A Spectacular Boy by Scott Boxenbaum | Script Revolution

A Spectacular Boy

In 1980 Los Angeles, a 13-year-old suburban misfit boy dealing with the suicide of his older brother and a dysfunctional family dynamic finds solace and friends in the punk rock world.



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MAX BERNSTEIN, 13, is with his family at the unveiling of his older brother Andy’s gravestone- which, according to Jewish, tradition happens one year after death. Max misses his brother- though he wonders why he’s been buried next to the 405 freeway. It’s clear that mom CHARLENE and dad ELLIOT (early 40s) haven’t dealt with their grief— Charlene wants to move on, and Elliot self-medicates with weed (even though he’s in Cocaine Anonymous).

The introverted, sarcastic, offbeat Max, who is about to start junior high, is stuck in the middle, trying to sort his own feelings out in a very dysfunctional family dynamic.

After the unveiling, Max and longtime bestie DOUG LEVINE, 13, illicitly hang out in Andy’s room, listening to the records Andy had left behind. They argue about girls and music, and it starts to become clear that Max is organically growing away from his childhood bestie. Max tries to turn Doug on to Talking Heads, but Doug can’t get into them. And Doug desperately wants to fit in with the cool kids at their new junior high school- The Chads, a bunch of rich mall rats. Doug exhorts Max to join him: “Wear the K-Swiss tennis shoes your mom bought. Stan Smiths are so 1979.”

Charlene comes in. She’s furious at Max for messing up Andy’s records, and for even going into his room. She desperately wants Max to move on, and to not be reminded about Andy. And much to Max’s chagrin, she wants to repaint the room and turn it into an office.

That night, Elliot attends his weekly Cocaine Anonymous meeting at a kindergarten classroom, where he receives a one-year sobriety chip and shares unresolved feelings about Andy’s suicide. Elliot carries a lot of guilt and shame, and has emerging mid-life crisis issues. He meets BRITTANY MAREK, 20, an attractive USC co-ed, and they briefly flirt.

Meanwhile, at the first day at Paul Revere junior high, Max meets the precocious JANINE LESSLER, 13, and she draws Max out a little. But the moment’s broken by Doug’s desperate attempts to get Max to “play it cool” in front The Chads, who are led by obnoxious bully CHAD RUBY, 13. Much to Doug’s chagrin, Max refuses to agree that the band Air Supply is great. Chad ridicules Max in front of the class, and the needy Doug throws Max under the bus.

Infuriated, Max storms out to the boy’s room, where he encounters rebellious, charismatic Venice punk rocker RICH DESSERT, 14, smoking. Rich is the most exotic, coolest dude Max has ever seen. Max doesn’t yet realize the possibilities for rebellion that Rich represents. But he will.

Rich and Max are busted for smoking and sent to the principal’s office, where hippy PRINCIPAL GOLDSTEIN, 50s warns Max against hanging out with Rich and tells him to “smile more.” But instead of avoiding Rich, Max bonds with him. Rich invites Max to a punk rock party in Venice.

Meanwhile, Charlene teaches an aerobics class. Her friends RONNA and LISA, both 40, are amazed at Charlene’s stamina (even though Charlene smokes like a chimney). Aerobics and making cookies are the two things that have kept Charlene sane in the year since Andy’s death.

Meanwhile, Elliot’s going through a rough patch as a real estate agent— his grief, and his partying have made him kind of ineffective. Elliot’s boss tries to push him along a little, going so far as to assign him two college interns to help him stage his listings.

Later that night, Charlene bakes cookies for the school bake sale with Elliot and Max. The family has a positive moment together, until Max asks Charlene if he can go to Rich’s punk party in Venice. Not only does Charlene adamantly refuse to let Max go, but she grounds him for being sent to the principal’s office. Max storms off, and once again, Elliot and Charlene are at odds with one another as to how to raise Max. Elliot wants to be permissive and let Max experience things. Charlene, who is petrified about losing another child, wants to instill discipline and structure into Max’s life.

Later, Max’s teen rebelliousness motivates him to sneak out to the punk show. While climbing out of his window, he’s caught by Elliot, who surprises Max by giving him money and telling him to stay safe. Max takes increasingly 3 increasingly rattier buses to the punk party with Doug, who ditches him when he’s caught by his housekeeper ISELDA. Max feels deserted by his friend Doug, who doesn’t share Max’s budding interest in punk rock.

Max reaches Venice, meets up with Rich, and goes to the punk party. There, Max is overwhelmed by this dangerous and exciting new environment. He experiences the band Black Flag, slam dancing, and stage diving. He experiences drinking and smoking, and meets SHEENA, 14, a cute punk rock girl.

Meanwhile, Charlene finds out that Max has sneaked out. She goes into a rage at Elliot and calls the cops. Elliot realizes that Max might’ve put himself in danger immediately feels stupid for having let him go. At the punk show, the cops show up. Max runs out of the punk house to find his frightened parents there, waiting for him.

The next day, Elliot goes to one of his listings—a probate sale in disrepair—where he meets his new interns. One of them is Brittany, from the Cocaine Anonymous meeting! Once again, they bond and flirt.

The following Saturday, Max hangs out at a PTA fundraising party, where Charlene sells cookies and dad Elliot runs the raffle table. Elliot flirts with a divorcee and smokes weed with her, until he’s caught by Charlene. Max encounters Janine again. He’s about to get the courage to ask her out, when Doug drags him to the raffle, where Max wins a Walkman he should not have won because Elliot’s rigged the game.

The next day at school, Chad punches Max and takes his Walkman, claiming it as his own. After school, Doug tries to make excuses for Chad, but Max isn’t having it. Rich exhorts Max to stand up for himself: “You’re gonna get punched either way. Might as well get a swing or two in. Trust me, you’ll feel way better.” Then he invites Max to another punk show, giving him a hand-lettered flyer. Max wants to go, but he’s grounded from sneaking out the last time.

Later that night, Elliot and Max hang out in Andy’s room and bond over music. Elliot wants to know if Andy had shown any signs of feeling despondent, and wants Max to feel okay with expressing his feelings. Charlene breaks up their moment by bringing up redecorating the room… Max and Elliot aren’t happy about this— they’re not ready to erase Andy’s memory yet. Charlene feels like the odd person out.

The following day, in history class, Chad tries to belittle Max. This time, Rich has his back, and literally puts Chad on his heels. Max gets the courage to punch Chad, take his Walkman back, and run away… until he’s caught and suspended from school.

Later, Max arrives home to find Andy’s room disassembled—everything in moving boxes—and half-repainted. Outside, Elliot and Charlene are in the jacuzzi, arguing about how to deal with Max. Angry at all this, Max decides once again to rebel. He dresses punk and sneaks out of the house, to a Circle Jerks show in then-skeevy Hollywood. Charlene is furious!

At the punk show, all is fun… until Max gets his nose broken when he’s sucker-punched by a violent punker.

All Accolades & Coverage: 

This delightful coming-of-age pilot taps into the audience's warm feelings of nostalgia for 1980s pop culture, while still delivering an original story that's fun, energetic, and powerful. The punk rock scene is such a vibrant and lively subculture to explore, and one that dovetails perfectly into Max's personal journey in the series, as he learns how much good a little rebellion can do. The pilot story also does a great job setting up the series engine, clearly defining the central conflicts and relationships that the audience will come back for week to week. And the characters really are the most impressive and entertaining element of the script. Max is such a compelling protagonist, a complex, multi-dimensional young man full of internal conflict, and rife with flaws and contradictions. What the writer does so well with Max, too, is that they keep him active. He's lost in life, but he's actively trying to solve that problem, looking for a place to belong, and that desperation and drive really makes us root for him. The writer strikes a pitch-perfect tone with this script, too, cashing in on the fun of the world, then surprising the reader with moments of intense emotional vulnerability. The dialogue is also really sharp, with the writer deftly capturing the adolescent voice in all of its angst and hyperbole.

-- The Blacklist

Submitted: July 6, 2020
Last Updated: July 6, 2020

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The Writer: Scott Boxenbaum

I'm a TV writer residing in LA. I have an MFA from USC film school and was a touring standup comic for over a decade. My web series, Fully Formed Adults, has gotten almost a million views on Facebook. My scripts have also placed in many contests. I specialize in comedy and dramedy writing. Go to bio

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