Son of a Pitch

I have this idea for a television show.

I don't think the small screen has seen anything like it before. It combines the premises of two of the hottest dramas currently on TV and has the potential to last enough seasons to satiate the greediest gatekeepers of syndication.

But good luck trying to get it out of me. I won't leak any details until I get a put-pilot commitment from a network and a shiny Executive Producer credit above my unique-for-Hollywood name.

Learning the ways of Los Angeles, one discovers how to guard one's assets - these being ideas, intellectual properties that could spin several pages of typed dialogue into regenerating, residual gold. Once you have an idea, chances are someone else is already expanding upon it, getting it out to his or her connections who have connections who have connections.

That's why I need to act fast. That's why I need to finish a draft and whore it around town like a starlet ready for rehab.

"I have this friend who created a few sitcoms back in the late 80s and early 90s," a friend of a friend tells me at a party where we discuss The Biz. "They all failed, but boy, he never has to work again."

As I understand it, there are some of those who have had their one idea turn into a singular, well-run success on the tube. One hit was all they needed. Take, for instance, the woman who created a series about four teenaged girls and their prep school headmistress. She now lives a modest life in a Silverlake 3-bedroom and enjoys cruising the Farmers Market every weekend with her cocker spaniel. Meanwhile, her mailbox fills up with paychecks every time Blair, Tootie, or Mrs. Garrett yuks it up on Nick at Nite.

I have to believe that my Untitled One-Hour will be the work that opens the door, raises the curtain, shows me the proverbial money. I'd love to have a network exec kiss my ass, welcome me into a meeting with other studio suits, offer me a fruit platter and sparkling water his assistant had imported from Paris, and ask me to make a few tweaks to the script ("What if we made our heroine a coke addict who got raped by her alcoholic uncle when she was twelve?"). Because apparently TV protagonists, in the wake of Tony Soprano, need to be more effed-up than ever.

Then they would continue to woo me by offering a list of names for my consideration, potentials for my creative team. These are producers and writers with whom the studio has deals; they're the established lot that needs to be staffed on a show before their contracts expire. It's all a part of the splendor that is the politics of television. Write for a hit show or create a moneymaker, and we'll keep you in the family for an indeterminate amount of time, even if it means plopping you onto a show run by a kid (I'm convinced that's what they call anyone below the age of 30).

And I would need to be careful with what's thrown at me - "Here's a guy who won an Emmy for that episode he penned for ER." Yeah, in 1996. "How about this great writing team we just picked up from that cancelled CBS sitcom?" Two words: CBS and sitcom. "Or there's that woman who produced that Lifetime vehicle for Valerie Bertinelli." Next.

Naturally, I'm getting ahead of myself, but shouldn't I be in order to keep the fire burning, the passion alive, the fingers a-typin'?

I must practice my patience and let my work simmer before serving it to an audience for feasting. I'll need to go through the register-and-copyright rigmarole before it's consumed and possibly regurgitated as someone else's material. Because, as we all learned in elementary school when Mrs. Doyle introduced us to the word "plagiarism," there's nothing as soul-crushing as someone stamping their name on your property and taking the credit.

I first felt the burn when I had pitched an idea for an article to an editor of a national magazine where a friend of mine works. "Maybe it can go into your upcoming entertainment issue," I suggested, but alas, having no references or other writing samples to validate me as a qualified writer, I was shot down. Nice try, kid. Why don't you go back to your...blogs.

Cut to: Two months later I opened the latest issue of said magazine and saw a section dedicated to the very idea I had pitched to the editor. Deep down, I kind of expected it. During my e-mail correspondence with the editor I had started to realize what I might have been getting myself into: "Please, by all means, take my idea and publish it as your own!"

Grrrr.

So goes the life lesson. The world is an imperfect place. Screws fall out, backs are stabbed, shit happens.

But back to the keyboard.

I have this idea for a television show...


H.P.M.

2 comments:

Jenny said...

Sounds like you learned your lesson the hard way, so now the big, really important ideas are protected!

Good luck and remember: there's a copy editor in Boston for you. ;)

Tara said...

Easy there killer - CBS has the only currently successful 3 camera on the air...:)