Thursday, March 12, 2009

Break It Down - Kings pilot

Today for your reading pleasure, I'm going to break down the structure of Michael Green's Kings, the ambitious new show debuting this Sunday on NBC.

Thus far (that I can remember) I've done breakdowns on Castle, Grey's, Gossip Girl, Chuck, Dexter and very possibly a few more that are here... somewhere. Wanna read them? Look for "Break It Down" WAAAAY down on the right side under LABELS and then click it. It's like Staples' EASY button, only real and not as easy.

Anyway... Kings.

Episode 101 - Goliath

Short Description

Again, with the pilot airing this Sunday, I'm going to try not to give too much away. In general, this pilot has the extremely daunting task of setting up the fictional monarchy of Galboa (which seems to exist in an alternative version of our present day real world), their war with the also-fictional country of Gath, a seemingly diabolical pharmaceutical company and its relationship to the monarchy, and roughly a dozen characters fairly central to the plot.

Story Threads

Wow, there's a lot going on here, and I'm having difficulty pulling out the disparate threads that make up each story, but here's what I think we have:

A-story - David's rise to glory.
B-story - The Gath-Gilboan War
C-story - What's going on with Jack?
D-story - Health care
E-story - The lost Blackberry

Overlap and scenes servicing multiple stories at once abound, as you'll see when I break down the organization.

Length and Breakdown

Teaser (the script calls it a "Prologue") - 10 pages, 8 scenes
Act I - 15 pages, 10 scenes
Act II - 12 pages, 7 scenes
Act III - 9 pages, 7 scenes
Act IV - 10 pages, 7 scenes
Act V - 7 pages, 11 scenes

42 scenes in 63 pages. But trust me, that does not begin to describe how full this script really is. As I said above, many, many scenes pull double and even triple duty in terms of advancing multiple storylines. The teaser is mostly one big action sequence, the resolution of which sets up the story of the rest of the episode. And the series, really. The interesting thing about this teaser is that it sets up a world that we don't see again for much of the episode. Instead, we are transported to a completely new place in Act I and have to set up that world. I think that's the reason for the long scenes in the first two Acts -- long, at least, when compared to Acts III-V.

The scenes are organized as follows:

A-story - David's rise to glory. (29 beats/scenes)
B-story - The Gath-Gilboan War (20 beats/scenes)
C-story - What's going on with Jack? (7 beats/scenes)
D-story - Health care (5 beats/scenes)
E-story - The lost Blackberry (4 beats/scenes)

Teaser - B, B, A, A, A, A, A, A
Act I - A, A, C, A, B/D, E, A/C, A, B/A, A/D
Act II - A, E/A/C, E/C, A, D, A, B
Act III - B/A, D/B/A, B/A, A, B, B, B
Act IV - B, B/A, B, B/A, B/A, C, B/A,
Act V - B, A, B, B, A, E/C, C, A, B/D, A

(Note: where beats include a / mark, this means that the scene has elements of both stories. When this happens, I'm listing the beats in the order that they occur in the scene. In the scene/beat count above, every appearance of A, B, C and so on is counted as one full beat rather than a half, even if there is a slash mark.)

65 beats. In 42 scenes! Yes, there's a lot going on here. In trying to figure out what a "typical" episode might look like, I think you can remove the teaser or "prologue." I could be wrong. Perhaps every episode will have such an event that the rest of the episode then revolves around. That makes a kind of sense, right? Except that here the larger duty it's serving is to place the protagonist where he will ostensibly be for the remainder of the series. Can't see that happening again. In general: lots of overlapping storylines that not only share scenes, but effect each other and probably often come into conflict. An overarching narrative backed by at least a semblance of an Of-the-Week story. From this script, I'd have to say the A-story is the overarching narrative, and will likely be featured less prominently in future episodes. Kind of like the season-long mysteries of Veronica Mars. The B-story here is the big weekly plot, as it's introduced and (in theory) resolved by episode's end.

Storywise, I'm extremely interested in this show, but in terms of spec prospects... well, I'd wait till it gets a few episodes under its belt before even trying to think up ideas. There's a sense here that this show could kind of go anywhere, which is both thrilling and incredibly daunting.

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