LB: First Thoughts on the 2016 People’s Pilot Entries

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by Larry Brody

As we used to say way back in 7th Grade at Sharp Corner Junior High School in scenic Skokie, Illinois, “Awriight!”

As in, “I am so damned excited!”

Why? Because it’s one of my favorite times of year, the time when I take a preliminary look at the entries of my favorite writing contest in the whole world and find myself – as always – with a wide grin spreading across my usually dower face.

(Okay, so I’m lying about the “usually” part. And the “dower” thing. But I d have a face.)

To quote myself from last year’s People’s Pilot reconnaissance, “Here’s what I’m smiling about”:

  1. Last year, for the second time in a row, the PP received more entries than ever before in its history. This year, we received exactly as many entries as then, which blows my mind because I thought we would come up short because of such things as the economy, the election, and the fact that there now are so many online writing contests that I assumed the field was way overcrowded and something – like maybe the PP – would have to give. Thanks to all of you who entered and proved me wrong!
  2. This time around, I recognized the names of about 30% of the entrants from previous contests, emails to TVWriter™ and myself, and the various classes I teach. Last year I knew about half of the entrants, at least by name, and while that was reassuring, right now I’m very happy that more/newer newbies to television writing are taking their shot at changing their lives (and the TV biz) via the PP. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: “The next time you hear a network exec or showrunner say s/he can’t find new writers, look ’em right in the eyes and say, “Must be because you’re not looking.” You’ll be the one telling the truth.
  3. Last year, we had two categories, one for half-hour shows and one for one-hours. This year we added a third category, for shows destined to run longer than one hour. 30% of this year’s entries are half-hours, which approximates the percentage of such shows found this season on broadcast, cable, and interweb networks.
  4. This year, 54% of the PP entries are one-hour shows, and 16% are over an hour. I find this significant because it means that new writers are extending the boundaries, with 16% refusing to be boxed into traditional U.S. lengths, instead stretching out in a manner more similar to many U.K. and Scandinavian series. Have their writers been watching and been inspired by those often amazing English, Welsh, Swedish, Danish, and Finnish shows? Considering how xenophobic U.S. showbiz has been in the past, this is an important cultural shift.
  5. Most of this year’s half-hour entries seem to be pure sitcoms as opposed to the dramedies that have become popular recently on so many cable and interweb outlets. I don’t know if this is a sign that the dramedies are running out of steam, nor do I know if that would be a good thing or a bad one, but the writers who entered the People’s Pilot don’t seem to love the funny-ironic, funny-tragic shows nearly as much as so many U.S. critics.
  6. Last year, the largest number of entries in the one-hour category were science fiction and fantasy series, at 20%. This year, in the one-hour and longer-than-one-hour categories, that number dropped a few points to a shade less than 15% and was equaled by entries in what looks to be a “continuing drama AKA soap opera” genre. Until the judges and I have read all the entries, I can’t say whether serious drama or outrageous drama – or something in between – predominates, but in a couple of months, when I’m more informed, you’ll be the first to know.
  7. PP entries in all categories have always delighted me with their fascinating titles. This year, I’m especially looking forward to reading the following, just because of their names. (There’s a lesson there that everyone reading this should note: A good title goes a long, long way to helping your cause.) Here, in no particular order, are the ones that are grabbing me the most:
    WHO NEEDS A TUX TO BE GQ?
    JOHNNY WHOOP AND THE BRAIN MACHINE
    TIL DEATH DOES PART US
    SHADE AND GRACE
    BAD PRESS
    CUTTING HEART
    KICKING & SCREAMING
    DUDU
    NEVADA BLUE
    SWING, YOU SINNERS
    HUNTRESS MOON
    PANDORA’S BOX
    MEPHISTO’S PROTEGE
    GREAT KILLS
    VENOM
  8. As usual, we’ve received some fascinating one-word titles. In fact, fully one-third of the entries had them. Some of the standouts:
    DREAMERS
    VENOM
    SPICE
    HOSTAGES
    MATRYOSHKA
    SNAPBACK
    ICEBREAKERS
    GHOSTWRITER
    SUPERCHARGED
    INCOMPATIBLE
    BREAKERS
    PIZZAZ!
    NIGHTMARE
    EXITUS
    ABANDONED
    TRAFFIK
    CAMELOT
    NEVERMORE
    DUDU
    TECHYCARDIA
    INEFFABLE
  9. My favorite title in the half-hour category is JOHNNY WHOOP AND THE BRAIN MACHINE. In the one-hour I’m taken with SWING, YOU SINNERS. And in the over one-hour category I’m most eager to read SHADE AND GRACE. Not that there’s any reason in the world for the judges to agree!

Our plan for announcing winners remains the same as we say on the People’s Pilot “About” page. We hope to announce Semi-Finalists, Finalists, and Winners between mid-January and mid-February of next year.

And, of course, I’ll probably have an announcement or two between now and then so keep checking back with us. Wouldn’t want anybody to be a Winner and not know it. After all, what good is a victory if you don’t use it to make your big career move? (Or at least rub it into those who didn’t believe?)

Thanks again to everyone for taking part and being so talented! More to come!

LYMI

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LB