TV PILOTS REACH INTO CRAZIER TERRITORY
Edgar Allan Poe as a Private Investigator?
(The Wall Street Journal, March 7, 2011)
(PDF of original; Link to story on wsj.com)
Hill Street Hocus-Pocus?
By SAM SCHECHNER
Cops are packing magic powers. Criminals from the 1960s haven't aged. And a young Edgar Allan Poe is prowling 19th-century Boston as a private eye.
This spring, U.S. television networks are testing out unusual—and even bizarre—ideas for TV shows as the networks look for ways to stand out from a growing deluge of entertainment options.
The five biggest English-language TV networks are starting production on roughly 80 pilot episodes for new scripted shows. By mid-May, each network will select anywhere from a handful to a dozen of the pilots to make into TV series for its fall lineup.
But after turning up few big hits last season, some TV executives say they are working on a larger number of "noisy"—industry jargon for conspicuous or atypical—ideas in an effort to be noticed. A rebounding ad market also is making TV executive more bullish about taking risks.
There are at least five pilots set decades, even more than a century, in the past. Over a dozen potential shows involve magic, fairy tales or explore an alternate reality. And a handful started with crude titles.
"Big concepts became more attractive to us this year," said Suzanne Patmore-Gibbs, head of scripted programming at Walt Disney Co.'s ABC network. "We were looking for something that would break through the clutter."