Thursday, April 04, 2013

These are the pilots they're making this year

In a mission far more dangerous than anything they’ve tried on COVERT AFFAIRS, THE AMERICANS, HOMELAND, 24, or CUPCAKE WARS, I managed to obtain the official list of this year’s pilot pick-ups. I was only able to read it once before having to eat it for security reasons. But I took notes – in Klingon of course, as a necessary precaution in case they fell into the wrong hands. One can’t be too careful when it comes to pilot loglines.

So at great personal risk to me, here is what the networks are generally developing for the 2013/14 season:

A hundred variations of a single-parent struggling to maintain their career while raising an insufferable sitcom-one-liner-joke-machine precocious kid.

Groups of thirtysomethings trying to navigate the dating scene. Barney Stinson meets FRIENDS.

Every other pilot is about parents moving in with their kids or kids moving back in with their parents. And the parents are always overbearing and outspoken.

Every workplace has an obnoxious mean boss.

Another big trend is loosely-based autobiographical accounts of dysfunctional families. Playing the diversity/alcoholic/mental illness card to delight and touch you.

And then there’s…

SEX IN THE CITY with divorced men, SEX IN THE CITY with older women.

Fathers and daughters working together. (JUST SHOOT ME but… well, it is JUST SHOOT ME.)

Adaptations of books, mostly dating books.

Loose cannon shithead must raise a precocious kid. ONE AND A HALF MEN.

So much depends on the execution and for all I know a few of these are great. America’s next classic sitcom could be buried in there somewhere. So I’m withholding any judgment…

BUT….

This is the actual logline from one of the ordered pilots:

A single-camera comedy that follows Kimmie and her two best friends, who make it a priority to eat pizza in their pajamas and watch a movie before their strict midnight bedtime every Friday.

I dunno. I somehow can’t imagine that premise supporting 100 episodes. But I could just be jealous because I didn’t think of it.

Now remember – none of this you heard from me… including best of luck to all of you who have pilots in contention!

20 comments:

Jim S said...

Friday question: What did you think of Justified this season. I thought it was great. Larger question, is it me or is television, when it's good - a big caveat I know - just about the best thing arts-wise out there? We have Justified, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, just to name three dramas, that are flat out awesome. I don't see movies, plays or books, hitting the high notes the way these shows do. Are we in a true "golden age" of tv just before Netflix and Hulu put TV out of business?

Brian McClain said...

This doesn't include the Spy pilot, does it? Because I'm excited for that one

Rebecca said...

Friday question perhaps? Most of those pilot premises do sound cliche and boring, but if you are hoping to sell a pilot, does it make more sense to go with a forumula, since it sounds like that's what the networks are buying? I think if my objective were to get a show on the air, I would go with the safest premise I could think of. It seems like you need to earn your way into doing an original show, and the only way to do that is to have a hit under your belt. And the only way to get a hit under your belt is to sell your script...

Oh, and another Friday question. What do you think of some of these YouTube TV series, like Awkward Black Girl or even Dr Horrible? I guess I feel like if you are just starting out and you want to be original you are better off self-publishing online, but if you want to land on a network you better be dull.

Mac said...

i dunno... there's a lot of different pizza toppings. There could be numerous gripping story-lines about whether they go with the pitted olives or not.

Then there's a new drama from the maker of House, featuring British comic Hugh Laurie as a brilliant but curmudgeonly doctor with a complex private life.

This one is called Doubt, featuring British comic Steve Coogan as a brilliant but curmudgeonly lawyer with a complex private life.

Ed said...

You know Klingon??!!!

Mary Stella said...

Ken, did you see TV Guide's The 60 Year Anniversary of TV issue? In it they asked several industry VIPs questions about their favorite shows, which shows influenced them, etc. Cheers, M*A*S*H, Mary Tyler Moore show were among those mentioned.

Borrowing two of the questions asked in that article, I'd like to know what shows influenced you the most in television and how, and what's your dream three-hour night of television, including any shows from any decade, including now.

Victor Velasco said...

Years ago, I saw a book with plot synopses of pilots that never made it to air. or, were burned off in the summer. There were so many interesting premises. What are some of the more interesting or intriguing pilots you've seen or been associated with that never made it?

Tim W. said...

"A hundred variations of a single-parent struggling to maintain their career while raising an insufferable sitcom-one-liner-joke-machine precocious kid."

Oooh! I can't wait to see that one. It sounds awesome!

Eric J said...

I can understand how a professional sitcom pathologist such as yourself would be interested in these specimens, but why in hell would anyone still be watching ANY new sitcom?

I can remember the days of summer rerun doldrums waiting impatiently for the new season in September. Now? I'd much rather watch a MASH prank episode for the 100th time. Maybe even baseball.

Bill Taub said...

That's why the networks are going extinct. Wait. This is just the start. Wait until you see what they do to the script, then the casting, and post-production. The logline will be the best part of it. Zero Hour was a pretty good script until ABC got a hold of it...

Anonymous said...

I knew we were in trouble in 1993 when I saw my first pair of jeans at a network meeting.

Anonymous said...

To "eat pizza in your pajamas." Didn't I already make a joke just like that about shooting elephants in my pajamas? And I thought MY gags were old. -- GROUCHO

Anonymous said...

Again, I will be watching little, if any, net work televsision.....

Frederick said...

The demographic group that TV programmers are finely focused on is 25-54 female. I'm way out of the age bracket, and last time I checked I wasn't female. The networks don't care if I watch it or not, and that's OK with me.

Here's the sad part, though...my teenage kids have absolutely zero to do with television. Nothing. They don't watch it, don't know what's on, don't care about it, and all their friends have a similar apathy. At least they'll listen to some FM radio in the car, but I fear that TV is taking the slow boat to oblivion.

BigTed said...

It's funny how many recent sitcoms have started out seeming bad or based on a tired premise and turned out to be pretty good: "Happy Endings" ("Friends" plus the misanthrope of "Seinfeld"), "New Girl" (three dudes and a manic pixie little lady), "The Neighbors" ("The King of Queens" meets "Third Rock from the Sun"), etc.

I guess the lesson is that good writers and a talented cast can turn any situation into something funny. (Of course, the opposite is also true.)

Wayne said...

My wife used the WGA mental health benefits when she had a clinical depression. It covers both talk therapy and chemical therapy. When we went to dinner with another couple, I found I was the only one at the table not on a tranquilizer.

They work because depression is sometimes more related to body chemistry than life events.

I just read Sidney Sheldon memoir The Other Side of Me. (it's better than his novels.) He describes his lifelong battle with bipolar manic depression. When he was 19, he stole pills and was going to kill himself when his dad walked in and figured out what Sheldon planned to do. The dad said "you can do it, but you'll miss what's on the next page."

Sidney Sheldon said it better. I don't have the book here. It was from the Burbank library. If you get it, I guarantee you a great read.

cadavra said...

A friend who once starred on a network series opines that the beginning of the end was FRIENDS. It was such an enormous success that the networks, especially NBC, decided that it needed to be replicated ad infinitum, without stopping to think that it might have been lightning in a bottle. (The six stars had previously amassed about 15 flops among them, and IIRC, Aniston was cast in second position behind a short-lived CBS sitcom called MUDDLIN' THROUGH.)

And thus we get endless unfunny sitcoms about superhot people aged 24-32 who spend most of their time either having sex or talking about having sex. Jokes are non-existent and personalities less so. And they average about 2 million viewers and are quickly cancelled, even NBC, where 2 million is usually a success as long as they're all in The Demo.

And they will never, ever learn...

chuckcd said...

Too bad there isn't one about a man whose wife is kidnapped, and he is trying to figure out a set of clues in a Da Vinci Code/National Treasure style to find her.

Oh yeah, there was one, but Zero Hour was cancelled.

Brent said...

Ken, sorry to post this on a week-old blog entry, but it seems on topic here and I didn't want to put this in the Annette Funicello post.

I was reading Bill Simmons' mailbag over at Grantland, and this one paragraph just killed me. In the laughing my ass off sense. Here it is.

"And by the way, NBC? You can always just run back shows that you KNOW already worked. Kevin Wildes and I have spent multiple Half-Baked Ideas podcasts pitching a Cheers remake set in Chicago, only this time, Sam Malone is a former alcoholic star Blackhawks defenseman played by Vince Vaughn. Like that show isn't immediately going no. 1? And why wouldn't L.A. Law and ER just come back for a different generation? That could be your identity, NBC.

NBC … We bring back shit we know you like."

It would have to be better than the crap they are foisting on the viewing public now. Think you and David could sell that pilot?

Miss you on the M's broadcasts.

Regards.

James Tillery said...

Ken-

Is the 3 Broke Girls and a Pizza Place that you mention a variation on "Super Fun Night" where Rebel Wilson and friends go on a "funcomfortable quest" to make Fridays super fun?

I couldn't tell if this post was a complete joke or not until I checked out HR's definitive list of competing pilots for 2013. Vomit worthy.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/tv-pilots-2013-complete-guide-413377