Genre: One Hour TV Series, set in Big City Hall, Pilot
Logline: Juicy personalities are entwined with the community through government and public services as they face the daunting strain of salvaging a blighted resort city from catastrophic collapse, but most do whatever possible to enjoy life anyway!
Episode One (Pilot):
“Dash for the Cash”
Charged with reversing the fortunes of a rundown resort city, incoming Mayor Leo Fick and his inexperienced staff face the daunting strain of delivering the city from a myriad of urgent perils——record crime, strikes, scandals, bankruptcy. At every turn they tackle crooks, opportunists, even do-gooders ready to cash in on a city government collapsing on all fronts. ACT ONE rips back the lid as Fick’s appealing press secretary Debbie Wills fends off a barrage of media queries about the citywide garbage crisis when her new lover, a TV news anchor, tries to shoot her live on camera! The domestic violence spilling into the workplace presents an assortment of enraging and engaging personalities whose lives and loves are entangled with the community through the various departments of City Hall and public services.
Leads include perky and devious Human Resources Director, Barb Shumway, wielding her insider power with precision stealth, näive Social Services Director, Michelle Dagseth, battling on behalf of struggling residents against the likes of callous Commissioner Halsey, known for exercising expert control over his enemies or winning them over to his side. And, almost everyone in City Hall is opposed by Halsey’s crusading ex-wife, Attorney Joyce Irbè, who is dedicated to throwing out the city’s charter and badly functioning infrastructure in favor of “progressive conservatism.”
The splintering climax occurs when an armored car careens off an elevated freeway ramp, dumping 20 million dollars cash into the most downtrodden city neighborhood and causing a rampage. Two disabled City Hall workers, blind Jerry and mentally ill Martha, stumble upon bags of large bills and dash off with them, barely reaching their squalid apartment while gangs roam and scattered gunfire pricks the night. The crisis finds Fick and his core staff engaged in activities from poring over documents to nightclubbing to sexual fantasies or far off in dreamland, and all leap into action. Helicopters are combing the accident scene with floodlights and video, promising harsh penalties for looting, and are shot at as police clash with armed gangs, unarmed citizens and bystanders. From the lowest rungs of the city employee ladder on up, the huge crisis could define Fick’s new administration—spiraling fiasco, finest hour, or both.
This is a timely and rich serial drama about the governance of a major resort city built around actual events. The lives and loves of an ensemble cast are intertwined with the community through the City Hall workplace and public servants. The tone is realism combined with humanity, intended to leave audiences with emotionally satisfying reactions while being funny, absurd, heartwarming, violent and redeeming, while naturally, titillating sexually.
“City” is about the successful and often troubled men and women who want to be together, but often aren’t for some reason. The show allows audiences at home observe the inner workings of City Hall administration and Big City services from a detached, righteous or apathetic vantage point, without feeling too guilty; it shows what actually goes on and why. They may remain righteous or apathetic, but also understand why characters in these positions do as they do. Similarly, the show’s content does not indict any political system. It depicts people in such systems pushing the limits of decent behavior—or worse—and people often being pushed to the limits of their own integrity.
This is an ideal setting for a long-running TV series with such a diversified group of characters that virtually any plot or series of situations may be developed: Heroes are born, and fail; good guys become bad guys and vice-versa. And back again. Naturally all the characters have the innate potential to behave very well or not, and the antagonists win over the audience’s sympathy in certain ways; the protagonists lose our sympathy sometimes. The cast and setting leave much room for exploring the depths of personality and motivations where there is often a great deal at stake.
Besides the normal indictments, corruption and waste problems besetting an average big city, the basic conflict here is over a referendum to abolish this City as an entity, and incorporate its territory and government with the surrounding County. This movement is led by an activist named Joyce Irbè who opposes and debates the incoming Mayor Leo Fick on the issue. In his administration the new mayor is ably assisted by his oldest and most trusted friend, City Attorney Louise Echeverri, and by ambitious young City Manager Adam Tillerman, and by appealing but inexperienced Press Secretary Debbie Wills.
Also taking a new position with the City is the Director of the troubled network of Community Social Service Centers, Michelle Dagseth, who arrives at her new job to find herself embroiled in conflicts with the new Mayor and the “old guard” City Commission over using the centers to advance political agendas, or to dismantle them altogether.
Rounding out the main cast are Martha Dritchman, mentally ill but bordeline genius who works at the City Hall concession/newsstand alonside Jerry Lopez, an older legally blind man.
Michelle strikes up an immediate friendship with petite Barb Shumway, the city’s early-forties Personnel Director. In the evening they meet at a male strip club and at the same time as they are leaving the club, a special televised debate between Mayor Fick and Joyce Irbè is taking place over the fate of the city, and, also, an armored car is flipping over on a highway ramp near City Hall’s poor surrounding neighborhoods, spilling out over four million dollars in cash and food stamps. In seconds, mobs of people descend on the scene.
Martha Dritchman and Jerry both residents of the poor, upturned neighborhood are involved immediately—Martha is almost killed by the armored car crash and in the chaos following the money spill, while legally blind Jerry accidentally stumbles on a sack of money which he takes back to his apartment. Louise the City Attorney, and Adam the City Manager, react to the emergency by pleading with the mobs to return money, and offering amnesty and compensation. The debate is stopped midway and the Mayor comes to the scene by helicopter.
Jerry, unable to discern the denomination of the bills, goes back out into the street racked by conflict and confusion. He runs into Martha who reluctantly agrees to go back to his apartment. When she sees the sack of money she panics as she imagines he will now kill her if she tells him it is a sack full of hundreds.
After being stuck in the traffic jam caused by the spill on their way home from the male strip club, adventurous Barb and Michelle follow the crowds to the scene on foot. Barb recognizes Jerry’s apartment address from personnel files and she thinks to check in on him. They come upon the terrified Martha and desperate Jerry while he is resolving whether or not to return the money or use it for an experimental operation to restore his sight. Through a series of reinforcing incidents between all four of them which cannot be avoided, the natural resolution is reached and Jerry and Martha are hailed as role models and heroes of the City’s new administration.
Additional plot twists, discoveries and relationships to be fully explored in succeeding episodes, are foreshadowed and integrated in this initial episode—”Dash For The Cash”.
This series idea has no competition in the TV marketplace at this time, and would appeal to a majority of the population who may or may not care about politics and social issues but care about the relationships between people, even though the backdrops for the relationships and the situations are often borne out of the politics and social issues. This format follows the tradition of “Hill Street Blues”, “L.A. Law”, and “ER”. Lastly, with the good amount provocative sexual content it treads a risque edge.
“CITY” : OUTLINE OF MAIN PROTAGONISTS/ANTAGONISTS, LOVE INTERESTS AND SUPPORTING CHARACTERS.
Michelle Dagseth, early thirties, tall, white, not beautitful yet appealing looks, a psychotherapist and Clinical Social Worker who gives up her private practice and moves from Boston to the warm climate of Florida, taking position as Director of the City’s Community Centers Program which is the City’s troubled delivery system for social services to elderly, disabled, poor, at risk families and working single mothers. She always seeks a win-win solution, her motto: “There’s a needle in every haystack, it’s our job to find it”. She faces political and social realities as she goes about her work along with a very active social life and sensitive personal side which is explored.
Mayor Leo Fick, approaching fifty, olive-skinned Italian and Hispanic descent, built stocky, under six feet with wiry salt and pepper hair and bright blue eyes, dimple. By all appearances he is respectable, happily married for twenty five years to wife Dolores, two children in college. Just elected mayor and taken office less than a month ago. Elected mostly for his business sense and reputation for high ethical standards (overstated) and he operates effectively in a “dirty tricks” atmosphere. Usually will take the “high road” in conflicts, disputes. Has high morals and standards in some areas and not in others. Revealed to have curious sexual quirks and plays sexually titillating games with bombshell wife Dolores. Also prone to having affairs.
City Attorney Louise Echeverri, mid-forties, Leo’s closest confidant, long time friend, hint of previous intimate relations with Leo; and she desires present relations with Leo or with City Manager Adam Tillerman; while Louise is part-Hispanic and Adam is black they have identical olive skin coloring, Louise’s hair being fluffier and straighter.
Adam Tillerman, City Manager, mid-thirties, light-skinned black, six-foot, well-chiseled body and sharp business dresser, authoritarian, but often personable, too. Revealed over few episodes as extremely ambitious and even possessing autocratic tendencies, on ocassion clashing over tight control of policy and city affairs with Leo and Louise and the City Commission. No significant other is evident at start of series but he soon will enter relationships with Press Secretary Debbie Wills and later with Michelle Dagseth.
Martha Dritchman, anorexic, and mentally challenged concessioner, very quiet and shy, borderline genius, and hyper-sensitive; also very perceptive on a gut level. Big kind blue eyes, cries easily, scared of people but tries hard to put it aside and like them; speaks retiringly, often scared to go out, often embarassed in an endearing, vulnerable way. Has important role in climax of pilot episode.
Jerry Lopez, legally blind newsstand operator. Much older than Martha, he takes her under his wing — among other things she learns more about being in the world of people, politics and blindness over time from Jerry and they form a special trust which later develops into sexual relations. He plays a crucial role in the climax of pilot.
Barb, perky Human Resources Director, early forties, looks and behaves like late twenties, petite figure, vague Southern accent, comes off very capable and self-assured, has a thirty year-old live in boyfriend, Josephus, and has a once a week affair for many years with powerful City Commissioner, Woody Halsey. Keeper of peoples’ most sensitive confidences in her professional and personal position she knows everyone and somehow is in on the things happening with other characters, touching all their lives in different ways. Barb is the person who is always around the action. She helps Michelle acquire an apartment in her apartment complex and they form an immediate friendship.
Debbie Wills, Press Secretary/Spokesperson, beautiful, articulate, late twenties, mysterious. Initially unattached to a man, she is supposedly concentrating on education and career, but her love interests are developed. She is more of a “wild card” and love interest character; she does have a history of sexual abuse which colors her at times volatile personality, and contrasts with her naivete in other areas.
Long-time city political boss Woody Halsey, big strapping build, slightly overweight but fit-looking in his mid-fifties. Known as an exceptionally good speaker, negotiator and dancer. He has smooth white skin, and a neat gray rim of hair around his large head, but otherwise he is as desirable-looking as a man could be at his age. Once-a-week hotel room affair with Barb, tries to date Debbie who spurns him, separated but not legally divorced from his wife. Will behave brusquely, roguishly, threatening, calculating, easily capable of any politically or financially enhancing scheme, but has an uncanny knack of staying out of trouble. He is one of the natural antagonists toward the other characters’ and the city’s need to change how business has been done. Regarding situations in later episodes, he allies with Mayor Fick or one of these other characters who he is initially opposed to.
High-powered corporate lawyer and citizen activist, she is the middle-aged organizer and leader of a grass-roots movement to abolish the city and its government as such, and have it absorbed instead by the county government, who would then take over all property, responsibilities for administration and delivery of services. She is a committed adversary, not only because she believes the form of government is inefficient and hopelessly corrupt, but because breaking up the city increases the value of property she and other real estate developers own in the city, at least based on their own projections. She is later revealed as City Commissioner Halsey’s greedy ex-wife.
Hyper-sensitive and slightly paranoid, gay Italian landlord of Barb and Michelle’s building, a former city employee now collecting Worker’s Compensation benefits from the City on a claim of very questionable validity. He is related to a powerful city politician, he and his partner are also still receiving health insurance benefits and other perks paid by the city, a source of future conflict and plot situations.
Thirty, burly, dirty blond hair, looks great or terrible, never in between. Lives with Barb, supposedly writes poetry, doesn’t work, per se. Except for where his own appearance is sometimes concerned, he is a neatness and order freak, doing all the cooking, cleaning, ironing, laundry, which is fine with Barb who brings home the money and enjoys the role reversal. Actually, unknown to all at present, is the fact that Josephus is in the Federal Witness Protection Program for ratting out on some violent drug Jamaican drug gang. Later, he is taken out of the program because Feds claim the gang was broken up, which turns out not true. He spurns Michelle’s romantic interest in him.
Jewish, mid-fifties owner of an apartment building neighboring Michelle and Barb’s building. Tall, studious, thin and awkward, he is daily beachgoer where he meets Michelle. He also teaches adult education classes at the City College at night. He is an unlikely love interest of Michelle’s after she slowly develops a friendship with him and then hits an emotionally vulnerable time.
Irreverent media figure with flair and cult-like following, over six feet tall but lumbering type. Also witty, confident, early forties, rides motorcycle, not overly good-looking with thinning blond hair and faint facial blemishes. Host of shows, “Peeples On Politics” and “Peeples On Peoples”.