TV Pilots

Pilots can be annoying, but they are a necessary evil. Every show you’ve come to love has had a pilot. For those who don’t know, pilots are the first episode in a series which are often used as the judge for if studios are going to bring a show to air. Not only that, but those same pilots are often then used to introduce the public to the new show. The point is the majority of shows have pilots and that means that certain things need to be done in order to indoctrinate the audience and prove that they are a show worth sticking around.




Behind the Scenes
Pilots are often, but not always, created during pilot season. Pilot Season is in the beginning of each year from late January to generally April. In this time, shows that were previously in development that were given the go ahead for a pilot are allowed to create the first episode of the show. It is a high stakes episode because it needs to prove itself to the network on which it will be airing. A bad or mediocre pilot won’t get picked up (that’s the hope at least). Once a show has been picked up from pilot they get some sort of series order and then they can take their budget and go make the best show they possibly can for the price.

What They Need to Do
Pilots are designed to immediately bring people into the world of the new show and promise what will come on the show. As I already said, a pilot is also the base of judgement that a network will use to decide if they are picking it up, but it also needs to set everything up. A good pilot will give you a sense of the characters that are involved, the type of world they are in, and an example of the type of situations they will go against. It’s also good when a pilot has the directorial flare that shows the tone the series will have. It is a lot to do very early on in a show. With the need to include introductions and ground the viewers in this new world, it can be difficult for a show to strike the necessary balance of details and engaging content.

Why Pilots Can Be A Bad Judge
With Pilots, everything is laid out in the first episode to begin with. They are often tedious and downright not what the shows actually turn out to be. Thus the true goal behind a pilot is only to leave someone excited about what will come. Many pilots are clunky because they can’t balance premise and exposition. Then there are pilots that come in like a wrecking ball and astound you, but then fizzle out in subsequent episodes. Pilots leave the creators in a very tough spot as they need to show they are worth it, but like mentioned the promises we get in the pilot can fizzle out. Since pilots are not always the best judge we are finding that Networks are increasingly doing away with pilots an ordering more shows straight to series.



Straight to Series Orders
A straight to series order takes off some of the pressure that comes with the first episode. A first episode still needs to introduce and indoctrinate the audience into the world, but some of the grandiose and over the top moments from pilots are absent in straight to series. The idea of a straight to series order is that the concept and beginning development is enough for a network to throw it’s support behind a show before seeing a composed episode. These types of shows are becoming increasingly popular, but they don’t come without risk. The Michael J. Fox Show had a straight to series order, but didn’t end up being the hit NBC hoped for and it has already been canceled. The trend is increasing though, with shows like Gotham getting straight to series orders rather than going through pilot season. One benefit of the straight to series order is the show never hinges on a single episode, but knows it can create an arc from episode one rather than only providing a hook.

Do you typically like pilots?

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