View Full Version : Serialized TV Pilots
06-28-2009, 02:01 PM
I've had several producers, agents and managers read my TV pilots. I've noticed a similar note: "I really like the writing, but I am concerned about the serialized nature of the show." Now, I've landed a manager with one of my pilots, so I know it's not as much about the quality of my writing. Are serialized shows just harder to sell? What exactly do they mean? I personally enjoy writing serialized shows instead of focusing strictly on the case of the week and sacrificing character development (IE Law & Order, CSI, Criminal Minds, etc.) Any thoughts?
06-29-2009, 07:20 AM
i prefer watching serialized shows because they "hook" me with a cliffhanger.
ok - first: "What exactly do they mean?" - ask them what they mean. they will tell you. then have enough knowledge of how your idea fits perfectly in the industry... and counter their argument showing them their misguided attempt at shutting you down - in a nice way of course.
the success of serialized shows include: 24, dexter, damages, weeds, rescue me, etc... make your list and check the critics' and ratings and see how they rank.
if their argument is syndication or the international market then you must have a different counter to plug your stuff.
06-29-2009, 01:50 PM
I prefer writing serials as well - but serialized one-hours are extremely difficult to syndicate. Which makes them significantly less valuable than any of the shows you mention above - a new viewer can watch any episode of L&O and not need to catch up on who the characters are. Not so with "Lost", "The Sopranos", etc.
Your best bet is to balance storylines that arc multiple episodes/seasons with fully contained stories that offer resolution at the end of each episode. I'd recommend looking at "Leverage" and "Royal Pains" as current shows that manage to pull both off. Note that even a character-heavy show like "The Shield" always had a crime that was solved by the end of each episode.
I know it's tempting to say things like, "I won't sacrifice character development" but that's a luxury that ignores the marketplace. This is a business that made Joss Whedon rewrite the "Dollhouse" pilot to make it more contained. You shouldn't expect to be treated any different - your personal taste is of little interest to buyers.
I agree with Frank. Serialized shows are harder to sell, because they're kind of an "all or nothing" proposition for buyers. With episodic shows, they can air pretty much any episode in any order, drop episodes, etc. without having to worry about the audience following along with the story or missing something. With serialized shows, if you don't take all the episodes and replay them with a semi-regular schedule, the audience isn't going to be able to follow along (which is how serials attract and keep their audience).
I actually prefer serials myself, but can you imagine trying to watch something like Lost or Alias or 24 on the schedule that TNT, Bravo, etc. uses for Law & Order or CSI? In order to stay current with the serialized run, you'd be watching from 6pm-9pm on Monday, 7am on Tuesday, 4pm on Thursday... and trying to keep up would be awful. But with an episodic show like Law & Order, you can tune in at the top of any hour that it's on and immediately get into the story without needing the background provided by the episodes that came earlier in the season.
Other suggestions for show to watch include Psych, Monk, House, etc., where there's minimal overall storyline and they mostly focus on what's happening in the episode. Personally, I like shows like Burn Notice, where it's a bit of a hybrid... there's an overall season narrative that's being explored, but there's also one or two storylines that start and get resolved by the end of each episode, making it just as easy to watch individual episodes as it is to see the whole season in chronological order.
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