I've been talking about my pilot with people, and I think I've come to some important conclusions:
1. Go there. And not just in the racy Degrassi-tag-line-esque ways. I talked once before about having your characters make big choices, and I think it's also important to remember that your characters can make big mistakes. Sometimes big shit happens that's out of our control. Natural disasters. Deadly diseases. Accidents. But what I find much more interesting is when people make big choices and mistakes all on their own - and then we get to watch the ramifications unfold. On Friday Night Lights, it's when Lyla Garrity cheats on her now-paralyzed boyfriend. On Weeds it's when Nancy starts negotiating with the DEA agent she's sleeping with. The consequences are sometimes juicier than the shocking choices themselves. I still maintain that it's important to understand why people do what they do - but I urge you to think about going bigger and badder.
2. People - especially family members - can come back from saying really horrible things to each other. On Brothers & Sisters, sometimes Kitty and Sarah will dig deep in their insults. But they're sisters. We know they love each other. And we know they'll make up. So it's okay (and realistic) for them to say reprehensible, regrettable things.