Tinna Jonsdottir was at a low point in her life. She’d been in and out of expensive treatment centers for alcoholism, which had started to take a toll on her relationships with friends and family. After surrendering to the disease, a process that is essential to recovery from addiction, she finally found a program to help her maintain her sobriety, though she still sought to fill a creative void that would help other people in similar circumstances.
That’s when Jonsdottir decided to put her harrowing experience to good use and write a pilot about the kind of thing that people are reluctant to talk about — rehab.
Jonsdottir teamed with screenwriter Robert Lutz, and the two of them began to outline the story together, coming up with a protagonist modeled after Jonsdottir, as well as an entire facility full of flawed characters, which is to say, they’re recognizably human. That includes the protagonist, Avery, a domineering but successful PR exec who gets fired for drinking on the job and winds up in rehab, though the location is never specified.
Jonsdottir and Lutz sent their 35-page script, The Get Well House, off to a contact at Zero Gravity Management, whose story department sent back the following coverage:
“I would genuinely watch this show. I love the idea of seeing the dynamics that exist in rehab facilities. I don’t think there are enough films and shows that take place in rehab centers, which is unfortunate because they’re extremely interesting. It’s fascinating to see how people interact with each other while they are recovering in locked and closed quarters… I really love how the show features two strong female leads and I think the conflict between the two will be very entertaining… The dialogue was natural and every character was distinguishable… Overall, I think this show has a lot of potential to be great.”
The script received “excellent” marks for its story, structure, dialogue, writing, and commerciality, and “good” marks for its characters and title. Both the project and its two writers were marked “recommend,” which is Zero Gravity’s highest coverage tier. The others are “strong consider,” “consider,” “consider with reservation,” and “pass.”
That coverage encouraged Jonsdottir to reach out to her friend Clay Weiner (Fred: The Movie, Blue Mountain State), who agreed to direct the project and further develop it with the writers. The show aims to pull no punches and explore painful truths while asking the question of whether anyone ever truly gets well. The writers are now shopping it at a time when networks and streamers are desperate for material — if not to make it, then only to read something fresh.
“I wanted to develop a show where audiences would see rehab not as a cuckoo’s nest of nutballs but a space where all walks of life find themselves when they can no longer help themselves. Our culture turns [its] back on so many lives who face addiction. Addicts are sent away or shamed, [and often] lose their jobs, their friends, [and] their families. I signed on because I wanted to direct a show [about] an unconventional family like those I grew up loving,” said Weiner, called said it had the potential to be “Cheers 2.0 without the kegs.”
Jonsdottir and Lutz aren’t members of the WGA, and they wrote The Get Well House prior to the strike, but in solidarity with their fellow scribes, are waiting until it’s over to resume pitching their script around town, though the industry is certainly hungry for a good read right now.
But that’s rehab for you. Like this strike, it’s brutal and necessary — and, hopefully, sobering as well.