Important question for when I have a kajillion dollars

One of the things I’ve said that I would do if I won a kajillion dollars is that I would start a television channel. I’d start like many channels do — with limited cheap programming until I could get things off the ground — but the goal would be to create an entire line-up of shows that worked the way I wanted them to work.

I would hire a combination of professionals who I think are underrated, friends, and experts who want a chance to do new things.

I’m a big fan of episodic dramas (not talking soap operas here, but shows like CSI and Life and Angel and Harry’s Law and so on), but it bothers me that these types of shows tend to end one of two ways — way before they should have, or way after they have jumped so far over the shark that they can’t even see the shark behind them anymore. Very few television shows ran their course and ended when they should have. The reasons are almost always based on advertising revenue. If the money is good, the show must keep going, even if the actors are all leaving and we have to get new faces in there and pretty soon the show isn’t even about what it originally was about. If the money is bad, even if the show is brilliant, kill it.

Not on MY network.

On my network, creative control would belong primarily to the writers. (I say “primarily” because any television show really is a collaboration. And some writers start strong but turn out to be idiots.)

On my network, there would be two types of dramas. Those with ongoing major plots, and those built to be episodically contained.

The ones built to be episodically contained (think Law & Order or similar) would basically keep going as long as the writing and acting stayed fresh. When it felt like everything had been mined, the series would wrap up with the best conclusion possible. If this sounds vague and tenuous, it’s because it is — this is, I think, what most of these shows try to do, so I’d have to make sure we didn’t get blinded to our own reality.

The ones with ongoing major plots (think Lost or Awake) would be required to have a fully written concept before filming began — one that outlined exactly how long it would take to resolve the issues raised.

That’s right. No program like that would get a green-light without essentially being a completely realized and specifically limited series.

Almost like a mini-series, but with full seasons. A maxi-series? Something like that.

I would want at least a complete paragraph — preferably a full five-page treatment — on every single planned episode, so that I knew if I was green-lighting a three-year show, a five-year show, or what.

So, my important question for you is…

Am I completely focused on preferences that are solely mine? Or would you also like to see shows that know what their plot is and how they’re going to wrap it up without worrying about adding “filler” seasons or dragging things out?

Talk to me, internet.

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6 Responses to Important question for when I have a kajillion dollars

  1. Andrea Lott says:

    I agree with you. I think some shows can run indefinitely, Law & Order is a good example. Other shows can and should have a finite ending. Just don’t run any “reality” tv, for the love of Pete.

    • strangedavid says:

      See, now, I like SOME reality TV. I like several of the Food Network’s competitions like “Chopped.” And I’ll admit that I’ve been a fan of Survivor from the beginning. I’ve long thought about doing a completely ridiculous “reality” show with our CSz Indy folks competing for charity.

  2. Lummox JR says:

    One of Babylon 5’s main strengths was that it was largely built around the second model you described. It was intended to go for five seasons only, although most of its fifth season story got compressed into the fourth. (You can get a largely complete experience of the show just watching the first four seasons.) Due to realities of working with actors, “trapdoors” were built into the story to allow people to come and go as needed. I’ve always thought that was a great way to write a show.

    Farscape ran along very similar lines, except that each season was more about self-contained story arcs and cliffhangers usually got resolved right away at the beginning of each new season. A typical Farscape season-long story arc saw things start out with what looked like one-off episodes, but with most of them providing some kind of very small hook to a future episode. The first half of the season would have the crew struggling with their new situation, slowly picking things up about halfway along, and by the end of the season they’d tend to get into a jam that required a desperate, insane plan for the season finale (four episodes, though not always a four-parter as such).

    One interesting thing about TV these days is that the traditional model is going through an evolution. This has its good and bad points, one of the bad ones being that shows with a 22- or 26-episode season are increasingly rare; 13 is far more common. With 13 episodes you can’t pull off a truly satisfying story arc–I have never seen it done and I’m convinced I never will. Internet production is in its infancy but getting there; what we’re seeing online are a bunch of productions produced fairly cheaply, but they’re often short and have short runs as well. (Consider the Legend of Neil, 6 or 7 episodes per season with a running time around 10 minutes each.) I remain hopeful that there has to be some kind of middle ground where long-season shows can be produced inexpensively.

  3. Randy says:

    I like shows where everything is wrapped up in 30 or 60 minutes. That way if I missed the last episode, I still know what’s going on. In other words, I’m not interested in following a storyline with plot twists.

    • strangedavid says:

      Unfortunately, you would not like most of my network. However, I am willing to add a show titled “This Is How Randy Wants It” where everything is wrapped up in 30 minutes.

  4. Kagey says:

    My understanding is that British TV works on a limited basis, like your “maxi” series idea. The writers always know they have X episodes, guaranteed. If the show is super popular, they might get another contract, but few shows are cancelled mid-run, and each contract is understood to be its own self-contained story, if need be. I like it better, as a general rule. To get renewed, you’d have to have ideas for a whole season (however long that is), and that might prevent some shark-jumping. 😉

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