What we have here is a 48-page 'Second Network Draft' written by Justin Halpern & Patrick Schumacker And David Kohan & Max Mutchnick, dated February 5, 2010 (download here). There are two acts, no teasers or tags. Act one breaking down to 26 pages, act two getting 22.
I don't really know what this is but it's nothing like the pilot that made it to air. Sometimes that's a good thing, sometimes not.
Honestly, I really don't want to be too hard on this script -- it's a tricky situation as it is that these things are even put out there at all, let alone that there isn't a small army of lawyers jumping around with their 'Cease and Desist' flyswatters.
So... what worked?
The Dad did... for the most part. One thing that this script does well is that you definitely get who this guy is. He's a man with no time for bullshit. He's a family man... in his own way. He means well but will not be trifled with.
Truth be told, as I read it, I pictured Ed O'Neil as the dad. Now, granted, he was busy doing Modern Family... but there's a certain amount of warmth in this script, from the dad, that - frankly - I just didn't find from Mr. Shatner in the pilot that aired. Granted, that could be because it wasn't there in that final pilot -- the script had changed that much -- or maybe it was just in the way that Mr. Shatner chose to play the character.
Either way, this dad -- the dad in this script before me... he makes a lot more sense. You can see that he means well. There's a heart there.
I liked that.
As I read it, I often got the feeling that this was a show that didn't really have the proper focus -- in fact, it kind of reminded me of The Jeff Foxworthy Show -- a sitcom so desperate to work in his 'You might be a redneck'-type schtick that when it wasn't about that... well, there wasn't much of a show.
Unfortunately, the same seems to happen here.
When the Dad's not on screen being Dad and spouting Dad-isms... it didn't float.
One of the things that made All In The Family such an enduring show, if I may offer my two cents, was that there really was this legitimate sense of 'family' -- that these people, for good or ill, loved one another.
Now, to be fair, I've never seen the Pilot for All In The Family, so it's kind of an unfair judgement... but then, at the same time... it's not, because I really feel that that's what was being aimed for here. Some sort of modern take on All In The Family.
Except that the 'family' that surrounded Dad were just... awful. Henry, the younger Son (and lead character) was a listless milquetoast while his Older Brother Vince and his Wife (Kathleen) were a bunch of whiny, shallow, conniving fucktards.
And yet, even with all that said, it still could've worked. Hell, that's practically Comedy-Gold, a setup like that.
But right from the start it was obvious that no one WANTED to be there. Everyone avoided Dad like the plague until they wanted something from him. Which, sure, is a lot more modern... but where's the connection? Where do you even go from there?
Add in that Dad was a loner, a (self-imposed) stranger to his own family and that's a hell of a lot of ground to try and make up for in a Pilot.
Unfortunately, because of that (wide) gulf, I felt that when there were some legitimate attempts at having 'real, family moments'... they fell flat or felt forced.
For instance, I REALLY wanted to like the Son/Dad dancing scene (pg. 23-26) -- one of the few scenes that are in both this script and the final pilot that aired -- there seemed like there was an honest moment lurking in the wings but it just couldn't manifest itself. That moment that should have, by all rights, been a nice, sweet moment about a Father and his Son remembering their dead Wife/Mother together... I wanted to fall into it.
But I just couldn't.
Why? Because it felt so out of nowhere, so forced. One minute the Son is trying to talk his Dad into taking a driving test seriously, the next minute some song comes on the radio that happened to be the one that his Mom and Dad used to dance to together.
And then they start dancing together.
It was a fantastic idea but it just didn't feel earned to me.
All-in-all, this wasn't my favourite script. The long and the short of it is that I kept wanting more from it -- more Dad, more honesty. What I got was a Brother and his Wife that seemed entirely out of place and a Son that spent most of his time talking to everyone but his Dad.
In some places, I think that it's far stronger than the Pilot that made it to air, it has more heart, to be sure... but, as an entrance to a world and it's characters -- something that would make me want to come back every week and find out what was new -- it just didn't work for me.
Tomorrow I'll be checking out Weeds 1x01 - You Can't Miss The Bear.