What’s Selling In TV Now?
Back in the day, if you wanted to sell a television series you took a look at what was successful and did something like that with a little spin on it. If you could do a pretty good approximation of what was already on the air, you had a good chance of getting a job. If you wanted to be hired as a staff writer, you specced a show that was on the air. If you could write a pretty good Law and Order you had a good chance of getting on Law and Order…a pretty good Friends, you might find yourself breaking stories in the Friend’s writers’ room. So what has changed? What everyone wants now is to hear a personal voice in your writing. Want a job on The Good Wife? Writing an episode of The Good Wife isn’t going to get you there. Writing an amazing, original hour show, all your own, will give you your best shot.
Let’s look at some of the shows that have just gotten nominated for Emmies. Once again Mad Men leads the pack. I was at Matthew Weiner’s house one morning picking up my son who is a good friend of Matthew’s son. We got to talking about what led to Mad Men. Matthew told me he had spent years writing on shows he didn’t particularly like or care that much about. And he knew the only way to free himself was to write his way out of his problem. He sat down and wrote Mad Men. A show he loved and was passionate about. And then he went to huge lengths to get it on the air, taking a chance on a network that didn’t even do series. That changed his life.
Then there’s Modern Family. Lloyd and Levitan were trying to come up with a series idea but kept finding themselves talking about funny stories about their families. The stories were personal and obviously the guys cared about the characters. Why not do a show about that? And another hit show was born.
Right now, buyers are looking for authenticity and transparency, passion and an emotional tie between the creator and his or her creation. Delve into the parts of yourself that no one else shares and write from that white–hot center of your core. It is in there that success lies.