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Family Ties: I want one! Me too! by Frank MacCrory writing as Marty McFly - Series, Comedy - Alex tries to take advantage of some environmentalists. Danny is forced to work with his father in law. 24 pages - pdf format
I started and erased this critique 5 times. All I can say is that I admire anyone who took part in this challenge and managed to create a new world and get a coherent story onto the page.
Loved FAMILY TIES growing up. It was of course obvious early on that it was Michael J. Fox's world and the rest were orbiting him. I think Justine Bateman managed, over time, to make Mallory a 3D character, and the banter between Mallory and Alex was the source of a lot of the comedy. Most of the classic shows just caught lightning in a bottle, and it was primarily due to cast.
That said, I thought it was really cute what you did with the kids, especially 6 year old Lynne, who is a different side of smart than her brother.
Other than that, I just have questions - not sure what the convo was at the beginning between the mom and the guy on the phone. Was that supposed to set something up? If so, it wasn't clear.
And the kids are 6 and 12 (btw with this age difference I think they'd be on different buses), and the parents are 28 and 29, so it looks like they had Alex when they were in high school? I think you allude to that with the Aunt Mallory line.
And the subplot with the kids making T-shirts really stole the thunder from the main story. I think you jumped through hoops to get #metoo into this script, and the payoff of a guy stealing office supplies is unsatisfying. And we don't get much about Danny except we're supposed to know that he's an investigator, and he somehow inexplicably gets hired by his father-in-law.
I also think you underused "grandpa Alex" and you had an opportunity at 15 pages to do more with him and to also introduce Aunt Mallory.
Again, this was a hard challenge, and comedy is even harder still. So great job at creating this world.
Grandpa Alex? It's fine of Alex is grown and is now a grandpa. But you call him that in the dialogue which reads weird. Having two Alex's is also confusing. I see why but you need a better way to tell the difference than Grandpa Alex.
This, this isn't going anywhere. There is no conflict. Alex's office was vandalized, but the FBI found the culprit. So Alex, excuse me Gpa Alex is doing his own internal investigation, but what has he been accused of formally? Young Alex is trying to make money off of T-shirts? Where's the conflict in that?
I'm skimming now and that's not good. Here is the problem you have with rebooting a show like this. You have to have some hook from the old show to make it work. Besides Gpa Alex, these are all new characters and any, ehem ties, to the old show are way too flimsy. Why is the focus not on Gpa Alex? Young Alex isn't strong enough to make a show. The original if I remember was based off of old hippie parents with more conservative kids. I don't see how these new parents conform or betray that old role.
This was a tough choice to reboot. Curious why you picked it. I will say I could see Micheal J. Fox delivering some of Gpa Alex's lines but that was the only real highlight for me. Good job on entering.
Where are all the characters from the previous series in this reboot? Other than Alex making a minor cameo, this script really focused on it being a completely different show. Yes, the young Alex was obsessed by money, but I felt like it was really missing some of the back and forth that was part of the original series.
The T-shirt angle didn't seem to grab me. I had a hard time determining whether customers had already ordered 8,000 shirts or he had purchased too much inventory (I think it was the former, which made me wonder how he did that with a lame web site -- what shirts was he showing on the web site to sell that many?). I'm overthinking that, I know.
I'm guessing that I would also overthink why Danny would be the one investigating Grandpa Alex's office. Seems like the press would have had a field day with that.
In the end, the writing was solid enough, the humor was somewhat flat for me, the characters were okay, and the story needed a little buffing up. Still a good effort overall.
Perhaps itís been too long since my last episode of Family Ties, but I had real trouble relating to anyone here. And an even harder time trying to figure out what the story was all about. So, some of this is my fault. But there was nothing here that grabbed me, nor really anything at all that I felt was funny. I didnít come away with a good sense of place, and I suppose towards the end I really didnít care all that much. Like I said, maybe itís just me, but at the end of the day itís the story that matters and this didnít do it for me.
The introduction of the #MeToo plotline is great, except that nothing comes of it. It's just a ploy to launch an investigation that exposes Harris as a petty thief. It also plants the suspicion that "College Democrats" are responsible for the "METOO" spray painted on Sen. Keaton's door, until it turns out it was just a prank. But it's not clear who's prank it was or for what reason. The subplot of Alex having to produce 8,270 tee shirts and ship them himself is unrealistic. This is a huge number. What's so special about these tee shirts? I think this plot line is more interesting than the main one.
So Family Ties, never saw it but read the wiki and you seem to have completed the reboot part of the challenge. The writing was pretty good, formatting decent, pacing just kinda stuck between 1st and 2nd gear which was a bit of an issue in my opinion.
I struggled with the lack of any real conflict. It all seemed pretty fluffy and lacked any depth to the overall work, maybe that was intentional to keep it within the realms of the original, having never seen it I can't be certain. I'm not talking about introducing mass murder or mysterious plot twists here, just give it a couple of little variables, and more importantly if you're going to try humour, make sure the jokes really have an edge as currently it's just got that really placid tinned laughter sitcom style.
It was alright, just alright though. The writing style actually pulled it through for myself, not the storyline. Work on that storyline and nail some of the comedy and you could have something here, but as it stands it just wasn't enough.
About halfway through and I have to admit I donít really know whatís going on. This seems to have more to do with how the storyís structured than the writing. Maybe if I knew the show better, but as far as Iím concerned the whole point of a reboot is to target audiences that only have the barest knowledge of the show.
A bit of a missed opportunity here. This show could definitely reboot well, but my two big problems with this script were 1) the politics and characters werenít clearly defined enough. The old show was about ex-radical still liberals raising conservative kids in the 80s. I just didnít see the stances between parents and kids being as clearly defined. 2) Not enough humor. I expected maybe thereíd be bad jokes, but for most of the script I didnít notice any attempted jokes at all. Toward the end there were some, but it definitely needs to be beefed up for a comedy
The writing was generally good though. It was an easy read. I have a feeling the writer here would be able to improve it a lot on with subsequent drafts.
I'm intrigued to see how you adapted Family Ties for the Trump era.
Marty McFly? Great Scott, that's a cool mashup of two Michael J. Fox roles.
From your logline... Who's Danny? Did you rename Andy? Is this a brand new character?
FADE IN: goes on the left.
I had a feeling the "Me Too" in the title had something to do with... that. *Bites tongue* Moving on...
Pamela Springsteen (Bruce's sis) played a character named Gail in one 1985 episode. Not likely, but is this the same Gail?
12-year-old Alex? Obviously conservative. Any relation?
How is Alex off screen? Why is he off screen?
Oh, "fingerpaint." Not "fingerprints." And "finger paint" is two words, according to my spell check.
Let me guess, this is an all-new family? Gail, Danny, and Lynn are liberals, and Alex (like his namesake) is the lone conservative?
Man, Alex the elder hasn't changed politically, other than being a conspiracy-spreading RWNJ.
every woman on my staff... and I mean literally both of them
That doesnít prove anything.
Some crony to rubber-stamp-
No, no, no. Weíre reaching out to someone known for getting companies in line with all the pointless... I mean legal regulations Washington can throw at them.
Haha. Senator Keaton sounds as clueless as the big orange ape himself.
Danny jumps like heís seen a snake.
ALEX Dad, youíre gonna be working with Grandpa!
Oh shit. Now we have our conflict.
Alex II is conservative as all fuck. It's actually Gordon "Gekko," but he's no less slimy either way. What kid on this planet has a stock ticker? Does this even take place on Earth? #NotMyPlanet
And not just conservative, but staunchly anti-liberal "snowflake" "hippie" "Commie" (whatever buzzword is hip nowadays in the reptilian community). But his dialogue smartly reads like a parody of such rhetoric, akin to Archie Bunker, Mr. Burns or Ned Flanders. I LOVE the writing here.
Hello, this is Alex Ward and I-- Oh, you can tell by my phone number. Good. Hey, this isnít some offshore call center[,] is it? No? You should look into that. As long as you have good quality metrics[,] it can be a lot cheaper.
He doesnít seem very friendly.
Look in the mirror, dude.
Hi. Letís see, P.H.P. on an Apache instance; C.S.S. for people [that] like that kinda thing; C.D.N. package; P.G.P. and P.K.E., well of course; P.C.I.D.S.S.; yeah, that all sounds pretty standard. What about fulfillment?
PHP = (Personal Home Page) Hypertext Preprocessor
CSS = Cascading Style Sheets
CDN = Content Delivery Network
PGP = Pretty Good Privacy (No, really)
PKE = Public Key Encryption. Coincidentally, it's also the NYSE abbreviation for Park Electrochemical Corp.
PCI DSS = Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. I seriously thought this last one was something Lynn made up.
Oh, okay, got it. Thanks, bye.
She's six, right?
Eight thousand two hundred and seventy-one.
Love this zinger.
Thomas Whitfield? The dead gospel singer?
Normally, you spell out abbreviations is dialogue.
I noticed a lot of printers in this office[,] but no recycle bins.
No, I mean now. Where are they now?
Danny means business.
E/I. CHASING INTERNS MONTAGE - DAY
Lots of people make this mistake. It should be "EXT/INT."
I would cap all the INTERNS.
That montage is very reminiscent of a sitcom. The sponge made me laugh.
I['ve] [got a] career plan, and it doesnít include dating right now.
XXXXL seems exaggerated, but this is a sitcom.
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK on the door.
It's time for makeup, perfect smile It's you they're all waiting for
So Alex is hiding this T-shirt business from Mom? Busteeeeed. Like a classic sitcom.
Robert Harris? The film historian/preservationist? The novelist?
Each has his briefcase laying closed on the table.
Of course, we run a good place here. Good people.
Hmm... Where have I heard this before?
Really good people.
I've definitely heard this somewhere before... bigly.
Whatís inside here?
If he's this defensive, probably the pee tape.
"Wall clock" is two words.
Alex sits in the passenger seat tapping on his cell phone.
Shotgun or backseat?
Ah, Mallory. Nice "Family" tie.
And Lynn... Iím docking her twenty minutes for sneaking a cookie break during the packing.
Haha. What an ass!
Camera directions are usually forbidden since the director literally calls the shots.
Wow. Not only one of the best stories, but also one of the best written/formatted scripts I've read thus far. You've totally captured the essence of the show, judging from the episode I watched. I'm glad we got to see that at least Danny is a liberal and Alex (like his namesake) is a conservative. Alex I was a Reaganite. Alex II might be a Trump supporter, but you never brought it up. This is the reboot Roseanne could have been, especially had she kept her mouth shut.
I still love the irony of liberal/hippie parents with conservative kids. Excellent job.
possibly not the best reviewer here since not familiar with the series, and more than that, it seems to be a quite American format with its politics and such... I like sitcoms though, so will try my best to give some input, let us see...
p5 how you close that scene, with the reveal about Danny's work, forced by little Alex' dialogue, is great...
However, you spend far too much time before in that scene and could make the points around Grandpa more provocative and quick as you did with Granpa's very last dialogue.
P7 not bad, the kids made me smile for sure
P8 yeah, you seem to be confident in that liberal/conservative conceptÖ good so far
P9 important comedic beat around Intern 5's odd camouflage looks, funny. Those images strengthen the tone so effectively. Try to get in as many as you can of those visuals, because dialogue is noticeably not your problem, so that this is the stuff that pushes your work to high-level then.
P12 double-dialogue of Danny Ė or is this deliberately placed?
The story around Danny doesn't unfold well from my sight.
However, little Alex had his little success. You definitely know how to structure such kind of show. With some tightening and the usual background laughter laid over, you're in the game.
You could have brought in Grandpa Alex again in third act. He seems to be the little one's idol as far as I can see.
The story around Danny's task didn't convince me yet ó the rest was all right. Nice performance, you appear quite confident in this sitcom game. Well done.
Well, it felt like a Family Ties episode, so thatís good. The writing is good, the dialogue is good, the characters are solid (but too many to really relate to in 15 pages).
I felt there were no real stakes here. The conflict just isnít there. Everybody gets along okay, the situations donít seem remotely challenging let alone dire, even the MeToo reference amounts to a smokescreen. Itís all well done but there are no teeth to it and the comedy is light. Itís missing a lot.
Still, good job writing it and capturing the voice and feel of the original.
Hi everyone, Kham's first guess was right! This one was mine.
I really appreciate everyone who took the time to read and offer such great feedback. This was intended as a season 1 episode though not a pilot, but I suppose it'd work as one. The original Family Ties started off with a regular episode with minimal extra exposition.
To clarify, this script follows a typical sitcom formula with an A plot (the MeToo investigation) and a B plot (the tee shirt business). What completely slipped my mind is that the two are supposed to intersect in some way.
Let me apologize for not having as much time as I'd like to put this script together. Due to work requirements, I had some time to think about the plot then about four evenings to write this. Mind you, I did think I had a finished script when I sent it in, but obviously it would have benefited from a few more days to tweak it.
Things that probably would have improved:
- More tension as young Alex tries to hide more and more packages from Mom (trying to keep her out of the garage, etc.). Right now there's just his attempt to slide his little sister through a narrow opening.
- Differentiating the Alexes a bit better in that living room scene, maybe calling him "the younger Alex" or something.
- Showing not telling Harris avoiding Danny.
- Danny could explain better that just like his typical corner-cutting targets, a harasser might not think they're doing anything wrong or at least that it isn't serious... might even delude themselves into thinking the rules are arbitrary and it's really a "victimless crime."
- I could probably have thought up a couple more corny jokes to slide in there.
- Might have caught the comma and missing word issues. By the way, it'd be "people who like that kinda thing" not "people that like that kinda thing".
Things that probably wouldn't have gotten any better:
- Family Ties ended its run in 1989, at which point now-Grandpa Alex did not have any children. So the earliest he could have Gail is 1990. In my opinion, the lowest feasible age for coming-of-age sitcom stuff is about 12. The cruel nature of math dictates that Gail was 16 when young Alex was born. Remember that the original Alex's defining characteristic was being "conservative" moreso than "greedy," which means he would have supported (demanded?) Gail bringing the baby to term. Another episode might playfully note that there wasn't actually a shotgun at their wedding.
- With a blank canvas, I would have had Grandpa Alex working on Wall Street... but an episode of Spin City established that Alex P. Keaton was the Junior Senator from Ohio in 2000 (for those not familiar, every US state has exactly two Senators elected to staggered six-year terms). He would not have been old enough to run against Howard Metzenbaum (D) in 1994, so he must have been elected in 1998 after John Glenn (D) retired. The person who actually took that seat in 1998 was George Voinovich (R) who later retired and was replaced by Rob Portman (R). Since Ohio's other Senate seat has changed hands since 1998, Grandpa Alex would rightfully be the Senior Senator from Ohio in 2018, but I decided in this alternate universe he's still as described on Spin City... twenty years as the Junior Senator being a subtle dig at the high level of recidivism... I mean re-election... in the US Senate.
- The original actor for Grandpa Alex (the incomparable Michael J. Fox) has Parkinson's Disease; it is ludicrous to expect him to appear on-camera. Though I'd hope he'd like the idea of a reboot, I had to plan as if even the audio might need to be by an imitator. Mr. Fox has a really distinctive look, so the only thing that could pass for him on screen would be one of those creepy CGI ghosts that would offend everyone. I did include a my-ego-is-bigger-than-yours portrait of him, though.
- Honestly don't have a clear occupation in mind for Gail. The conference call was just a set-up for the "dishonest" bunny slippers thing. Gail's name is simply a traditional name (befitting a conservative dad) that was relatively popular in 1990. (FYI Lynn is short for Evelyn, a unisex name befitting liberal parents.)
- The MeToo tie-in being anything other than a prank. Even if a producer picked up the show tomorrow, MeToo would be replaced by some other moral panic long before the show could ever make it to the air, so I wanted to keep the scandal very generic.
- I wouldn't have researched the common-sounding names I picked to see if they were the names of notable real people. These guys probably didn't need first names anyway.
Things that occurred to me since seeing your reviews:
- I think I can make the A plot and B plot intersect by having Danny bring home printer labels for young Alex who uses them in his business... then Danny (whom I pictured as Thomas Gibson in Hotchner mode) gets mad at himself after he makes this huge deal about Harris stealing office supplies.
- That night when he drops off the labels would also give Danny a chance to complain to Gail about how he loathes everyone in Grandpa Alex's local office, careful not to let the younger Alex hear him. Helps define characters, and makes for a little bit of conflict.
- I agree that 8,270 is high, it was just supposed to be too many to handle easily. Need to make it clearer that young Alex had the super-duper-organic cotton tee shirts with environmental scenes rush-made and shipped to his house.
- E/I. is a built-in autocomplete in the Final Draft software, but I'll stop using it.
- Maybe use FAVOR: instead of "pan down" in the final scene.
- It does really need all the pages to set everything up properly, and that's after I've done a round of tightening on what's already there.
Comedy is definitely not my strength, so I'll take it as a win that some of you enjoyed the read. And for those of you who didn't like it, you were kind enough to explain why so I can improve my craft. SS is awesome like that.
I might put this into proper teleplay format and lengthen it to 30 minutes for the sheer self-torture of it. Finding micro-cliffhangers (curbhangers?) for the commercial breaks will be a challenge. For some reason Final Draft's "half-hour sitcom" template puts the action lines in all-caps which grates on my eyes, so my revision will have mixed-case action unless some says the capping is absolutely necessary in that format.
I see this show occasionally commenting on serious issues, but it would be like the original using the liberal-vs-conservative conflict for comedy rather than drama. Major Dad did a much better job of presenting situations where the conservative parent and the liberal one had a cultural conflict and one clearly came out on top (the winner more or less alternating each episode), and I don't think that kind of back-and-forth would last long in the current political climate. Better to just make fun of conservative and liberal tropes.
Since bringing a new child into a sitcom is generally perceived as a sign of desperation, but I want to have the kids react to a new baby at some point, I decided to have a baby on the way from the series start.
Mildly disappointed that no one picked up on the "If I had cameras following me around at that age" reference to the original series. Oh well. It was inspired by a tongue-in-cheek comment that Florence Henderson (Mrs. Brady) made about sitcom actors, "We had no idea people had hidden these cameras in our homes!"
The camo intern was a nod to the original's occasionally outlandish situations, like when an Army recruiter tried to get Alex to join the Airborne Accountants Corps ("They drop in behind the enemy's lines and mess up their books").
Again, thank you all for the reads and the comments.
Hello again everyone, the link at the top of the thread now has a properly expanded 24-page version that can probably serve as a pilot. It's the same A Plot and B Plot as before, but each is more fleshed out and now they intersect a little.
I was able to incorporate pretty much all of the notes from the previous message, and I'm curious if the folks here think the stakes are now high enough that the story now "works." I included a teaser for the next episode to show that the series is not purely episodic.
The only suggestion that I consciously did not follow is inserting a laugh track. No offense Prussian, I'm just not sure exactly how to do that, or if it'd be appropriate anyway. Just seems like a socially awkward version of "laughing at your own joke."