Sunday, September 16, 2007

Front Loaded Pilots

My objection to a lot of the pilots we're going to watch over the next few weeks is that many of them front load their series premise. You'll see soon enough; shows in which there's a voice over to tell you how things came to be this way or the teaser is a vignette that sets up the series premise.

Can you remember all the way back to the Beverly Hillbillies and the theme song that set up the series premise? This is a very old-fashioned storytelling technique.



I think the most successful pilots of the new season don't front load the premise. Instead, they slowly reveal it through the episode. The characters and their world emerge bit by bit with twists and surprises along the way. Most of the pilots I've chosen to discuss over the next couple of months do that. Many of the ones I'm not going to write about are front-loaders.

6 comments:

Little Miss Nomad said...

That makes me feel better about the pilot I just wrote (which I already felt pretty damn skippy about, but still...). Thanks!

Stephen Gallagher said...

I'll be interested to see whether you include LIFE among the front-loaders. The main character's essential backstory (jail, suffering, exoneration) is mostly dealt with in an opening montage, but the series' premise (covering his new world, the regular characters, how that backstory's applied on his return to policework)is developed in the hour that follows.

In this case I was happy to have the montage because it wrapped up stuff that I wouldn't have wanted to sit through in real time.

Jill Golick said...

Life's on my maybe list for those reasons. It bugged me that they shoved the back story up front. It could have emerged more organically, but it felt like they didn't trust us enough as an audience to get it unless they spelled it out in no uncertain terms.

But then, as you say, there's some interesting stuff to follow.

I don't know. My nose is out of joint over the way they front loaded the back story. Maybe when I get over it, I can start to appreciate the show as a whole.

Earnest said...

I felt that way about Bionic Woman. It seemed like every scene during the first two acts was jam packed with exposition when all you were waiting for was for the woman to get in some kind of horrific accident. I felt disappointed having so recently seen the amazing Chuck pilot

Bill Cunningham said...

I actually prefer the "Jekyll Method" where we are thrown into the deep end and expected to keep up. Made things so much more interesting...

(and yes, I realize that Jekyll is an anomaly in that it is built on the six-pack model and not on a pilot and "pilot and 12 episodes" model... but that makes it all the more tasty to those such as your Mad Pulp Bastard)

wcdixon said...

Yeah, I hear you Bill...but it's a bit of an apples and oranges thing. Not that I'm a big fan of the front end load, but it seems more forgivable if heading into a 22 or 24 ep order vs. a six ep limited.

It's like one TV critic I read today questioned the 'fairness' of dramatic Emmy series categories where 10 or 12 episode seasons that got a year and a half to write and produce (see Sopranos and Rome and Deadwood) get to compete against 22 or 24 episode season made on the train out of control network schedule. Is it fair? Can we compare?