It's Fall and new TV shows are creeping onto the air at the four major American TV networks, as well as NBC. (BURN!) And I'll bet you're wondering where do these TV shows come from.
Well, first a mommy TV show and a daddy TV show fall in love and ....
Wait, that's not how it goes. Let me check my notes....
Okay, this is how it goes. It all begins with THE PILOT!
The pilot is a specially made episode of a TV show made by studios and/or independent producers that's designed to make network TV executives want to put the series on the air.
Now there are several kinds of television pilots:
STANDARD: This is a full episode of a TV show that introduces the characters, the setting and the show's overall premise. Usually they act as the first episode of a television show.
BACKDOOR: There are two types of backdoor pilots. One is where the pilot is made to broadcast as a stand-alone TV movie or special. Another is done for spin-off shows, where an established TV show does an episode featuring new characters in a new setting that is somehow related to but separate from the original series.
DEMO: Now full episodes of TV shows are expensive, and extremely risky if you're not guaranteed a sale. So when a show is particularly complex or expensive a Demo presentation is made instead. The demo will consist of scenes from the pilot script, and samples of what things will look and sound like.
UNINTENDED: Sometimes a guest starring role becomes extremely popular and leads to a spin-off series of their own. The classic example is The Bionic Woman, who started out as a 1-shot guest role on The Six Million Dollar Man, and died at the end, but the character played by Lindsay Wagner was so popular, they brought the character back from the dead for her own series.
PUT PILOT: This is a particularly sweet deal for the makers of a TV pilot. When a network orders a "put pilot" they're committed to either put the show on the air, or pay the producers and studio a fat cash penalty.
And those are the basics of TV pilots.