NBC's late night slaughter/shuffle may have been a publicity black eye for the broadcaster, public douche outing for Jay Leno and humiliating public execution for Conan O'Brien, but that doesn't mean it's not an opportunity for you, wannabe broadcaster.
The dropping of Jay Leno's five-nights-a-week prime time chat show means that NBC suddenly had five hours a week to find programming for, which means that they're definitely open to ideas. That openness explains the eighteen pilots they're currently considering, as well as network primetime president Angela Bromstad saying that there is a "very good chance" that Heroes will be renewed for a fifth season despite poor ratings. We're not saying that NBC would be a dream employer - We're still sore with them for canceling Kings, and continually reducing the yet-to-be-broadcast Day One, after all - but the fact remains that, right now? They need new ideas. So here's a quick guide on how to make your new pitch more attractive to the peacock network:
Play Down The Sci-Fi
It dawned on us last week that Chuck runs on the same idea of Dollhouse. Before you start throwing chairs and calling us heretics, consider that both shows feature central characters whose brains have been "upgraded" through the use of worrying technology imprinting them with new skill sets. Only one of these shows, however, argues that the use of this technology leads to an immoral road of prostitution and the total collapse of civilization as we know it; the other has cool Bond riffs and Fight Club being re-enacted in the back of an electronics store. Why? Because NBC shows are about people, not abstract ideas that lead a show to get canceled after two short, problematic seasons! Don't believe us? Consider how many times Heroes has promised to get back to relatable human stories instead of going superherobatshitcrazy. NBC has no problem with science fiction, as long as you keep it down over there. On the other hand...
Play Up The Comedy
What's the one thing that NBC does right? Its Thursday evening comedy line up, which generally skews younger and smarter than the rest of its programming. How do shows like Community and 30Rock manage to get away with everything they do? We wouldn't be surprised to find that network executives back off from comedies because they're unsure what makes something funny. Make sure that your show has some strong comedic element. We suggest a bumbling sidekick with a funny accent. That always works.
Make It A Procedural
NBC loves a good procedural. They have three Law & Orders, two medical dramas (Including one uncanceled just this very year when they realized they had nothing to replace it with - That's how needy they are for your ideas, people) and still swoon at the very mention of their much beloved er. If you want your show to have a good start with the powers that be, make sure that there's something about it that implies both what'd happen if someone dialed 911 and that the cast are easily replaceable because, really, the show is all about the story and the setting. Anyone who's reading this right now and thinking "Space Hospital With Comedic Senior Doctor Who Sounds Like The Swedish Chef Off The Muppets, But It's Really All About The Patients, Not The Space Or The Future Medicine," back off. That's the idea that's going to make everyone here at this website very rich, okay? We have a pitch meeting first thing Monday.
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Make It A Reboot
It's hard to argue that the network that greenlit reboots for both Bionic Woman and Knight Rider doesn't know the value of a brand name just oozing with nostalgia, so why not help your pitch by retrofitting it with the title of an old show? We gave you some suggestions a couple of years ago, but that doesn't mean that there aren't there aren't hundreds of other options out there for you to choose to brush off and dazzle nervous executives with. Personally, we can't wait for someone to come up with a gritty, realistic SF take on Blossom. Come to think of it, maybe she could be an emergency room science doctor in a space hospital...
Most importantly, though,
Don't Give Up
NBC doesn't always know what's best for it (See: "Getting rid of Conan"). Even Chuck, now doing well in its third season, was almost canceled during the summer. The cancellation of Kings and whatever-the-hell-is-going-on with Day One adds to the feeling that the network doesn't always know what the best thing for it is, but the survival despite all odds of Heroes should give you some hope that, once you convince NBC of your worth, your chances of success go up significantly. Now, go brainstorm some ideas and remember: They'll have to fill those five hours with something, so why not your something?
NBCFail logo by Mitch Canter.