We may live in a golden age for television storytelling, but you think you can do better – or maybe you just want in on the action. Here at the TV Addict, we think we can contribute. Instead of analyzing the art of others, we want to stretch our own creative muscles by pitching our own fantasy shows. You’re invited, too. Submit your best TV show ideas to [daniel at the tv addict [at] gmail [dot] com]. Some quick rules: state your concept, the ideal network to air it, some ideas for where the first season (or beyond) you think the show could go, maybe a few ideal casting choices, and a few character arc details. Otherwise, let your imagination take you anywhere. We can “develop” them in the comments. Let’s have some fun with our fantasies. Besides, you never know who might be reading!
The Show: P.I.
Reductive Combination Comparison: Robert Altman’s THE LONG GOODBYE meets THE THIN MAN film serials of the 1930s.
The Concept: A fun-loving drunk/private detective aims to take on the lower stakes cases (a tier above cheating spouses but not CHINATOWN-level regional power plays) other fictional detectives shy away from, but of course always finds himself embroiled in labyrinthine plots. Each season will focus on one main case and the odd jobs he takes to support his drinking. They’re usually connected in some way.
Ideal Network: FX. Ratings-wise, they dropped the ball on their previous attempt at detective stories, TERRIERS, then unceremoniously canceled it. Unfortunately, TERRIERS was great, and we deserve more shows like it, except with perhaps less confusing titles and marketing.
Ideal Lead Actor: Anthony Mackie, who has the charisma and dramatic chops to be able to balance the Nick Charles (THE THIN MAN) style of witty, unapologetic drunkenness and the darker aspects that always populate detective fiction.
The Pilot: Our hero, Charlie Allen (fingers crossed on Mackie), spends every night at the dive bar below the office/apartment he rents. Between grumbling about the state of the officiating of the sports games playing on the ancient bar TV and stumbling upstairs at closing time, he holds court with the other patrons. He’s a raconteur of the highest order, and he loves being around everyone. This is also how he drums up business.
He watches a baseball game with one of his drinking buddies, Bob Burton (a Nick Offerman type), a low-level regional scout for a MLB team. He was recently fired for a lack of discovered impact players, but he has an ax to grind either way. His last assignment was to find the hidden athletic jewels in the worst parts of the Caribbean. Seeing the latest Cuban phenom make an unbelievable diving catch in the outfield, Bob nudges Charlie.
“You know how he got here, right?”
From there, he tells Charlie all about the shadier elements of baseball scouting. He mentions the bribery, the drug runners who he had side deals with (scouts don’t make much money), and most interestingly, the human trafficking that leads to bringing the Cuban players out of their embargoed country and into Mexico, where they can establish residency and therefore become eligible to sign with a big league team. He wants to exploit the scandal for his personal gain (a book deal and a movie or bust), and with his drug money, he has the money to pay Charlie to investigate it.
We cut to a dump of a hotel room in the muddiest, least hospitable parts of Mexico. A group of armed men don’t look too pleased with their captive, a 21-year-old ballplayer named Jorge Rivera – an unknown actor would be fine here, but he needs to look like a slugger in the Yasiel Puig mold, on whom much of this story will be based (seriously, check out this insane Los Angeles Magazine feature) – who they have agreed to smuggle out of Cuba in return for 20 percent of his future pay, in perpetuity. What they don’t understand is he doesn’t just get money once news of his defection hits ESPN. He doesn’t even have an agent yet, but they want their money, and they want it now. They owe drug warlords payment for using their routes, and these are not the type of people you want to be late in paying. Fingers and kneecaps are threatened, and Jorge won’t be going anywhere soon, despite the catch-22 of needing to leave in order to get them their money.
Cut back to Charlie and Bob. Charlie takes the case because he figures it’ll be a good way to catch a few ballgames, but he doesn’t expect much to come of it besides some beer money. He slurs his pledge to help Bob out, then stumbles upstairs to pack for a road trip down south.
Cut to Jorge, whose face now resembles a prize fighter. His captors remain displeased. There’s a knock at the door. The ringleader opens and is promptly shot. The other two men reach for their guns but they’re too slow. They’re goners, too. Enter some harder looking men, and we learn they are the drug runners who have deemed the wait time too long. They are now Jorge’s handlers, and they’re even less willing to hear his reasoning.
Cut to Charlie, who ambles to his car, hungover. He plops his bag into the back seat and heads to Mexico.
Vague Roadmap for the Rest of Season One: Charlie hits some Mexican baseball games and comes in contact with three other scouts. They cast doubt on Bob’s story. One man simply doesn’t like Bob. Another has skin in the smuggling game. The last scout has some gambling debts and could use Charlie’s help in getting out of it. In exchange, he gives Charlie information about who to talk to.
A series of encounters with money-obsessed baseball agents, an assistant general manager involved in bribing elected officials to look the other way south of the border, the growing mystery of “the missing Cuban ballplayer” (Jorge) blowing up in the sports media, and lots of tequila lead to Charlie getting in contact with the drug runners, who are not pleased to be dealing with a drunk asking questions. A broken nose and a pistol whipping later, Charlie ends up captive in the same hotel room with Jorge.
The climax revolves around Charlie’s knack for being able to drink more than anyone and a stroke of luck in wrestling a gun away from a kidnapper, coincidentally the one who broke his nose. He returns the favor, puts some bullets in some knees, and they escape, bruised but with promise of some prolific seasons from Jorge in the offing.
An epilogue has Charlie and Bob back at the bar, watching another game a year or two later. Charlie asks how Jorge’s doing in the minors, and Bob says he flamed out in the lower levels. Essentially it was all for nothing. Charlie orders a shot of tequila and we fade to black.
Rob Samuelson is a freelance writer and blogger interested in narratives of all kinds – film, TV, songs, politics, sports. You can read him at defeatingboredom.com and see the names of Chicago sports players in all CAPS when they score on his Twitter account, @Rob_Samuelson.