Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Like everyone else in America, I have this Really Good Idea for a TV show.

I love game shows, and I love their history.  I was one of the few people who saw Quiz Show and already knew the events in question.  And for the record, John Tuturro NAILED Herb Stempel.

So I had this idea about a show that would be about the production of a (fictional) game show.  It would be set in modern day, and I wouldn't do any "give the contestants the answers" plots, cause there's no way it'd make the air, cause the networks would never want to give the impression that could ever happen today.  But they could go on about casting, try and convince contestants they like to get new haircuts, try and find ways to pump up or get rid of contestants they like or don't, while not breaking the S&P rules of the network.  I think a fictionalized version of how they tried to get Dr. Joyce brothers off the 64,000 question by asking her progressively more impossible questions (which she answered handily) could be fun.

The show would be called "The Big Question", and would effectively be two shows - the first half would be about the production of the show, adventured with the cast and crew, etc.  The second half, which would start on the half hour, would be the "actual" game show.  Utterly fake, no one's really winning money, but real within the universe of the show

There's been any number of shows based around the production of a tv show, as far back as Dick Van Dyke, and as recently as 30 Rock.  But you'd very rarely get to actually SEE the show they made, save for the odd scene or sketch.  Here, they almost could be advertised separately.  Yeah, you'd have to add all sorts of buzzkill "This is not a real game show, nobody is really winning anything" disclaimers and all, but I'll lay odds you'd get people tuning in just for the game show.

The format of the show would flow into each other - the commercial break between the two shows would be there, but you'd get a 30-second jump back to the show in the middle, cast prepping the show to go to air, bustle in the control booth, director cueing the next commercial - all intended to KEEP YOU WATCHING during the commercial break.  The networks LOVE that shit.  They started to do it on Ugly Betty; they'd edit the first commercial with a wipe like the previous scene used, so you were several seconds into a Maybelline ad before you realized you were watching a commercial. Alton brown was doing it for his live Thanksgiving event - they'd cut back to him prepping for the next segment, so you had to keep an eye on the screen for fear of missing anything.

You'd occasionally cut to the production team talking about the show, getting a look at how they keep things going, stuff like that - check out the opening to the aforementioned Quiz Show for an idea of what I mean.  But while the first half of the show would be more about the crew, the second half would all be to drive the drama to the game show, and the contestants.

There was a drama called (IIRC) Lottery! years back that tried to do that - three people would be told they were first prize winners of the state lottery, and you'd get to know them, and when they held the bonus round at the end, you'd be rooting for one or the other to win the big jackpot.  It was closer to a revamp of The Millionaire than anything else; the lottery aspect was intended to ride the trend of state-run Lotto games that were coming back at the time, with the first few big million-dollar jackpots making the news.

Game show, especially prime-time game shows are bigger than ever.  And believe me, if the networks could gin up the drama so there was the chance of a big jackpot every week, they would.  This would be a way to have the best of both worlds - have a big-stakes drama every week, while not actually having to give the money away.

The crazy part is, by having actors that would only PRETEND to win that money, a drama ABOUT a game show would actually be MORE expensive than an actual game show.  It's one of the reasons game shows and reality television are so prevalent now - it's cheaper to pay an amateur nothing (save for some Lovely Parting Gifts) and watch them sweat over maybe winning a million dollars than to hire professionals and give real performances.

And that's pretty much why I'm sharing it here, and not trying to find an agent to shop it in Hollywood.  Now if such a show appears in a year or so, I'll have a ready-made lawsuit all set.  I'll never forget how, walking down the streets of new York, I improved the plot of a show about a master detective who can't get work, until he begins to pretend he's a psychic detective, and the money rolls in.  And nine months later, Psych shows up on USA.  Now I'm not saying there was any connection...but this time I want documentation.

But the plot for my Christmas movie? NOBODY'S getting that.


  1. Granted, I'm biased, but I'm getting a kick out of this whole idea, Vin. How meta can you get? Now we have to protect these ideas from the mysterious eavesdroppers who somehow get our ideas into their hands! :-)

  2. I used to have some ideas for television shows. Then I saw what everyone was watching and have since decided I need to find another planet to write for.