During my downtime at work, I am going through and reading all the pilots that are in development (or were before the strike started, at least). So far, what I've read has disappointed me. I mean, I can tell why networks and prodcos liked them enough to develop them...the description is efficient and full of imagery. The dialogue is snappy. The plots move quickly and the acts end on cool surprises. The characters are complex. So what's missing?
Cop shows, lawyer shows, doctor shows, action shows...whatever it may be, I've seen it before. I've only read one pilot so far that made me think, wow, that's really interesting. I've never seen anything like that. Everything else seemed really tired and formulaic, and I didn't really care about what was happening. So as you write your pilot, I urge to think of something NEW and DIFFERENT. Start your brainstorming with WHAT IF. Be daring. Think about what would turn the world - or the world of your character - upside down. Once you've got your premise, think of how to push the envelope so that it doesn't sound like all the shows already on TV. Discover a situation that has high stakes that isn't a crime scene or a hospital.
Here are some other rules I'd love for you to follow:
1. Don't use voiceover. JUST DON'T. I have read pilots that used voiceover to hit me over the head with their theme, tell me what their character is thinking, or explain what's going on. It annoyed me every time. If you're a good writer, you should be able to accomplish all these things through dialogue, action and (brief) description.
2. Don't simply describe your leading man or woman as beautiful, handsome, gorgeous, etc. If your pilot gets shot, it is going to be cast with ACTORS. Unless they're over 60 or a very specific kind of character actor, they're going to be crazy good looking. So be more specific. What makes them different from their fellow beautiful, handsome and gorgeous SAG members? Is it their confident strut? Sly smile?
3. Don't introduce 17 characters, especially ones all around the same age. In one pilot I read, there were like 8 men in their late 30s who all worked together. I could not tell them apart, so I gave up after a while.