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The Dover Train
IndustryCentral ScreenWriters Exchange: Drama: The Dover Train
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By Seth Ruffer (Sethruffer) on Wednesday, August 29, 2001 - 11:00 am:



By Seth Ruffer
NCR #R692-7065

The Dover Train will be a weekly, one-hour dramatic series with plots that, unlike anything else on TV today, actually correspond to the real lives of its audience. The series will focus on the lives of three suburbanites from very different socio-economic backgrounds/realities who commute together into New York City. Stories will be comprised of their experiences at work and at home, and the way the main characters relate to each other on their train rides to and from work. Plots will be culled from actual current events, and more importantly, from real-life trends such as the changing economy, single parenthood, aging in the corporate world, the difficulties of raising children, etc. The series should not have an oppressively heavy tone, nor is it meant to have a "message" as to what's right or wrong with our society--it is simply a mirror of the way many of us live today. The emphasis on mirroring what actually takes place in the lives of the audience will place this drama amongst the most compelling on television.

The characters' experiences will not be sensationalized and the characters themselves should not be glamorized. Their will be no leggy interns in super-short skirts that work as low-level assistants and bring down the careers of corporate titans, no unrealistic portrayal of "types" such as policemen, lawyers, mothers-in-law, etc. The aim is to have people view this series and feel "this is a show which is about me."

The main characters are:

Greg Caulford, a 40-something banker who has risen to the position of relationship manager for a large international bank. He is the father of three, and lives in a town (Montclair, NJ) which is affluent but also has many lower-income residents. His marriage is semi-solid; the pressures of career and the psychological impacts of approaching middle age are taking their toll. He is a decent man who sometimes makes bad choices in the name of corporate loyalty, the desire to "stay ahead" and the need to keep up appearances. He is in decent shape, though physically his age and the effects of an active, sometimes over-indulgent social life are starting to show. His wife Angela is a moderately successful local real-estate agent. His children range in age from 8 thru 14. He is old enough to remember difficult economic times from the late seventies and early eighties, though young enough to sometimes get caught up in the enthusiasm of the recent market in which it seems everyone has become affluent (as he has) just by "playing the game." He is white, and could be either a "waspy" or moderately ethnic type.

Janet LeBron is 27, an under-appreciated, low-paid legal assistant in an "ambulance-chasing" law firm. She is the single mother of a five-year-old daughter. She wanted to be a lawyer, but having a child changed the course of her life. She is upbeat on the outside, but confronts doubts about the type of law practiced by the people she works for, and is bitter about having been left by a man who she thought would marry her. She is not glamorous but is attractive in a simple, plain way. She lives in a modest two-family home in Montclair with her middle-aged mother, who is on disability and looks after her granddaughter while Janet works. She is Hispanic, and the father of her child is white.

Paul Bell is a young black man who is beginning a career on Wall Street. As a teen-ager, he worked at his father's convenience store in Montclair, where Greg had been a regular customer. Through his connections, Greg has gotten him a back-office job at an investment bank, though Paul has a finance degree and wants to get his MBA and is hoping to rapidly advance is career. His father's store is going out of business, being pushed out by a chain, which has opened a location in Greg's town. Paul is attractive and "non-threatening"…though his family are originally from Newark he has obviously spent much time with his more affluent and by and large white neighbors, yet he is quite conscious of where he came from. He stays in touch to an extent with "hip-hop culture" but wants very much to "make it" as a black man in a "white man's world."

Some plot lines, which will evolve over the course of the first season, will focus on:

Greg’s deteriorating relationship with his family. In the first episode, his eldest son Chris tricks Greg into giving him $100.00 to buy a used hockey stick…Greg later finds out that hockey sticks cost much less, and now has to confront his son about what the money was actually used for. As the series evolves, Greg’s wife is quicker to realize that there is something wrong, but is afraid to address it directly with Chris. We will also get a much more realistic picture about day-to-day life on Wall Street than television currently provides. Angela will increasingly interact with her new next door neighbors, and be troubled by their right leaning philosophies.

Janet’s mother Mae is arrested on child pornography charges when a roll of film she has developed at a local photo shop is found to include pictures of her granddaughters in the nude (based on an actual case.) Janet’s family is in turmoil as it deals with the justice system, the press and Child Welfare agency personnel. The case will proceed through the course of the first season, and we will also get a glimpse into the struggle Janet confronts because her family is at once persecuted by “the system” and in her career she works for a law firm which exploits that very system.

Paul is divided between two worlds, and must begin to think about choosing his place in life. As the first season develops, a number of contrasting realties force Paul to try to make decisions he never anticipated. His father eventually will have to sell the convenience store he has owned for decades as larger shops establish themselves in Montclair. Paul has begun dating a young woman who works in the trading room of his firm. She is much more impressed with wealth and materialism, and Paul is influenced by her, making attempts to enter her social strata. In his attempts to impress Eleanor, the young woman, he begins using credit cards more, placing him in a precarious financial position, and also starts thinking about shortcuts he may need to take to “get ahead” on Wall Street.

Other plotlines will cover such topics as AIDS education in public schools, job loss in a retrenching economy and the need to care for an elderly parent who suffers a major stroke.

While continuity will be emphasized to an extent, it is important to remember that The Dover Train concept will be well-suited to incorporating new plots and characters. The thrust of this series will be to reflect the way its audience actually lives, using actual current events and topics of contemporary importance as the basis for its plots.

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