Overall: Lots of great stuff here, guys! Really impressive output, you’re obviously working ‘round the clock to keep the plot moving. That said, we’ve got some big notes, so we’ll jump right in.
Tone: We know you’re aiming for 24 meets The Sopranos, (at least that’s what you originally pitched us), but right now, the whole piece is feeling more like Handmaid’s Tale with a side of Benson. (Which is not necessarily a bad idea, but again, not what we bought.) A simple fix would be pulling way back on the way you’re writing your villains, especially in the pandemic storyline (which is great, by the way. Way to raise the stakes!). They’re just too over the top. We suggest doing a once-over on every scene involving Mitch McConnell, William Barr, Mike Pence, and Betsy DeVos. Right now, they’re either mustache-twirling or bumbling, which is tonally confusing.
The President: We get that you’re going for antihero, but we fear the “anti” has completely eclipsed the “hero.” Take another look at Tony Soprano or Walter White. Yes, they were ruthless, but they also had vulnerability and moments of true tenderness. Perhaps you could cook up some candid moments with precocious children or small animals? A horse could work.
Our uber note is: Trump’s character has not developed at all. When the series started, he was an aggressive, narcissistic demagogue, and he’s only gotten more so over the past three seasons. Is there a twist coming? Again, you’re the writers and we can’t wait to see what you’re cooking up, but please take him in another direction soon. We’re thirsty for a more nuanced, complicated character and story-arc. Maybe he gets Covid or another life-threatening illness? Maybe he does 23 and Me and has to grapple with what he learns? Again, we just want to go deeper.
Script Notes: Don’t kill us. We know we’re the ones who told you to go further and have more fun with social media, but the tweets aren’t working for us. They used to be irreverent, shocking little pops, but they’ve basically taken over the show. (Remember: Less is more.) How could the leader of the free world possibly have time to tweet so often? It begs the question: Are we still in this reality? Here’s a pitch: See what happens if his Twitter goes silent for 24 hours, then 36… Can you imagine the excitement around that? Something to consider for sweeps.
Characters we miss: We know this contradicts our note about tone and not wanting the show to feel so heightened, but we all miss Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci from Season One. While we applaud you staying ahead of the audience and kicking him out after two episodes, he was a legitimately wacky, unpredictable character we’d love you to consider bringing back. Just a thought! [Note to Jen in casting: Please check Scaramucci’s avail.] Also, we’re split over here on Giuliani: Some people are dying to see him again, others thought he was a hat on a hat. For what it’s worth.
Also, Ivanka was originally pitched as the saner, more enlightened Gloria to her father’s Archie Bunker. We were counting on more father-daughter, This is Us-style story-arcs that could really tug at our heart strings. What happened to that? Is she too difficult on set? (Obviously, the Jared Kushner casting isn’t what we’d hoped, but it is what it is.)
Locations: The show is too interior. Let’s get out of the stages and onto location more. We’re tired of the Oval Office, White House lawn, and Mar-a-Lago. The Tulsa rally was a great surprise twist (and the perfect way to address the budgetary issue of extras), but we’d love to see him somewhere other than his rallies. What about visiting a hospital, or nursing home where the pandemic has hit the hardest? Don’t be afraid to take him out of his comfort zone.
Also, we know Molly in wardrobe raised her concerns with you (and with us, to be transparent) about having to sew thousands of masks for those rally scenes, and our hats go off to you for the genius solution of making the President anti-mask. (We heard Molly sent you flowers for that one; nice!)
Cast: Whatever our original shared concerns were about the First Lady’s acting ability, the fact remains, we’re paying her as a series regular and yet, she’s been on twice in the last 3 seasons. Let’s think about either recasting her or renegotiating her as a recurring cast member. [Note to Jen in Casting: CAA has a list of avails in the right age/measurements for recast, so let’s circle back.] Meantime: What happened to the storyline where she has cosmos with her mom-friends, and breaks down to them about marital problems? We loved that in the original pitch! (Even in Covid, they could gather in a small group and drink outdoors?)
Hair and Make-Up: Obviously, we gave up fighting the battle over the color of his skin and hair long ago, but can we at least be consistent? In flashback, he has mousy brown hair and pasty, pale skin. We’ve never understood the sudden switch to orange, so maybe, unless you explain it, no more flashbacks. Again: What reality are we in?
As always, you’re the showrunners, and we defer to your judgment. The one thing we all feel strongly about (and this one’s coming from the top) is that the show still lacks a unifying emotional core, which we think can easily be solved by giving him a dog. We know you guys shot that down on our very first notes call, but now it’s non-negotiable. Labradoodle? Cavalier King Charles? Dealer’s choice.
Again, really great work, looking forward to Season 4! ❑
Julie Rottenberg and Elisa Zuritsky have a lot of notes for networks.
Photo by Austin Distel