Goliath Season 1: Rewriting Characters

In the second of a series of posts about rewriting characters, this article looks at Season 1 of Goliath, the Amazon legal drama starring Billy Bob Thornton as underdog lawyer, Billy McBride, who is pitted against the powerful. The discussion compares the third draft pilot script for Goliath Season 1 entitled Trial dated 20 July 2015 and the pilot TV episode entitled Of Mice and Men which premiered on Amazon on 13 October 2016.

This discussion has a particular focus on Lucy Kittridge, a prominent character in Goliath Season 1, but who is barely recognisable as the same character between the draft script and the aired TV show, although she is a lawyer in both.

Having watched Goliath Season 1 before reading the pilot script, it makes some sense why the Lucy Kittridge character and many of her actions failed to slot nicely into the story. It felt as though there had been a last minute rewrite of the story or her character, or she was created to fit into an already completed storyline. The result is that her character and storyline feels clunky at times.

It turns out that Lucy’s character was, in part, rewritten to accommodate a new key character who, as it happens, slots in very nicely, as you will see.

After writing this review, I subsequently learned that Goliath Season 1 was originally intended to consist of 10 episodes but ended up as eight episodes, with episode three revamped to open the story as episode one, the pilot. This explains a lot.

Despite any negative criticism you might read here, Season 1 of Goliath is a highly recommended drama and keeps the tension going right up to the very end. It received a 4.7/5 rating on Amazon for good reason. I have also reviewed Goliath Season 2 and Season 3 and speculated about Season 4.

Follow this link to read my discussion about rewriting characters in a long-running TV sitcom.

The following discussion contains spoilers.

Lucy Kittridge

In the first season of this legal drama series, Lucy Kittridge is a quietly ambitious young lawyer, not too long into her career it feels, who works for top legal firm Cooperman McBride. She is assigned a key role on the legal team defending her firm’s biggest client, the global military technology giant, Borns Tech.

The case involves a negligence and wrongful death claim being brought against Borns Tech by the family of a deceased employee, Ryan Larson, who was blown up in a massive explosion at sea as a result of some dark research goings-on by the tech giant.

The purpose of this article is to discuss character changes, not give away the plot – although in figuring out the former, it does reveal some of the latter.

Lucy and Patty

In the aired pilot episode, the negligence case is introduced to our key character (washed-up lawyer Billy McBride) by Patty Solis-Papagian, who is a neighbour of Ryan Larson’s sister. Patty is a real estate agent as well as a moonlighting DUI lawyer and she approaches McBride to represent Ryan Larson’s family. Patty ends up working alongside McBride in bringing the negligence case against the tech giant.

Here is when we find out that Billy McBride is the “McBride” in Cooperman McBride, that he was dismissed from his own firm some years before and now works solo, when not intoxicated. So right at the start we know that the underdog lawyer will be taking on one of the biggest law firms out there in a case against the world’s largest military technology firm. That explains the show’s title then.

In the third draft pilot script, things are a little more convoluted. Patty Solis-Papagian does not appear and instead Lucy Kittridge is the neighbour of Ryan Larson’s sister and it is Lucy who approaches McBride to represent Ryan Larson’s family. In doing this, Lucy is going against the law firm for whom she currently works, Cooper & McBride in the draft script (renamed as Cooperman McBride in the aired show).

It’s just conjecture, but my guess is that Patty may have made her first appearance in the original episode three, which was subsequently revamped to become episode one, the pilot, which is why Lucy had to get rewritten and then…well…then all this.

In the draft script, as a result of taking the case to Billy McBride, Lucy is fired from Cooper & McBride and ends up working alongside him in the case against the tech giant. In this role, Lucy again takes Patty’s role.

In the aired show, it is only near the end of the court case (which takes up most of the eight episodes) that Lucy is fired from her role Cooperman McBride, having come to the end of her useful life for the firm’s boss, Donald Cooperman. Lucy is then seen sitting in court in a shot that implies she has been summoned to give evidence for the other side.

To summarise all that so far, in the draft script Lucy is always on the prosecution team, but in the aired version she is on the defence team for most of the story. Also in the draft script, Lucy encapsulates both characters of Lucy and Patty from the aired show, at least at the beginning.

In terms of role, Lucy is rewritten from siding with the antagonist to siding with the protagonist. In the draft script, she brings the case to Billy McBride (protagonist) against her boss Donald Cooper (antagonist), switching sides right at the start of the story (and, yes, he is called Cooper in the draft script). In the aired episode, she supports the antagonist throughout.

We don’t know what path the old Lucy might have taken in the original Goliath universe had her character not undergone a rewrite, because her character traits were very different in terms of experience, temperament and morals, from what what we saw of Lucy 2.0 on screen.

I was also left questioning why someone as inexperienced as Lucy would get a lead role on the defence team in one of the biggest law firms on the planet. And why she would so quickly and unquestioningly become romantically involved with the head of the firm (who is, let’s face it, seriously creepy) when she was perfectly well qualified to get ahead on her own merits. And why she goes back to him after he fires her. And why she keeps leaving me asking why. A good story will never leave you asking why, unless it’s badly constructed or unless, of course, it’s fodder for a future story. So I suppose there is the possibility of us seeing Lucy later.

Lucy and Cooperman

Other changes between script and airing include that in the aired show, the head of the defending law firm, Donald Cooperman, is a reclusive burns victim. He lives in (and is hardly ever known to leave) his penthouse office, watching the live court proceedings on a monitor, until summoned to appear in Court himself near the end of the case. That ends in a very contrived scene showing him falling off his chair with a heart attack just before being forced to spill the beans and collapse the case.

Conversely, in the draft script, Donald Cooper (not Cooperman) leads the defence team and attends Court from day one. The only similarity between the two characters is that in both versions he is a hateful, controlling manipulator and a voyeur who spies on his staff from his penthouse office via secret cameras hidden throughout the building.

In the aired show, Lucy Kittridge is lured into an affair with the reclusive Cooperman and is then fired by him just before the end of the case, but in the draft script she is fired at the start of the case and there is no affair. I never understood the affair.

Lucy is also portrayed in the aired version as a young and quietly super-ambitious, recent graduate, so maybe the forty or so year age gap between her and the head of the firm is intended to show that there are no limits to what she will do to rise to the top. Even appreciating that it is only drama (or “life with the dull bits taken out” as Hitchcock put it), it is still highly questionable that she would succumb to Cooperman as easily as she did given the way he is portrayed in the story. Even when she is confronted by him standing naked in front of her as she wandered up to his penthouse during a fake fire alarm (set off by him), she did not flinch.

In the aired version, Lucy is quiet, giving rise to her nickname within the firm of ‘the mouse’. She has a speech impediment which manifests itself as a stutter when she gets stressed in court, but she still possesses traits that will later see her quash any peers who cross her.

But in the draft script, Lucy is portrayed as a brash, foul-mouthed young woman, trampling over everyone in her path, and trying to sleep her way out of litigation cases and into corporate cases, using Kelvin Wyatt, one of the younger partners. He doesn’t appear in the aired version, instead her immediate boss is a woman, Callie Senate, herself another ex-lover of Donald Cooperman until he ditched her too for a younger model as part of his serial behaviour.

Affairs aplenty

It is also hinted at in the draft script that Billy McBride has had an affair with Donald’s wife Francesca, but neither of these (an affair with the wife, nor the wife herself) are written into the aired show. They are presumably another casualty of the ten-to-eight episode chop. Although we do hear the reverse in the aired version when Cooperman admits to McBride of having slept with his ex-wife, both before and after he had met her.

That revelation in itself provides the perfect set up for a possible future story line that may, perhaps, question the paternity of McBride’s daughter Denise. Oh, yes, that would be good. Maybe all the young female lawyers that Cooperman sacked and impregnated will get together in a class action against Cooperman in the future, represented by McBride, and Denise’s origin will come out as part of that. My mind’s working overtime now!

Anyway, back to Season 1 and we have affairs aplenty – between lawyers and clients and colleagues and ex-wives.

There is a very brief encounter at the start of the case between McBride and Ryan’s sister until she is shockingly run down outside court in an accident that by sheer luck misses McBride, who was the real target.

There is also a surprising revelation, witnessed by accident by McBride, of a relationship between McBride’s ex-wife (who is still a partner at the law firm) and Lucy’s boss, Callie Senate (another partner at the firm).

Both of the above superfluous affairs left me with another big question mark hanging over my head, because neither added anything much of interest to the story – other than providing the opportunity for a good one liner, when McBride accuses his wife to her face of not having to venture far down the corridor for her next encounter.

In contrast, I thought that the implied and revealed actions of Brittany Gold’s sex worker character (both on and off her paralegal day job) – and how the past actions of the Ned Berring character affect his credibility as the prosecution’s main witness – each add enough token sex to the story without requiring female inter-lawyer action too.

What’s in a name, honey?

Enough affairs, back to names.

In the draft script, the tech giant is called Rand Technology (not Borns Technology) and the defending law firm is called Cooper & McBride (not Cooperman McBride) and the dead man is called Ryan LaCroix (not Ryan Larson).

I am always intrigued to know why trivial changes are made to character and company names. In this case, even the briefest of internet searches shows that companies named Rand Technology and Born[s] Technology both existed at the time the third draft was written in 2015 and that McBride is, for whatever reason, not an uncommon name in law firms, and neither is Cooper. It surely cannot be that no-one checked all this out when the drafts were being written?

As for the character name change, an internet search shows that Ryan Larson is more prominent a name than Ryan LaCroix, so the change from LaCroix to Larson is intriguing, although being more easily pronounceable by most of the world’s population might have something to do with it. Having said that, the character Patty seems deliberately to have been given something playfully unpronounceable.

Verdict

So the above is what I can determine differs in terms of characters between just one draft pilot script and the aired version. As I said above, only after writing this analysis did I discover that Season 1 was originally intended to consist of 10 episodes but ended up as eight, which explains a lot.

Despite my reservations about Lucy 2.0, if you haven’t seen the first season of Goliath you are missing out on something enormously watchable. It’s an engaging story and Billy McBride is an absorbing and charismatic character, with Billy Bob Thornton playing to perfection the dried up but whisky-lubricated lawyer who, despite the alcohol diet, is astonishingly capable, deeply knowledgeable, and extremely personable. Although he does have an annoying habit of calling everyone “honey” – a trait which is actually assigned to Donald rather than Billy in the draft script. Try and imagine that.

If you enjoyed Goliath Season 1: Rewriting characters, read my earlier post Rewriting characters: The Big Bang Theory which discusses multiple character changes between a draft pilot script, the first (unaired) pilot featuring Katie, and the rewritten (aired) pilot featuring Penny.

Fair Use Notice: All images from Goliath shown in this article are credited to Amazon Studios. I am using the imagery to illustrate my discussion about characters in scripts in my efforts to understand the subject. All images have been carefully chosen to support the critical commentary in this article by identifying key characters visually. I believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material.