Hidden down the TV guide #2 - Who needs a pilot?

Many great careers have been aborted because of pilots. I am not talking about those clever people who keep a thousand fellow humans in the air whilst nattily attired in blue with gold braid. No, I am talking about the commissioning of prototype programmes in order to see whether they deserve to get a full series on air later. Writers with great ideas have written these shows which no one, other than insiders, sees if they fail. Similarly, actors get replaced or destroy the work before anyone can see it. Here's a clip from one such show featuring a certain familiar face.

This was going to be David Tennant's American breakthrough, but it's not hard to see why the suits never took it further than a pilot - uncharismatic, natureless and, yikes, his accent. NBC decided that a cast of Jeffrey Tambor, Jerry O'Connell and Jane Curtin were wasting their time and that the writers, well they had been following a pipe dream. This is the nature of the pilot system, for every successful pilot, many lay behind in their wake.

There has to be a better way doesn't there? Well, newbie broadcasters Amazon took the view that they should show the pilots they make and let their customers decide, and earlier this year Fox decided that they wanted to change things - only doing pilots for shows they commission. Sure they'll be less roles for actors, but we'll get less unwatched content and the Amazon route generates quite a lot of interest and a real customer orientation.
Last year, Amazon unleashed pilots for a Zombieland spin off and the commissioned and awfully poor Alpha House, and this year they give us 10 more shows that you can decide the future of. Simply, in the UK, wander over to LoveFilm and you can watch them free of charge, yes, we're telling you about FREE stuff. Once you get there, you can catch Chris Carter's The After, Malcolm McDowell and Gael Garcia Bernal in comedy Mozart in the Jungle, and works from the likes of the creators of Six Feet Under, Michael Connelly's Bosch and five shows for kids.

Of these shows, we can tell you that The After is gloriously awful. A raft of supporting actors make up the central cast of unappealing characters - the bloke out of Leverage is a dangerous but decent convict (racial profiling anyone), bad actress Louise Monot plays a bad actress and there's a leery Irishman, and a sleazy lawyer played by Suits' Gabriel Macht. The writing is terrible, the set-up doesn't work and, if the world is really coming to an end, then I say let the Devil take these terrible people.imageMuch, much better is Bosch. Adapted from Michael Connelly's books, by the author himself, this is a modern noir of sorts featuring a LAPD detective, on trial for murder of a serial killer suspect, played with great skill by Titus Welliver. Bosch feels quite fresh despite the rather hackneyed genre and features grown ups in grown up jobs rather than impossibly handsome kids which is a nice change. It features superb cinematography and lovely playing from the likes of The Walking Dead's Scott Wilson.

Time will tell whether Amazon's approach will work and whether Fox will start producing more winners, although it has the ace Brooklyn 99 and Sleepy Hollow to its name this year already. The pilot system remains the dominant way of testing programmes and, even if unwatched content in this day and age feels a crime, it will remain so.

Last updated: 30/05/2018 23:21:46

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