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Saturday, January 27, 2007

I have a series I've been pitching to some very smart people at networks. They're all quite intrigued by the idea, but can't quite wrap their heads around it, and can't always pinpoint why.

I think what is going on is that the concept seems execution dependent.

That sounds like a funny thing to say. Isn't every show dependent on how it's executed? Well, in some ways. But in some ways not.

Take LAW & ORDER. I could describe that show to you in 60 seconds, and you could go off and create the show by yourself. It might not be exactly Dick Wolf's LAW & ORDER. But it would be pretty close to the hit show that's hived off so many clones.

Or CSI. And so on.

The shows I like to watch are mostly execution dependent. I could describe THE WEST WING to you in 60 seconds, but I couldn't tell you how to make it good. Ditto THE SOPRANOS. Ditto most HBO shows. It's not the concept that makes it worth watching. It's the way the concept is executed.

I think when people spark to this particular show that I'm pitching, they ask, "But how are you going to get 100 episodes out of that?" And I point to the 15 or so springboards in the pitch bible, and I tell them I've got another 10 or so territories on top of those. But they're still wondering: but how is he going to make TV shows out of this idea?

And the real answer is: by banging my head against the wall in the middle of the night. By having a great story room that works their asses off. Not to put too fine a point on it: not easily.

Which is not at all the same as saying I won't be able to come up with the eps. I know I can come up with the eps. There isn't a story problem I've run across in this show -- and I'm two acts into the pilot, with other episodes broken down into acts -- that I haven't been able to resolve. They don't resolve in 5 minutes. They resolve in a day. But they resolve.

But I'm asking these network people to put their faith in my ability to execute the show. It's not a show they'll be able to help me out on if I paint myself into a corner.

Network people are generally more comfortable with execution independent shows. Practically all my other pitches, I could hand off to any of my writer friends, and they'd be able to execute them. This one, not so much.

When you're formulating a spec pilot, unless you have a great relationship with network people who trust you -- or even if you do -- you may be better off with a concept that is relatively execution-independent.

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