Wednesday, March 31, 2010

East Coast - one

John McFetridge

I spent most of last year working as a story editor and writer on the TV show The Bridge which is now airing on CTV in Canada and may air this summer on CBS in the US. It’s also been sold to about 70 other countries, so it’ll show up in those places soon, too (I don’t know if the UK and Australia are included or not).

While I was doing that work I had a few ideas for other TV shows and when The Bridge finished production my agent suggested I put together a couple of pitches and we’d take them to producers. So I did.

And we had meetings and we did ‘development’ and we talked and talked and talked but it looks like we’ve taken them as far as we can. My agent has asked me to give it a little longer, so you never know, nature of the buiness and all that, but in the meantime I’ve taken the pilot episode script I wrote for one of the TV show ideas, East Coast, and I reverse-adapted it to a novella that I’m going to serialize here every Wednesday for the next month or so.

Here’s the “one-page” that went out as part of the pitch:


Sgt. Jerry Northup works to keep his narcotics squad motivated in the seemingly unwinnable war on drugs while at the same time raising three kids with his wife, Isobel.

The USA’s multi-billion dollar war on drugs sent a lot of smuggling up through Canada. The local dealers have stepped up to become a more important – and more powerful – stop on the trip from South America to the big east coast cities of the United States; Boston, New York, Philadelphia.

East Coast is The Wire in a rural and smaller city setting straddling the border; Moncton, Halifax, Bangor, Providence and thousands of miles of unprotected border between them. But the days of the small-town hick are gone. The drug trade brought with it lots of money and organized crime from Columbian cartels to bikers to good old-fashioned mafia.

Like Southland, we’ll also see into the personal lives of the cops. These will be character-driven stories about the deeper effects of police work and crime on the people involved – how the locals get drawn into the more violent world of organized crime and the effects on the families of the men and women charged with fighting crime.

East Coast is about moral dilemmas, it’s about the grey areas between the rules. How far will cops go to catch drug smugglers? Will they use the same methods and the same intensity if the smugglers are international criminals or local fishermen desperate to feed their famies? And what about those locals, how innocent are they, how much have circumstances beyond their control left them in desperate situations and how much is simply greed?

And now, what we called ‘the teaser,’ the bit before the opening credits:

East Coast


They called it the New England States-Maritime Provinces Narcotics Officers Drinking Club, a couple hundred cops taking over the entire Days Inn off the I-95 just outside Bangor for the weekend. By Saturday night they had a barbeque set up by the pool, the no glass rule was long gone and the saunas were co-ed. Music blasted, country mostly, a little R’n’B when the Fed from Boston got near the system.

The idea was an informal exchange of information. Rumours, innuendo, which dealers were on their way up, who was bringing in larger shipments, who was the biggest pain in the ass, who was most likely to get killed. All that stuff that couldn’t go in official reports, stuff that wouldn’t ever see the inside of a courtroom but stuff that would be good if the cops on both sides of the world’s longest unprotected border were aware.

In room 202 Staff Sergeant Jerry Northup, the highest ranking RCMP officer on the trip, laid his cards on the table and said, “Even in Canada we call that a full house.”

“You got a lot of time up there to play cards, don’t you?”

Northup pulled in the chips and winked at Sherriff Cousins from Worcecster, saying, “Oh yeah, you know us, we’ve got no crime we just sit around in our igloos practising moose calls and playing poker.”

“You’re in my backyard now.”

Jerry said, you know it, and dealt another hand. The room’s bed had been pushed out into the hall to make room for the table brought up from the restaurant, six cops sitting around it, maybe a thousand bucks would change hands. It was all in fun.

One floor down a naked Constable Evelyn Edwards was on top of a DEA guy from Portland, both of them very close, and her phone started beeping and the DEA guy said, “Whoa, you’re not going to answer that,” and she said, yeah, I have to, “I’m on duty.”

“You’re five hundred miles out of your jurisdiction, you’re in another God damn country.”

She was beside the bed then pulling her phone out of her jeans in the pile of clothes on the floor saying, we couldn’t all get the weekend off, then into the phone, “Edwards... Yes, un-huh, wow, really?” She shook her head and the DEA guy knew they weren’t going to finish any time soon.

Edwards pulled on her sweatshirt and jeans and took off barefoot out of the room saying she’d be back and the DEA guy saw her bra and panties on the floor beside her running shoes and thought, hey, maybe they would finish.

In the poker room Sherriff Cousins was raking in a pot, a big one, saying he knew his luck was going change when Edwards walked in out of breath, all the guys looking at her messed up hair and and she said, “Sergeant Northup,” and Jerry said, “Hey Ev, you looking to lose some money?”

“No sir, it’s about, it’s Superintendent Bergeron.”

Jerry looked at his cards and said, Henry? What now, “Did he lock himself out of the office again?”

Cousins laughed like he knew all about that kind of boss and Edwards said, no sir.

“He died, sir.”

Jerry leaned back in his chair and looked at her. Shit.

Party’s over.

(commercial break)

Part Two is here.


Joelle Charbonneau said...

Cool! I love a great hook to a commercial break:) Can't wait for the next installment.

Jarrett Rush said...

I like it. Poker in the hotel room reminds me of some trips I took in college.

Looking forward to next Wednesday.

John McFetridge said...

Yeah, the "Act Out" as we called it.

Thanks, next week, "Act One."

Mike Dennis said...

Great idea for the serialization, John. The one-page synopsis was very effective, too, like a come-on.

I'll be back for the next episode.

Steve Weddle said...

Yes. More, please.