How the Pilot Process Can Make You Crazy

You know you’ve made it when you join the ranks of those bitching about the horrors of pilot season. What’s there to bitch about? Ask the man who knows:

pilot-seasonby Ken Levine

Now we’re getting down to it, pilot-wise. The last pilots have been delivered and networks are cobbling together their upcoming season. It used to be exclusively their Fall season but now they pretty much order all the shows they plan on rolling out throughout the course of the year – Fall, Mid-season, Early March (slim chance of renewal), Late March (no chance – just schedule fodder), and Summer.

The scene shifts to New York where all the big decisions are made. A highly respected agent once said, “Everything turns to shit over Mississippi.” He’s right. Shows that network execs were excited about in LA seem to lose their luster. The testing has come back. Someone higher up doesn’t like it.  Other pilots have now come in they like more.  The network wants to shoehorn an actress into the show, the showrunner balks, quits or is fired, and now there’s a mad scramble for a new showrunner. Negotiations for license fees get complicated. Power agents, showrunners with clout, and studios lobby for the best time slots. Networks waffle on what direction they want their Fall season to take. Add another hour of comedy? More drama? Move comedy out of Wednesday night?

How do the new pilots mesh with existing shows? What’s a compatible lead in? And then there’s counter-programming. Is this the year you can topple THE VOICE? And if so, with what? Is THE BLACK LIST vulnerable? Have they run out of cities to tack onto NCIS?

If you’ve got a horse in this race it can make you CRAZY. Rumors swirl hourly. You read the on-line industry trades and shows are on the schedule, then dead, then a strong candidate for mid-season, then maybe another network is interested if the first one passes, then that option flames out, then they’re alive again at the first network.

Read it all at Ken Levine’s superlative blog