The Runway – Your 2017 Pilot Survival Guide: FOX Comedies


la to vegas

L.A. to Vegas

Logline: Set on the Friday night flight from LAX to Vegas and the returning flight on Sunday, it follows a group of underdogs trying to find their place in the world who all share the same goal: to come back a winner in the casino of life.
Cast: Ed Weeks, Dylan McDermott, Kim Matula, Olivia Macklin
Creators: Lon Zimmet (W / EP), Will Ferrell (EP), Adam McKay (EP), Chris Henchy (EP), Steve Levitan (D / EP)
Studios: 20th Century Fox , Gary Sanchez Productions

Like Ghosted, this is a very high profile project at Fox. Behind the scenes are Steve Levitan in his first post-Modern Family directed pilot, and the producing team at Gary Sanchez Productions (Will Ferrell, Adam McKay). In front of the camera will be a less well-known ensemble, but that approach has succeeded well for Last Man on Earth, which surrounded Will Forte with great character actors.

We’re first introduced to Ronnie, who is racing through Burbank Airport late for her flight… it turns out she’s a flight attendant. We learn she’s hoping for a transfer to the NY route. We then meet Amanda (other flight attendant), Captain Dave (very laid back pilot), and the passengers: Artem (superstitious, Armenian), Ryan & Katie (mid-20s, engaged), Micah (quiet accountant), and Nichole (a dancer/escort).

Most of the first half of the pilot is spent meeting the cast. Ronnie learns she’s not getting the transfer. Nichole learns she can’t write off her home office on her taxes, just cause she’s naked there often. And two unlikely characters make out in the airplane bathroom.

The second half of the pilot is the Sunday return flight from Vegas to Burbank. And it is payoff after payoff to all the set-ups from the first half. Characters lives collide, and as happens on most return flights from Vegas, there’s a lot of sadness. Then it’s over.

So much to discuss here. First of all, how annoying will it be for Steve Levitan to film 98% of a show in an airplane set? Second, how annoying will it be for us the viewers to be stuck inside an airplane for 30 minutes each week? I mean, it’s not as bad as a United flight, but it’s not as much fun as hanging out at Cheers.

This is a unique pilot. Structurally, you have two very distinct halves: the setups of the first half, and the payoffs of the second. As a writer, I love this, as it really guides the outlining for each episode. But will they expand after the first episode outside of the plane? I mean, by the end of the pilot of Last Man on Earth, we knew the title could only be true in the strictest sense of the word “man.” And then the title was completely obliterated shortly thereafter.

I think you do have some cool things you can cover if you expand… what is the characters’ lives like in LA? What is it like in Las Vegas? Will there be airline business specific episodes going forward? (ie one where the flight attendants’ union goes on strike) There’s enough distinctness to the characters that I kind of want to see what happens next. It didn’t completely set its hooks into me… but it might have enough going for it to get the greenlight.

On a side note, Levitan and Fox have an interesting relationship. They produce Modern Family, yet ABC airs it, but Fox also canceled Levitan’s Back to You after one season (making him none-too-pleased), and then didn’t pick up Rebounding in 2012, a high profile project I really liked that he was a producer on. Can they afford to upset him with Modern Family going off the air at some point, and Fox wanting to keep Levitan in the fold?

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