The WB Pilots Jack and Bobby, but It's Not What You Think
By Ted Johnson -- Broadcasting & Cable, 2/22/2004 7:00:00 PM
The title is a tease. Jack and Bobby should be a tantalizing tell-all about the youthful Kennedys, busy bedding coeds while being secretly pursued by shadowy J. Edgar Hoover goons. After all, this is The WB, the network that's parlayed growing pains into a programming bonanza.
Instead, according to executive producer Greg Berlanti (Everwood), the new WB series is a fictional drama about two teen brothers, one of whom, 13-year-old Bobby McCallister (Logan Lerman), is destined to become president. We know this because the series is narrated, documentary style, by a woman named Sable, circa 2049, when McCallister has unexpectedly won the Oval Office.
Jack and Bobby is a coming-of-age show—a WB staple—with a twist. It's a fusion of Everwood and Freaks and Geeks meets The West Wing. Berlanti and writer Vanessa Taylor, who plotted the show from an idea by novelist Brad Metzler and Steve Cohen, created Bobby as an "amalgamation of many different leaders."
As an adolescent, Bobby is, to be kind, a dork. He's hopelessly uncool, zealous in his focus on the Space Club and science projects. Presumably, there will be glimmers of the later self-assuredness and idealism, but it's brother Jack who shines as track star and girl magnet. The boys live in an Illinois college town with their eccentric single mother, Grace, a history professor with a penchant for toking up when things get tough. (She inhales; Bobby doesn't.)
Grace sees greatness in Bobby but is so overbearing he's almost a mama's boy by default. Classmates might label him a "freak," but Mom knows better. In one of her tirades, no doubt viewed by future biographers as character-building, she exclaims, "You understand that you, as my son and the son of your father—a man of brilliance and academic integrity—have a duty not only to pursue your education but also not to become a mindless blithering moron like the rest of the country." That's as political as the pilot gets. "The less the better," Berlanti says.
West Wing aside, political realism is a tricky prospect. ABC's pilot Camelot, a weekly series set in 1959, offered JFK, an orbit of blondes, J. Edgar Hoover, and Sam Giancana. What it didn't get was picked up. The WB got the message.
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