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Pilot Script Review of Rebel

Katey Sagal leads this drama based on the present-day life of Erin Brockovich.
  • Katey Sagal is poised to return to series television playing the lead role in ABC's Rebel.
    Editor's Note: Ever wonder how TV executives wade through the dozens of pilot scripts they're pitched each year? They have staff script readers, who provide what's called "Script Coverage," an executive summary and a recommendation for each script. Now, thanks to Primetimer's own resident script reader, you too can preview some of the season's most buzzed about pilots. Note that all opinions are our own, and all plot, casting and other creative details described here are subject to change.

    Based on the contemporary life of environmental activist Erin Brockovich (who was famously portrayed by Julia Roberts in the 2000 feature film), Rebel was originally developed last season with a different writer. It didn't move past the script stage, but ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke remained a fan of the idea and asked Grey's Anatomy showrunner Krista Vernoff to come on board with a new take. This year it's one of the network's most buzzed-about dramas, having earned an early pilot order and one of this pilot season's most sought-after stars, Katey Sagal. The former Sons of Anarchy and Married with Children star was attached to another ABC project, Nana, last pilot season. Although Nana did not go to series, Sagal has stayed in the ABC family, taking recurring roles on Grand Hotel and The Conners.

    WRITTEN BY: Krista Vernoff
    DRAFT DATE: Second Revised Network Draft 12.16.2019
    PAGE COUNT: 58 pages

    SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: We open on a helicopter shot of Hollywood and the suburbs of Los Angeles before entering the ball room of a fancy hotel where a corporate dinner is being held. Music plays, drinks are flowing and people are laughing as someone gives a speech about how this company is like a family, and how they've managed to be groundbreaking and respectful while also making a ton of profits. In the back of the room, someone's fuming. She's our heroine, ANNIE FLYNN RAY BELLO aka REBEL (50s), sexy as hell in her cocktail dress. Her eyes are on the CEO, MARC DUNCAN, a silver fox, and his much younger wife. She approaches him, compliments his tie, and asks if the woman next to him is his daughter ,even though she knows full well who she is. Visibly uncomfortable with the question, Duncan's wife excuses herself, and Annie seizes the opportunity to flirt a bit with the man, before telling him her name. His face falls. He knows her and that troubles are ahead. He's furious. She gives him a ultimatum: he has one last chance to make things right before she tells everyone what she knows about his company: there's a problem with the mechanical heart valve they've created. He refuses to admit it. Rebel leaves and whistles to her teenage daughter, ZIGGIE (15), who opens the door to the ball room. Behind it, 50 protesters carrying signs are ready to make some noise. The press is also there. Mayhem breaks out in the ball room. Rebel walks out on stage and borrows the mic. She explains what's happening, and why it's happening. Duncan won't let her continue. They fight on stage, and then she falls onto a table. There's a huge crash, but she's fine... ready to get arrested. This isn't her first time at the rodeo.

    Later that night, she meets NAOMI LEE (25) in her jail cell. She stabbed her boyfriend, not to kill him but to defend herself from his attacks. Rebel is instantly touched by her story. Outside the police station, her husband AIDEN BELLO (50s) arrives in his Ford Mustang while her sister in law LANA RAY (40s) climbs out of her Prius. Rebe's other daughter CASSIDY RAY (28) is on the passenger side and she's not happy to be there. Meanwhile, a cop, WOODROW FLYNN (60s), approaches Rebel. After a warm exchange, he escorts her out to everyone who's arrived to greet her... tepidly. She's determined to fight the fight, whether they like it or not. But she'll need some help. Aiden brings her to CRUZ, a star lawyer who's a dear friend, her late best friend's husband, and Lana's boss. He doesn't want to take the case. An argument ensues, and he closes his door on her face. She's not used to easy, but this may be more complicated than she expected...

    COMMENTS: There's nothing not to like about Annie Flynn Ray Bello. From the first scene to the last, we'll be rooting for her. And there's no question that Katey Sagal is a great choice for the role. There are also a good number of supporting characters in the script, between her lover, ex-lovers and soon-to-be lover, and her children. Among those who stand out most is Ziggie, Rebel's adopted daughter. Ziggie's going through a rough patch: she got hooked on pain medication after an injury, but has been drug-free for the last 72 days. She is vulnerable and needs her mother, but Rebel is often busy with her clients. Ziggie is helped by her aunt, Lana, Rebel's former sister-in-law, who's a recovering addict herself. Lana is employed by Rebel as an investigator. Her brother is Rebel’s second husband, Benji, a polished corporate lawyer. Rebel and Benji had a daughter together named Cassidy. Cassidy is a lawyer too, and also a recovered juvenile deliquent... Finally, Rebel has a son, Nathaniel Flynn, a handsome doctor with his own practice in his thirties.

    These various branches of the family may sound confusing, but the script is smartly written and each has a distinct place in the pilot, and provide a thousand possible directions for a long running series. In this way, Rebel is similar to CBS's Blue Bloods, another older-skewing show. In the same way that Blue Bloods is not a straight-forward cop show, Rebel is a family drama paired with a legal show. And this legal show is semi-serialized. There will be a big case that will run for multiple episodes, perhaps all season-long, and a smaller one in the pilot. Rebel is also timely, focused on righting the wrongs of the world in tumultuous times. Rebel is this force who can make people rail against the powerful. The project clearly aims to be inspirational and this pilot script mostly succeeds. It will need time to deepen its characters and add grey to the black and white, but there's definitely the basis for something good here.

    Unfortunately the show faces a bit of an uphill battle due to circumstances that are mostly out of its control. In many ways, Rebel feels like a legal version of CBS's midseason police entry Tommy. They're both set in Los Angeles and they both center around a fiftysomething female lead, played by a popular fiftysomething actress (Katey Sagal in this case, Edie Falco in Tommy). Both characters are relentless, whip-smart and funny women with a kind heart and a whole lot of family drama going on. The representation of older women on shows like this is a good thing -- there are not enough women of a certain age in leading roles on TV, but as evidenced from Tommy's terrible start, Rebel may have a hard time attracting viewers in the all-important 18-49 demo.

    FINAL RECOMMENDATION: Rebel may have a hard time attracting younger viewers, but like its strong-willed and determined central character, this show won't go down without a fight. If ABC can give it a good timeslot and market it smartly, nothing's impossible. If the finished pilot is as strong as the script, it's well worth a try.

    [   ] PASS
    [   ] RECOMMEND

    BEST FIT: Sundays at 9, paired with The Rookie or Tuesdays at 10, if For Life doesn't survive.