Pilot Pirate: “Damage Control” and “Grace”

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: Damage Control and Grace

Pilot: Damage Control (drama)

Writers: Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice)

Network: ABC

Logline: Drama revolving around the life and work of a professional fixer and her dysfunctional staff. Based on the career of crisis management consultant Judy Smith, who serves as a co-executive producer.

Cast: Kerry Washington, Columbus Short, Henry Ian Cusick, Katie Lowes, Guillermo Diaz, Tony Goldwyn, Darby Stanchfield, Jeff Perry

Executive producers: Shonda Rhimes, Betsy Beers

Director: Paul McGuigan

Kerry Washington

The characters:
Olivia Price, the main problem-solver (Kerry Washington)
Harrison Jones, attorney (Columbus Short)
Quinn Rielly (Katie Lowes)
Stephen, a litigator with a girlfriend (Henry Ian Cusick)
Abby, an investigator with the hots for Stephen (Darby Stanchfield)
Huck, the lone paralegal and expert hacker (Guillermo Diaz)
Cyrus, the president’s chief of staff (Jeff Perry)
Mellie Grant, the first lady (Bellamy Young)
Fitzgerald Grant, the president of the United States (Tony Goldwyn)

One of the things that makes Shonda Rhimes so good is that her characters are flawed with heart underneath; it’s what gets us tuning in every week. And Rhimes, with Damage Control, is at it again — this time abandoning the medical genre that has served her so well in favor of a legal drama that’s not totally legal.

While Damage Control may sound like another legal thriller, it isn’t. In fact, the script doesn’t have a single scene set in a courtroom. What it does have, however, is a team of lawyers — self-professed gladiators in suits who will go above and beyond to handle any crisis for their clients, including going above, beyond and around the law.

There are office politics — and romances. And there’s Rhimes’ quick-paced writing with a woman at the center of everything. This is Olivia Price (Kerry Washington) of Price and Associates, whose clients seek her out when they’re in a sticky situation — like covered in blood and having bolted from the scene of a murder, as it happens to be in the pilot. Or a young White House staffer spreading rumors that she’s having an affair with the president, which hints at what’s to come for Olivia and company should Damage Control get picked up to series.

What makes Olivia different from Meredith Grey is that she’s all business — the rare moments when she shows signs of compassion and heart are so foreign it almost seems out of character. But the potential for more of Olivia’s personal life — she’s single and has the president on speed dial despite no longer being the White House “fixer” — is there.

Olivia’s supporting staff hint at the office politics: they eat, sleep and breathe crisis when they’re on the clock for a client. They also may eat and sleep together considering Stephen (Lost’s Henry Ian Cusick) considers himself a player and office investigator Abby routinely needs pep talks to avoid sleeping with him. Then comes the new girl, Quinn (Katie Lowes), who Harrison (Columbus Short) already has eyes for. Yeah, we know, sounds very Grey’s. But it works.

Special bonus: Out actor Guillermo Diaz (Weeds’ drug trafficker Guillermo Garcia Gomez) co-stars as Huck, the paralegal with hacking skills.

Pilot Pirate outlook: More Good Wife than Grey’s, only with a more intense and less mysterious Kalinda at its center.

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