In the course of my work, I'm sometimes able to attend advance screenings of unreleased films, or view screening copies of TV pilots before they are. It's a great luxury to see some of the new pilots over the summer, because it alleviates some of the pressure in the fall to View All The Shows -- wth luck, you already know which ones you don't like and don't need to TiVo.
(And even after years in this business, I still get a little thrill from the validation that comes with any "insider" invitation.)
I recently sat down to view a selection of pilots for shows that are either not picked up, or not picked up until midseason. 2 of them Canadian-made, so I was interested in checking out the look and feel in the likelihood that I run in to cast and crew around town -- it's always nice to be familiar with people's recent work. During production, of course, there's very little time to keep up with current releases, much less advance releases, so it's nice over hiatus to catch up on favorite shows, friends' shows, and upcoming trends.
The thing that struck me in viewing a selection of this year's crop was how cinematic 3 out of the 4 selections were. Not just in the camerawork and acting style, but in the premises -- I kept seeing stories that seemed perfect fodder for a gripping 2-hour feature, but was hard-pressed to imagine how they were planning to continue for 13 or 22 weeks, much less 5 years
Of course *every* year's crop of pilots serve as a stark reminder of how hard it is to make good television, and how easy a few missteps can make what must have seemed like a good idea at the time into an unwatchable mess. No one sets out to make lame or cheesy shows, and people work just as hard -- and are likely just as excited about -- the losers as the winners
What makes the difference? What's the ligtning in a bottle that makes one show grab you from the first week and make you eager to shout "More show! More show!" ? I'm convinced that one key element is casting -- the wrong leads will tank a clever idea, and the right leads will put butts in seats. But that's only one of so many elements. Messing up even one can drag all the rest down.
Can this things be solved by analysis? Or is this a case where you need to get zen and do the best you can, and then see where the cards land?
In case you haven't noticed, I'm not very good at just watching TV with my feet up. Even when it's not supposed o be work, it turns into grist for the mill.