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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2011-2012 season, now in its sixth year! Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind 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. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]
GEORGETOWN (BUSTED ABC PILOT)
(written by Will Fetters; directed by Mark Piznarski; TRT: 43:10)
The network's description: "The creators of Gossip Girl invite you to get a glimpse inside the beltway. Forget the President, in D.C. the real power plays are made behind closed doors by the President's inner circle - the young, sexy people who shape politics. Andrew, Sam, Nikki and Peter are four of the secret weapons that propelled the current President into power. They also happen to be roommates with an intimate and tangled personal history. The only thing hotter and heavier than their personal lives is their workloads. Andrew (James Wolk) is the President's brilliant but disillusioned speechwriter. His rock-hard abs ensure that his casual hookups make front page news. Sam (Daisy Betts) is Andrew's ex and assistant to the President's Senior Adviser.
Caught in a love triangle with Andrew and his charismatic best friend Monty (Kevin Zegers), Sam tries to play it cool, but when Monty unexpectedly proposes to Sam, the tension between Sam and Andrew skyrockets. Political analyst Peter (Joe Mazzello) is the rock in their circle of friends. Then there's Nikki (Katie Cassidy), the President's "spin doctor," who also happens to be a gorgeous ex-model. Passion, politics and hard partying come together in this hot and steamy new drama. When you work around the clock, it's easy to take your work to bed with you. Produced by Fake Empire (Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage), Georgetown gives us an inside look at the young and hungry power players who try to outmaneuver and out score each other in the game of politics."
What did they leave out? We don't actually meet the President or - if memory serves - actually learn his name. It also originally ran under the title "The Inner Circle."
The plot in a nutshell: "Today more young people work in Washington than at any time in our history," title cards inform us. "These are their stories." And with that we meet Andrew Pierce (Jimmy Wolk), the youngest director of speechwriting for a president in U.S. history, not to mention one of Washington's 50 Most Beautiful People. He should be celebrating the passage of what pundits are calling historic legislation but instead he's at a bar having a few too many drinks with Bryce Johnson (Condola Rashad), an ambitious reporter who's trapped in the style pages. You see Andrew knows said bill is just a dog and pony show, something that accomplishes nothing but gives the appearance of solving everything. And so in a feat of righteous indignation/drunken rage, Andrew decides to tell a camera crew exactly that.
His "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"-esque moment not surprisingly doesn't sit well with the White House, more specifically Senior Adviser Michael Kline (Boris Kodjoe), who helped architect the legislation. He wants Andrew's head on a pike, news which doesn't come as much of a surprise to Andrew's college chums/housemates/co-workers: his ex/Kline's number two Sam Whitman (Daisy Betts), policy wonk/social hermit Peter Brooks (Joseph Mazzello) and PR maven/soothsayer Nikki Argo (Katie Cassidy). Thankfully, after listening to Sam's pleas, Michael settles on a slap on the wrist - go back on camera and blame the outburst on the opposition's intransigence - a move Andrew finds himself unable to go along with. And so he's left with a choice: fall on his sword or resign.
Meanwhile, Peter's work on the bill finds himself reluctantly promoted ahead of underlings rooting for him to fail; Michael tries to work damage control with Republican power player Caroline Wallace (Wendy Crewson); Bryce wrestles with having to throw Nikki under the bus to get a big scoop; and Sam is taken aback by her long distance boyfriend's - billionaire boy wonder Monty Knox (Kevin Zegers), who likewise was a university pal of our heroes - decision to relocate to Washington with an eye towards proposing. The latter development stirs old feelings in Andrew, further complicating his already tornado ravaged life, as does an unexpected offer from the aforementioned Wallace to go to work for the other side. Ultimately, Andrew decides to make the choice best for himself - consequences be damned.
What works: There's another half-dozen or so plot lines beyond those mentioned above - affairs, breakups, crushes, reveals, oh my! - as "Georgetown" is definitely not short on plot. And, to its credit, it handles them in a zippy, unpretentious way that valiantly aims to straddle the line between nighttime soap and political drama. That being said...
What doesn't: ...the soapier aspects eventually overshadow the political ones. First and foremost is a "Desperate Housewives" temp track that proceeds to relentlessly underline every silly and solemn moment as if there was a mime in the background of each scene smiling or frowning. That kind of handholding applies to the plot as well as nary a few minutes pass before someone reminds us that Andrew and Sam are still in love and wouldn't it be great if those crazy kids could get back together. Even Andrew's existential crisis quickly becomes about his relationship with Sam, as what's initial posited as a compelling look at what's killing the soul of modern politics gets reframed as "the job cost me the one that got away."
We've seen the latter plenty of times so it would have been nice to see more of the former. It helps that Wolk does the wounded crusader routine as well as anyone while maudlin staples like having characters give heartfelt confessions to people while they're sleeping or acts blowing on "there's someone I'd like you to meet" reveals have withstood the test of time for a reason. Again, that's not to say it's a bad show or ill-conceived, it's just disappointing to see more of the same when it obviously knows it has the ability to do so much more. I'm sure we'll eventually see a Capitol Hill soap - a fixture of development slates for several years now - make the schedule again sometime soon...
The bottom line: ...so here's hoping they learn from "Georgetown."