Television. These days it has hundreds of channels. You can get it over the air, through a wire, or beamed down from space. You name the stupid, awful show and there is room in the schedule. Think about it. If there are 500 channels, that’s 12,000 hours of TV per day. Even if 2400 of those hours are commercials, that’s still nearly 10,000 hours that need pictures and sounds. It isn’t just inevitable that crap gets on the air, it is essential. For every precious gem like House or Mythbusters, you need packing material like The Hills or Pimp My Ride to keep it from rattling around in an empty box. It is just the nature of the beast. But that wasn’t always the case.
Ask your parents, or grandparents if you are an unsupervised minor running around the Internet, how many channels they had when they were kids. The answer is going to be in the single digits. Air time was precious back then. Slice off the chunk of the day devoted to things like sports and the news, and you have just the tiniest chance to put some quality drama or comedy on the air. Surely you had to be careful. Surely you had to weed out the crap and only put the best of the best on the air. Surely they didn’t put idiots in charge of making these decisions. Think again. Want evidence? Simple. What follows is a reenactment of a pitch meeting in 1967.
Writer: Okay, I’ve got some really great ideas for TV shows.
Boss: Let’s hear them.
W: Well, there’s a cop-
B: It’s been done.
W: Oh, uh, okay, there are these cowboys-
B: Been done.
W: Um… there’s, uh… a nun…
B: … I’m listening.
W: And she can… fly?
B: That. Is. BRILLIANT! Fast track it. I want this thing on the air, PRONTO! Any other ideas while you are at it?
W: Um. There are monkeys…
B: SOLD! Now lets go smoke cigarettes and walk around outside wearing hats or whatever people like us do these days.
W: And how!
The Flying Nun. It was a show about a scrawny church lady in a silly hat who got blown around in the wind once a week. How long could you possibly stretch that out? 82 FREAKING EPISODES!!! Makes me wonder what that monkey show would have been like. What was going on in the early days of television? Did someone make a rule that premises for shows could only be ten words? Did they just hand you a form and ask you to fill in the blanks? There’s a _______. It ______. There’s a horse. It talks. There’s a mother. It is a car now. There’s an island. It is full of stupid people. Some people didn’t even fill out the second blank and still got a show. There’s a witch. There’s a genie. There’s a Martian. No wonder good TV is so hard to find. It apparently got its start as a bad game of mad libs.
I’m going to put the following list of pitches into a time capsule. Not one of those piece of crap ones that you just bury and then dig up later. I mean a real one. One that sends things BACK in time. Then they will dig it up in the 1950’s and I’ll retroactively be a genius writer.
There’s a turtle. It sings.
There’s an apartment building. It knows karate.
There’s a blind guy. He’s a boxer.
There’s a spoon. It is the president.
There. Any one of those is pure television gold in the 50’s and 60’s. Now, once those stupid scientists stop making raps about supercolliders and get to work on my time capsule, all I need to do is sit and wait until the syndication dollars to roll in.