Cringe With Me: My First TV Pilot Act One

Last week we took a look at the cold open of my first TV pilot, Out of Bounds. The painful revisit continues this week with the “amazing” first act and the introduction of our protagonist, Marc (I have an obsession in spelling Marc with a C for some reason).

Marc is a down on his luck college basketball player. Facing a career-ending injury, he strikes a deal with the son of Satan to be the best player to ever play the game. I wrote Marc a few years after a second ACL tear ended my college football career.

Just like Marc, my playing career was nothing to write home about. I was a regular on the practice squad, hardly saw the field (three plays in total over three years), and was plagued by injuries throughout my time with the team. Even though things sucked, I would have given anything to stick out my last year with that team.

Also, quick side note, I don’t know why I thought the buzz cut was a good look for me. It wasn’t.

2013 Nick with SEMO Football

Act One

We haven’t even started the first page of act one and I’m already hating my dumb name for this university. Delville University. Very subtle if I do say so myself.

A few head scratchers on this first page. I gave Chunk an okay character description, but than showed no love for Marc, at all. Corey and Sarah also don’t get a character description. If I had a newspaper and a time machine I’d go back and swat myself on the nose for this.

I’m cringing out of my skin at Sarah’s dialogue. Did I seriously think is was a good idea to make her a sex hungry, cleat chaser? Out of Bounds sure as hell is not passing the Bechdel Test.

Looking back at this, bold sluglines are the way of the future. Don’t @ me Twitter.

Oh, this dialogue screams “new writer.” I’m not totally mad about the action line that leads into the next scene with Bob. I would just tighten it up a bit to help bring this page count down.

I love Doug and how I didn’t let him take any crap from Bob. I really wanted Bob to just be this loser out of his element. I succeeded on that end for the most part.

Again with this dialogue! Bob would know that Death dragged Doug down to hell, it feels like he’s telling him all this for the first time.

I do like the comparison of Bob’s empty walls to the picture-filled walls of his father’s office. I also still have a soft spot for the chain gag and the physical comedy of Doug being tossed around because of the desk. If I were rewriting this today, that would likely be cut. The Heaven office stuff is okay here, but I would trim it down to make more room for Marc and his shenanigans.

So apparently Bob’s office is in Hell and Detroit. What a great way to confuse the reader, Nick.

I forgot about Dr. Mister. I came up with the name on the spot because I wanted a dumb conversation where someone called him Mr. Mister and he responded with, “I didn’t go to medical school to be called Mr.” I know. I know. It’s dumb. But it gets dumber. See the next page.

I would delete this page without ever looking back. It does nothing. We know Marc has a concussion. We don’t need this coco puff doctor beating the shit out of his lunch to show us that. Why isn’t Marc pleading with Dr. Mister to get a clean bill of health? Why is he so calm in this moment? I obviously had not found the voice of the character at this point in the draft.

The Lola Bunny joke creeps me out, but with her recent reveal in the new Space Jam, I would keep it in this script.

More ‘on the nose’ moments with the, “Jackrabbit says yes to Devils” line.

Marc not acknowledging the earthquake right away hurts me. I then have his vision clear up without presenting a POV before or after Bob smacks him.

I’m still fond of the lab coat costume joke. In a new draft, I would just make it more clear with a parenthetical.

Yay, more bad dialogue!

I’m not a fan of the Tyrone/Deon joke. I am glad Marc called him on it though. If I wrote this in 2021, Marc would be more standoffish in this exchange. Bob has too much power in this scene. He needs to convince Marc to sign with him and is doing an awful job at it. Marc should be running this scene and should be calling out Bob for coming to him. Marc is smarter than I portrayed him to be on this page.

“Most shots blocked” sounds like Marc is a defensive God. I would keep this wording but work a joke in about how it’s Marc’s shots that were blocked.

Oofff another “Hell” pun. We should make a drinking game out of these.

Not the cleanest act break, but not the cleanest act either. I wanted Cerberus to be the least frightening dog I could think of, so I went with a bulldog.

End of Cringe

We did it! We somehow survived my first act. The saddest part of it all is that this isn’t the first draft of it. I committed a year to revisions and this was the final product.

If I were only allowed to go back and change one thing about this script, I would for sure go back and rework Sarah. I was scared as hell to mess up and write a bad woman, so I limited myself to one. Good call on cutting myself off, cause Sarah is a mess. I do want to thank her for helping me pull my head out of my ass and getting me to the point where I can write strong women like Blake, Winifred, and Joy.

Act two is next week, and if I remember correctly things are about to get much more cringe.

Who is the cringiest character you have ever written?

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