Pilot Pirate: “Damage Control” and “Grace”


Pilot: Grace (drama)

Writers: Krista Vernoff (Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice)

Network: ABC

Logline: A dysfunctional family drama set in the world of professional dance.

Cast: Eric Roberts, Chantz Simpson, Will Kemp, Abigail Spencer, Eion Bailey, Sherri Saum, Chris Carmack, Robert Hoffman, Anabelle Acosta, Debbie Allen

Abigail Spencer

The characters:
Michael Grace, 60, a brilliant choreographer trying to rebuild his reputation after a flop (Eric Roberts)
Sarah Grace, Michael’s daughter, a former dancer-turned-lawyer (Abigail Spencer)
Javier Derenzio, the newest hunk to join Michael’s dance company (Robert Hoffman)
Nicky, Michael’s gay assistant and Sarah’s best friend (Will Kemp)
Adam Knower, Sarah’s husband and partner at the law firm they run together (Eion Bailey)
Shayna Grace Davis, Michael’s eldest daughter and Sarah’s half-sister (Sherri Saum)
Dylan Doran, Shayna’s ex-boyfriend (Chris Carmack)
Eden Grace Ruiz, Michael’s long-lost daughter (Anabelle Acosta)
Helen Grace, Michael’s ex and Sarah’s mother (Debbie Allen)

There’s so much family drama going on in Grace that you almost need a road map to determine who’s related to whom. When in doubt, just know everyone somehow is related to Michael Grace, the brilliant but fading choreographer trying to reinvent himself after his last project flopped. One thing, however, stands in Michael’s way: his libido. Within the first few pages we learn that he has two daughters — Sarah, a former dancer who gave up dancing for a law career, and Shayna, a photographer — with two different women, both of whom used to dance for his company.

Sarah is the typical good child, who continues to defend dear old dad against countless sexual harassment claims brought on by dancers in the company. Shayna is the artistic type who has learned to let go of Michael and instead be amused by his shenanigans. But then we meet Eden, who comes to the studio looking to get money from the father she never knew.

The predictable story is intercut with segments where Michael envisions his family drama in dance — the actors turn into dancers in his mind and he envisions the verbal sparring in dance. It’s an interesting attempt, but it doesn’t come across very gracefully on the page. It’s clear that Vernoff — whose script has some very Shonda Rhimes-like elements — has Michael’s drama down, but what remains to be seen is what makes the guy appealing to his family as he comes across very self-centered and opportunistic.

With Debbie Allen cast as Sarah’s fierce mother and Dancing With the Stars judge Carrie Ann Inaba as the choreographer for the pilot, hopefully the dancing elements will work effectively with the story.

Some of the best moments in the script come from Sarah’s exchanges with her gay best friend, Nicky — who takes his name from the Prince song. While the gay best friend role is something we’ve seen before, their relationship is fun and Nicky serves as a good buffer between father and daughter.

Pilot Pirate outlook: A few steps off.

What do you think? Would you watch a Shonda Rhimes drama about lawyers or a family drama set in the dance world?

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