Thursday, September 24, 2015

How BLINDSPOT got on the air

I have obtained the transcription from the NBC pitch meeting for BLINDSPOT:

WRITER/CREATOR: We got this totally cool idea. It’s like a mix between the Bourne movies, PRISON BREAK, MEMENTO, the old game show CAMOUFLAGE, and what shows do you like?


W/C: It’s also like BLACKLIST.

NBC: We’ve been looking for another BLACKLIST. And another HEROES.

W/C: Ours is that too.

NBC: That’s okay. We’re remaking HEROES.

W/C: Well, if you ever want to remake THE BIONIC WOMAN ours is also like that show.


W/C: Wait. I forgot. We took out THE BIONIC WOMAN elements.

NBC: So what’s the series?

W/C: Well, we don’t actually have a concept yet – what’s it about, what happens every week, who all the characters are – we still need to tackle those details.

NBC: So what are you bringing us?

W/C: An opening scene.

NBC: An opening scene? That’s it?

W/C: Yep. Something with sizzle that you can promote all summer. Who cares if it has legs?

NBC: Well, like I said, we’re looking for another BLACKLIST. And that’s BLACKLIST. We’re sort of hoping they’ll figure something out this season.  What’s your first scene?

W/C: We’re in Times Square. It’s night. Crowded. And someone discovers a duffel bag. Just sitting in the street. And it has a tag that says CALL THE FBI.

NBC: Wouldn’t they call the FBI anyway?

W/C: You know that. And I know that. But NBC’s audience doesn’t know that.

NBC: You think they’re that dense?


NBC: Good point. Go on.

W/C: So what’s in the bag? A bomb? Dirty laundry? No. It’s a hot girl.

NBC: Wouldn’t she suffocate in the bag?

W/C: What? There are air holes.

NBC: But then couldn’t someone see what was inside?

W/C: Small holes. Tiny holes.

NBC: Who is she?

W/C: We don’t know.

NBC: I assume the audience doesn’t know but who is she?

W/C: We don’t know either.

NBC: Who put her in there?

W/C: No idea.

NBC: And why?

W/C: Couldn’t tell you.

NBC: Gee, you’ve really thought this thing through.

W/C: Easy fixes. But wait – she is covered in tattoos.

NBC: Oh, so we could do product placement. I’m starting to like this.

W/C: No. They’re all clues.

NBC: To what?

W/C: We still have to figure that out.

NBC: So then what happens?

W/C: The girl comes out of the bag.

NBC: How?

W/C: She upzips the bag and slithers out.

NBC: What duffel bag upzips from the inside? Why would they ever make that?

W/C: Uh… it’s a custom bag. They want her to open it.

NBC: Who does?

W/C: We don’t know.

NBC: Can she even see the zipper if it’s on the inside?

W/C: Yes. There’s a tiny light. So she comes out of the bag. And on her back is the name of an FBI agent. So they bring him in on the case. We do a scene where he’s breaking up a hostage situation in Kentucky and a helicopter arrives to take him to Manhattan.

NBC: Why do you need a helicopter? Can’t they just call him?

W/C: We don’t know.

NBC: And they’re calling him to do what?

W/C: Again, don’t know.

NBC: So who is this FBI agent?

W/C: Sorry, can’t help you.

NBC: Could he be like RAY DONOVAN? We’re also looking to do something like that.

W/C: Yes. Exactly. How about this for a character profile?  A knock off Liev Schreiber.

NBC: Okay. I totally see that character.  Brooding.  Charmless. But I’m still hazy on the girl.

W/C: So is she. She has no memory.

NBC: How’d that happen? And please, don’t say you don’t know. Just make something up if you have to.

W/C: She was given this drug that wipes out your past memory.

NBC: Does such a drug exist?

W/C: Maybe.

NBC: Okay. She has no memory. Then how does she function?

W/C: Oh, she can speak foreign languages and is an expert in martial arts.

NBC: What?

W/C: This drug is selective based on what we need for future episodes.

NBC: Which you haven’t thought of yet.

W/C: Right.

NBC: So what happens in the pilot after that first scene? What’s the plot?

W/C: We could go procedural, we could go action-adventure, espionage, the door is even open to sci-fi if you like.

NBC: I have to tell you – this is a mess. What you have here is the first scene of a movie, maybe. But a long-running television show? It’s downright insulting that you seriously think we would buy something so half-baked.

W/C: Wait. One more thing: the girl is naked.

NBC: What?

W/C: She’s incredibly hot. Someone like Jaimie Alexander. And when she comes out of the bag she’s completely naked.

NBC: So you think we’d spend five million dollars on a pilot just because there’s one nude scene?

W/C: No. Don’t be ridiculous. There are several nude scenes. When she’s alone in her room she stares at herself in the mirror, naked. She goes into a fetal position, naked. When they photograph her, she’s naked. And then we have all these photos the FBI will post – of her naked.

NBC: Forget the pilot. Go right to series.


Zack Bennett said...

I have proof that Ken did not create this as a comedy piece. This is a transcript of the actual conversation.

Matt said...

I can tell you, I saw the promos and I was intrigued. It barely had anything to do with a superhot naked girl, barely. Almost not at all. I don't think I even noticed...that she was naked...and hot...I mean superhot...not that I noticed.

Peter said...

Jaimie Alexander naked? I'm sold!

Oh, wait, that proves your point.

Jim S said...

Come on Ken, this opening "cuts through the clutter and noise."

On the other hand, I apparently carry a badge saying I'm with the logic police. Great, she's covered in tattoos that provide clues to future crimes. But wouldn't the people who commit crimes change their plans in light the of Illustrated Woman?

And if it's a vast conspiracy (and it's always a vast conspiracy), why do they plan their crimes months and years ahead? I mean wouldn't the clues run out pretty fast?

Also, from a practical stand point, isn't having to cover Jaime Alexander in fake tattoos every day just a huge time waster? I guess if Ron Perleman can be the Beast . . . .

Nice to know that Robert Orci's conspiracy theory mindset still has influence in Hollywood.

Matt said...

I just did an internet search on blindspot for images. You will never guess what most the images were of... a bunch of men sitting around a table discussing intelligence issues. Very provacative.

Matt said...

Jim S. I think you are missing the point of the series. Jamie Alexander is scantily clad. Much better than James Spader being scantily clad. What more do you need for a hit TV show. There has been nothing better since Silk Stalkings.

Dr. Max said...

I think Groucho explained this show's appeal years earlier: .

Bill Avena said...

Not Genuine Naked, just American Naked, which is not at all. It seems all networks, broadcast or cable obey the holy order not to shown nipple or bush. Late night cable airings on the Comedy Channel leave in all cusswords but blur out naughty bits. I speak as someone who watched "Zack & Miri Make a Porno" just hoping for nudity, because I'm an American and I drool for nudity to condemn.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

My brother retired from the FBI in the early '90's after 25 years, with his last 10 in Los Angeles on the terrorist squad and, to him, most TV and movie plots involving the agency are beyond belief. But I'm sure he'd make an exception for naked Jaimie Alexander. Make that Jason Alexander and you have comedy gold...

Angry Gamer said...

I liked the mock pitch. I could just see the "hey it's a cool premise - let's go for it!" discussion.

What I find fascinating is the suspension of disbelief by characters representing government agencies. I mean the idea that an agent would show up in the middle of the night in NYC for some duffle bag is fairly unserious.

Then that the FBI would like spend more than 2 seconds thinking about a naked woman of mysterious background is also unserious. The Blacklist makes me giggle every time I see Spader out walking around. In reality if a wanted spy showed up his next 3 years would be filled with Jail, Debrief, Court, more Jail, Debrief again.
None of the information from a walk-in would be taken at face value.
It would be three months before the agencies would decide who really has custody of the guy. But in television government moves at the speed of thought and you have infinite resources if James Spader shows up.

Oh and it's funny how much competence these shows give the Bureau. Just ask Sony Pictures about their FBI experience and you will hear what the FBI is really like during an investigation.

Still Angry

Brian Phillips said...

Friday Question: I've seen your entries about the men that warmed up the audiences, yourself included. Who are some of the warm up women?

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Bill Avena: I remember seeing Diana Rigg on Dick Cavett years ago telling the story of an AVENGERS episode where she was required to do a belly dance. Thing was, the studio wouldn't allow belly buttons to be shown on TV, so they gave her a jewel for her navel that she had to glue in and kept falling out.

Cavett was genuinely baffled. Where did a rule like that come from? he asked

"I think it's a whole lot of men who don't want to know where *they* come from," she said.

(PS: Rigg is probably my favorite actress, still, all these years later. I find GAME OF THRONES unwatchable, but I'm so glad she's still working.)

BigTed said...

"Blindspot" is far from the worst new crime series starting this fall. The hackneyed plots, cliched characters and ridiculous dialogue are so bad that it seems as if the networks have simply stopped trying. (Two different cop shows in the last few days played Elvis Costello's song "Watching the Detectives" over the final scene -- not because it had anything to do with the story, but because it's about, you know, detectives. That's the level of complexity they seem to be going for now.)

Mike said...

Something similar happened recently. In that an MI6 agent was found in London, naked and locked into a bag, where he subsequently died. THere's been no official explanation.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ken,

Very funny. This reminds me of an old podcast with Bill Simmons & Alan Sepinwall where Sepinwall refers to NBC as "the Detroit Lions of broadcasting." I still crack up at that remark. To be fair- ALL the networks are "The Detroit Lions of broadcasting." No offense Lions fans, nothing personal. The networks are in big trouble. They can't compete with the HBOs, Showtimes, FX, AMC, BBC, Netflix of the world. It's not even the same medium. I don't want to sound all high n' mighty & snobby. Really I'm a lowbrow humor kinda person.

But the networks are at a major disadvantage in terms of creativity, number of episodes, talent, etc. If I was an actor, director, writer, etc (and the $$$ was close) would you rather do an HBO show or a CBS show? I've read that HBO is notoriously cheap so may be this is a bad example.

The real reason I think the networks are in trouble is a combination of 2 things: old shows/old reality shows & mobile technology. I can't believe shows like Survivor, The Bachelor, Big Brother, Dancing with the Stars, Amer. Idol, Apprentice, SVU:everything, CSI:everywhere are still on. It's been 15, 12, 10 years for these shows- enough already. The audience already has seen it for a decade!

But really, having TV in your hand on your phone/tablet/laptop 24 hrs a day at your convenience with no commercials and picking a choosing from dozens of options- who's staying around in their living room waiting for the clock to strike 9:00PM?

I know Ken has written some recent stuff about this (Clickbait, Colbert, Late Night TV in general) and IMHO this is where broadcast TV is/is headed, --LL

powers said...

There was a TV series that only ran for one season with a very similar plot
line.Anyone remember John Doe?

cadavra said...

I was going to say you left out CORONET BLUE, but then I realized that you have to be our age to even remember that show.

H Johnson said...

Great post Ken.

I imagine it must be near impossible now-a-days to parody network behavior or network shows because the reality is so absurd. I watched the season finale of Episodes and the 'supposed to be crazy' game show wasn't even close to being as stupid as what's actually on the air.

On the upside, network meetings must never get boring. Obviously you've set through your share of these inane-fests so congratulations on never having killed anybody. Must have been hard though.


MikeK.Pa. said...

Unrelated to this post, but as I was flipping through the TV last night I paused on JEOPARDY long enough to see a question about couples. The one I saw was about CHEERS: who was the waitress that bartender Sam dated. Three contestants - all in their 30s or early 40s - who had successfully buzzed on all kinds of geographic questions without fail, stood dumbfounded. Not one of them squeezed their buzzer. None of them knew Diane. Sad.

I was talking to 3-4 co-workers, all in their late 30s/early 40s, about the great Jack Lemmon movie THE OUT OF TOWNERS because the topic of Cuba had come up and I wanted to set up the last scene in that movie. None of them had ever heard of it. One vaguely remember the Steve Martin remake - not as bad as BILKO, but nothing close to Lemmon's outraged salesman or Sandy Dennis's whiny, hungry wife. Classic.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Jim S: I'm thinking they're not using makeup to do the tatoos but a sort of printed body stocking she can just put on. Remember Howard's tatoo sleeves in season 3 of THE BIG BANG THEORY (S3e03, "The Gothowitz Deviation" - I looked it up)?


Anonymous said...

There really is a show, "Blindspot", that Ken described?

Diane D. said...

That is, indeed, a sad anecdote about CHEERS, but take heart---several weeks ago a similar question was asked on that same show, and it was answered correctly and instantly by a 30 something. Let's hope that couple will not disappear from the entertainment lexicon for many years.

Turd Ferguson said...

And speaking of the horrible choices that NBC has been making lately, has anyone seen the mess that they're airing now "Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris"?

Jeff said...

I love CHEERS, myself, but come on, it's been thirty years. It's normal that people who were in diapers when the series was on might not be that familiar with it. It probably doesn't help that the series has been relegated to nostalgia stations on television, running alongside GILLIGAN'S ISLAND and THE DONNA REED SHOW.

Charles H. Bryan said...

@Anonymous Speaking for all Lions fans, we are not offended by your remarks. We are offended by the Lions themselves.

Terrence Moss said...

the networks can compete, they're just lazy. hits are out there. the balls to develop and nurture them are not.

Terrence Moss said...

i actually enjoy it. it's silly and it's different.

Anonymous said...

MikeK, I've watched most of the Cheers episodes, and am the same age. I had no idea what the answer was as I read your question. For some reason Diane didn't come to mind, and I was thinking about bit parts.

Pat Reeder said...

I'm sure it's a pain to draw those tattoos on her every day. But on the bright side, at least when they didn't go looking for an actress who likes being naked and is already covered in tattoos, and cast Lena Dunham.

Rashad Khan said...

If "Blindspot" lasts all the way to its first (and probably only) season finale, then I guarantee it will end with another person (probably male this time) being found inside another bag, with even more bizarre tattoos all over his naked body.

Diane D. said...

Anonymous (at 7:31) is right. The way the question is phrased is misleading. Sam dated dozens and dozens of women. If they had asked who Sam had a stormy relationship with, the contestants may have known. It's surprising how many people in that age group have watched CHEERS on Netflix or elsewhere.

Stefan Blitz said...

When moderating a voice actor panel at a comic convention, they read an episode of a tv series in their character's voice.

After the convention, the general feedback from the audience was that they weren't familiar with the show.

It was called Seinfeld.

Brian Hennings said...

Can't the networks green-light any drama without resorting to 'someone special helps solve crimes'? Last year it was the man who couldn't die, this year it is the amnesiac with tattoos, or the person who can see future crimes, or the guy taking pills that make him super-smart, or the brilliant private pathologist...
Makes me long for a drama set in a hospital. Oh, right...

Barry Traylor said...

I've been thinking of passing on the program. Now I know I will.

Joseph M. said...

Hi Ken,

I have a last-minute Friday Question. I'm watching "Seinfeld" on Hulu (love the new commercial-free option, by the way), and I see a scene in "The Understudy" where Jerry and his girlfriend are watching a movie in the living room. The girlfriend is on one end of the couch, and Jerry is sprawled on a chair on the other side of the room, bored out of his wits. You can clearly see that she's interested and he's not.

The question is, how does a sitcom director determine the best way to stage a scene like that? How much leeway does he have? Watching it, I imagine there's a million different ways you could do it (as it was, it was done very well).

MikeN said...

Ken isn't this more premise than what you did for Almost Perfect?

"Girl gets the guy of her life the same day she gets the job of her life."

Jerry said...

It probably doesn't help that the series [CHEERS] has been relegated to nostalgia stations on television, running alongside GILLIGAN'S ISLAND and THE DONNA REED SHOW.

Yeah, I have to admit that bugs me that TV classics like CHEERS and MASH no longer rate anything better than being programmed on sub-channels aimed at a geezer audience. I suppose FRASIER will be there in another decade.

Igor said...

A belated... Brilliant!

John said...


Lou H. said...

I watched the BLINDSPOT pilot last night, and what annoyed me the most was the trope that, when hundreds of lives are in the balance and there are thousands of law enforcement officers available to chase the bad guy, the task comes down to the four members of the FBI team racing to the scene in their car and, when they arrive, any other LEOs just fade into the background.

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