Why Pilots?

I love television. There, I said it. I used to be one of those television snobs who simply didn’t have time for such a small-minded diversion. Actually, in college, in the early 90s, I really didn’t have time for television, what with 21 credit hours and up to four jobs at a time. After college, watching television just wasn’t part of my routine, so it took a while for me to catch on.

Now it seems there is too much to watch. Of course, there is more to watch, with cable venturing into drama and comedy series, and the internet making shows from around the world accessible. It has been suggested that television writing has improved in the past several years, in part due to a broader supply of programming. Writing has become more sophisticated, and plots more involved.

So where to begin soaking up all that programming? With the pilots.

The pilot is almost a genre in itself. (I am using “pilot” to mean first episode, not necessarily the episode used to sell the show. I realize that, within the industry, there is a difference.) The very embodiment of ambition, a pilot attempts to encapsulate all the glory promised by a series into one 23- or 44-minute episode that says, “This is going to be a great show! Please give us a chance.”

As a former English major, I love to dissect a written work. So that is what I intend to do with pilots. This is not a review site, per se; I will not give anything stars, thumbs, or tomatoes. I will voice opinions, but the aim is essentially to muse on the very nature of pilots—what makes a good start to a series, or a bad one, and what makes a good start to what turns out to be a flop, and vice-versa. So please enjoy Anatomy of a Pilot.