Every year a slew of new television shows are introduced to the airwaves, and after they battle in the arena of public opinion only a few end up in the long haul. Even then, some last longer than others. But how do they get there in the first place? How does a pilot get the chance to see the light of day?
It all starts with an idea, of course. Whoever is responsible for creating the show has to choose a genre, or category, that their show is going to fit into. This could be science fiction, legal drama, cop drama, or any number of other niches a show could be defined by. What is the show’s meaning, or message, that it should get across? Obviously, when creating a show it would be prudent to come up with an idea that could be extrapolated into multiple seasons to maximize running time. Characters need to be designed and integrated into the plot, and they need to be interesting and inspire some degree of empathy in the target audience. Overall, the idea needs to be genuinely engaging.
After the idea has sufficiently grown, and it’s ready to be pitched to those who could possibly pick it up for air, it’s important to protect this idea. Get it copyrighted, and make sure people know it. Once this is done with, its time to write a pilot episode. This is the first chance an idea has to really stretch it’s legs, and people who don’t know anything about the show will get an idea of what the story is about, what the show’s message is, and who the characters are as people.
Once the pilot is done, or perhaps simultaneously to writing it, the next thing to take care of is the show’s “bible.” The bible will serve as an outline of what is going to happen in the show during the season, both with the characters specifically and with the overall story arc. Make sure this is really tight, and looks good enough to pitch to a producer.
Once this entire process is done, its time to pitch the show. The idea is shopped around to producers, and may be entered in contests and the like for greater exposure, until it is finally accepted by someone. If it’s picked up by a network, its produced and aired. If ratings are good, it stays.