How TV networks REALLY pick which pilots become series

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While we wait for the broadcast networks to choose which of their comedy and drama pilots will get a series order for next season, here’s a handy primer on how this decades-old hit-making process works…

1. Choose your pilots from hundreds of scripts. “What’s hot this year? Zombies? Make sure we got a zombie one.”

2. Cast more than 90 broadcast pilots at the same time, causing a frenzy to lock down the most marketable names: “For the Asian lesbian character I’m thinking Hugh Laurie. Or maybe Hugh Laurie for the Hispanic teen. He’s an actor.

3. Shoot all the pilots at the same time, prompting another scramble for the best behind-the-camera talent. “So your top director choices are all taken, but the second unit guy from The Mob Doctor pilot is still a firm ‘maybe.'”

4. Screen pilots for network insiders who tend to have similar taste: “Having grown up in New York City, I love this comedy pilot about young people in New York City, but I will also ask the people who work for me if they agree.”

5. Lure a group of mall-goers to give feedback in exchange for $20 each: “Hey, just because they eat at Panda Express and shop at Old Navy doesn’t mean they don’t have great taste in television.”

6. Do NOT take Amazon’s approach and put pilots online for opinions from viewers who proactively watch the shows that most appeal to them, just like when a show actually goes on the air: “Why would I want to ruin all the suspense?”

7. Order the first 13 episodes in May. Quickly start production for a series launch date that’s just four months away: “One thing all great art has in common is that it’s made really fast. Like Ramen.”

8. Opportunistically recast. “Swap out whatshername for Krysten Ritter — her show was just canceled, and viewers know who she is.”

9. Debut most of the new shows during same week in September: “So we blew our marketing budget promoting Agents of SHIELD. We want to put your new comedy against another new comedy on a night with four new comedies and see which is the most popular. That oughta work.”

10. Cancel two thirds of the new shows: “We wisely bought such a great script. It’s too bad the showrunner didn’t listen to more of our notes.”

11. Defend the pilot season process: “The pilot process made huge hits like Scandal and The Big Bang Theory. And we only had to make thousands of crappy pilots that never saw the light of day to do it.”

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