Monday, July 17, 2006

BlueCat Feedback 2

I got my Cricket Hill feedback from BlueCat.

What did you like about this script?

The author has a sly sense of humor that is incorporated into the script. One example: when Bean and Billy are at the top of Dead Man’s Hill, Bean complains that people have died there. “Tall tales,” counters Billy, until they hear a kid scream in the distance. “Mostly tall tales,” he amends. Another moment: when Grandpa puts vodka in everyone’s juice. Or when a clueless co-worker hurts herself and Oliver asks how she is. He gets the offhand reply, “Her hand was on fire.” To which he asks, not really caring either way, “You put it out.” The piece de resistance is the revelation-filled family dinner. Everyone confesses all from infidelities to homosexuality to incest to adoption, and it is all taken in stride as only things are in such a offbeat comedy.

This is an oddball family, but one where every character is distinct and interesting. Our hero Billy is, of course, the straight man in a family of crazies. The deaf and senile Grandpa. The ditzy daughter Anna. The sex and toaster obsessed father who lost his job and hasn’t worked up the courage to tell anyone. The teacher mom who deals with vomit and blood on a daily basis and doesn’t remember the names of her students. The former golden boy football star and valedictorian turned hippie Dave with his pregnant, older girlfriend. The only semi-sane brother Oliver who works at a burger joint with complete idiots and lusts after his sister. The two-time high school failure and closeted gay John. This script is reminiscent of Arrested Development. It has the same sort of offbeat collection of characters but ones who are likeable. In particular, Billy makes a good narrator, one who fits into his strange family but is also apart from it enough to be an impartial observer.

I often dislike voiceovers. There are usually employed as a cheap device to fill in holes the author neglected. In this case, Billy’s voiceover works. Especially in the opening sequence, he introduces us to all the family members and supporting characters with a brisk ease and dry wit that makes them memorable. The device with Billy writing a book about his family (a school project he simply couldn’t finish) makes sense as well. The author has crafted a compelling, smoothly-paced story. At 101 pages, it never grows tired or sluggish. The dialogue is witty and flows naturally. The description is enough to give us a clear mental image without getting bogged down in endless detail. Overall, this is a charming, humorous script with strong characters.

What do you think needs work?

For a relatively smart comedy, there is an over-reliance on low-grade toilet humor. Is it necessary to have quite so many fart/bathroom/etc. jokes? The humor plays to two completely different audiences. The smart, offbeat humor will appeal to the same fans of shows like The Simpsons or Arrested Development. The bathroom humor is going to attract teenage boys and not many others. I think it would be a mistake to turn off the first set of viewers with the inclusion of too much toilet humor.While most of the characters made a strong impression, a few didn’t ring true. In particular, Brooke comes across as a high school vixen, not at all subtle, and it seems silly. Why does she like Billy anyway? Teenage girls usually pursue older men, not younger. Dating a younger guy would be social suicide, and the fact that he’s your best friend’s brother is even worse. Plus, how many high school girls are so sexually advanced and blatant? This character seemed silly and over-the-top. Chad Gross was your typical gross teenage bully. His character, while stereotypical, is fine. My question was what does Daphne see in him? She’s into Billy, Billy’s into her. But since he hasn’t gotten his act together and asked her out, she’s dating Chad. Chad is nothing like Billy. If she likes Billy, she’s unlikely to like Chad and vice versa. For a smart-seeming girl, she looks idiotic to hook up with this guy.

A small problem character-wise is that a few of the family members seem different once we get into the story than they do in Billy’s opening introduction. Anna is presented as an empty-headed, ditzy cheerleader, but after the opening sequence, she never seems quite so air-headed. John is shown as a high school failure (on his second or third go-around of senior year), flicking boogers at others for amusement. Basically, your typical stupid teenage boy. Yet, he actually appears to be more sensitive in the bulk of the script than the opener gives him credit for. In fact, he turns out to be gay, something that, based on the opening introduction, is completely unexpected and out of thin air.

This week, I'm busy locking down acts 2 & 3 of the Cricket Hill pilot. It's still a blast to write after all this time (I originally wrote in in 2003) and now that we're creating a TV show out of it, it's really fun to open it up and expand the characters and their situations.

I'd recommended BlueCat when it rolls around next year, as you can see it offers some decent feedback, plus the entry fee is sweet ($35).


Lucy said...

$35 dollars is even LESS in GBP - I'm going to re-enter my redraft of the one from this year (they've given me so many ideas from the feedback) AND my two other very polished specs. Well worth the money if nothing else.

The Moviequill said...

yep, it is on my list for sure.. Gordy rocks