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The Middle - The Hostages Spec Script by James Klonowski - Series, Comedy - A routine trip to the local supermarket turns into anything but for the unlucky Heck family as they end up getting held at gunpoint by a crazed neighbour. Meanwhile, Axl has won tickets to a big football game, and Sue is set to appear on a popular game show. 33 pages - pdf, format
I used to watch every episode before they went to season 5. I even wrote an episode of my own. Maybe even two of those. One I submitted to either Warner Brothers or NBC, don't remember which, but nothing came out of it. They have to be crazy good you know to make through.
Anyway, I read your first act. It's good but I do have some reservations. There's a lot of prose. I don't think you need that much for the comedy show, it should be mostly dialog and some visuals. Besides, I think you're overwriting - I'd be fine with overwriting if it was any other script but for the 24-30 min show I had to say something.
for example on p2 instead of "trying to fan herself" you could have "fanning herself". Or just "fan in hands rides shotgun" Then there's "starts searching" "starts to panic" "starts pulling all sorts of things out of her bag" "to start driving back up the road" - you could get away with "start" every time - "searches" "panics" etc Frankie's VO - for the first 4 pages it's mostly her VO. The bird scene - I feel cheated. You didn't show what happened, went around it. She didn't talk about what happened. How did she get the book away? Did she kill the bird? Fight it? That part doesn't work for me. p4 "What's her problem" Axl asks and I think he's way cooler to say smthing like that. Then Mike complains way too much about the football ticket. I know he's upset, but Mike rarely talks. Mostly he talks to Frankie and it's when she attacks him for the most part. Also, he repeats himself about the tickets. AXL talks a lot too. I'd prefer to see him give away the ticket. Someone knocks, he sells the ticket. More visual. Sometimes he's on the nose. He tells Sue that only pretty people go on TV. He'd probably say something more concrete, like "do you see many nerds on TV?" - my point is he won't be this straightforward and also he'd be more elegant with his comment, he won't hit her with it directly. You got a lot of chuckles from me. I liked the bird jokes. And the whole football tickets talk sounds promising. I see it leading somewhere.
I may read further but don't even know if you're around.
Thank you for your feedback. I hope to read some of your work too. I'm glad you enjoyed it and appreciate the feedback. I tend to think of myself as a dialog heavy writer so.im surprised you think I'm overwriting. With regards to Frankie VO taking up much of the first four pages, I went back to the pilot episode and studied it. I liked it a lot, and decided to replicate it in my script. Also, I always find things funnier when they're spoken about afterwards as opposed to actually showing the viewer. But that may just be me. You say that Mike doesn't speak much? I don't think I had speak too often. He sulked yes, and maybe that was overstepping the mark. As for Axl being blunt to Sue, I'm British and we tend to go down that route with humour. Perhaps a more subtle approach would've been better. I like the idea of Axl just giving the ticket away to some random person because he only needs one, not realising his dad wants to come. That would've been funnier. I'm glad you're finding it funny, and hope you've found time to finish the script. I look forward to your response.
Hey again. I finished the read. My biggest gripe is that Rita came out of nowhere. I'm thinking she should be from the beginning or not be in here at all. I mean that her act should be pertinent to the story. Right now she's there at the beginning and end, but we don't see her story. I think we should see why she did, how she came to this etc. I'd also think that everything should pay off - like Brick watching the car. If he's watching it, something should happen to it and it would be good if he didn't even care. Didn't notice in fact - that might have been funny. And, maybe Sue doesn't bring the purse and Frankie is happy at the end that Rita will take the store money but not their money?
Some notes: Again, the VO doesn't work for me at places. p10 for example - you said they are stuck in traffic. I assume we'll see cringed faces and honking. Then I still hear Frankie say out loud "we hit the midday traffic. Mike wasn't pleased..." And there's about kids. So, you straight up giving us what we already see on screen. As I recall the VO in the Middle is more subtle. "Brick was happy though, he had his book to read" and we see Brick reading his book. I mean then why say it. p11 maybe you could cut some dialog here about windows and such. For example this "look, this isn't my idea..." - I think this cold be easily cut so they don't go to and fro with the same talk. Some lines are pretty clever and fun, some comments have a lot of texture. I think you could make it all shine. Like Axl saying "Your blood" - very funny. Sue suggesting a game... - nice
Some comments are out of character for example p13 Grankie "what kind of stupid answer is that" - I don't think she'd say that. Also, I think "stupid" is more Axl's word. p21 "Your mom nearly decipitated an old woman" funny line but doesn't feel like Mike.
p14 again the VO "We continued to play the game for the entire duration of the traffic jame which lasted for two and a half hours" - this could be told us via dialog. Axl can comment about watching them play for two and a half hours. Brick has to guard the car - that's funny and smart. You could mild it perhaps. Axl may say smthing like "why does he always get to guard it" And Sue may suggest that if she guarded it she'd distract the perpatrator with her new dance routine. And Axl may say that he believes that - anyone will get distracted just by looking at her. I mean - milk that thought, it's really nice one. And make it pay off. P22 "You're the criminals" - very funny. Lots of funny lines.
Thank you for your reply and for finishing my screenplay. I'm glad you spotted my error with Rita. In the first draft I had her story mapped out throughout but the script was over 50 pages long! So I decided to cut it out. In hindsight, I should've just shortened it.
I should've also been smart enough to pay off Brick watching the car. If it had been towed away without him noticing that would've been brilliant! I was thinking of having Frankie be on board with Rita robbing the place, but thought better of it. Protagonists have to stay protagonists.
In hindsight maybe I did overuse the VO a bit. I should've just let the dialogue and pictures do the talking more. I'm glad you enjoyed some of the lines. My aim was to write a funny script, and although there are minor issues with it, I believe I accomplished it.
Maybe I didn't get the characters perfectly, but I felt they were good enough. I respect your opinion and I love having constructive as opposed to just criticism as I can use this to get better.