Monday, October 05, 2015

How QUANTICO got on the air

Recently I got ahold of the BLINDSPOT pitch meeting. Today I’ve been fortunate enough to get the transcript of the QUANTICO pitch meeting between the show’s writer/creator and ABC.

Writer/Creator: We understand you have a development deal with Priyanka Chopra, the hot Bollywood star.

ABC: (holds up a framed photo) Yes, here is a photo of her.

W/C: Uh, that’s a photo of a different Bollywood actress.

ABC: Oh. Right. I get them confused.

W/C: Well, I’ve got the perfect vehicle for Priyanka.

ABC: Okay, but I warn you, we’re already developing a sitcom for her. An Indian family show to go along with our black family show, Asian family show, Jewish family show, and Korean family show.

W/C: I’ve seen film on her and she’s not funny.

ABC: There’s film on her?

W/C: Yes. She’s an international movie star.

ABC: Can she act?

W/C: That’s the great thing about my idea – she doesn’t have to.

ABC: Thank God.  We spent a fortune on that deal. 

W/C: We put her in an hour drama, but we load it with so many tropes and make it so busy and absurd that no one notices. The only thing we ask of her is that she look hot.

ABC: Yes, yes, yes.

W/C: Good acting might get in the way.

ABC: Absolutely. And we have Viola Davis so as a network we’re covered in the good acting department.

W/C: Here’s the premise: Priyanka is an FBI recruit. She’s in training boot camp with the other recruits. Then there’s a big terrorist attack – haven’t figured out what or where yet –

ABC: Could it be the CBS building?

W/C: What? Uh, sure, let’s say it’s that for now.

ABC: Doesn’t have to be. It could be NBC.

W/C: I think terrorists are destroying that place from the inside but okay.

ABC: So there’s a big terrorist attack. From who?

W/C: That’s the hook. Well, one of several. The terrorist is one of the recruits.

ABC: So it could be her?

W/C: It could be her.

ABC: We don’t want it to be her.

W/C: Of course it’s not her.

ABC: But the audience thinks it’s her?

W/C: Absolutely.

ABC: But do they like her if she’s a terrorist?

W/C: If she’s hot enough.

ABC: She is hot enough.

W/C: They’ll love her.

ABC: As long as we don’t show her blowing up something and killing hundreds of people.

W/C: She’s not the terrorist.

ABC: Unless she’s in a thong.

W/C: She’s not the terrorist.

ABC: (holding up photo): Can’t you just see her in a bikini planting a bomb?

W/C: That’s the other Bollywood star.

ABC: Oh. Right. Sorry.

W/C: Now some things about the show. All the recruits are incredible looking.

ABC: What about diversity?

W/C: Every color of the rainbow. Smoking hot cheerleader, smoking hot Muslim girl, elegant African-American boss, Mormon kid…

ABC: Mormon isn’t diverse.

W/C: You’re right. We’ll kill him in the pilot.

ABC: You have to have a gay recruit.

W/C: We got one.

ABC: He can’t be stereotypical.

W/C: We make him a New York Jew.

ABC: Never seen that before. Great.

W/C: It’s a fuckin’ melting pot.

ABC: But a good looking New York gay Jew -- he can’t look too gay or too Jewish.

W/C: We’ll have an open casting call in Nebraska.

ABC: Do you think it’s a problem that in reality pretty much every FBI recruit is male and white?

W/C: Not if Priyanka is hot enough.

ABC: And you’re sure she can act enough to get by?

W/C: It’s hard to tell because of the subtitles but she can run.

ABC: In heels?

W/C: I don’t know if she’s that skilled.

ABC: Well, we can always get a double. (holding up the photo) What about this girl?

W/C: Who is she?

ABC: I don’t know. I’ll send the photo to the promo department. Maybe they’ll know.

W/C: Make sure they don’t accidentally post this girl in an ad instead of Priyanka.

ABC: Come on, that could never happen.

W/C: Okay.

ABC: So let’s go over the tropes. FBI show – check. Hot babe action star – check. Big mystery to solve – check. Which one is the terrorist, by the way?

W/C: The actor who questions his lines.

ABC: Gotcha. There are still some tropes missing.

W/C: Everybody has secrets.

ABC: Check.

W/C: There's not a moment in the show that's even remotely plausible.

ABC:  Big check there.  

W/C: Our hot star sleeps around, always one night stands – so the nerd in the basement watching this shit will fantasize that she’s saving herself for him.

ABC: Or for me.  Check.

C/W: Authority figures that may or may not be good guys.

ABC: You've done your homework.

C/W: The star has to clear her name.

ABC: Oooh, you got THE FUGITIVE trope in there too. Nicely done.

C/W: A wildly expensive super slick pilot with explosions and car chases and sex and violence. Once we get a pick up, all subsequent episodes will cut every corner we can.

ABC: All of this sounds awesome, but I worry about the longterm prospects. What if this show goes seven years?

C/W: You mean, how long can we keep this premise going? At what point do we have to identify the terrorist and then what is the show about?

ABC: Huh? No. We don’t care about any of that crap. In seven years will she be hot?

C/W: If not, we’ll shoot her character and find someone who is.

ABC: Wait a minute. “Who shot Priyanka?”

C/W: Exactly.

ABC: Okay. I love it. We just have to call Shonda Rhimes and see if it’s alright with her that we’re developing a pilot without her.

C/W: (grabbing the photo) Get back to me soon or we’re going to NBC with this girl.


Spinner of Yarn said...

I must admit the pressure is enormous! I've spent much time trying to figure out just the right question. After all, I don't want to embarrass myself. So here goes. My late Friday question to you (or early Friday), Would you like to hear a good story?

Peter said...

The only hot actress I'm looking forward to is Melissa Benoist as Supergirl! Yeah!

blinky said...

Never seen Quantico but now I must see it. I love hot FBI/Terrorist/cadets/ with Bollywood looks!

CRL said...

Just added the first 2 episodes to my Hulu queue.

The producers should send you a nice fruit basket.

Mighty Dyckerson said...
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Carl said...

Ken, all I've seen is the promo photo from the show, and after reading this, it appears just as stupid and implausible as I imagined.

Unknown said...

I kept seeing the same commercial for this show, the one where the announcer says, " the best shape of their lives!" while a woman is shown emerging from a pool. That summed up the appeal, I think. My suggested tagline for future ads: "What if the FBI was like Baywatch?"

cadavra said...

Oh-h-h, Ken, you made a yoooooge mistake. There isn't an executive at any network who's ever heard of THE FUGITIVE. Even the movie. :-D

Charles H. Bryan said...

I did community service and watched this show; I may have been too lazy to shut off the television. I don't recall.

God, it was awful, and I'm quite sure that it isn't actually any of the recruits that did it but the recovering alcoholic training guy who used to be Courtney Cox's boyfriend on COUGAR TOWN, wanting to prove his value breaking a fake case where he set up the prime suspect. Mostly I couldn't bring myself to care about a single character on the show, except for the one played by the just-mentioned actor, because I liked him on COUGAR TOWN and I felt sorry that he'd been given such a hump of a role here.

QUANTICO is artless inauthentic crap; it is everything that people complain about when people complain about television. I can't imagine that it's based in any shred of truth other than "Yes, there is an FBI".

I bet it's the hit sitcom of the season at the actual Quantico.

Charles H. Bryan said...

Actually, what brings me here today is something you may wish to rant about, Mr. Levine, pr perhaps just quietly despair. The Toronto Maple Leafs are supposedly not going to transport their radio broadcast team to away venues; the team will call the game from a studio, where they will be watching on television.

Ugh. I wonder how much of this actually goes on now with other teams (or, really, I suspect, with ESPN Radio and Westwood One's NFL coverage).

Tom Wolper said...

Charles: It took about 24 hours of social media pressure for The Maple Leafs owners to change their minds and send the radio team to away games.

Charles H. Bryan said...

@Tom That's good news! Thanks. It's not that I listen to those broadcasts, but I would have disliked that trend.

tvfats said...

YOU BAD...just plain bad...

MikeK.Pa. said...

Some really good laugh lines (repeated photo reference, blowing up another network building, nerd & exec getting a shot at a hot girl). You should think about doing a satirical script along the lines of MY FAVORITE YEAR, where a newly-hired, fresh-out-of-college lower-rung network suit sits in on pitch meetings and can't decide who are the bigger idiots - his co-workers or the writers making inane pitches that sell. Of course, no broadcast network will pick it up, but cable network might.

Johnny Walker said...

Ok, so I'm going to give QUANTICO a wide birth, but when are we going to get your reaction to Trevor Noah's DAILY SHOW? Some of us rely on your blog for TV news and opinion! :)

Mike said...

I think I wrote the first of these pitch sketches (pitcher/exec dialogues) - for Argo, underneath Ken's review of the film. Argo - the film where Hollywood saves the day, after the CIA fail. Pure Oscar bait.

Then it went on to win Best Picture. I was only joking. Who knew Hollywood was so shallow?

Mighty Dyckerson said...
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Bob Perry said...

So, is the shift between dialog from W/C to C/W a mistake or did they get picked up by the CW after the series tanked?

ScottyB said...

I have a Friday Question for @KenLevine:

I've seen mentions of "lazy writing" in this blog. So here's question on something that's kinda bugged me over the years: Would a sitcom where the cast gets shipped to a Vacation Location for an episode (or two, if the show's really popular) be considered "lazy writing" even if they somehow worked something that resembles a plot line (even a thin one) in there? And really, do episodes like that serve any purpose beyond maybe being a mini travelogue?

We had 'The Brady Bunch' go to King's Island and then Hawaii, where Vincent Price was storing his career in some cave. We had 'The Partridge Family' bus break down in whatever ghost town Out West that Dean Jagger was storing his career in some cave. And on tonite's rerun episode of 'The Middle', the Heck family got stuck at the front gate of Disney World, and we spend 2 whole episodes joining their full-boat everything-paid excursion.

I also notice episodes like this happen in like season 4 or 5. So really — is it just an excuse for a vacation on the network/studio's dime because the show can, or do episodes like this actually test the writers' shit? Or is it just a case of "OK fine. Fuck it, then — just screw it and enjoy the scenery?"

Just wondering what it must be like writing for those things, or what established sitcom writers must think about episodes like that. Or worse, the show telling everyone: "Guess what, gang? We're going to Borneo next week!"

Barry Traylor said...

From the first time I saw a promo for QUANTICO I knew I was going to avoid this show like the plague.

MikeN said...

SPOILER ALERT: All the evidence will lead to one person, and then in a surprising twist that person will be innocent and another person is the real terrorist.

blogward said...

I had to look up most of your references on IMDB and I still laughed out loud. Thanks from Scotland.

MikeN said...

Having watched the show, what???

State of Affairs is more realistic, and that ended with Katherine Heigl hunting down a terrorist and taking out his whole camp- and just prior to that taking a phone call 50 feet away, but hey there was a truck in between.