|Can you tell us all about creating the pilot episode? What were you given to work with and what did you add to it? What might have turned out differently? Any interesting tidbits of information would be appreciated, if it's not too far back to remember!
Asked by Jeremai
This is the history of my involvement with the pilot. The show had been in development for over two years when I was brought on board - and was three weeks from the shooting of the pilot. It was cast, sets were built, locations lined up etc. The only thing it didn't have was a good script. So the producer John Holmes (an old friend and colleague of mine from "Sons and Daughters" days) and the director Ric Pellizzeri (now Executive Producer of "Neighbors") went to the man who had onceived the show Alan Bateman and said that the script needed to be doctored before it was shot. Alan asked John who he thought should do it and John suggested me. Alan had not worked with me, but trusted John's judgment. Having read the script, which was in my opinion appalling, I said that I could not doctor it - it was so fundamentally flawed I felt that I could only deliver them a better bad script if I used the original in any way. But I said that I could write them a totally new script, with the story elements fundamentally reconfigured, if they delayed shooting by three weeks and gave me three weeks to write it. They agreed to this and I set to work.
I basically had to tell a new story with the same characters, sets and settings. It was still a story of Tom and Pippa and the kids coming to Summer Bay, but I opened it in the past to see how they first took on Frank, then jumped to the now to see why they decided to move. I also took the character of Bobby out of the family unit and made her an outsider in Summer Bay, who is initially a nemesis for the new arrivals but who eventually becomes part of the family. The original version began with Tom, Pippa and all the kids (including Bobby) arriving at the house to take residence. It was pretty much two hours of nothing happening, because there were no stakes and no dramatic tension. Had the original pilot script been shot and gone to air, I think history would have been different, as I think the pilot would have been dull as dishwater, the show would have flopped and there would be no H&A here 17 years down the track.