Sunday, November 21, 2004

[TV] How to Write a TV Series 3.6

3.6 The Pilot [... so this is an addition from that table of contents, yesterday]

The pilot episode of a TV series has quite a few functions, but its most important is:

It's the 1st time people will see your show, so make it a rewarding experience for them.*

Other functions include:
1) clearly introduce the most vital of the main characters (MCs).
2) clearly introduce key relationships.
3) orient the viewers to the tone of the show. What emotions will they experience watching it; what emotion will they be left with?
4) what's the Premise of the show - what's it saying (or asking) about the world?
5) make sure that events just before the 1st ad-break hooks the viewer into coming back and seeing what happens.
6) ... and this is last on the list 'cos it's also important ... what is the main unresolved Tension in this show? What exactly are we watching to see what happens? For instance, how will Buffy handle being a vampire slayer? Will Tony Soprano reconcile his family and his crime syndicate? Will Sydney bring down SD6? (Alias).

The Tension that drives an entire show has to be big (in terms of its ramifications). If the show has a main character - and that's another section to add in - then the Tension is intimately tied to them.

Also: a bit of common wisdom I heard from the Firefly writers and directors commentary: you should think of your first six episodes as pilot episodes. This gives people who are late-comers to the show a chance to catch up (... and it also reminds me of another section to add in, probably 3.1.1 Continuity - Loose or Tight).

*That's basic conditioning theory in psychology. Make it rewarding and they're more likely to return for a second viewing.

No comments: