The Learning Curves TV Pilot (2011) – By Philip Smolen

The Learning Curves is an unsold, award-winning TV pilot developed for preteens by Director Michael Gibrall of One of Each Productions, LLC. In this 22 minute episode, Don Curve (Barry Ellenberger) and his sister Donna Curve (Shannon Denton-Brown) discuss the idea of rules and the implications of not following them. They first discuss how musicians like Jimi Hendrix were great because they broke the rules of music conformity. Don and Donna then get in their car to try to track down Janis Joplin, Curt Kobain and Jim Morrison who stopped by the Curves’ house (you never actually see them), annoyed that they weren’t included in the same discussion as Jimi. However, the brother and sister are pulled over for speeding and issued a ticket. Back at home they are visited by their fairy godfather (Fred Ortiz, dressed in a mafia suit with wings and doing his best Brando impersonation), who gives them a quick lesson on the rules that they need to follow. Afterwards, the Curves’s mom (Sallie Wanchisn) drops by and is distraught to find that her children have broken her rules by not getting her the bread she asked for. All ends well, however, and the Curves realize that they have just learned the same valuable lesson that they have been trying to teach their audience.

The Learning Curves is an honest attempt to produce a funny and educational program for preteens without talking down to them. The tone of the show is light and breezy and both Ellenberger and Denton-Brown are engaging. They frequently break the fourth wall in a Monty-Pythonesque irreverent manner. For instance, Don walks off their set and into the TV control room in an attempt to get answers to his questions. Then they drive around hoping to find dead classic rock stars so they can find examples of people who both succeeded and failed at breaking the rules. They also pass a man on the street (Richard Spencer) who tries to point them in the right direction and the cast frequently talks back to the camera. The show also riffs on many classic movie moments including The Godfather, A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront.

However, while these references made me smile, they completely went over the head of my 12-year old daughter, her cousin and her friend who watched the episode with me. They all complained that the show was “dull and lame.” The show’s Pythonesque style was lost on them. They also didn’t care about the idea of searching for Janis, Jimi and Kurt, believing that they couldn’t learn any lesson from “old dead rock stars.” They felt the show needed to be hipper. They also did not connect with the two hosts and believed that younger hosts were necessary. When I asked them if they would watch the show on a consistent basis, they said they might if these problems were addressed.

Perhaps The Learning Curves pilot can be best summed up by one of the characters in the show who turns to the audience and says: “We really don’t know where we’re going with this program.” A sharper focus and more relevant references to the target audience’s zeitgeist could turn this show into a TV winner.

For more information on The Learning Curves, please visit One of Each Productions at: http://www.oneofeachproductions.com/index.htm