One of the missions we have given ourselves, Lisa and I, is to come up with new show pitches. Particularly procedural pitches, because that's what CTV tells me they want.
It's hard to come up with new pitches, because all of the obvious, fertile territory is already under cultivation. You have to find the strip of creek bottom up in the mountains that has grown over. It is much easier when inspiration just comes to you. But I find myself coming up on a New Year with a bunch of pitches under option, but nothing to pitch. You always want to have something to pitch.
A movie is a story. It's easy enough to come up with a new movie idea; just come up with a new twist on an old story. It's easy enough to come up with the characters: just figure out what characters you need to tell your story.
A TV show is generally a family of characters. Ideally it is a family of characters who spend their time at a venue: a cop shop, a couple of apartments, the White House, NCC 1701. For a procedural show, it is ideally a family of characters who spend their time at a venue where stories regularly walk in the door
: a law firm, a hospital, a restaurant, a hotel.
That's why there are so many shows about cops, lawyers and doctors: it is not too hard to come up with new episode pitches so long as people keep committing crimes, going to court and getting sick, in so many different ways. A great
episodic episode needs more than a clever new crime, legal situation or ailment. But for a show to reach 100 episodes, you're going to have to hack some episodes out. If you don't have a venue where stories walk in the door, or an ongoing story arc, you're going to really have to work for every springboard.
So we're trying to think of venues where stories walk in the door that are not cop shops, law firms, courtrooms, hospitals, hotels or restaurants...
Labels: blog fu, Crafty TV Writing, pitching
Schools (maybe), psychic (taken), Combat unit (taken), Firehouse (taken), Casino (taken). Traveling do-gooder doesn't have a set venue. Is Private Detective currently taken? How about Theme Park (kidding)?
How about a horseracing backdrop? My gosh - grooms have stories. Jockeys. Owners. Would-be owners. Exercise boys with dreams of grandeur. Gambling winners and desperate losers. Security and medical personnel at the track. The guy at the betting window who buys you a free bet (like one did for me this weekend). The bar at the track where the regulars can be found every day of the season.
There are claiming races where a horse named Lava Man was picked up for $50,000 and then went on to win all the top races in California. (True story.)
There are coin flips that determine which foal you get from the breeder, and one turns out to be Secretariat (another true story!)
There are the crimes of doping horses (legally and illegally). Inside bets. Those who purposely hide their horse's talent to up the odds for a big payoff, followed by boozy, bacchanalian celebrations.
There are intense rivalries among owners, among stables, among jockeys, between specific horses. One day you're way ahead, and the next day you're way behind.
It's got glamor and pathos and hilarity and competition and always, ALWAYS, high drama. ;-)
Okay - send me a check when you make that into a new series. ;-) And hey, if you don't, maybe I will!
Having worked in newspapers, I'm always surprised there aren't more TV series set in that arena. Certainly in the UK, it's verboten to pitch a TV drama set in a newspaper office. There's a perceived wisdom that such shows don't get audiences. The fact nobody ever makes them makes this wisdom self-fulfilling, but such is life, I guess.
To add on to Mr. Bishop's note about a newspaper setting, I'll add that I feel in love with "The Paper" (1994, Michael Keaton, Glenn Close, Robert Duvall...just to name a few great actors). It's a movie, not a series, but it showed the potential of the environment with good characters.
Early Edition was a genius twist on a newspaper story. Loved that show. Still love Kyle Chandler, the lead actor.
Marriage counselor? (Or workers at a matchmaking service?)
Also: I think if you go the newspaper route (which idea I like), it should be a small-town paper.
If you're thinking of something that's closer to being a "pure" procedural, rather than a procedural-ish drama, how about Children's Aid Society workers? Or a walk-in crisis counselling centre? Search and Rescue?
On the procedural-ish end... Backstage dramas are a rich vein of storytelling that can include a procedural component.
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