Pilot Pirate: “Hail Mary” and “Two Broke Girls”

Welcome back to the Pilot Pirate, where we preview the latest scripts looking for a home on the 2011-12 primetime TV schedule. Each week, we read and preview some of the projects interest to the AfterEllen.com community, breaking down scripts to help you, the optimistic TV fan anxiously awaiting the next Modern Family or Glee keep up with the onslaught of pilots in contention.

A reminder: These are early stage scripts that are likely to be revised and, in some cases, drastically change before filming, and only some of which will make it to the airwaves.

This week: Hail Mary and Two Broke Girls

Pilot: Hail Mary (drama)
Writers: Jeff Wadlow (The Odds)
Network: CBS
Logline: A suburban single mom teams with a street hustler to solve crimes in Atlanta.
Cast: Minnie Driver (The Riches, Good Will Hunting), Noreen DeWulf (Outsourced), Enrique Murciano (Without a Trace), Stephen Tobolowsky (Glee)
Executive producers: Wadlow, Joel Silver (Moonlight), Ilene Chaiken (The L Word)

The characters:
Mary Beth Baker, pretty, petite guidance counselor (Driver).
Ingrid Collins, 25, a punk pixie who is Mary Beth’s assistant and a computer whiz (DeWulf).
KZ, 20s, a small-time con artist with a quick wit and fast mouth.
Gertrude Teague, 50s, the overweight school principal who is disliked by both faculty and students.
Barney Cox, 50s, a private investigator who runs Cox Private Investigators, which is housed in a strip mall.
Carlos Moreno, a police detective who has been in love with Mary Beth since they were kids (Murciano).
Zeke Taft, police lieutenant and Carlos’ commanding officer.

It’s almost fitting that Ilene Chaiken’s first foray into scripted series fare since The L Word revolves around a woman trying to solve a murder. In this case, Minnie Driver plays Mary Beth, an Atlanta mother whose son’s slaying has gone unsolved by the local police. Described as a cross between Sandra Bullock’s Leigh Ann Tuohy from The Blind Side and Julia Roberts’ Erin Brockovich, Hail Mary is about as deep as the pool in which Jenny Schecter was found floating dead in. But that doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining.

Driver’s Mary Beth is a bit of a contradiction: She’s smart enough to stay 10 steps ahead of the kids she works with as a school guidance counselor, but is completely lost when it comes technology, which she intentionally shuns. She’s also is a very traditional character that felt more like a Joan Cusack type than Driver: The character comes across older, especially with quirks like policing profanity — she says things like “son-of-a-biscuit.”

Most of the drama here is of the cookie-cutter variety. The script is almost the classic meek woman trying to outsmart the Old Boys’ Club who back her into a corner. She sways the local police department cops with a sexy dress and homemade pies in a bid to get information. It’s almost like a tame and readily digestible version of Fox’s The Chicago Code, but without any of the grit that makes the Jennifer Beals drama so compelling. Where Beals’ police captain is stoic and smartly plays the system, Mary Beth gets the information she needs from Detective Carlos Moreno by delivering homemade pies to the station wearing a sexy dress. All in all, it’s perfect CBS fare and would perform well on Mondays should Hawaii 5-0 move off the time slot.

Supporting characters include KZ, the street smart kid who was best friends with Mary Beth’s late son who winds up becoming her partner; Ingrid, Mary Beth’s assistant at school who provides the Willow to Mary Beth’s Buffy and does all the computer research; and Cox, the PI Mary Beth hired to find her son’s killer who winds up providing the license she needs to take on cases.

Ingrid is an interesting character with very emo sensibilities and sharp, snarky dialogue. Her banter with KZ has more chemistry than Mary Beth has with Carlos, her former high school boyfriend.

Pilot Pirate outlook: We may need the instant replay to tell if this Hail Mary pass connects at all.