Pilot Script Review of Under the Bridge
As I've discussed in many of my pilot script reviews for CBS shows of late, the network's development slate this year stands in stark contrast to any in recent memory. Whether or not the change is a reaction to the network's now well-documented culture of abuse under longtime chief Les Moonves I do not know, but it's hard to imagine the unprecedented number of female-driven pilot orders under his leadership. Among their most promising projects this year are the Sophia Bush-starrer Surveillance, Edie Falco's Tommy and Sarah Drew's The Republic of Sarah. Even the Kings' Evil, which is more of an ensemble piece than the others, has a prominent female character at the center. Under The Bridge, a pilot written and directed by women is yet another example. That the show itself tackles the same type of alleged toxic masculinity that led that to Moonves' CBS firing is the icing on the cake, and for that reason alone, it's hard not to root for it.
WRITTEN BY: Rina Mimoun
DRAFT DATE: Network Draft 12/4/18
PAGE COUNT: 61 pages
SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: The pilot introduces five med school friends in their forties: KATE LANCASTER, the classic beauty, DAN WILCOX, the tortured artist, MICHAEL SHAPIRO, the class clown, AMENI RODRIGUEZ, the feisty rebel, and CHARLIE COLEMAN, the sweet pragmatist. Kate married Michael and had a daughter, and for the past 15 years all five friends have worked together at their own group practice. Cut to the present: for unknown reasons, Kate has stopped working at the practice and Michael is under HR scrutiny for telling inappropriate jokes. The extremely tight knit group of friends are forced to decide whether to expel Michael in order to protect financing from their parent hospital, or back him up and hope the hospital doesn’t cut them off. For each of their own reasons (Charlie’s is financial, Ameni’s is job security and Dan’s is self-interest), they decide to vote Michael out of the practice. He and Kate are hurt by this decision, but carry on. We learn that Kate (who is a surgeon) hasn't operated in a year due to an unexplained traumatic event, but when Michael asks her to perform an operation on of his most difficult patients, she agrees. She performs the operation with ease; surprising herself and her friends. But all is not as it seems, as we soon discover that the daughter Kate has gone home to every night actually died a year ago. That's the first revelation, but not the last...
COMMENTS: The more I think about it., the more I like the script for Under The Bridge. It was a great read begin with, but there's an even greater pleasure in dissecting it after the fact, and realizing how rich it is. Before we dive in however, it has to be said that this project bears more than a passing resemblence to Shonda Rhimes' Private Practice, the more adult spin-off of Grey's Anatomy that ended in 2013. Like Private Practice, Under The Bridge is about a private clinic run by longtime friends and the complications that arise in the partners' professional and private lives. It is a medical soap with a few mirroring cases per episode, driven by smart, complex, not always nice women, where the closest men in their lives are their friends, their lovers and their colleagues at the same time.
Rina Minoun's script is sharply written and doesn't fall into the trap of a Manichean vision where the heroic strong women are on one side, and the bad bad men are on the other. Since the writer wants to reveal some surprises along the way (and does so sucessfully), there are times when a character's actions seem suspicious or puzzling until we get the bigger picture. You don't quite know what to think of these people, and it's refreshing after reading so many pilot scripts where the characters are so one-dimensional that you learn all there is to know about them through a quick introductory description. However, as a consquence the characters are not instantly likeable and that can prove difficult for a network show where viewers need to be hooked quicky, lest they be tempted to switch the channel. In this way it might be compared to FOX's medical drama The Resident, although in that particular case, by the end of the pilot I didn't want to spend one more minute with the show's horrible protagonists.
Let's start with the main character Caitlin Lancaster, a cardiothoracic surgeon. Curious and open but never naive, Kate is forced to return to work after a self-imposed sabbatical. The reason behind her leave is heavy: her daughter died and she feels responsible for it. Michael may be her total opposite: an affable “natural leader who loves the limelight,” he's one of the top cardiothoracic surgeons in the state and he happens to be... her husband. Michael's irreverent and sometimes inappropriate behavior end up landing him in hot water, and the hospital he's aligned with wants him booted out. This man's portrayal is done with a lot of subtlety. Is he a victim of himself? Is he a product of our sexist society? Is he a villain who knows exactly what he's doing? You're constantly questioning his intentions. His relationship with Kate and the way she tries to be both supportive yet unforgiving is complex and real. She loves him, but she's also afraid of the man he could be, and isn't certain he's the man she thought she married.
Remember Naomi in Private Practice? Ameni is her equivalent here. She's an OB with a sub-specialty in high-risk pregnancies who is opinionated, relentlessly passionate and enjoys a good fight. She's a feminist who's not afraid to speak her truth. She's also a lot of fun. Dan is a gorgeous, dry and somewhat broken man who works hard for everything, except sex. That comes easily. Back in the day, he hoped that Kate would wind up with him, but she married his best friend instead. The love triangle here is, once again, very similar to the one in Private Pratice. Finally there's Charlie, the "wise one", a family man who's always there to calm the others down and show them there's another way.
FINAL RECOMMENDATION: Under The Bridge is a strong, clever medical show for our times, worth considering for a slot on CBS even if soaps are not their usual bread and butter. Ordering it to series would show how much the network is willing to change and that they're ready to give voice to new, different and diverse characters. Granted, the show may not say anything that Shonda Rhimes' shows haven't said before, but at least it says it with conviction.
OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:
[ ] PASS
[ ] RECOMMEND
BEST FIT: Wednesdays at 10 once Criminal Minds is done?