Persons Unknown - NBC Summer Miniseries from the screenwriter of The Usual Suspects

Discussion in 'TV Shows' started by Adam Lenhardt, Jun 7, 2010.

  1. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2001
    Messages:
    17,066
    Likes Received:
    1,786
    Location:
    Albany, NY
    Starts tonight. Seven strangers wake up in a seemingly abandoned hotel in the middle of nowhere with no idea how they got there. Cameras are everywhere. Seems like a stripped down American take on "The Prisoner", perhaps crossed with the Saw movies.
     
  2. Joe_H

    Joe_H Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2001
    Messages:
    1,753
    Likes Received:
    8
    Hmm, hadn't heard of this, but your description makes it sounds like it's at least worth checking out (especially with the lack of competition), thanks.
     
  3. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2001
    Messages:
    17,066
    Likes Received:
    1,786
    Location:
    Albany, NY
    I enjoyed it. Paralllels to "The Prisoner" were appreciated and enjoyed: the 1950's Anywhere USA town in the middle of nowhere versus the technicolor Italianate architecture of the Village, passing out at the town limits versus having the weather balloon come and absorb you; this is arguably a closer remake than the AMC miniseries a while back. The puzzles and rewards, the tease that the captors might just be long-time players of the Game that have been unable to escape, the ever-present cameras all intrigued me. I think it was a mistake to include the reporter subplot. While the idea that the captors control useful parts of the real world is intriguing, it undercuts the paranoia and mystery that would have come from being locked into the prisoners' point of view.


    Definitely much better quality that we usually get for summer programming.
     
  4. Shawn_KE

    Shawn_KE Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2003
    Messages:
    1,295
    Likes Received:
    0
    I liked it. Had a Saw II vib to it without the gore or traps.
     
  5. Joe_H

    Joe_H Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2001
    Messages:
    1,753
    Likes Received:
    8
    I was pretty impressed as well. The characters for once acted reasonably intelligently in that kind of situation, which is always a plus. (As opposed to say a horror movie where you want to scream at their stupidity).


    The one thing that bugged me is nobody really searched the initial room they were in other than the key in the bible, to see if there was any sort of clue to their situations. I know when she put her back against the door initially, the first thing that jumped out at me was the "Downtown Hotel Rules" which I thought was going to have some sort of secret message in it (don't most hotels have fire escape locations on the back of the doors?) but obviously I was wrong.


    I could of course be very wrong but my guess is it's most likely a sort of reality show they're being forced to star in, similar to The Running Man. Seems too huge of a production for it to be one psychopath, at least.


    Also, seems fairly obvious that Joe has a criminal past.


    As for the showing the grandmother and the daughter together out of the 'town', I'm not sure if I like that or not myself. I can definitely see what you're saying, but the reveal plus the creepiness of the grandmother has my attention and I'll have to see where that goes before I'm sure on it.
     
  6. Chris Lockwood

    Chris Lockwood Producer

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 1999
    Messages:
    3,215
    Likes Received:
    0
    Very Twilight Zone. I was surprised they made it outside within the first half hour.
     
  7. MarkMel

    MarkMel Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2003
    Messages:
    1,802
    Likes Received:
    85
    Anyone know what movie the set was used in previously? I know I saw it before, it was a horror type movie.
     
  8. MarkMel

    MarkMel Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2003
    Messages:
    1,802
    Likes Received:
    85
    Maybe it was one of the new The Hills have eyes?
     
  9. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2001
    Messages:
    17,066
    Likes Received:
    1,786
    Location:
    Albany, NY
    They light that transported them instantly back into town reminded me strongly of Rover from "The Prisoner". It's the first thing we've seen so far that is definitively next-gen technology. Little touches like the way the damaged security camera slid into the ceiling and another one came down a seemingly endless line of replacements really give this show texture. I liked the way the archetypes got muddled a bit, for instance the dumb slutty blonde turning out to be smart, well-educated and well-connected. So far we've seen two flashbacks; both the mother and the ambassador's daughter got themselves into serious trouble right before they disappeared. Is that true for the others as well? Is the night innkeeper another pawn? Was his nasty smile at the end that of a chess player directing his pawns or a victim happy to see his immediate abusers get their comeuppance.


    Still don't need the reporter storyline.
     
  10. Joe_H

    Joe_H Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2001
    Messages:
    1,753
    Likes Received:
    8
    I didn't mind it because I like sci-fi, but I could picture that transportation thing being the last straw for a lot of people who had been on the fence watching this show the first two episodes.


    And yeah, I agree that the outside world stuff they've shown has been pretty much useless so far at least.
     
  11. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 1997
    Messages:
    8,311
    Likes Received:
    13
    Location:
    Florida
    Real Name:
    Joseph DeMartino

    What makes you think it "transported them instantly back into town"? All we saw was them approaching a bright light and then, some unknown amount of time later, coming to their senses in town. Hours could have passed. We don't know. The implants that knocked them out when they hit the boundry and the microwave gun also looked like "magic tech" when we first saw them. (The latter looked like some kind of force field.)

    And once again we have a plot element of a serialized show being dismissed as "useless" after two frickin' episodes. "Dear Professor Tolkein: Who is this Strider guy? Hes' useless; get rid of him. He just slows the story down." Do modern audiences really need everything spoon fed to them, every connection made explicit, every plot point explained? That seems an especially odd requirement for a show that is intended to be a mystery.

    Sheesh.

    Regards,


    Joe
     
  12. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2001
    Messages:
    17,066
    Likes Received:
    1,786
    Location:
    Albany, NY

    I think what Joe and I were trying to say -- Joe even spelled it out explicitly -- is that the reporter's storyline hasn't made compelling television so far. As I mentioned earlier, I have a structural issue with showing the outside world at all this early in the story, because it undermines some of the paranoia and mystery of the town itself.


    But even setting that aside, what we've gotten from the reporter storyline so far has been cliched storytelling that has only shared with us redundant information. The renegade reporter sleeping with his by-the-books female boss storyline has been done many, many times before and this miniseries hasn't brought anything new to the table. What's he learned about the female protagonist is that her husband ditch her and their daughter, she's been trying to track him down, and bad people were after her at the time she disappeared. We learned all of that in the first five minutes of the pilot.


    The stuff with the grandmother is interesting, but not worth sacrificing the ambiance of the isolated town.
     
  13. Josh Dial

    Josh Dial Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2000
    Messages:
    2,801
    Likes Received:
    108
    Real Name:
    Josh Dial

    As usual, Joe has tapped into my mind and wrote exactly what I feel :)
     
  14. ScottH

    ScottH Producer

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2001
    Messages:
    3,090
    Likes Received:
    81
    Real Name:
    Scott Hanson
    Eh...I don't know. I just watched the first 2 episodes. Not really feeling it and I can't quite put my finger on it. I think it might be the really bad writing. Hard to believe it's supposedly the same guy that wrote 'The Usual Suspects' (a brilliantly written film). The dialog in this show seems really poorly written. And could the overweight car salesman guy be any more cliche?


    I didn't get a 'Saw' feel at all, but it reminded me of a little-known movie with a similar name called 'Unknown'. In fact, if I'm the creator of that movie I might be on the phone with the NBC lawyers right now.
     
  15. James_Kiang

    James_Kiang Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2000
    Messages:
    1,171
    Likes Received:
    0
    I'm enjoying it so far, but there seems to already be some inconsistent dialogue and a bit of agenda-minded writing. For example:


    - In the first episode, Janet (the main female character) says she wishes her daughter was captured as well because at least she would be safe. Then in the second episode she is driven to get out because as long as they are separated, she believes her daughter is in danger.


    - "Torture never works." Really? Morality/ethics discussion aside, I think the case could be made that it surely has been successful in the past. It sounded to me more like a writer trying to put his/her/their opinion out there and less like something the characters would really say.


    On a different note, while the 'real world' stuff may not be as compelling, are we supposed to take the camera shots at the grandmother's and the bar literally? It isn't a big stretch or anything, but it sure implies that some people are involved (again, no surprise). I guess they want us to think that the grandmother and maybe the cop are involved, but I'm thinking the twist is much more likely to be that the reporter's boss is the one.
     
  16. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 1997
    Messages:
    8,311
    Likes Received:
    13
    Location:
    Florida
    Real Name:
    Joseph DeMartino

    I don't see the contradiction. In both cases Janet only believes her daughter is safe when the two of them are together. She'd rather they were together at home, but her second choice would be for her daughter to be a fellow captive, because at least she'd know where she was and what was happening to her. (I think there are also hints that Janet knows or suspects why this is all happening, at least to her, and that's why she's so concerned that her daughter is alone back in the "real world.")




    No more calls, please, we have a winner. Torture doesn't work in extracting confessions to crimes, because eventually even an innocent victim will "confess" just to make the pain stop. However, torture can be and has been used to extract intelligence information from captured spies and soldiers for centuries. Military personnel are, in fact, specifically trained to resist aggressive interrogation techniques (which stop well short of the kind of genuine torture some of our enemies might employ) in order to prepare them mentally for such an eventuality. But is widely recognized that everyone has a limit, and that a captive subjected to torture will talk sooner or later. The idea is to hold out long enough for the information the bad guys gain to be rendered useless by time. Thus attack plans will be cancelled or altered, codes changed and undercover operatives extracted as soon as possible after an asset is captured, to avoid having them compromised.

    For a U.S. Marine to make that statement is ludicrous, and it sure seems like Joe knows a thing or two about that world, so his agreement makes no sense, either. The argument against torturing the night manager isn't "torture doesn't work", it's "this guy either knows nothing or has been fed disinformation to fool us if we do torture him." Personally, I'd bet on the latter.

    BTW, I find it odd that through two episodes none of the characters has suggested the incredibly obvious idea that one of them is a plant. If the mysterious "They" want to know what is going on at all times, the best way to do so is to plant a mole among the hostages.

    Regards,


    Joe
     
  17. Joe_H

    Joe_H Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2001
    Messages:
    1,753
    Likes Received:
    8

    They have, a few times over, mostly in the first episode.
     
  18. Lou Sytsma

    Lou Sytsma Producer

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 1998
    Messages:
    5,833
    Likes Received:
    337
    Real Name:
    Lou Sytsma
    The mystery is intriguing enough to continue watching but the characters continue to underwhelm.
     
  19. James_Kiang

    James_Kiang Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2000
    Messages:
    1,171
    Likes Received:
    0
    So, was the big reveal at the end of the last episode real or just a Photoshopped image to get rid of Renbe? I'm leaning towards the latter though I guess they could make it work. The main thing for me is that Renbe met the Janet's mother. While I know their relationship has not been good you would think she would know what her granddaughter's father looks like.
     
  20. ScottH

    ScottH Producer

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2001
    Messages:
    3,090
    Likes Received:
    81
    Real Name:
    Scott Hanson
    Yeah pretty sure it was a set up.
     

Share This Page