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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A friend of mine posted the above on Facebook, and I thought it was interesting. I was in a meeting a few weeks ago with a production executive friend of mine, talking about a serial drama I was pitching. Canadian networks are notorious for not wanting serial dramas, and I knew that -- this was just something I felt was too close to my muse not to pitch anyway. She informed me that US networks are now even more chary of serial dramas than Canadian ones. They don't want DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES. They don't want LOST, to name two hit series.

(Needless to say, they're not looking for MAD MEN, either, which in spite of its critical success gets tiny numbers on a cable channel.)

This is depressing for those of us who love to write serial dramas. But you see the danger in mounting a serial drama. Most new TV series get cancelled. So as a viewer, if you have to choose between a new episodic drama and a new serial drama, why not choose the episodic one? At least you'll get an hour of satisfying mac'n'cheese television. If you give your heart to a serial drama and it's dumped after six episodes, there's six hours of your life gone, or so it feels.

I tend to suspect that part of the problem is that a lot of serial dramas are so watered down by network execs wary of mythology and complex story lines. If you're going to mount a serial drama, you can't try too hard to make it episodic. You're going after the audience that's willing to give their heart to some characters and their arcs. You have to give them the serial goodies. GOSSIP GIRL is all nothing but soap opera, and it seems to do okay.

It does seem to me that network television is driving itself into a rut. CBS doesn't want to hear any pitches that don't include a cop solving crimes, or so I'm told. You'd think in a 500 channel universe there'd be more room for story telling, not less; and story telling, after all, is one of the cheapest special effects you can buy. But that's not where the networks live these days.

I guess that's why, while I am pitching a bunch of episodic shows this year, all my current go projects seem to be features...



Which is why you do these things as six-packs of self-contained stories aka The Brit model.

Then you have something that stands alone if it fails (to eventually make up its financing through overseas sales as a mini-series) or launches the next 'saga' in the series.

By Blogger Cunningham, at 1:22 PM  

Or you go with alternate platforms, like a self funded, 6 part web series that is entirely story/character driven. Fund it and create it yourself. Fail a few times, then hit your stride as the shift finally hits the long tail and people are ready to invest themselves in serials on their phones/computers/ithings.


By Blogger beingbrad, at 1:44 PM  

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