Saturday, August 11, 2007

What I'd be pitching

I've got a lot of time for Michael Grade. He's a very savvy guy. So if he says he wants returning 14 part series you'd be a mug not to be pitching those.
But if you are a new writer I'd avoid pitching cop, doc and legal unless you have a spectacular twist. Plenty of gnarled wizened veterans are already pitching those genres and the biz being what it is they are far more likely to go with them than you.

I think you have to aim for something that is 'different' but not waaaaay out there. We're talking prime time remember, so it has to be something a mass audience can connect with. Apparently the latest buzz word from Network Centre is 'clear concept' I'm not sure what that means. It is either High Concept's younger brother or comes from someone who doesn't understand that High Concept is Clear Concept by it's nature.

Okay if you take cops docs and legal out of the equation that can be both a bit scary and quite exhilarating. Yes they are the usual suspects for returning series but aren't we all getting a little bored with them? At least in the cosy chintzy way we tend to do them here.

The Americans do this kind of thing really well. Largely down to the writer's room system in my opinion. But we are where we are, so what makes a good returning series? Essentially it is empathetic characters in a situation that gives the opportunity for many ongoing stories. Lots of 'good'' ideas will never make a returning series mainly because the concept gives rise to a finite story. Hence the reason cops docs and legal are so popular. But if you look outside those genres there are lots of other ways you can go.

Shows like Lost, Battlestar Galactica, Heroes, The Sopranos, Doctor Who, Six Feet Under, Spooks, My Name Is Earl and Entourage are all great examples of this. They have ''legs'' as they say and went to multiple series with no difficulty.

But writing is the easy part of the business. Ideas are the hard part. Good ideas I mean. Bad ideas are ten a penny. I'm always slightly alarmed when a new writer tells me they have a ton of great ideas waiting to be written. I think a bit of analysis rather than enthusiasm would save them a lot of time. Because most of them won't be great ideas. A lot of them will be concepts that Dev Execs have already seen time and time again. A lot of them will only be good in the writer's head because they have some personal connection with it. A lot of them won't have 'the legs'' to last a movie never mind a TV series.

So if you are about to consider coming up with ideas for a returning series, remember the legs.