Where as my last blog was a bit of a window into my personal doubts; issues etc., this is more forward-thinking and positive- alas, not about music… would have been a hassle to create a new blog site for comedy!
I have been exhilarated by Breaking Bad. I am sad that it ended, and cannot believe it existed- seemed to be a wonderful fever-dream: the likes of which we may never see again. Comedy shows like The Simpsons, Family Guy and such are past their best, whilst others like The Big Bang Theory never seem to tire. As much as I muse on these events, one thing springs to mind: they are all American. The U.K. is capable of producing great work. There has been some terrific comedies and dramas, but the U.S. always seem to lead the way. We can do drama very well- not quite Breaking Bad great, but great none the less. Because of the comparative lack of money, it is often harder to be ambitious. I believe that the U.S. has more money and a bigger creative industry, but not the greater talent. We have some of the best actors, funniest people and finest directors in the world. As I am typing this, I am watching a classic episode of The Simpsons. I am always amazed at how many jokes the writers could jam into a single page; let alone an episode. Comedies such as The Simpsons, South Park and Curb Your Enthusiasm are cornucopias of intelligence and outstanding break-neck comedy. Dramas such as Breaking Bad are a dramatic equivalent: astonishing performances, terrific writing and compelling stories. In this country, we seem to be a bit quieter. In terms of comedy, we have been a bit hit-and-miss. I love The I.T. Crowd; I love The Thick of It. If I were to cast around for my favourite British comedies, most of them would be from the ’80s and ’90s: there are few modern equivalents that excite or inspire me.
I had the pleasure of being part of The Cambridge Footlights for a couple of years and have seen some terrific talent go onto appear in shows such as The Inbetweeners, Downtown Abbey and Him and Her. I have always admired the drama and comedy of this country, but feel that we may be stagnating. In terms of comedy there are too many studio-based variations on the a theme: two many family-based comedies that are gentle, but not exactly gut-busting or adventurous. We have produced a few gems, but it is still the U.S. that leads the way- by a long way. I have been wondering why. I suppose we have less money; but above all networks such as The BBC are the only station that commission unsolicited comedies: there is still an aim towards inexpensive, family-friendly comedies. It has always annoyed me, because the finest comedies of the moment are as far from this as possible: they are ambitious and unique and take risks at every turn. For years there have been attempts to replicate the majesty of early-’90s The Simpsons; classic South Park; cutting edge Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seinfeld and the like: yet few success stories.
Anyway, below is an idea: something that is an animated comedy: something that this country never really dabbles in, but is much-demanded. It will be posted through the doors of the BBC; it will go to a few production companies, but I have the feeling it may rely on a Kickstarter-like financial campaign, tied to a willing and ready production company. I admire any new comedy, but have been thinking about animation. The Simpsons, Family Guy and South Park are three of the best comedies of all time. It allows you to be as ambitious as possible; it costs relatively little; it takes a few hours to record each episode, and allows you to bring to life anything your imagination comes up with. There are a few animation companies in this country that are looking for projects. I have been meaning to make a show for two people: Raph Shirley and Kate Hollowood. The former is an old Footlights colleague whom is an everyman with impeccable timing; a superb comedy talent. The latter, a fine and brilliant actor whom is a versatile and very funny human. Both can knock comedy out of the park; and both will appear in many in their careers. I have been excited by the prospect of creating a comedy that can grab a foothold and make an impact- see below.
Once it is written, I will be thinking of ways to make it a reality: whether it is a Kickstarter campaign, a pitch to the BBC; a project that needs to go to an independent company- but most of all, I want to know from people: is it something that people would watch and would be popular? I hope to make it as terrific and funny as possible; to have great lighting and beautiful scenes. Take the cinematic beauty of Breaking Bad, and cheekily incorporate some of its themes into an animated comedy; have some of the adult humour of South Park, the sharp pace of The Simpsons, and a British sensibility. A tall order perhaps, but like music endeavours, the ambition is all there…would it be something that could make it?
“The Equality State”
Male- major role
Female- minor roles
Male- minor roles
No One Loves Me & Neither Do I– Them Crooked Vultures (Theme)
Lotus Flower– Radiohead (Opening track)
Familiar Feeling– Moloko (Final scenes and end credits)
The pilot focuses on two different couples in their 20s, who come together; during Hallowe’en of 2013. Their coming together will have a huge effect on each other; that will change their lives and cause huge waves.
Alice Yorke is a Jehovah’s Witness, she is down on her luck and a mother-to-be. She has just learned she is pregnant and tries to balance her daily life, coping with it. She goes door-to-door in east London; trying to spread ‘the good word’. The local citizens are not so accepting, and as she meets some weird and wonderful people, she starts to doubt herself. As the sun rises over east London, Alice and her ‘colleagues’ try to change people’s minds; before a huge song-and-dance number breaks out: D.E.N.I.A.L. As a hard morning drags on, Alice returns to her Canary Wharf apartment she shares with her boyfriend.
The boyfriend in question is a one Stefan Buckley. He has recently been fired as a teacher, and spends his days obsessed with Radiohead; smoking, drinking and preparing for an upcoming court case: a harassment charge made by Thom Yorke. The two sit down and discuss the future possibility of becoming parents; both knowing that they do not have the money or security- or stability- to be able to handle it. They weight up their lives, and recollect how and why Stefan got fired: both aware that they need to change their lives.
Over in Camden, P.C. Natalie Mercury is on the beat- and on a crime scene. She is a controversial and ‘bent’ police officer, and has been in trouble constantly. From drag racing The Red Cross; wrongful arrests, parking in disabled spaces and tampering with murder scenes, her boss is fuming. Natalie arrests some ‘freedom-hating terrorists’; lays down the law and not strictly playing by the rules- not realising they are Hasidic Jews. When they complain, she tells them to ‘tell someone who cares’; as there is a smash cut to her Chief Inspector’s office; as a stack of complaints and written warnings are piled on the desk. She is given one last chance, and told she is on very thin ice.
In a local hospital, her high-flying and dashing boyfriend Dan Bush is experiencing a typical day. In the clinic he is dealing with some strange and depraved patients, whilst dealing with the advances of a gorgeous co-worker; as well as fending off a tyrannical boss- who is rather violent and angry. In his spare time, he manages a successful band (Famous Atheists)- as well as looking after his sick and cantankerous parents (two 80 year olds). After a rough money, he catches a quick break at his flat; located opposite a kebab shop in Camden. He meets Natalie there, as the two discuss a recent event: Dan proposing the previous night. With Natalie’s job at risk and pressures in Dan’s life; Dan starts to feel the strain; as Natalie makes lavish- and very unusual plans! As they prepare for the evening’s Hallowe’en party, the day ticks on…
Alice deals with the effects of morning sickness; choosing inconvenient and embarrassing places to fall ill. The day continues, and the four prepare for the evening. As the guests arrive in various costumes, Alice’s niece is round as they have to babysit her. She is a very ‘mature’ and strange 4-year-old and causes all ends of issues; not helped by Stefan teaching her how to smoke. The party swings on, as each of the couples confide in each other; and their various doubts.
As the morning arrives, the four go separate ways. Alice is left to clear up the mess and carnage of the night before; before having to go onto the streets, in a desperate attempt to bring the word of Jehovah to Elephant and Castle and Hackney. Dan has a nightmare morning as his colleague makes a pass, and his fellow doctors tease him about settling down. Natalie is fired for letting a drunk meth-head drive her home after the party- in a police car. Natalie has her badge, car and clothes stolen, and is now out of a job, being pursued by angry criminals, with the Met. Police angrily demanding the return of the stolen assets. Stefan spends his morning trying to invent the perfect hangover cure; looking for a new job, as well as being embroiled in a battle with a neighbour- with disastrous consequences.
The two boys meet up at a local bar- Homme’s; they discuss their situations and both feel trapped. They are making plans for the future when Stefan gets a phone call with terrible news- he may only have 8 months to live. The two girls meet at an Australian bar in Soho. With Natalie fired and Alice dislocated and lost, they both feel a change is needed. After both drinking a well-known cocktail; Natalie still has drugs- taken from a local gang. After dropping them in the cocktail; she accidentally takes a sip. The effects start to take a hold; leaving her sedate and ecstatic. As the girls make their way home on the tube, they see the depression of London life; the inequality as well as the beauty and fascination. As Alice finishes her day, arriving at the door of a chavy couple, Natalie calls. Suddenly a master plan is struck, and the girls strike upon a way out of their problems.
Stefan and Dan have a heart-to-heart and asses the news. Stefan decides that he has been a disappointment to Alice, and decides to make a list; a sort of Bucket List, where he will do as much as possible- as well as achieve as many goals as possible. The girls realise that Natalie has stumbled upon an addictive and potent invention. The two set up premises in the empty basement of the kebab shop (opposite Natalie and Dan’s flat), and come up with a name: The Equality State. It refers to the effect the cocktail has where everyone- rich or poor- is levelled and equalled: everyone feels the same. It also refers to Wyoming, a U.S. state which is mountainous and sparsely-populated. It seems like a metaphor for their business, and how they customers will blend into London life.
As the police close in on Natalie and Dan’s flat and the walls close in, Natalie still uses her pull and power as a police officer to round up customers and make money and connections. Stefan and Dan begin a list of 30 ‘to-dos’ or tasks; starting with number 1- with the help of Dan’s band, Famous Atheists. The two forget about work and life. Dan does not mention that his colleague made a pass, as well as his doubts about the wedding; Stefan does not let Alice know about his illness. Meanwhile neither girls mention their business venture, as well as Natalie’s firing, and Alice’s doubts about motherhood.
In the closing scenes, Alice and Stefan talk about the future, and possible abortion. Outside an inappropriately-named abortion clinic, as the rain lashes; the two realises that they want to stay together and need a future to hold onto. Knowing that each of their lives will be very different and turbulent, they continue as they are: making sure neither knows of each other’s fate. Natalie and Dan spend the night together; neither revealing truths, but promising to stick together. As Moloko’s Familiar Feeling plays, the conclusion plays out. The girls find that they are being pursued. Alice has her colleagues, as well as some of her ‘faithful’ chasing her; angry at her betrayal and revaluation; as Natalie finds that her flat is taken over by the police; keen to find her, as some disgruntled criminals also close in. Stefan has a court case; illness and fatherhood to think about, as Dan’s colleague announces her intentions- leaving each pair with much to ponder. The screen splits as each of the couples go separate ways. Stefan and Dan head to Essex to fulfil the next ‘task’- both trying to escape from life; unaware what ramifications could be in store. Natalie and Alice have a huge queue of customers, as word spreads. As the siren’s flash across the street and the flat is turned over, the girls both join hands and smile; realising that London will be changed, and that their lives will never be the same again…
The idea of the comedy is to cheekily reference Breaking Bad, as well as have potential for multiple episodes. The show focuses on the two couples, but has a whole host of peripheral and secondary characters from episode to episode. As the girls’ lives untangle and progress, they find that their discovery is attracting a lot of attention; as the two balance trying to earn money, but stay clear of the law. Dan and Stefan bond and try to fulfil Stefan’s wishes, but both couples have a hard time hiding the truths from each other: at the end of the pilot cliff-hangers are unveiled and a few surprise twists as well.
I hope it gets made; I hope it lasts; it may not, but will try my hardest- surely there is room in the market 🙂