My post this week was going to be about this Saturday's episode of The Bridge on CBS, "The Unguarded Moment," which I co-wrote with Dannis Koromilas but I heard today that the show has been canclled and no further epiodes will air. I'm not sure if the episodes will be available on the CBS website or iTunes.
So, while it would have been a lot easy to make sense of my mess of a post if there was an episode of the show to go along with it, here it is anyway:
The Bridge was my first experience writing for TV and it was a creatively ambitious show – it wasn’t a police procedural with a murder victim in the opening scene and an arrest just before the end credits (or, usually, just before the final ironic insight from the lead detective) but rather it was (or was originally to have been) about the inner workings of a big city police department, the politics, ambitions, compromises, corruption -- all these challenges faced from the point of view of a beat cop who gets elected union president.
This point of view opened up all kinds of new areas for a cop show to dig into and for mainstream networks like CBS and CTV that would make them a little... well, let’s say nervous.
And there were a lot of bumps on the road. The set-up lends itself best to a serialization but CBS wanted as episodic a show as possible. This led to a lot of rewriting and changes from the original plan.
“The Unguarded Moment” (the title is from a song by Dannis’s favourite band, The Church),
was written to be episode eleven or twelve out of thirteen but CTV aired it fourth and CBS had it scheduled to be fourth (these numbers are a little confusing because at first a two-hour TV movie was made and then the series was commissioned and the movie was split into two one-hour episodes – with a few new scenes added to make the split work better -- but then both networks ran them back-to-back as a single episode) probably because it was one of the most stand-alone episodes.
Or at least it was one of the ones it was easiest to rewrite into a stand-alone.
A restaurant owner fed up landering money for a drug dealer stages a robbery that goes wrong when a cop is shot. It becomes a hostage taking and our hero, Frank Leo, takes charge.
Sounds simple, but it went through many, many rewrites.
In the first incarnation, the bad guys bringing the money to be laundered were SWAT cops (connected to the larger corrupt police conspiracy that was played down when the show became more episodic) who stole it from big-time drug dealers and the restaurant owner, a woman named Cassandra in our draft, was in over head with these guys (we tried to imply an uneasy history here) and wanted out – but she wanted to keep the million dollars so she staged the robbery so she could at least stall the bad cops while she took off to Cypress. It gets even more complicated when those SWAT guys are at the hostage-taking and just want to burst in and kill everyone so they can keep their secret and get their money back.
Frank, of course, suspects all is not what it seems and has to save the injured cop being held hostage and root out the bad SWAT guys – who may even come after him.
But by episode ten we’d had an awful lot of bad cops on The Bridge so it was decided that we wouldn’t have any in this episode. And we wanted the episode to be more stand-alone. The robbery is still staged, though to be honest, when the gentleman drug dealer (now no longer the SWAT guys) comes in and says he only deals with hash because with hard drugs you have to deal with people with, “bad attitudes and guns,” I’m not sure why the restaurant owner (now named Ella St. George) doesn’t just say, “well, okay, thanks for the money,” and get on the plane to Cypress.
Anyway, there’s a staged robbery, an injured cop being held hostage by some bad guys and Frank Leo negotiating to get him out.
And I’ve heard a rumour that the ending of the CBS version is very different from the ending of the version aired on CTV last March.
(well, now I guess we may never know what that alternate ending was.)