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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2008-2009 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot - or in this new post-strike/straight-to-series world, reading the pilot script. We'll start with the ones that were actually filmed and move on to the others in the coming weeks.
With that in mind, it's even more important to remember that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. Plus: as an added bonus, we've got a backlog of passed over pilots - some from this season, some from last season - we'll be tackling as well. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
Last season, Lifetime ordered six drama pilots, of which three - "Army Wives," "State of Mind" and "Side Order of Life" - made it to series. This is a look back at the three pilots that were passed on.
THE PILOTS THAT DIDN'T MAKE THE CUT: CONSPIRACY (Lifetime, 2007)
(written by Tim Bogart; directed by Jeff Bleckner; TRT: 44:29)
The network's description: No official description was released.
The plot in a nutshell: Samantha "Sam" Cross (Lisa Sheridan) just got the news she's waited her whole life to hear - she's just been named a junior partner at her D.C.-based law firm. After all, her work as second chair in helping defend Marlon Pharmaceuticals was nothing short of critical - a fact her boss, Anderson Dunne (Sam Anderson), is more than willing to reward with a huge salary bump, a luxury car and a corner office overlooking the Washington Monument. Everything is going great - even her boyfriend, political aide Charlie Perkins (Gabriel Olds), has just proposed - that is until their star witness from the aforementioned case, Dr. Simon Bowman (apologies, as I didn't recognize the actor), turns up dead from an apparent suicide. Before his death (or was it murder?) though, his last act was to send Sam a keycard and a bunch of documents showing that Marlon had altered the documents they released as part of the case's discovery process. But before she can look into the claims, it seems that all the documents in the case were recalled by Marlon within hours of the verdict. Not sure where to turn, Sam seeks out Cole Paris (Jonathan Scarfe), her idealistic ex at his shoestring-budget firm. Together they piece together that Marlon's anti-depressant drug was in fact causing various neurological disorders, the very charge she defended them against. The path to said discovery however has put Sam in peril as a mysterious black car starts following her and nearly runs her off the road. Even worse, she gets arrested after a bunch of incriminating documents turn up in her office. Thankfully, Anderson himself comes to her aid and provides a security tape that acquits her. But was it out of firm loyalty or is he just showing Sam what can happen if she keeps running with this? Further complicating matters is Ben Freeman (Benjamin Burdick), a beat reporter who approaches Sam about exposing Marlon and her firm. But while she's confused, she doesn't quite believe all of Ben's claims... that is until he shows her that her cell phone has been bugged. Also along for the ride are Sam's roommate Cass (fellow "Invasion" alum Aisha Hinds), a liberal blogger; Richard West (Kevin Rahm), a rival at Sam's firm who was more than thrilled to see Sam get arrested; Sam's ailing mother and her the-one-that-stayed-home sister (Simone Bailly); Oliver Babcock (Brian Markinson), the firm's shady head of security; and Arthur Fitzgerald (Currie Graham), an ambitious senator - and Charlie's boss - who's known for his straight talking ways. In the end, it's anyone's guess how everything ties to together - all Sam knows is a conspiracy is at work.
What works: I'm all for Lifetime trying out new genres...
What doesn't: ...but John Grisham lite is not the way to go. There's nothing here you haven't seen before or done better elsewhere. Whether it be the black car with tinted windows that's following our hero (in the rain no less) or the chase in the subway where our hero bangs on the car door and manages to get in at the last second, it's all here. The only thing that's missing is the "making-copy-of-incriminating-documents-when-the-boss-walks-in" scene, although I assume that would have been in episode two. More telling however is that Lisa Sheridan's Sam isn't that interesting. We're told she's some sort of legal wunderkind but all we see her do is panic and follow a trail so obvious you kind of expect actual breadcrumbs to appear. All of this would be forgivable however if that show established a genuinely intriguing world - but as it is...
The bottom line: ...it's just a bunch of straw men and telegraphed plots.