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Molly Fosco Headshot

Piloting the Television Landscape

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It's pilot season in Hollywood! The entertainment industry is a buzz with the latest news on who's been cast in each network's newest television endeavor. One of the most talked about Fox pilots this season, the so far untitled Karyn Usher pilot, has officially cast Saxon Sharbino as the lead, where she will play the "14-year-old daughter of a CIA operative who encounters a mysterious rogue agent who serves as her surrogate father and professional mentor in the spy world."

Hmmm... Annie meets Secret Agent Man? Seems like a bit of a stretch but I'm going to predict that this show will work for two reasons: 1.) Because it's within the procedural genre (think CSI, Law & Order etc.) which are pretty much always an effortless hit. People love to tune in and help solve the crime of the week. To top it off, this type of show is generally what's considered a "stand alone," as opposed to serialized which means that you can start watching at any point in the season and not be totally confused as to why Bobby is breaking up with Susie on prom night, because it will have been explained at the top of the episode. (Not to say that a crime drama is likely to have characters named Bobby and Susie cause that's just down right ridiculous, but you get the picture).

Secondly, this show is a likely hit because when you're starting your main character off at age 14, you have a lot of room to go from there. You know those high school centered shows that start when the kids are 16-ish but then tend to take a nose-dive when they turn 18 and go off to college? (think The O.C.). Well if you start at 14 you've got even more episodes of pubescent hormones, trouble making, and havoc reeking story material to write and produce for the world's viewing pleasure! Add the CIA in there and you've got yourself quite the television double-decker hot fudge Sunday! Not to mention that procedurals are always a big hit internationally. If you can believe it, the critically acclaimed Lost actually flopped in an international market. But CSI? Across the pond they can't get enough! My pre-review of Usher's project (Karyn Usher not Usher Usher) is that it's a winner. 

In other TV news, NBC is producing a pilot entitled County, about the struggles and relationships of young doctors at an L.A. County hospital... ummm and? I don't know about this one. It's going to have to be pretty spectacular to get my attention. We know the medical drama. We get it. Now what? Medical shows obviously get the ratings they need and I'm all for sticking with what works, but its time to see a little bit more than that. The key to a hit TV show is doing something that's just different enough -- 90 percent familiar but 10 percent different. We love the medical shows, the cop shows, the family sitcoms, but even the average middle American needs some deviation every once in a while and that 10 percent of difference really has to grab you.

There must be something different about this show that made NBC want to produce the pilot, I mean hello they're not exactly new to the game here. But the TV landscape is definitely changing and that makes networks nervous. You have to break ground, but you have to make money too. County could surely be the new ER or Grey's which is guaranteed to get interest, but if it's just a whole bunch of new (and most likely less attractive) "McDreamys," then after episode four or five I'm going to be ready to for my discharge papers.  

One thing I do know is that no matter how much it might not seem to make sense, single camera "mockumentary" comedies are hi-larious. Yes it's true that the characters are talking directly to the camera as if someone is making a documentary about their lives (um... why exactly?) and let's be honest, some of the personal things they discuss are things that a normal human being would never reveal for permanent documentation. But ultimately it doesn't matter because these shows are guaranteed to have me rolling on the floor (laughing). Can I please get some more Modern Family, Parks and Rec, and The Office type shows ASAP?? Thanks, television!