TV SERIES PITCH
A soldier is betrayed while on a secret mission, and returns home with severe disabilities and no family or support. Struggling to connect thoughts with words, he’s misdiagnosed as mentally disabled and charged to the care of an assisted living group home. There he assembles and leads the residents as a secret super force strike team, hell bent on vengeance.
Cedar View Gardens: A non-profit care home established to provide a 24 hour supervised home environment for people living with different types of mental and physical disabilities.
The home has seen better days, but it is a well regarded facility, featuring all of the amenities you’d hope for in a group home: spacious rooms for residents to maintain a sense of independence, a big screen tv with a library of movies and books, art and craft supplies, a workshop, an exercise and games room, and a lovely outside garden and recreation area, all designed to be fully accessible and accommodate every type of disabilities.
Budgeting around the home is now tighter than it once was. The current handy man is slacking off on keeping up with the ongoing maintenance needs of the home and grounds.
The home’s small bus provides convenient transportation to outings around the community.
Unbeknownst to the charity that runs the home, Cedar View Gardens becomes the secret home base of ‘The Awesome Strong, Smart & Super Cool Avengers’.
The residents go out on both approved supervised outings in the community and covertly, as part of the missions and operations of a secret team of super vigilantes.
“THE GOOD GUYS”
JOHN DOE (CODENAME: SOLDIER MAN)
A hero, the team’s leader: strong, resilient, resourceful, has troubles accepting disability.
An amazing student and outstanding athlete, Soldier Man entered the military at a young age and quickly excelled. From there he moved into Special Forces. Further information is classified.
Once an elite super soldier, he is now confined to a wheelchair and struggles to find words to articulate his thoughts.
This proud solider is humiliated when he shits his pants and is forced to accept the assistance of a care giver. Angry, determined, he wants revenge. With time, therapy, and fierce determination, his health improves, but never fully.
Headstrong and independent, he faces the challenge of relearning how to trust and depend upon the support of others for his daily survival.
Soldier Man is the newbie at Cedar View Gardens and struggles to come to terms with where he is now, forced to live in a home that he’s been told is for “retarded people”.
In imagining this story as an alternate universe version of the classic 80’s action show ‘The A-Team’, Soldier Man is Hannibal Smith, but younger, and released from service because of his disabilities.
CHRIS HEULKEN (CODENAME: HULKENEGGAR)
Chris has lived at the home since he was nine, and has spent most of the time since his arrival lifting weights in the home’s gym, accessible to residents 24-7.
Chris is obsessed with body building and fitness and has big plans of becoming a ten time Special Olympics champion weightlifter, and then a professional wrestler, and then a world famous movie star with a lifestyle brand of fitness clothing, equipment, gyms and nutritional supplements. He idolizes Arnold Schwarzenegger and is a huge fan of sci-fi, fantasy and action movies.
Chris is a sweetheart. But he also has learning disabilities, anger management issues and is prone to destructive raging tantrums. Do not make the mistake of calling him “retarded”.
If this was the A-Team, he’s Mr. T.
COLIN MCLAREN (CODENAME: COOL DUDE)
Colin has lived at the home for the longest of all the residents. He was six when he arrived, and bonded instantly with the piano in the living room. By looking at him, it’s hard to guess his age. He seems to look both young and old at the same time.
Special ability: charisma and disguise. Colin is a smooth talker and a charmer, and is good at getting the team past guards and out of tricky situations. Colin is the team’s Face Man.
If you are not a witness to his struggles negotiating the complicated steps of being an adult in a cruel world, you may not even notice that Colin has a disability of any kind. He has cognitive and (occasional) behavioural issues, and becomes anxious when things don’t go as planned.
Colin can usually be found at either the piano in the living room (he’s an incredibly gifted musician), or up in his room, rocking up a loud storm on a rack of electronic keyboards. His rocking is often too much for the other residents, so he is often wearing headphones.
Colin’s care has become more complicated recently, as he has begun to express an interest in exploring the options and expressions of his gender and sexual identity. Because his disability makes him vulnerable to being taken advantage of by perverts with bad intentions, he requires supervision on outings.
MARY DUROY (CODENAME: ULTRABOTTA)
Mary is severely physically disabled and confined to a motorized wheel chair. She uses a computer to speak. She is not mentally disabled in anyway. In fact she’s WAY above average intelligence, and is extremely creative, articulate, and very well read.
She has become so accustomed to people treating her like she’s a vegetable that she is now beyond the point of caring. She has developed very low expectations for humanity.
Mary is a whiz at computers and has her wheelchair fully kitted out with tech. She is very independent but requires assistance from a care giver for many of her daily needs.
Mary has a mixed genetic ancestry, and is part indigenous. While she identifies as a heterosexual female, she is highly amused by the premise that if she were to identify as a lesbian, and merge further with AI technology, she would be the most powerful politically correct repressed sentient minority super human that the planet Earth has ever seen!
ERIC INKSTER (CODENAME: NUMBERS)
The ‘B’ is silent. Everyone pronounces it ‘Nummers’.
Eric is autistic, and almost completely non verbal. He is truly amazing at math, but his disability severely prohibits him from being able to walk in and con a casino by counting cards like Rainman. His ability to assist the team by solving complicated mathematic equations, or helping in any other way involving numbers is actually extremely limited. Eric is unable to interact or converse with strangers.
Caregivers are all warned: Eric requires constant supervision or he will wander off.
JENNY CHAN (CODENAME: ZEN-CHI)
Jenny is a very shy and quiet young asian woman with down syndrome.
Everyone agrees! Jenny’s a total sweetie pie.
When Jenny speaks – which is rare – it is always to say something that is kind, and often timely, insightful and helpful. She has a way of saving the day by doing just the right little thing, being in the right place at the right time. Jenny is revered and loved by the whole group.
Because she always seems so quiet and well mannered, authorities never suspect her of any misbehaviour.
Jenny has a crush on Steve, the home’s care taker. Steve is teaching Zen-Chi tai chi. It is Steve who gives her the well intentioned (but some might say vaguely racist) identity and code name of Zen-Chi.
STEVE GREEN (CODENAME: #NOTSPECIAL, AKA: #SNOTSPECIAL)
Steve is the jack-of-all-trades live-in caretaker of Cedar View Gardens Care Home. He drives the home’s minibus, looks after house maintenance, and often takes on extra shifts caring for residents, both in the home and on outings around town as a chaperone.
Steve loves all of the care home residents and they love him: they’re his family.
Steve is well versed at building and fixing all things. He’s a mixed martial arts fanatic, smokes a lot of marijuana, and listens to podcasts about health & meditation, inspirational thinking, and alternative ideas that border on pseudo science and conspiracy theory. He’s lazy, and kind of crazy, but not in the usual ways. He is always training for something.
Steve would be offended if anyone were to question why he hasn’t accomplished more in life, and why he has settled for what some would consider as a lowly position. Fuck you, he’d say. He likes where he is in life just fine, thank you very much. It’s likely that he hasn’t been offered many promotions in life because of his temper. He’s quick into a fight. He’d surely be fired if Cedar View Gardens were aware of his prior convictions.
Steve has himself a sweet set up, a stable pay cheque and a room in the home, with full access to all of the Cedar Garden facilities. His room is kitted out as the ultimate lonely man’s pop culture man cave, with a Bruce Lee shrine and martial arts weapons hung up as art. Steve doesn’t consider his time with the residents as work. He’s just chilling with his homies.
His lifestyle sometimes leaves him without focus or direction.
Steve joins the team in a heartbeat, after walking in on the residents in the middle of a covert nighttime training operation.
Steve does not have any disabilities. The team enjoys teasing him for being ‘low spectrum’ handsome. And he’s in no way classified as “special”, like the residents. Steve’s a good guy, but is not an appropriate or professional caregiver.
ZAPPY (CODENAME: ZIPPY)
Zappy is the resident service dog at Cedar View Gardens, charged with general assistive care duties.
She is trained in all forms of service, and is amazing at performing complicated retrievals and tasks, including guarding the home and calming residents during moments of anxiety.
She’s a lovely dog, if you have good intentions. If not…watch out! She is ferocious.
She was called Zappy even before the team upgraded her saddle bags to bulletproof kevlar with side mounted taser canons.
PARMJIT GILL (CODENAME: THE MANAGEMENT)
Parmjit is the daytime manager of Cedar View Gardens Care Home. She has an office on the main floor of the home, and lives off site with her husband and three kids.
Responsible for the overall management of the home, Parmjit takes care of resident intake, HR, budgeting, securing funding for the home, and reporting to the board of directors that runs the foundation that owns Cedar View Gardens.
When Parmjit finds out what the residents are up to she flips her lid! Her initial reaction is to pull the plug on it all, immediately, and contact higher authorities. But the team are in too deep, and since everything has unfolded under her management, she is dragged in deep too.
Steve and the residents eventually win her over and gain Parmjit’s support and trust. Parmjit is a well grounded and sensible person, and she is very worried about the madness of supporting this thirst for vengeance and unleashing the team upon the world.
Parmjit expresses her extreme reservations and disproval throughout, but she steps up and helps the team when they desperately need it the most. She’s accepted as a full member of the team, although she’s quite emphatic that she is in no way whatsoever a member of the team.
LILA (NO CODENAME)
A pierced and tattooed care worker and labour activist, she’s always just called Lila.
Lila is only middle aged, but she has lived many crazy lifetimes, working and travelling the globe before joining the care staff at Cedar View Gardens.
She constantly checks Steve’s white privilege, whether he’s using it or not. At heart she’s an anarchist, or really wants to be one, and she interjects and encourages acts of rebellion whenever she can. Throughout her shifts at the home she tells the craziest stories of the things she’s done. Lila likes Parmjit, so she cuts her a bit of slack when labour relations around the house aren’t strictly done by the book.
Lila is also tough as shit. Don’t be a dumb ass and sneak up on her in the night. She will fuck you up! She wore her double fisted brass knuckle rings, chain belt grappling hook, and leather arm bands with concealed throwing knives as part of her everyday wear long before she came to join the team. She is filled with tales of the harsh lessons she learned from her alcoholic step father, her years mastering capoeira in Brazil, or her most recent backpacking holiday, when she bested a lineup of fighters in a bare fisted boxing tournament, deep in the jungles of Thailand.
Initially Lila is not a part of the team. But once she finally figures out what the residents are up to, she’s all in and keen to sign up.
“THE BAD GUYS”
Martin is a total dick, and the only one of the Cedar View Garden care aids that no one likes.
It’s pronounced Mar-tan, by the way. As if with a french accent.
He’s very particular about that, and is super snooty about most things. Martin has higher career aspirations elsewhere and can’t wait to find a way out of this job. The team immediately identify him as a potential snitch, and they need to be particularly careful about hiding their activities whenever he is around.
MARK YEO (LOKI)
Mark Yeo was an operations analyst at the communications centre running Soldier Man’s final mission.
Soldier Man suspects that Yeo was in on his betrayal, but he doesn’t know for sure. The Cedar View Gardens residents dub him ‘NO FRIEND’. The team give him a good beating to get him to confess.
Oops! Turns out he did not betray Soldier Man.
The team apologizes, but calculate that this doesn’t make things even for abandoning Soldier Man as a friend when he became disabled. Yeo still owes this debt, one that the team intends to withdraw on from time to time whenever they need access to covert information.
Yeo points the team in the direction of Man with the Pointy Beard.
MAN WITH THE POINTY BEARD
The Man with the Pointy Beard is the villain of the story. When Soldier Man was betrayed he is beaten to a pulp and left for dead.
As his head is bashed in, the last thing he saw before losing consciousness is the fuzzy form of a man with a pointy beard.
The team’s first mission is to uncover who this man is. Then find him. Then kill him.
Abled bodied human security assassins, in the service of the Man with the Pointy Beard.
A central Season One storyline can follow Soldier Man’s arrival at Cedar View Gardens, the formation of the team, and the quest for vengeance against the Man with the Pointy Beard.
Our hero (Soldier Man) has been gravely injured, and abandoned at a hospital. No one is interested in taking responsibility for his long term care. He is released to the care of a non-profit group home for the disabled.
His life is a struggle. Accepting a new life with disability is the hardest thing this toughened solider has ever had to do! He has no interest in interacting with the other residents of the home. He just wants to get out of there! Even disabled, he remains a fighting force to be reckoned with.
Soldier Man has a eureka moment when he realizes the potential of using the other residents to help him seek his revenge. He is slow to realize that his fellow residents are people worthy of his respect, admiration, and consensual collaboration.
Soldier Man assembles the residents as a vigilante super team.
The team trains, arm themselves, and create identities and costumes.
The first mission out leads them to ‘No Friend’ Yeo, and a trail of clues that lead to the identity and location of the Man with the Pointy Beard.
In an awesome building montage of the team firing up an arc welder, making sparks, and cutting through solid steel, the Cedar View Gardens short bus is converted into “The Dis-abler-er”, an armoured battle vehicle.
The team invade the Man with the Pointy Beard’s fortified compound. Taking down his henchmen one by one, they surround the villain and prepare to unleash an ultimate judgement of justice.
At the last minute, the team experiences a change of heart, a moment of clarity about their purpose, presence, and potential as a team. The team do not kill. They just beat the bad guy until he too is severely disabled, condemned to life as a resident drooling in a wheelchair in a windowless closet in the basement of Cedar View Gardens.
The team unites in their shared trauma of conflict with family and society in the circumstances that lead to each of them ending up as a residents of a care home. They share a frustration and rage over how they are continuously discriminated against, forgotten or shunted to the side as if they aren’t humans with equal thoughts and emotions.
In additional seasons, the team earn a reputation as defenders of the disabled, and begin to take on other missions to right the wrongs of the world. The back stories of the other residents and staff are introduced. The team faces the loss of their home as Cedar View Gardens’ funding gets cut. Eventually the team will need to confront the violence they employ, after one of the members is injured on a mission. The team becomes wanted by law enforcement. The team develops super powers after exposure to cosmic rays. The multiverse opens. Aliens attack. They waterski over a shark tank. Whatever.
TONE OF THE SERIES
It’s a strong word.
It’s a word that wields a power.
From the dictionary, under the word “retarded”:
retarded | rɪˈtɑːdɪd |
(dated or offensive) less advanced in mental, physical, or social development than is usual for one’s age: the child is badly retarded | they’re treated as if they’re mentally retarded | perhaps I’m emotionally retarded.
• (informal, offensive) very foolish or stupid: in retrospect, it was a totally retarded idea.
USAGE: In the sense ‘less advanced in development than is usual for one’s age’, retarded dates from the late 19th century. It has acquired offensive connotations and has now been replaced by terms such as learning-disabled or having learning difficulties.
The word ‘retarded’ is occasionally used in this story with intention, and its use is meant to provoke a reaction. This story is designed to be an alternative style shock and awe campaign to advocate for people with disabilities. The first draft title was ‘The Retarded Avengers’, meant as a punch in the gut introduction to the theme of this project: a graphic portrayal of the challenges of disabled life in a society that fears and rejects disability.
Production is drafted to feature a cast of actors with different disabilities. Plot details and character particulars for every character in the story are prepared to accommodate the abilities and disabilities of every cast member.
‘The Retarded Avengers’ is a dark adult comedy that directly and candidly addresses both the humorous and horrific moments of disability, highlighted by the consequences of the extreme violence implicit throughout all comic book inspired revenge fantasies.
The story aims to explore the full spectrum of the subject of living with disability, and directly addresses the use of the word ‘retarded’ in our culture, exploring the power, emotional impact and consequence of its past, present and future use. The story also depicts many of the challenges facing care workers, families and loved ones of people with disabilities.
Is it not a form of discrimination to prevent the disabled from becoming a team of militant super vigilantes? This project provides a timely mocking of a super powered team-up story like ‘The Avengers’, with an alternate imagining of a concept like ‘Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’. The result combines two classic eighties TV story concepts like ‘The A-Team’ and ‘Life Goes On’, with the modern dark humour of Ricky Gervais’ ‘Derek’ and Bill Hader’s ‘Barry’.
How do we work out the difference between laughing at someone and laughing with someone? Can we create laughter with the disabled? ‘The Awesome Strong, Smart & Super Cool Avengers’ offers an action comedy as a behavioural guide of how to interact with people with mental or physical disabilities.
How should one interact with people with disabilities?
Like one should interact with all people!
And with some love too.
Production and development of the story is envisioned as a partnership and ongoing creative dialogue with an established non-profit advocacy group for people living with mental and physical disabilities.