Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Development hell part ii

OK, so thinking more about development stuff, as I posted yesterday, here are my completely-random-but-I'll-find-some-logic-in-'em list of how to think up a tv show. And I'll try to do one as a go - but a puposely rubbish one so you, dear reader, can't run off and make it.

As Location (x3) proves, title is crucial. [An aside: notice how it's just Relocation, Relocation not x3. Hmm. Discuss] A catchy title is everything or - more importantly nowadays - one that does as it says on the tin. The Boy With Two Heads, for example. Was Hitler Gay? (Answer: no, but it took 52 minutes to get there).

So let's think up a title. How Big Is My Pan? Now the pan could be a toilet or a cooking implement, the show about kitchen inspectors, or eating too much, or giant speed-eating competitions or something. We don't care at this stage.

No use thinking of a great factual series called The World's Dirtiest Perversions if the channel is looking for a 7pm slot. Or, equally, Sell My Shit From The Loft For Some Spurious Reason wouldn't work at 8pm - it's more a daytime show (which already exists, obviously)

Channel is important too - Oops, My Fake Boobs Have Exploded! isn't really a BBC One show (although until recently BBC Three might've been the place). Equally ITV1 won't commission A History Of Bathmats, unless it was presented by Sir David Jason.

I think How Big Is My Pan? (or HBIMP in tellyterms) is a crossover show, daytime or early peak, 3pm/7pm BBC Two / morning BBC One, daytime ITV 1, not C4, 8pm C5, any time on all the various satellite channels.

Presenters are key to any show - although interestingly in daytime they're more interchangeable. Look at the various people who've presented Bargain Hunt, or the 152 property shows. Or, indeed, This Morning [another aside: they're spreading This Morning to seven days a week, with hour-long shows at noon on Sat and Sun... er, a show called This MORNING (clue) on in the afternoon: well done ITV!!!!)

Finding a new factual presenter is the holy grail to a show like HBIMP? There was some bloke in the Guardian at the weekend who presents a series on eating loads of food in the States. We'll get him, or 'a British equivalent' (ie we'll go round the eating competitions - they do exist - and find someone who can be vaguely articulate as they stuff twelve Big Macs down their neck) But we'll need a non-speed eater too, a pair of presenters. Let's say Steve Jones. He's pretty and competent, looks nice, can read an autocue, has worked live, has lovely teeth, appeals to mums and teen girls, blokes and that, nice hair... note how appearance matters here, specially if the other guy is fat and/or lardy.

Until we know what we've got to spend, we can't decide on the format. No use having HBIMP? in a huge studio like The X Factor if we're on £25K an episode daytime money.

Finally, format - content - the actual show. You need a structure, building to a climax at the end. If the show is an hour, the lots of recaps, as viewers apparently forget what they're watching and enjoy the same 'highlight' being show 4 times before we get to it at the end. Ahem.

HBIMP? is a studio-based gameshow where people compete to cook vast amounts of food for the ENTIRE studio audience, so it shows the difference between making catering quantity portions to normal dinners. Why anyone would care about that, I have no clue, a format issue you could rightly point out... er... well, the audience are entirely owners of restaurants so they'd want to know. And us as viewers all go to restaurants, yeah?

Hmm. Either that's actually a good format (and God knows, we need another foodie format on telly ahem) or it's even shitter than I originally envisaged.

Obviously I've done this order to illustrate just why shows on telly might not have the best thought-out format. Some people - good ones - work out a format first then make it fit the first 4 points above. It might involve some shoehorning in, but if you've a strong format idea in the first place it's a help.

Not to point any fingers but some formats are just shite on a stick. I mean, did no-one at the BBC ever really acknowledge that Bargain Hunt has the slight format flaw that people are buying at retail prices and selling at wholesale ones? Hence them hardly ever making money. You could argue it destroys the format - I wouldn't, as it just destroys the PRETEND climax. Like those people on Cash In The Attic, they don't need the money for that long-awaited holiday, they really don't, we know it. Or Time Team - "we've three days to excavate an entire site"... why is it just three days? If it's proper interesting real history, they should be able to get longer. Or turn up earlier.

If you can write a show with a REAL climax, then you're better than most, I have to say. Even Grand Designs fails when the house isn't finished at the end - after all that we don't see the final result. It's like a porn movie where they are at it for 53 minutes then stop and have a chat about how incredible their climaxes would've been if they'd kept going.

Now, where's Steve Jones' number? I can see the HBIMP? logo now, a giant pan.... obviously...


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