For our Fall Arts Preview—look for it in the September issue!—I went through all of the television pilots for the fall season’s new shows. With a few exceptions, they were mostly underwhelming. It’s the usual mix of doctors, cops, and supernatural beings. And, as always, none of the new shows take place in Westchester.
There are people out there who are trying to change that. Christine from our web department clued me into a trailer for a Westchester-based TV show that was posted online a few months ago. “The pilot for Westchester was written with the dream of becoming one of the most influential coming-of-age dramas to hit modern-day television,” the website projectwestchester.com declares. “What happens when the upper, middle, and lower classes all collide? What happens when the haves and the have-nots group up together to have fun? True characters are revealed when facing adversity on Westchester’s grounds where money, power, and lust are mixed with greed, envy, and temptation.”
I also believe that the great Westchester story has yet to be told. I’m tired of seeing movies and TV shows in which the suburbs are places of American Beauty-style soul-crushing (thanks, Cheever) or backdrops for affairs and bad marriages (looking at you, Unfaithful). We all know that’s not true—at least not all of the time—but other sides of the ‘burbs don’t usually make it to the screen. Instead, life in Westchester is like an open secret—people don’t talk about it even though those who make movies, TV shows, and books live out here in large numbers. (Maybe that’s why: they want to keep it for themselves.)
So, is this Westchester pilot the key to our small-screen portrayal? I’m not exactly sure.
I only have the three-minute pilot to draw from. On one hand, it has some things right: opening shots of The Westchester, huge houses, and Hudson River vistas. At least it’s not one of those shows that uses Toronto as a stand-in for any place in the world.
On the other hand, I’m not sure this show speaks to my experience growing up in Westchester. The main character started a music business and manages a rap artist. The rest of the cast is filled out by rappers, mobsters, loan sharks, and other struggling entrepreneurs. I know they must be out there somewhere, but growing up here I haven’t met any rappers, mobsters, or loan sharks (that I knew of). Where are the lawyers, bankers, and Ivy-League interns? The trailer opens with a title card proclaiming, “Here is a place where kids have seen it all, and will do anything to have it all for themselves.” I agree with the first part, but instead of “do anything to have it all for themselves,” I think it’d be more accurate to say, “and will get it all by borrowing money and connections from their parents.”
Still, there’s potential. The creators here obviously understand that Westchester is a vein of untapped storytelling potential, and they realize that the diversity of experience here is what makes the county unique. (And, let’s be honest, this would be better than The Real Housewives of Westchester County—although I’d certainly tune in for that if you’re listening, Bravo.) If you want to check out the trailers or hear from the creators, check out the videos on their Facebook page.