One Hour Too Long? - Complications Ensue
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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Where can I find the structure breakdown of a 2hr pilot?

Can I use a two hour spec pilot as a writing sample or is that too long for someone to read for a sample?
Why would you want to write a two hour pilot, spec or no spec?

A pilot is supposed to create the template for the show. It doesn't just set up the characters and the premise. It tells the audience what the show is.

A two hour pilot for a one hour show, by definition, fails to create the template for the show. It may set up the characters and the premise, but it's a movie, not an hour of television.

There are successful two hour pilots, but they're really two episodes that work well back to back. Later they can be shown separately. I think actual two hour pilots, conceived and aired as such, tend to make very bad pilots. They are self-indulgent and clunky. Give me the discipline of a pilot that tells a good hour-long story, and incidentally introduces the premise, characters and world.

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7 Comments:

Not sure where to find a script for it, but the Twin Peaks pilot is the first place I'd start looking for structural tips. It's pretty consistent with the rest of the series, even though it's double the length of every other episode, and sets up the world quite economically. Compare it to the actual Twin Peaks movie, Fire Walk With Me, and it becomes apparent that even at a similar length the structure of a pilot episode still diverges drastically from a feature. Or Lynch just got weirder, one or the other. Good luck.

By Blogger Zack Mosley, at 11:48 PM  

Fringe, Lost, Kings, Happy Town, and technically Heroes (though it's more like 1:17.

You can get those on most script sites, or if you go to the forums on Done Deal Pro and ask around, you can get them there.

By Blogger Nicholas, at 1:54 AM  

Some great TV scripts and bibles here - http://tvwriting.googlepages.com/

By Blogger Neil, at 5:47 AM  

The Twin Peaks pilot is phenomenal, some of the best two hours of TV ever written, IMHO.

But, like Lost, it works just the same if you consider it two episodes back to back (except for the fact that it occurs in the span of one day).

By Blogger tommy, at 11:40 PM  

I think a two-hour pilot either needs to function like a movie, or be so incredibly awesomely great (like Twin Peaks) that it doesn't feel slow in the middle.

Kings would have been better off with a one-hour pilot.

By Blogger Lisa Hunter, at 12:27 PM  

The Buffy pilot was a great two hour opener....

By Blogger wcdixon, at 5:08 PM  

I'm pretty sure "Welcome to the Hellmouth" was a two-parter, re-aired subsequently as separate episodes. As was Firefly.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 5:40 PM  

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