I’ve been a fan of Brooklyn Nine-Nine for a while now and finally got around to reading the pilot episode. I wish I had done this sooner. Let me explain:
I’ve been trying to write a series pilot for a few months now, and it has been baffling me. It has become an increasingly difficult task to try to write a pilot that sets up the series, and the characters, while having a plot of its own. I felt even more ill-equipped for the task when I see pilots of existing shows, such as B99, and notice how well rounded and to the point their plots are.
I for one, do not enjoy scripts that meander, good characters can only be enjoyed if presented through a good plot that works at a fitting pace. The pace for me, is the hardest thing to get right.
Imagine my surprise then, when I read the pilot for B99 and found that it is some 40 pages long and has a barrage of jokes that never made the final cut. It even tries to setup character goals that are completely absent from the released version. This was a revelation. So far I’ve read mostly feature film scripts and those have been very similar to what was finally released. So reading this pilot which was similar but still far from what the final released product was enlightening. It made me realise or perhaps remember, how filmmaking is an iterative process. Every draft provides an opportunity to improve your story and every collaborator, if committed to the same story, can help make the script tighter and better. B99, despite being written by Groor and Schur, two titans in the sitcom scene, was made better by its cast and even the directors and editors that recognised where Groor and Schut were losing pace.
The pilot is great and encapsulates all that I love about the show, the humour, the characters, its self-aware, self-deprecating tone that is still socially aware. Yet it pales in comparison to the released product and that is how it should be.