Monday, January 27, 2014
IT'S THE END OF PILOT SEASON AS WE KNOW IT... AND I FEEL FINE! FOX gets rid of PILOT SEASON!, and why that means very little until the Emmys start happening in January.
It's not like FOX has ever really cared about the traditional standards and rules regarding the basic networks primetime rules and scheduling. They've always insisted that their primetime night ends at 10, not at 11pm, which they usually let the stations air either reruns or syndicated programming instead, so they've usually had fewer hours to air programs to begin with. They put dramas on at eight and nine, they've put aside a whole night for animated programming which was long after they started putting on more adult-content animation in Primetime way before anyone took animation seriously for anybody other than kids. They've often many times, moved the schedule around to have their premiere weeks as late as November while all the other networks were broadcasting new programs and competing with each other from two+ months earlier. So it really shouldn't be all that surprising that FOX has decided to get rid of "Pilot Season", in favor of a year-long developmental season, similar to that of the cable networks, especially since they've already been half-scheduling their channel like a cable broadcast for years anyway.
For those of you, uninformed, pilot season, is that weird time of year that's predicated in summer, but really starts a few months earlier where the networks start hearing all the new or sometimes old pitches for TV shows, and then start developing them into pilots, that we often think of as the first episodes of TV shows, which determines whether or not they get picked up for the next season. The hear all these pitches, and then call for scripts for about 70 or 80 of them, many of which, you'd be surprised aren't even written yet. (Besides they usually end up getting rewritten anyway, multiple times) but then each pilot is given a budget, usually cheap, where and then a pilot is shot, which is it's own undertaking, but it's crucial that you get the right cast, shoot on the cheap, and come in under budget. Don't underestimate that last part by the way, there's a guy, (at least there used to be, I don't know if he's still there or not but...) at CBS who's worked there for 20+ years, he's produced dozens of pilots, but never gotten one on the air. Seriously, he keeps his job, because he gets them made under budget. And they're expensive, for the cheapest scripted series, it's easily a million dollars an episode; and that's probably an animated one. (No wonder why networks love reality shows) So a regular series, pick-up, better be worth it for the network, even for just 6 or 13 episodes, it's a huge commitment, and to be sorted out from all those shows, and then put on the schedule, at which point, you're series is probably over-compromised to death, and if it's lucky to get on the air, has to be good enough to stay on the air, to really develop, get good and create an identity for itself, where it can stay and keep a crucial time slot. And the network presidents who can last longer than two years, become legends for finding that one "Friends", in the stock pile of 500 "Whitney"'s.
That's the process, but from a Hollywood perspective, it's those of compromising problems in between that really take the piss out of it. It's also the big clusterfuck for actors of all skillsets and levels in Hollywood, from first-times SAG carders to Oscar winners, trying to get a pilot job or two. If you've ever noticed people who always seem to get TV shows, there's a few reasons; they're usually in high demand, and are the first phone calls for new pilots and shows. There's also something called TVQ rating, a list that's devised and sent out to all the studios and TV producers, that's a little hard to fully explain; but it's basically a star system for TV actors, based on the comfortableness of that actor, being in our living room. It's never released publicly but it's a strange list. These are things that have led to some "defensive casting" in TV shows, where they often cast people because of their demand, as oppose to whether they might be best for the role. For instance, little known fact, Jennifer Aniston was on two TV shows at once in the fall of '94, "Friends" and "Muddling Through", which lasted ten episodes, and she's was working on both at the same time. Probably the most recent incident of such a thing was Damon Wayans Jr. The talented young actor was working on "Happy Endings", the cult-hit series on ABC, which was always on the brink of cancellation. So, when the next round of pilot season came around, he started going to auditions anyway, and putting his name out for work, and he got cast in the pilot for "New Girl". After he shot the pilot however, "Happy Endings" got renewed, and his part had to then be written out of the script, in the second episode, and a new character had to be created and then cast. It's a clunky situation, and it makes sense for a network, to want to do with a pilot season, in favor of the more practical cable model where they're developing fewer shows, all year long, and this can possibly lead to a complete reinvention of the television lineup.
Except it's already been that way. What? Ten years ago, TV shows used to air reruns! Remember that? In summer, so you can catch up on shows you missed while the networks worked on developing new pilots? That doesn't exist anymore. Not the way it used to, now there's new seasons of reality shows and new scripted series and miniseries all year long. We basically develop shows now, for when they air, as much as we do, for season, and networks already did that, when the second-tier pilots, would get enough episodes made for what we used to call "Mid-season replacements". Hell, whole series now, like "Rules of Engagement" have run themselves into syndicated basically being mid-season replacements, now. And while the experiment is taking place at FOX, the other networks are still running on the same system for next year, and the foreseeable future, so not much is really gonna change. Shows will premiere in September, where I'll probably write a song-and-dance about how all the new network shows suck, and that'll be nice for a few weeks until HBO/AMC/FX/Showtime/Starz/USA/Netflix/Hulu.... and all the other cable shows premiere the new season of whatever new shows or popular Emmy-winning shows' new seasons come out.
So not much is really changing from this. Pilot season will still be a pain in the ass, and premiere week will still be disappointing. And who knows if pilot season will reveal itself to be the archaic process that FOX claims it is, or if all this means is that, development season becomes the year-long pain in the ass that leads to disappointing premiere series year-round. We'll be following it, and we'll know for sure, if the network schedule changes forever and the Emmys move to January. Really, I'm calling it now, if it's successful, that's gonna the sign. New shows will debut and air, and network will have a schedule like cable or British TV where series will air series right through, and then they'll have finales, at the same time, new series will then start airing in their time slots, until their seasons are up, and eventually, maybe ten, fifteen years down the road, it'll start being ridiculous to have the Emmy in July or August, so they'll be switch to January, which will only make Award season, that much more of over-covered clusterfuck of a big deal. (That's right, Golden Globe will start being taken seriously as Emmy predicators!- LOL! Okay, I couldn't type that with a straight face, that will never happen!) Right now, there's no chance of that happening any time soon, and frankly, I'm not sure FOX is gonna be that successful. They still have to compete with the shows on regular-scheduled networks, so they have to keep in mind not to put the really big shows against "The Big Bang Theory" "NCIS" of "Modern Family" anytime soon, so, they'll be carving out the format for awhile before it starts taking shape, and the new trend becomes the new norm.
Posted by David Baruffi at 8:42 AM