Monday, April 28, 2014
The ultimate decisions will be made next week in New York. Why New York? Because that’s where Madison Avenue and the advertising dollars are. Follow the $$$.
Meanwhile, there’s a famous saying in television. Everything turns to shit over Mississippi.
What does that mean? Network executives originally screen the pilots in Los Angeles. They decide whether they like them and whether it's safe to tell anyone that they like them. Rumors start to swirl. Frontrunners, dark horses, and dogs emerge. The trades and industry websites dutifully spread every rumor they hear regardless of the source. An NBC page is considered a "reliable source."
Working on false hope, creators are taking meetings with writers trying to get a jump on selecting a staff. Three weeks later they’ll be meeting producers when their can’t-miss pilot just did.
The pilots are shipped off to be audience tested. And then the executives wing east. Somewhere over the great heartland word comes back that none of the frontrunners tested well. Or on second thought, certain executives that liked a particular pilot don’t anymore (i.e. they gave it to their kids and their kids didn’t like it). By the time the plane lands the once “lock” is now dead.
Executives huddle with sales and marketing people, maybe a board member or two. Show creators, their studios, and agents fly to New York for a week of damage control, wheeling and dealing, and PIPPIN.
More rumors. You can’t keep up with them. Shows on “the schedule” at 10 are dead at 11, revived at 12 when the producers promise to recast, dead again at 1 when they can’t cast Russell Crowe as per the network’s request, back on the schedule at 2 when the studio lumps the show into a package deal along with another show the network definitely does want.
This goes on for every show for five days. Stars the networks courted a month ago and promised the moon, now get tossed aside like last night’s dirty dishwater. Mary Louise Parker is a God… until 40 cretins in a focus group decide she has a funny mouth and her project is kaput.
For all concerned it’s waterboarding except you get to see a Broadway show at night.
Sometime the end of this week, beginning of the next, things will start to fall into place. Commitments will be honored, cast members the network likes will be lifted from shows that aren’t going to go and inserted into ones that are. And most important – license fees will be negotiated. That’s the dollar amount networks give to each show to produce their series. If an episode costs more than the license fee it is the studio on the hook for the rest. Here again is when frontrunners die and dark horses blaze around the final turn.
So many variables. Are you compatible with your lead in? Did your stars test well? If flawed, is it worth picking up but recasting, re-shooting, or replacing all the writers with other writers who were replaced from other shows?
The key is not to let the rumors drive you insane. You need to save that nervous breakdown for when your show does get a series order.
Best of luck to all. Remember, there are a lot of bars in New York. And PIPPIN is really good from what I hear.
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM