The Runway – Your 2017 Pilot Survival Guide: FOX Comedies

 thin ice

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Thin Ice

Logline: A woman reclaims her dreams when she finds herself at the end of the earth – in Antarctica – surrounded by a group of brilliant misfits.
Cast: Bridgit Mendler, Ian Harding, Ramona Young, Trond Faus, Dan Gill
Creators: Liz Meriwether (W / EP), Katherine Pope (EP), Ed Macdonald (W / CoEP), Mark Grimmer (W / CoEP), James Ponsoldt (D)

Though not officially announced, the consensus is that New Girl is officially over. The show had a great run, and presumably made Fox a lot of money as both a studio and network. So a pilot from the very talented Liz Meriwether is sure to garner attention. When I first read the logline though for Thin Ice, I thought that premise sounds like a tough challenge for a pilot, let alone 22 episodes. But I’m looking forward to being proven wrong.

Female lead Lou is stuck in a bit of a dead end at the National Science Foundation, working as a secretary and secretly stealing reports to read for fun. We see through flashback she was unfairly kicked out of a PhD program, at which she was sexually harassed. Before the title card is up, she’s off to Antarctica to help an injured penguin.

In Antarctica, Lou meets badass Icelandic native Gunnar, the venerable Mrs. Brooks, station manager Andrew Weyland (son of a Virginia senator), and what seems like a cast of thousands. The rest of the pilot is really just getting to know the backstories of the characters, and Lou’s adjustment to the tough conditions of Antarctica. Occasionally, there’s some science talk too.

First the good: this is a location we haven’t seen in a comedy before, Andrew seems like a good set up as future “will they or won’t they” romantic match for Lou, and the liberal use of flashbacks are put to good use (similar to in New Girl). Lou also felt like an interesting, believable character.

The not as good: this is a premise pilot, so it’s hard to tell if this idea has legs. The setting is very confining, and the flashbacks are quite welcome, but can we keep relying on those for seven years? And while the characters were distinct enough, I thought there were a few too many of them introduced for a pilot.

I’ll be honest — if this didn’t have Liz Meriwether’s name and 20th Century Fox on the cover page, I’m not sure this would have a good chance. New Girl was able to take a group of relatively unknown actors, throw them into a physical space, and make magic happen. Those characters, and the scenario, just felt more interesting and funny. Premise pilots like these are tough to judge, so it will most assuredly be execution dependent.

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