Five things to consider when you’re writing a TV pilot

  1. The high concept of a show is usually found in its character archetypes, not a “big idea.”
  2. Shows are about a family, de facto or otherwise. Show the dynamics of that family.
  3. Most spec pilots get this note: cut all this plot into the first act, explore the situation in the second, third, fourth act – odds are the pilot will be your only time the characters exist, don’t save anything.
  4. Pilots usually work like this: ordinary world (setup character dynamics)/ break from expectations (explore the dynamics via chaos that follows) /new status quo (sets up dynamic that the rest of the season will explore).
  5. Avoid premise pilots. A pilot should feel like an illustrative episode of the series, not a completely separate story that fails to set up what you find interesting about the concept and cast.

Published by Matt Lazarus

WGA screenwriter offering in-depth writing instruction, notes, critique, and assistance.

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