Thursday, January 16, 2014
Kevin Reilly says Fox will eliminate pilots
I don’t know if it’s going to work, but I love a network president who’s willing to shake things up.
As long as he’s doing it for the right reasons. What are the wrong reasons? To save money. Remember a few years ago when genius Jeff Zucker ran NBC and eliminated pilots? The result: not one new hit that year. My sense is Reilly is not taking this tack for the same frugal reasons.
You certainly run a risk when you just order an idea or even a script to series. If it turns out badly you’re not just stuck with one hour, you’re committed to six or thirteen. That's a major disaster. Two or three of those and Rupert might have to sell MySpace.
But the good news is if you’re a creator you can plan your project differently. Especially if your project is episodic. You don’t have to introduce all your characters and set everything immediately into motion. You can use your first episode to hook in the audience. Translation: You can make a more cable-esque series.
Often times drama pilots can be deceiving. A feature director is hired, the production values are spectacular, and the results are sometimes dazzling. Then week two comes around and the director is a guy who did a few music videos and the production values are scaled way back. Remember that Andre Braugher submarine show from a couple of years back? Sensational pilot. Meh rest of the run.
In any event, it’s an experiment worth trying.
As for comedy, it’s a different animal. Most episodes are by-and-large stand-alone, and you need to see whether the show works. Has it been cast properly? Is there chemistry? Can the creator/showrunner really write a funny show? You’d be surprised how often the answer to that last question is NO.
There’s no question the current development model is flawed. And wasting money on bad pilots is certainly a major reason why. But I’ll tell you a larger reason: Research. The research is horribly inaccurate and networks place way too much importance on it. When 90% of new shows failed, and they got on the air because they tested well – what does that tell you? By skipping pilots, networks might have to go more on intuition and faith in the creators. And to me that would be a huge step in the right direction.
I'm not a drama writer, but if I were, I'd be running to Fox first with my idea.