Script Files

Home on the Range, a script for the pilot episode of a television series

Damn, Missouri in 1881 is rough. Imagine you were born with a modern inventor's mind, but living in 1881 and having to support a family on the gol dern prairie with nothing but land lots of land and the starry skies above. This is Little House on the Prairie if the dad was Ben Stiller. Deadwood meets South Park.

  • Juliet Johnson
    Short Films: "Chicken" "Lift" Book: "Somebody's Always Hungry"
  • Kenneth Johnson
    Executive Producers
    TV Mini-series: "V", TV Series: "The incredible Hulk" "Alien Nation"
  • Barry Opper
    Executive Producers
    Feature Films: "Jeepers Creepers" "Critters" "Slam Dance" TV Series: The Marshal
  • Juliet Johnson
    Executive Producers
    Short Films: "Chicken", "Lift" Book: "Somebody's Always Hungry"
  • Project Type:
    Television Script, Treatment
  • Language:
  • First-time Screenwriter:
  • Student Project:
Writer Biography - Juliet Johnson

Juliet is an NYU Film alumni, and has worked in the film industry on and off since leaving NYU. (The "off" being time she took to mother three children.) She has written ten screenplays, had six short plays produced in various theaters in NYC, LA, Seattle and Annapolis (as well as having them published in playwriting anthologies). She's published a comedic book of essays called Somebody's Always Hungry (about the insanity of child rearing), and has published numerous short stories and essays in anthologies, newspapers and magazines around the country. She has written two novels, both unpublished for the time being. She has written and co-directed two short movies presently winning best comedy awards on the festival circuit.

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Writer Statement

Home on the Range
Series proposal
by Juliet Johnson

The Old West has been calling to me, and I’ve been obsessed with the seeming simplicity of old times, when streets were dirt and cars had hooves, top speed 4 mph. There must’ve been people back then who found their REAL LIFE funny and bewildering, just like me here and now in my comfy modern life. What if there was a show where the Old West was alive but peopled with some people like us? Kinda like Modern Family, 1881? Funny, smart people who know that living in the Old West is a shitty, inefficient and barbaric ordeal and they’re slogging their way through it supported by a killer dark sense of humor and lofty dreams of what could be.

So what if there was a family, exactly like us now? I dreamed, for the pilot, the sun coming up on a weekday Monday just like it does here in the modern world, and that Monday morning dread of MAN, I DO NOT WANT TO GET OUT OF BED. The dark bedroom that we are in could be yours, or mine, but it belongs to our hero Kenneth and his wife Hattie (JOHN KRASINSKI and EMILY BLUNT), and there is a rooster going off instead of a phone alarm, to get them out of bed. Kenneth is laying in the dark like we all do when we have that moment of wanting time to stop, and he’s musing about how bad traffic will be if he waits any longer to get to his job in town, just like we do. Except traffic for him is being the third wagon on the road into town, and being covered in dirt by the time he gets there. Kenneth is trying like hell to not be stuck in his time.

Kenneth has an inventor’s mind, it works overtime to try and think ahead of the rudimentary hands-on farm-work life of an early settler in Missouri in 1881. He is crazy enough to think that someday he won’t have to go outside to pee, that somehow pre-made food could just be WARMED UP, milk could just be IN the house --that someday it might be WEIRD to have a cow. His wife Hattie has come west with him because of his nutty ideas, and they have 5 live kids and 1 drowned one who haunts them occasionally. As they bang on the ceiling to get those live kids up in the loft above them and doing the chores they don’t want to do, there’s a pounding at the front door and the (semi)closeted gay (when there “weren’t any”) neighbor Rupert has run all the way naked from his house where his “brother” was trampled by cows in their barn.

As Hattie and Kenneth juggle nudity, homosexuality, chores and children, Kenneth gets ready to take Rupert to go and shovel up his dead “brother.” With this start of a day in their life, a tone is being set and that is: people have not changed much over time, and Hattie and Kenneth are our windows into a comedic look into our world today through the prism of 1881.

During this first day (pilot episode) with our characters, Helen the warrior daughter strangles deserving class asshole Rowan with her bonnet strings, Hattie is at home teaching the baby how to hold a rifle and Kenneth is tossing the body parts of Rupert’s lover in the gulley behind the barn (while keeping the dead man’s hat), and protecting Rupert from the sodomite-hunting drunk Sheriff Lou.

Bounty Hunter Jasper muscles quietly into town, looking through the saloon full of sleeping-it-off drunks for a “man who ain’t exactly masculine” and doesn’t find Rupert, but does find Cordelia, a beautiful prostitute who can read. At night, Hattie and Kenneth dream of a world where birth control is a possibility, and Rupert snuggles into the foot of their bed, all gayed up with nowhere to go, now a part of their family. It’s a harsh world, but with Hattie and Kenneth, come on, aren’t things just about to get about a hundred times better? If we can JUST get through THIS.

Through Hattie and Kenneth, the series will make us feel transported back in time, kind of like A Million Ways to Die in the West without being as mean. We can understand how we might have been visionaries, seeing modern inventions before they could even possibly exist…We can see how we might have been the worthless old sheriff, the displaced Indian, the town whore, or the bounty hunter, the numb-minded schoolteacher or the class bully. It’s like if Little House on The Prairie had its throat cut out and someone tried to stop the bleeding with Netflix. There are possibilities, even in the past, for an open minded, desperate and funny family hoping-like-hell-to-survive life on the prairie, and we watch as each of the main characters slowly try to find what home on the range means to them.

Our cast includes:

KENNETH, 28, the inventor, but lacking the tools to actually make anything. Others think he’s an idiot, but in reality, he is seeing the future and the future looks AMAZINGLY LIKE OUR CURRENT WORLD.
HATTIE, 28, his wife. Since it’s the 1880’s, she’s been cleaning up other people’s shit since she was 4 years old. She wants her kids tough, to have a good laugh at the end of the day and to never have to cook again.
THEIR KIDS: HELEN, 12, warrior big sister; CLARK, 10, runty realist; EMMA, 9, world’s youngest psychotherapist; Nathan, 7, outlaw; BESSIE, 1, always toddling toward death; RUTH, 7, drowned and haunting them.
RUPERT: 20, closeted (sort of) runaway gay son of the NY Astors or Vanderbilts, fleeing his family who wants to “de-gayify” him.
BONNIE: 28, schoolteacher, unemployably stupid but got the job from her mega-rich, scheming town founder father, MR. BARTLE She’s nobody’s role model and prone to accidents.
JASPER: 60’s, all muscle bounty hunter, tracking Rupert. A monster but completely weakened when poetry is read to him. Falls in love with Rupert in a Beauty and the Beast subplot
SHERIFF LOU: 70, happiest at a good hanging, mostly drunk. Is sidekick to power hungry town founder Mr. Bartle, who wants to “make the town great for the first time.”
GIDEON: Gideon S. Ulysses (“the S is for Sales my friend”), 35, a fast talking mixed-race entrepreneur from New Orleans. Gideon tries to steal (and patent) every invention he can from Kenneth.
CORDELIA: 25, South American prostitute, undiscovered gift for homeopathic medicine and a weakness for all things cowboy. She and Rupert are the town outsiders, and enjoy a connection only the truly ostracized can have.
BILLINGSLY: 30, Rupert’s dead black English gay lover, appears in visions to Kenneth when he wears the dead man’s hat.
THE WEATHER AND THE LAND: The varying climate and country surrounding them are a huge influence on the stories and people of Home on the Range.

Overall Tone….To give you a feel for the show…

The theme song for Home on the Range is the vibrant David Byrne version of Cole Porter’s “Don’t Fence Me In"

“Give me land lots of land and starry skies above. Don’t fence me in…”

Like Cole Porter, all our characters are asking for the freedom to be who they want to be. The land is wide, but the thinking is narrow. Except for Kenneth --he’s got wanderlust of the mind, and it is infectious. Are the people around him changing, is it because of his outlandish thoughts, is he gathering like-minded people, or is it just the nature of this one spot on earth where things are different. Kenneth innocently picks up every aspect of his life (people included), turns it upside down, sees how it works, and sees how it could work better (like how bout a Target, seatbelts, Lamaze, 7 Step – heck make that a 12 Step Program, magic markers, speed dating, nail guns, etc).

CHARACTER/TONE EXAMPLE: Kenneth, after taking dead Billingsly’s hat in the pilot, is then haunted by him every time he wears it. Billingsly appears as a sort of Ghost of Gayness Past, giving little weird glimpses into how in the world he became a macho gay frontiersman. As Kenneth starts resenting the hat, he also can’t stop wearing it. He doesn’t tell anyone, only hints that “a hat can apparently tell a lot about a person.” It’s making him wonder what being a man really means.


What Makes the Red Man Red Kenneth wakes up from a dream about dead Billingsly to an Indian raid at his house. Helen traps a savage in the meat smoker, and Hattie and Kenneth argue about the term “savage” while Emma communicates with the warrior in Art Therapy. Kenneth gets dehydrated and has visions of dead Billingsly when wearing the dead man’s hat- we begin to find out how he came to love Rupert and their version of the Wild West. A neighbor family is moving away because of Indians -- prairie “realtor” Gideon S. Ulysses excitedly walks Kenneth thru the “hot property,” savages have already burned it down, low risk of a second Indian burn! Gideon snakes one of Kenneth’s forward-looking ideas to patent it out from under Kenneth. Rupert distracts the children from Indian fears with an Old West musical parody of Sound of Music. Helen and the savage form a bond, she sets him free. Jasper and the whore Cordelia send a wire East that Jasper has found his bounty Rupert, but since he can’t write he misspells found as “fond,” confusing the wealthy and waiting Vanderbilts/Astors.

Sex Laws and Videoslates Kenneth invents carpooling and gender fluidity. Nathan rejects school and runs off to join an outlaw gang. Clark is painting a fence and meets journeying Mark Twain. He offers hungry Twain some huckleberries. Jamboree at the school and no way to record it, Kenneth envisions video, and Las Vegas. Nathan returns, shaken from outlaw encounter and reveals his true fear – that he will be washed away and lost just like his favorite twin sister.

Bed, Bath and Beyond How dirty is too dirty? How’s your skin looking in 1881? How good a night’s sleep did YOU get sleeping on a canvas bag full of straw stretched across box spring ropes? The characters all battle with no such thing as a good night’s sleep, leather-like sun damaged skin (sunbonnets, the old west 50 spf sunblock) and what Sunday church would smell like after a month of harvesting the fields with no showers or deodorant.

Death Becomes Her/Truth or Dare People die at 35 – life’s so short, what do you most want to do before you die? Clark, Emma, Nathan and Helen start a game of daring all the kids at school to do dangerous stuff (picking up snakes, challenging a buffalo, going into an abandoned well). What is your life worth, and why is it worth living if it’s so short anyway? Kenneth and Hattie discuss midlife crisis, which happens at about 18 yrs old. Nathan haunted by nightmares of crossing the creek on their wagon train, and not being able to save their drowning sister Ruth. Kids talk about ghosts, and heeding their messages.

I’ve Been Working on the Railroad/Wright Brothers Kenneth and Clark are putting down railroad track alongside Chinese – one Chinese family is trying to claim their land and not being “seen” as landowners. Kenneth envisions vending machines, soda fountains, fast food, interracial marriage and Panda Express. Inspired by transportation, Clark and his brother try to invent the airplane, but they are the wrong Wright brothers.

Love and Marriage Hattie is helping at a messy childbirth and Rupert steps in as midwife. Kenneth invents Lamaze and marriage counseling (shootouts encouraged). Hattie takes in a pregnant teen, notices that Bonnie the teacher needs to meet some local men. Kenneth invents speed dating, and #Me Too.