For most new shows this is the toughest week of the year. Week two.
All this bogus hype just adds unrealistic pressure. And every showrunner knows -- as tough as it is to do a good pilot -- that’s nothing compared to episode two.
Generally, you have months to write and polish your pilot. You have a week to bang out episode two.
Drama pilots often have big budgets. And big name feature directors. For week two you get the guy who directed a few DEGRASSI HIGHS and instead of spectacular stunts worthy of James Bond movies you must settle for a car that can fishtail.
And good luck spotting movie star executive producers like Hugh Jackman and Salma Hayek in anything but the pilot. They’d lose their invitations to Jeff Katzenberg’s picnic if they appeared in “episodic” television beyond the premiere.
A lot of pilots are “premise pilots” (discussed pretty much to death in this blog) – they show the major events that set the series in motion. For all the advantages of premise pilots, you pay the price week two. What are they going to do on LAST RESORT? Invade another island? Fire another nuclear missile? On BEWITCHED -- Darren finds out Samantha is also Jewish?
For a while networks were demanding we don’t do premise pilots. So in essence, we were writing a second show AS a pilot which combines the hardest aspects of both assignments. And then our second episode had to be essentially ANOTHER second episode.
People watch the second episode with different expectations. Some saw and loved the pilot and expect the follow-up to be just as good (despite the limitations). Others saw the pilot, are still on the fence but are willing to give the show another try. You have this one last chance to win them over. Gulp! And most people who tune in didn’t see the pilot. You have to get them caught up while not boring the viewers who don’t need a recap. It’s a tough line to straddle.
ee my attempt to catch up on GAME OF THRONES.)
Bottom line: Second shows are a bitch so give ‘em a little slack this week. And Fox fall shows have it even worse. Because of the baseball playoffs their new entries disappear after a couple airings. So when they return they need to present yet another pilot episode. If THE LAST RESORT were on Fox they'd be nuking Europe already just to get you up to speed. Such are the problems facing today’s TV showrunners.
Update: Tomorrow a report on last night's CHEERS 30th reunion party complete with lots of pictures. It's 10:17 a.m. and I just woke up.