. There's also Kate, Felix and Lincoln's mysterious caregiver Claire. They're all brilliant,leading to a riveting internal competition to see who will make Lincoln the proudest. And if the show gets picked up, presumably they'll all be targets (and some victims) of the Bone Collector at some point. There will deaths. The writers seem ruthless in that way.
FINAL RECOMMENDATION: Among NBC's drama pilots this year, Lincoln looks like the surest bet from almost every angle: the IP, the promise, the efficiency of the pilot script and the ratings potential. The cast is the only question mark: can they pull it off? In any case, this is the network's strongest pilot script in the high-octane thriller genre since The Blacklist and Blindspot.
OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:
[ ] PASS
[ ] CONSIDER
BEST FIT: Monday at 10, fall or midseason.