June 8, 2007 Jill

I just read the script for Viva Laughlin, one of the pilots picked up for the fall by CBS and Global. Great script. The script by Huff creator Robert Lowry is a good read, has fabulously well-drawn characters and lots and lots of stakes. I can’t wait to watch.

I don’t want to give away any of the story or character details, but I do want to get into the structure of the script.

It’s 67 pages long. The tease ends a quarter of the way down page 10, which is long for a tease, but once you’ve got their eyes, why would you let them get away? Act One ends right right at the top of page 22, making it really an 11 page act. Act Two ends halfway down 37, so 14.5 pages. Act Three is the only meaty act at 23 pages and Act Four scrapes in at just 9 pages and then there are 6 and a quarter pages of tag.

The tease sets up a man with a dream and ends with his dream in imminent danger. In the first act it gets worse, but the curtain is a kiss between our protagonist and his wife. The second act ends with a murder, the third with our guy threatened by the devil and his dream slipping away from him. The fourth act ends with his son coming forward with at least part of the solution and the episode ends with our guy, surrounded by family, triumphant.

The show focuses primarily on the protagonist, with very few scenes that don’t include him. It hints at a season arc because the murder is unresolved and our guy looks like the best suspect.

The way I read the script, our guy’s big dream in danger is the A-Story. The lines involving his wife and each of his kids are the three sub-plots. You might think of the hooks into the season arc as other threads running through.

Here’s my haiku-style beat sheet of the action:

Meet a man who is on top of the world and filled with optimism
Meet his family, he only wants them to be happy but they are not
He gives his son a very generous gift
That he probably can’t afford
In addition to his family, he has a big big dream
There are a LOT of problems
He refuses to let them get to him
He’s part con-man, part humanitarian, all dreamer
His nemesis shows up with a threat to the dream that he can’t ignore

Act One
He runs through the quick fixes, but all are out of the question
The only solutions are impossible
He will not be defeated
He rallies the team
He has a plan
Meanwhile things get more complicated with his daughter
His wife loves him but knows there’s a problem. He tells her part of it
Meet the Devil
Our guy’s big plan is to get in bed with the Devil
At least he has the love of a good woman behind him

Act Two
Our guy makes his pitch
It’s a beauty
The Devil wants in
The Devil wants it all
The Devil is going to take the whole dream away from our guy in two days (tick tick)
Our guy channels his fury at this reversal by adeptly solving the problem his daughter doesn’t believe she has
Meanwhile, his wife is having a day
She’s worried about him, trying to support him, but he’s not at the appointed spot
He’s with a woman who’s coming on to him
His new plan is to enlist the help of the vixen
She’s noncommital
The wife is pissed at being stood up
He spends the night getting drunk
In the morning, he finds his nemesis murdered

Act Three
The vixen accuses our guy of the murder
The police take an interest, our guy squirms
He and his wife fight about all of it
His son overhears the secrets shouted in anger
He pleads for his wife’s understanding
The cops make a plan
They try to befriend the wife without success
The vixen is connected to the Devil’s henchman
The Devil’s henchman visits our guy to remind him that time is up and the screws are about to tighten.

Act Four
Wife tries to make nice but his son wonders if he’s a murderer and his daughter slams doors and cries
He makes nice with his daughter, a little con helps her see him as an understanding father
The cops try again and soften the wife just a little
Our guy says a prayer
He can’t resist a bet
His son believes in him, at least enough to provide him with a big piece of the solution

He takes the partial solution from the son and with new self-conviction takes a huge risk that could end it all
And then he takes a huger risk
And wins
Suddenly he’s back in the driver’s seat.
The vixen is on hold
The Devil gets his pay
The dream comes together
Surrounded by his adoring family, our guy stands triumphant.

Simplicity itself.

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