DEVELOPMENT – A Psychic’s Game
When my fellow Producers and I aren’t producing TV shows, we’re developing show concepts for cable networks. Development can be tricky, though. You have to watch current TV trends, be in the Pop Culture know, educate yourself on what is rating, what’s not and why, nurture relationships with people who can green light your idea and… be a little psychic.
Cable programmers usually schedule their shows 12 – 18 months out. Although there are exceptions, this means that the shows we’re watching now were put on their calendars a year or more ago, which can also mean they were in production 6 months before that! So when my friends give me ideas (oh, and they do), saying, “I just saw the premiere of ABC’s new dramedy GCB! YOU guys should do a reality version of that!” Great idea, Sally, but if it’s already on the air and YOU (no offense) had the bright idea, guess what? I can guarantee you there are 5 versions of that show already in production, as we speak. And from what we hear, there really are.
Last year, one of our Psychic (I mean Producer) friends at a major network asked AMS Pictures to do a little research on real Good Christian B****es, as in the book of the same name by Kim Gatlin. Although several people at his network balked, we agreed that this could make for an interesting docu-series.
Similar to sex, religion had been a taboo subject for mainstream cable nets – they just didn’t want to go there. But my Psychic Friend and I discussed how this would be the lighter side, without poking fun at Christianity at all. We could show the fascinatingly contradictive lifestyles that co-exist in a somewhat black and white culture. Plus, I’m a believer in the old adage “controversy equals ratings.” So if people became miffed… well, at least they were watching. I went on to find colorful Texas Christians who had all the right TV qualities: they were moms, wives, attractive, opinionated, witty, candid and faithful women… who also did and said things that would make your jaw drop! We were edgy and ahead of the curve – or so we thought.
By the time we pitched the cast 3 months later, other Psychics (I mean, Producers) were coming out of the wood-work with their casts! And the networks – who just a few months earlier weren’t touching the subject – were buying. It was like bees to a desert flower – one bee got a whiff of something sweet in an otherwise barren landscape and the other bees swarmed in to see what all the buzz was about.
The channels are filled with shows that other producers have developed and pitched in some form or fashion. No idea is sacred. A green light requires all the stars to align: timing, budget, timing, cast, timing… and all the network gate-keepers to be on your same psychic wavelength.