Friday, February 12, 2010

How to write a hit TV Show

Since Karen and I got our DVR a few years ago, we've spent a lot of evenings watching TV after the kids go to bed (shameful for a pastor to admit, I know). Still, if you're willing to look, there are some good and interesting shows on TV if you are willing to wade through the rest of it. Anyway, as I was out shoveling snow the other day, it occurred to me that all of the shows that Karen and I enjoy can be reduced to the same basic formula.

So, at risk of spoiling something which, for all I know, might be more closely guarded than the Colonel's secret blend of 11 herbs and spices, here's the recipe for writing a hit show:
  1. The centerpiece of the show should be solving crimes (ideally murders committed in unusual ways) or involve global espionage.
  2. The cast should be composed of scary bright people who are nevertheless much better looking than the average bear. This should be especially true of the female characters, since everyone knows that all of the world's most beautiful women are scientists and/or engaged in law enforcement.
  3. The cast must include at least one off-kilter, unnaturally intelligent and unconventional character who definitely does not fit into the rest of the group, but whose divergent perspective is nevertheless vital to the team's freakish level of success.
  4. At least two of the team's members must be engaged in, about to engage in, or have formerly engaged in a passionate love affair which is, naturally, forbidden by the authority structure of the unit.
There you have it: the plot recipe for 24, Chuck, NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, Castle, CSI (in all of its incarnations), Bones, The Mentalist and Numbers. I know that all of these are formulaic, fluffy variations on a theme, but I'm instantly seduced by every new incarnation. I like to comfort myself in this with the idea that I like seeing the triumph of good over evil depicted, but mostly I think it's because I like tension, suspense, mystery, romance and guns along with all that more high minded stuff.


Alissa said...

You need to add Law & Order and Criminal Minds to your list. Hysterical. :)

The Bullhorn said...


I would, except I was only talking about the ones that I actually watch! Of course you are correct on the merits, though. Why am I such a sucker for the same show by different names?