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Welcome to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' potential offerings for the 2009-2010 season. Over the next couple weeks we'll walk you through some of the scripts being shot as pilots with an eye towards a series commitment next season. With that in mind, it's important to remember that a lot can change from the drafts we've seen - rewriting, recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
THE END OF STEVE (Showtime)
(written by Matthew Perry & Peter Tolan; 31 pages)
The network's description: No official description has been released.
What did they leave out: I can't recall the c-word (or in the same vein, the t-word that describes the same area) ever being used this much in a half hour (or any other measurement of time).
The plot in a nutshell: Steve Legend (Matthew Perry) is an asshole. He's racist ("That's what I like about you. Very decisive, quick to act. Very Asian. And I don't mean very Asian in a negative way."), egotistical ("Hey, guys. Don't even know your names."), mean (Little Boy: "Mr. Legend, can I have your autograph?" Steve: "What's your name son?" Little Boy: "Aaron." Steve: "Great. Fuck off, Aaron.") and a downright horrible person ("I mean, people have been giving money to UNICEF for like, fifty years, and there are still pictures of thin brown kids on my TV like all the time."). On camera though, as host of WMPT's "Steve in the Afternoon" - Rochester, New York's number one afternoon talk show, he's funny ("I believe we saw a Cap'n Crunch commercial during the break, and I'd just like to point out that Cap'n Crunch's eyebrows - I never noticed this before - are actually on his hat. Seemed kinda strange to me.") and generous, donating $25,000 to the Red Cross after hearing about the flood damage caused by Lake Lacoma. Everyone around him however knows it's an act, including his producer Lydia (Martha Plimpton, "My dermatologist, my internist, my therapist and my hypnotherapist have all advised me to either quit this job or murder you.") and his long suffering assistant Nathan (Nate Torrence, "Nathan, I didn't see you," Steve explains. "Which is amazing considering your size.").
After all, it seems that besides himself and his pills, there's only one thing he cares about:
"Rochester A.M." host Emily Green (Kiele Sanchez), who he's quietly stalking as he finds himself speechless around her. Well that, and making sure not to sleep with Melinda (Dreama Walker), the Lolita-esque temptress whose father owns his apartment building. He's got bigger problems though - despite thinking otherwise ("[Celebrities] just say we're gonna send the money. We act as a starter, you see - and then the masses follow suit."), it turns out the Red Cross actually expects him to pay the 25K he promised. And when his antics to get out of it are caught on camera (see the aforementioned quote about UNICEF), his boss Bob Hu (Eddie Shin) demands he record a PSA to apologize - or he can hit the road. Steve however, not surprisingly, will have none if it.
What works: Hands down this is the funniest script I've read since FOX's "Boldly Going Nowhere"... and I feel horrible for saying so. Matthew Perry's Steve is just an awful, awful person - he complains that his guest from the Red Cross didn't bring any clips of "brown people" in peril, verbally - and physically - abuses his assistant and drops more (insert a letter)-bombs than one thought humanly possible. And those qualities aren't sugar coated either - he makes "The Office's" Michael Scott look like a master of etiquette, "Californication's" Hank Moody look gentlemanly and "House's" Gregory House look like the poster boy for political and gender sensitivity. He's just bitter about being passed over for the "Today" show (let's just say he called Katie Couric something that rhymes with, well, I can't even bring myself to write it) and being forced to live in career exile out in Rochester - plain and simple. And his only redeeming qualities - he won't cross the statutory rape line with Melinda (but will keep a calendar counting down the days until she turns 18) and is flustered by the magical creature that is Emily Green - are just the last few strings keeping his soul from collapsing in on itself. All in all, Matthew Perry will - forgive the language - play the shit out of this role while Peter Tolan has somehow found a way to push beyond the boundaries set by "Rescue Me."
What doesn't: I can undoubtedly see why someone would find this script offensive and/or Steve the least likeable character in television history - both of which I assume are the point. Like I said, I feel horrible for laughing - as is the case sometimes with "The Office," "House" or "Rescue Me," but that doesn't make it any less funny.
The bottom line: Seriously, can you imagine if they pull this off?