The Runway – Your 2017 Pilot Survival Guide: FOX Comedies

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ghosted

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Ghosted

Logline: Follows a cynical skeptic and a genius “true believer” in the paranormal who are recruited by the Bureau Underground to look into the rampant “unexplained” activity in Los Angeles – all while uncovering a larger mystery that could threaten the existence of the human race.
Cast: Craig Robinson, Adam Scott, Adeel Akhtar, Ally Walker, Edi Patterson
Creators: Tom Gormican (W / EP), Craig Robinson (EP), Adam Scott (EP), Naomi Scott (EP), Kevin Etten (EP / SR), Oly Obst (EP), Mark Schulman (EP), Jonathan Krisel (D / EP)
Studios: 20th Century Fox TV, 3 Arts Entertainent, Gettin’ Rad Productions

A few years back, paranormal comedies were all the rage among indie feature producers, but the box office returns on the sub-genre were ghastly, and that trend died a quick death. Now the team of Adam Scott and Craig Robinson are pairing up to search for the paranormal, Ghost Hunters-style. How this didn’t get a direct-to-series on talent and logline are beyond me.

Max (Adam Scott) is a former Stanford professor now working at a bookstore, dealing with the grief from the abduction of his wife… by aliens. Leroy (Craig Robinson) is a nice guy, former LAPD officer, forced into working mall security. Until a mysterious syringe is plunged into Max’s and Leroy’s necks.

We’re then quickly introduced to a NASA-based unit that investigates the paranormal. It turns out one of their agents was kidnapped while investigating “The Multiverse”, an area of expertise of Max. That agent had the names of Max and Leroy on a letter he had written. The rest of the pilot is the initial stages of the search for that agent, predominantly by Max and Leroy.

Off talent alone, and that this pilot comes from 20th Century Fox, there was a 90% chance this pilot would go to series, but this script actually works! Super high concept comedies are sometimes a tough greenlight at networks — but Trial & Error (my favorite network comedy from last season) and Last Man on Earth show they can be done well, particularly when limited to 13 episodes a season.

There’s a lot of craft-level things to like in the Ghosted script, including very solid character intros for Max & Leroy, good setups/payoffs, and the slow reveal of backstories (why Leroy was fired from the LAPD + how Max himself was abducted by aliens). If there’s a drawback, I’d have liked a bit more of an ensemble Brooklyn Nine-Nine approach, as I thought the NASA-based investigators were well-written too, but didn’t get much screen time. This pilot doesn’t achieve a level of humor of Trial & Error but is probably going to be a more accessible series as it’s less serialized.

Side note: If you’re into paranormal comedy, you’ve got to check out People of Earth on TBS. Last year’s first season of that show was very funny and well-executed. Binge it on demand.

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