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Patrick Q. Page, one of the original co-creators behind the original Early Edition TV series, gets right to the point during a Zoom conversation about CBS's plans to reboot the property with a female lead.
"[I’m] absolutely ecstatic," he exclusively tells SYFY WIRE. 'It’s like I had a child and now it had a grandkid and it validates, ‘Ok, I didn’t suck’ or ‘It didn’t suck after all.’ It’s beyond belief. As soon as it happened, I was like, ‘No, this can’t be happening.’"
The classic television show, which ran for a total of four seasons between 1996 and 2000, starred an up-and-coming Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights, King Kong) as Gary Hobson, a mild-mannered Chicago resident capable of changing the future when he receives a copy of tomorrow's newspaper. While the medium of print journalism has steeply declined in recent years due to the digital conveniences of the internet, Page believes the premise can still resonate with modern-day viewers.
"We all live in the world of, ‘God, if I could just do that over again, things would be different,'" he explains. "I’m a coach for the women’s varsity team [at Michigan State] and we talk about reflection. Ok, you just had a bad point, a bad event...if you could do it all over again, what would you do differently? Well, this is kind of front-loading that with tomorrow’s newspaper today. You have an opportunity to change things for the better."
Page is also of the opinion that a return to the "somebody-looking-out-for-you" genre of the 1990s (aside from Early Edition, he cites Touched by an Angel and Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman as examples) might be what audiences are coming back to in these uncertain times.
"Maybe that’s back in vogue," he says. "I don’t know. It’ll be very interesting to see the tone because obviously, things have changed, tastes have changed, the tone has changed. If you’re looking for something vibrant, you run over to Netflix or something else and watch people get blown up. That won’t be CBS. [The reboot will] be a bonding show; it’s also a show the whole family can watch."
He continues: "Not that this is a pre-sold franchise because it is a little dated, but the advantage to it is this is a show that parents and grandparents can [show] their kids and say, ‘This was my favorite show back then, but they’ve updated it today.’ It’s a show that the prime 18-25 can watch, plus the Sears, Roebuck big box store purchasers can also enjoy."
As of our interview, the network has not reached out to Page for advice, but the screenwriter and university tennis coach has plenty of confidence in Melissa Glenn (Zoo, Hawaii Five-O), who is writing and executive producing the pilot. Bob Rush — who developed the original series from the concept Page conceived of with Ian Abrams (who declined comment for this piece) and Vik Rubenfeld — is also on board as an executive producer alongside DeVon Franklin (Heaven is for Real, Masters of the Universe). Jenna Nicholson of Franklin Entertainment is a co-executive producer.
"I’m aware of the work of Melissa [and] I’m a big fan of Leverage," Page admits. "People told me that when I was younger, I looked a little bit like Timothy Hutton. So I said, ‘Ok, I’ve gotta see this show,’ and I really liked it because it hooked me. As an audience member, you’re trying to figure things out. That was the thing about Early Edition, there was always the karmic twist between two and three storylines that would come together to solve each other. So that was the big hook for Leverage ... DeVon Franklin [is] very grounded. He’s gonna make sure that the show has some faith-based element and he’s never hit anybody over the head with doing it. As I mentioned, Bob Brush has that magical touch of connecting with the children, the teens, and the adults from long ago. So it’s nothing but aces."
No one has been cast in the reboot just yet, though it has been confirmed that its story will follow an ambitious young journalist who finds herself in the unique position of changing the news instead of reporting it. This marks a pretty notable deviation from the character of Gary, who was just an ordinary dude with no connections to the world of journalism.
"He’s the guy next door. You see snow like we have today, you dread it, you go out there, and there he is, shoveling your walk for you because he says, ‘I’ve got an extra five minutes,'" Page explains. "He didn’t do it looking for a thank you. It’s just what you do, doing the right thing ... According to what I’ve read and was told by someone at Sony, it’s a female lead, which I applaud. I envisioned it being a female reboot. And she’s a newspaper reporter, which means she’s a little bit inside. I hope she’s really accessible because that’s what Kyle [was] and that's what Bob Rush brought to the original."
Getting back to the idea of karmic interwoven-ness that pervaded all 90 episodes of Early Edition, Page gives us his rough pitch for a new story set in this world (you're welcome in advance, CBS).
Check out his elevator pitch below:
"I was just noodling with the idea of the pedestrian and the crazy ex-girlfriend. There’s a pedestrian who gets hit by a car. Let’s say the new lead’s name is Mary. She goes to talk to the car owner to prevent him from driving that day and he’s obstinate, so she calls contact tracing on him so he’s quarantined.
But the pedestrian still gets hit by another car and this time, the driver of that car is injured. So she figures it out: it’s the guy. So then she goes to help the guy get a car and he wrecks the car and hurts more people. She realizes he cannot drive, he’s just one of those people. He’s under-resourced and he should never be allowed behind the wheel.
Meanwhile, she’s dealing with a Zooey Deschanel-type, the crazy ex-girlfriend who is trying to get back at her ex-boyfriend. And she’s just getting more and more histrionics that involve half of Chicago or whatever city they place it in. He stole her money and she’s under-resourced too so she’s got a part-time job. [Mary] finally reads there’s a tragic accident happening to the pedestrian and she can’t find a cab so she calls Uber and guess who shows up in the Uber? The crazy ex-girlfriend. When the Uber driver takes her to the scene and they stop it from happening or whatever happens to the pedestrian, love sparks between the Uber driver. Now she has a boyfriend and now he has a permanent ride and it solves all the problems.
That’s a very bad episode, but it kind of shows that it’s a problem-solving show where she helps people solve problems and there’s a little bit of karma involved because the seemingly separate incidents are related. And that was the fun that Bob and everybody put together on the show. Was sitting back trying to figure out, ‘Ok, what’s the connection? What’s the karma?’ I intentionally never read any of the scripts as I enjoyed the series. It was too much fun to watch live."