On Not Paying Too Much Attention to the MarketComplications Ensue
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Friday, January 04, 2008

I went to sleep the other night thinking hard in the general direction of a new TV pitch. Not having one in mind, I couldn't actualy think "about" one, I was more thinking at one. Coming up with a new idea is about the hardest part of writing.

What the market up here wants is episodic, procedural one-hour dramas. Unfortunately, I haven't come up with one. But I was thinking that I should try to come up with another show like NAKED JOSH, being as it's the only show of my own I've ever got on the air.

I woke up with, I think, a pretty nifty little idea. Almost more of a territory than a hook. Entirely execution dependent, and you know how I recommend against that. But very close in tone to the show I already did, which means that while it might be hard-ish to sell, it is less hard to sell coming from me. (Which also means that I have an edge in this particular territory.)

Now I'm happily writing away on my pitch doc. (Remember, up here we option pitch documents and then get commissioned, God willing, to write the show.) It's flowing really well. I've already got 8 pages on the concept and the core cast. Remains to write springboards (which are really the proof of concept).

And what does this have to do with episodic, procedural one-hour dramas? Not a thing. I just think this would be a good television show. If I had an episodic, procedural one-hour drama, I'd work on it. But writing something good is always better than writing something bad. If nothing else, it gets you in the door for meetings and reminds people you're good.

And people don't always know what they want. They might think they want one-hours, but if they fall in love with your half hour, they might remember that they could use a half-hour, too. The sitcom keeps being written off for dead until someone comes along with a good one. There's always room for something good.

So I'll take this to market this Winter and see how it does...

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I was wondering if you could define "procedural drama" for me. I mean, I know 'em when I see 'em (I think), but would like to know how they are defined by the industry. My (mis)perception is that it really just means crime or hospital show.

By Blogger Andy M., at 4:44 PM  

I talk about that in my book CRAFTY TV WRITING. In brief, a "procedural" is an episodic show in which the story is wrapped up by the end of the episode. They're usually hospital, cop or lawyer shows. You can watch an ep of a procedural show without knowing the show and get 90% of what you need to know. The antonym would be a character based drama, e.g. a soap. There you really need to get into the show to appreciate what's going on; although ideally even a soap has stories that wrap up to some extent emotionally each ep.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 4:50 PM  

Is a Pitch Document the same as a Package Proposal?

By Blogger Rusty James, at 5:32 PM  

I don't know. What's a package proposal?

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 5:45 PM  

So you're saying that the market wants what the gatekeepers want it to want?

By Blogger Dave Mowery, at 4:35 PM  

Mowery: the market wants what it wants. The gatekeepers think they know what the market wants. But they're not always right.

But more importantly, they don't always know what they want until you show it to them and they say, "Wow, I didn't realize I wanted that, but I think I want it!"

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 5:04 PM  

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