Some new shows you’ll never see

10Nov08

One of the frustrating things about teaching is the grading. In part, it’s because of the tedium and repetition involved, as any professor will tell you. But another frustration is when students do great work, it’s too private, limited to the exchange between professor and individual student. In the past, I’ve blogged student work in multimedia form that was designed to be public. But I want to share some student work from a more private realm: the exam.

My midterm take-home exam for Television and American Culture included a question that asked students to come up with a pitch for a new program, and outline how it fits into the commercial logics of the industry, detailing target audience, channel branding, scheduling & promotional strategies, and the strategy of recombinance and imitation. I won’t share all the answers, but I thought I’d include anonymous snippets of students’ pitches to give you a sense of the great ideas for new programming that’s bubbling out there. All of these ideas are copyrighted by the author, so if any producers see something they wish to option, contact me & I’ll put you in touch with a budding showrunner!

  • “The show I would like to present is entitled Shepherds. It is a situational comedy made for the NBC network and is about two recently laid-off investment bankers, who move from New York City to Vermont to run an organic sheep farm.” Clearly tapping into today’s zeitgeist!
  • The Suburban Amazons: Where’s my Purell? or, The Desperate Housewives get LOST.  After their flight to Hawaii crashes, five suburban couples are forced to live on an island occupied by an indigenous culture. Due to unabashed sexual promiscuity and the mysterious murder of one of the characters, conflict ensues between the individual couples and the native culture. In addition, the island proves to hold a mysterious secret: it’s not actually an island but an elaborate reality TV show set.” I could see this working, but it’s a tonal tightrope to walk.
  • “My show is about a group of twenty-something singles living in a city going through problems with dating, work, friendships, family, age, etc. except that they live in the year 3000, dealing with new technologies that may give humans supernatural powers.” She pitches it as a combination of Friends and Heroes – alas, she offers no proposed title. I personally like Super Friends, although it’s taken…
  • “The proposed prime time television teen drama, Pierce the Knight, will follow the life of a seventeen year old African American basketball player as he transitions from life as a foster child in Illinois to life as a recruited athlete for an elite, and primarily white, prep school in Connecticut. Jon Pierce, the show’s protagonist, who has always dreamed of becoming a college basketball player, escapes his abusive foster parents when he’s recruited by The Knight Academy’s basketball coach and is given a scholarship to attend the elite, East Coast boarding school.  However, soon after arriving at the school he finds himself in the midst of whole new type of opposition; he falls in love with a quiet white girl named Anna whose father does not approve of interracial relationships.” Romeo & Juliet meets The White Shadow, as designed for The CW.
  • “Imagine elements of Law & Order, Mad Men, and House coming together for a new television program on TNT. The result is my concept for a show called Justin ’63. The show would tell the story of a Southern white lawyer in the 1960s who takes cases pertaining to civil rights.” Maybe we’re ready for an update of The Defenders appealing to baby boomer quality television fans?
  • Living & Dying in the 21st Century is an hour-long episodic serial that tells the story of David White, a mysterious and lonely seven-hundred year-old immortal living in the fictional metropolis of Nova City.  Following a freak accident at a nearby laboratory, he loses his immortality.  The series chronicles his struggles to adapt to mortal life, his joy as he establishes personal relationships that he avoided for centuries, and his quest to discover what happened to him.  A second plot focuses on Alice Jordan, a young professional woman, who gains immortality when David loses it, and her struggle to adapt to her new existence.” Kind-of Highlander meets Angel – although I think it would be better if David and Alice fall in love…
  • “Salem Cove is the perfect upper-class California community. Beautiful people, fast cars, expensive clothing, and exciting drama. The community is bristling with excitement from the recent arrival of the glamorous Morgan family, perennial partiers and tabloid darlings. While the daughter of a prominent Salem Cove businessman begins a tumultuous romance with Dylan Morgan, youngest son of the family, the community is rocked by a series of gruesome and unexplained murders. As suspicion falls upon the Morgans, a dark and potentially dangerous secret begins to surface: a long family history of vampiricism.  Vampires are currently a very hot commodity, with many books, movies, and television series having been extremely successful. Currently, the Twilight series of books by Stephanie Meyer is immensely popular among young adult readers, particularly tween and teen girls. This audience is also one likely to flock to a primetime soap opera. The show I am proposing is Salem Cove, a recombinant of a teen drama with vampire fiction. The obvious point of comparison is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which was a similar recombination. However, Buffy also contained many elements of an action show, while Salem Cove will focus principally on the melodrama of the characters’ lives.” Might be too close to True Blood, but this would fly on The CW.
  • “Riding off the wave of popularity and critical acclaim garnered by premium cable shows Weeds and Entourage, my show intended for HBO, entitled The Money Shot, will be a comedy on the porn film industry.  The Money Shot will combine subjects proven successful in similar shows, the focus on a controversial subculture of America, as in Weeds, and the film industry, as in Entourage.  The show will primarily be a black comedy, while also incorporating some dramatic elements, and it will feature around 5-6 main characters, mostly porn actors, as well as directors and laymen of the industry.  Much of the humor and tension of the show will come from how the characters attempt to lead normal lives with normal relationships while working in porn.” I could definitely see this one working, especially if HBO continues to struggle to come up with a buzz-worthy new series.
  • “My amazing new show is called Pollination… an Adult Swim cartoon about flowers. Flowers reproduce often, but it is never thought of as a sexual activity… Thus, if we make that prominent in the TV show, and make the flowers “less pretty and more gritty,” a potentially good tagline, we can run with the big guns of more risqué cartoons.” I can actually see an Adult Swim series about flower sex succeeding!
  • “An unconventional family drama that centers on a young single mother focused on raising her children and making her way in the world. Her primary means of communicating with others is her online parenting blog, through which she has collected a devoted readership of ‘friends’ that help guide her through familial and romantic situations.” The pitch lands it on ABC Sundays and calls for transmedia tie-ins to make the fictional blog extend viewer engagement.
  • From the producers of The Price Is Right: “A new show for the 11AM slot on CBS called Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is (PYMWYMI) – a can’t miss studio sensation for the 21st century. The show will take place in the familiar studio setting, with contestants competing against one another. But instead of bidding on new, arbitrary objects, contestants will guess the value of a celebrity’s belongings and property (i.e. houses, cars, exercise machines, etc.) and whoever comes closest to the right amount, wins the item. The show will be entertaining as a competitive game show, with the added bonus of a new celebrity personality hosting each episode.” A game version of Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous? Love it!


One Response to “Some new shows you’ll never see”

  1. 1 PRT

    Living and Dying in the 21st Century seems almost exactly like the show New Amsterdam that ran last season until the writer’s strike.


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