Pilot Script Review of The Hypnotist’s Love Story
The Hypnotist’s Love Story was the first regular pilot season order for ABC (NYPD Blue happened off-cycle) and the first pilot order for the network’s new entertainment president Karey Burke, who comes from Disney’s cable channel Freeform. Her mandate is to lure women back to ABC and take back that number one crown from NBC, so it makes sense that she would greenlight a project based on one of Liane Moriarty's novels. Moriarty wrote Big Little Lies, which was a huge female-driven hit for HBO last year. Heather Graham, who co-stars in the show, has been the driving force behind the project from the get-go. She brought the book to Mandeville Television and ABC Studios after meeting with several producers. That pitch led to a buy, then a script and now a pilot.
WRITTEN BY: Katie Welch
DRAFT DATE: 3rd Revised Network Draft. 1/11/19
PAGE COUNT: 61 pages
SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: ELLEN (38) is a hypnotherapist who excels at helping others with their relationships, but can’t seem to find one of her own. Four dates in with PATRICK SCOTT (38), a handsome widower and single dad, Ellen finally thinks she may have found her soulmate. She's undeterred after Patrick is forced to reveal that he has a stalker, an ex–girlfriend named SASHA (40s), who suddenly appears at their dinner date, but Ellen’s best friend JULIA (38) is immediately concerned. Back at work, Ellen convinces her client ROSIE (28) to break off her engagement with media mogul IAN ROMAN (40s), who in turn publishes disparaging articles about Ellen and threatens her. Ellen eventually meets Patrick’s son JACK (10), which enrages Sasha, who apparently had a very close relationship with him. Sasha breaks into Ellen’s house, bakes banana bread in her kitchen, and then gives it to Jack. Ellen is forced to bring on new clients after Ian’s articles scare her old ones, and she unknowingly ends up in a session with Sasha.
COMMENTS: This seems to be one of those cases where a network greenlights a pilot based on the success of other projects, despite a weak script. Make no mistake, Liane Moriarty is a hot property right now, and the successes of You and Dirty John on Netflix would seem to demonstrate viewer interest in such stories. ABC probably saw an opportunity to tell a similar stalker-could-be-a-serial-killer story but more focused on women this time. For a network that's built a reputation on female empowering shows, however, I've come to expect better. Of course, women can be stalkers, and they can go crazy, but they can still be portrayed with some subtlety and dignity, including showing how they got there in the first place. Pitting them against one another is not very 2019… unless you’re Killing Eve and have Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s talent and intelligence.
I haven't read the book, so I don't know whether these issues stem from the story itself or from its adaptation, but in the past I've admired the efficiency of Liane Moriarty’s work. Yes, her books are "chick lit," but they usually have an edge and some depth. She's particularly skilled at twists, and building suspense. The Hypnotist’s Love Story may be the outlier, however. The foundations and the characters are not very solid and I found it the story overall far too predictable. The writer does set some traps for us -- why not? let’s play! -- but these are also way too obvious. It's written with such a lack of sophistication that it's almost as if the show wasn't intended for an adult audience. The same could be said of the characters, who share a teenage angst that doesn’t feel appropriate for the age group they’re supposed to be in. The result is cheesy, not at all thrilling and mostly painful to watch.
Is there anything redeemable in this mess? Certainly not Patrick’s character, who’s wholly one-dimensional and too good to be true. He's so boring I had a hard time understanding why both Ellen and Sasha desire him so much. It will fall almost entirely on the Adan Canto's shoulders to make him charming and, at the very least, damn hot (he should do fine on that last point). The one character I actually liked is Ellen’s extravagant mother. Set to be played by Jane Seymour, she’s actually funny and promises to be the pilot's one breath of fresh air.
FINAL RECOMMENDATION: If this were a Netflix series debuting hot on the heels of You and Dirty John, I'd say there was some hope for The Hypnotist’s Love Story. To work on ABC however, it will need better writing, more appealing characters and stronger hooks.
OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:
[ ] CONSIDER
[ ] RECOMMEND
BEST FIT: Paired with The Bachelor midseason or with The Bachelorette in the summer. Or sent to Lifetime or Hallmark Channel.