Trying to break into reality television or documentary series? Don’t pitch these four kinds of shows. You’re welcome 🙂Listen to the podcast episode here:
Don’t Pitch These Four Kinds of Reality Television Shows to Us – Transcript
Announcer: Welcome to Producing Unscripted with Joke and Biagio.
Angry Man: Is this some kind of joke?
Confused Woman: Biagee-who?
Reality Television Pitches You Should Run From
Biagio: Hey, everybody, welcome to Episode 8 of Producing Unscripted.
Biagio: Yeah. She’s Joke.
Joke: He’s Biagio.
Biagio: We’re married. We make unscripted film and TV and want to help you do the same, hopefully, by teaming up with us.
Now we have committed to trying to bring you a podcast episode every two weeks.
Joke: Have you started regretting that yet, darling?
Biagio: No. I have not started regretting it. However, I do want to point out, we have not committed to always recording with the best microphone.
Coming to You Live From our new Reality Television Show Set…
So today, we’re actually – we are on set. We’re actually sneaking away for a few minutes during lunch here to bring you our latest podcast.
We can’t tell you the show we’re shooting because it hasn’t been announced yet. But it’s safe to say this is maybe the most ambitious show we’ve ever undertaken, right Joke?
Joke: Yes. The fact that every single department head has said this is the hardest show they’ve ever done, it’s that ambitious.
Biagio: That should tell you something. And so clearly, you’re very important to us because in the midst of this madness, we’re still going to find ten minutes or less to bring you a great podcast, we hope, this week. So without further ado, let’s get into it.
Many of You are Pitching Reality TV Shows That Won’t Sell
And I’m so excited to tell you we have been receiving an onslaught of pitches and thank you.
We are so grateful to each and every one of you that has submitted a show idea.
We have not been able to respond to everybody yet. We will respond eventually. And we’ve actually already teamed up with a few of you. So you know who you are. And thank you for bringing your ideas our way.
But what we wanted to talk about today, well, I guess the nice way to say it, are the kind of shows that are almost impossible to sell because there are certain shows that get pitched over and over and over again by people who are new to the industry.
We Made The Same Mistakes When We Started in Unscripted Film and TV
Joke: And by the way, these are exactly the types of shows we were pitching when we first got into this scene, too.
Biagio: I don’t know what it is, but it’s like, yeah, when you’re starting out in reality television, everybody, including us, is like you have these types of ideas and you’re like, “Oh, we’ll pitch this kind of show. This is the kind of show that we should go and sell.”
And I don’t know what makes people think that because if you actually watch reality television and documentary series most of these shows aren’t on TV and yet they get pitched almost more than anything else.
Joke: Yeah. I have not put my Psychology 101 head up yet this morning so I’m not quite sure why we do it.
Biagio: But we do.
Joke: But yeah, just seems to be something that everybody does. So don’t feel bad.
Biagio: Yeah, don’t feel bad. We’re going to save you a whole lot of time right now by telling you don’t pitch these kinds of reality television shows.
Or if you are going to pitch them after we go through this list, I’m going to give you some ideas about what to do with them, if you do want to do a project like this and it is a passion project.
Joke: Because again, there is no steadfast rule because something that’s not selling today in reality TV may sell tomorrow and any of that stuff. So we’re going to talk conceptually about why some of these genres are, you know, uphill battles. And then we’ll talk about the exceptions to the rule.
Bad Reality TV Pitch 1: Kids’ Shows
Biagio: So first up, kids’ shows. Oh my goodness, everybody wants to pitch kids’ shows.
Joke: I get it. We’ve got a kid now.
Biagio: We do. Ten months old.
Joke: Yeah, it seems like why not? But kids shows are really, really hard for the main reason that there are not that many buyers to kids’ shows because, you know, when people say “kids’ shows”, they’re like, “Oh, between like 5 and 9-year-olds”.
But who buys shows for 5’s and 9-year-olds? There’s, one, not that many networks that cater to that crowd, and two, more importantly, those networks are very used to dealing with a set group of producers and they don’t really veer outside of that too often.
Biagio: Yeah, I mean if you were dying to do kids’ television, like if that’s your thing, I would suggest, you know, just going and trying to get a job at one of these places that actually make kids’ shows.
Joke: I’m more than happy to admit, I know nothing about it because –
Joke: – our little girl, we can watch television, films, comedy, drama, scary stuff, non-scary stuff, and she couldn’t care less. She’s just running around playing with her toys.
But if we put on Barney, she goes into a catatonic state. So there is some kind of visual crack in this children’s programming that I don’t even know how to create.
So I would just say if you want to make kids’ programming, go work for people like that and then they can teach you the secret method. But there’s just some kind of thing in there that I cannot put my finger on.
Biagio: Yeah. All that said, if you want to break into unscripted television, pitching kids’ shows, not the way to do it. That’s a completely different thing.
Don’t think, “I know, I’ll pitch the kid’s version of X.” It’s just…it’s a really hard way to go.
So for all of you submitting us kids’ shows, not saying we never want to hear the ideas, just know that 99.9999% of the time, not only will we not be interested, almost no network is going to be interested in hearing that pitch.
Okay, number two, travel shows.
Bad Reality TV Pitch 2: Old School Travel Shows
Everybody loves to pitch travel shows. Joke does anybody play travel shows like old-school travel shows anymore?
Joke: They do, but it’s very difficult to sell because a lot of times, you need two big things. You need an incredible hook, which is new and exciting and kind of self-explanatory.
And two, you need an incredible piece of talent and you know, that’s proven in some way. And so for every you know, hundreds of travel shows that get pitched and just get denied, you know, a Dirty Jobs sneaks through or some of those shows sneak through.
Biagio: Anthony Bourdain.
Joke: Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, things like that. But again, they also started a while ago and the climate was different then. I think if you’re pitching a travel show now, one, you have to understand travel shows are more expensive.
So you know, expenses come into play.
And two, it’s like nobody really cares about the beaches of the week, you know.
So what is it? You know, the Man Versus Food was a great kind of new twist on a travel/food show because every episode he would go and try and, you know, get to some restaurant’s wall of fame in terms of, you know, eating something crazy. So that was a great hook with a great piece of talent.
And so again, not saying it’s impossible, it’s just very, very hard and the buyers to these kinds of shows have seen and heard it all. So it really has to be kind of, you know, right-off-the-bat amazing, no-brainer type of programming for you to even have a shot.
Also the road trip type of shows, like, “Oh, we’re going to follow these people on a road trip.” It’s again, it’s been pitched a hundred times. And at that point now, I’m stuck with just your main characters who are on this road trip because now every episode I have a different secondary cast.
That’s very hard for a network to buy into. There has to be really, really good reason why this is happening.
Biagio: Moving on to number three type of show that’s nearly impossible to sell yet everybody pitches, dump-and-stir cooking shows.
Bad Reality TV Pitch 3: Dump-and-Stir Cooking Shows
Biagio: Dump-and-stir cooking shows.
Joke: Guilty as charged.
Biagio: Our very first pilot that we ever shot was a dump-and-stir cooking show called “Cooking with Beer”. It starred Joke’s parents and an improv artist. Although in our defense we almost sold that show to Food Network.
Joke: And that was way too long ago.
Biagio: That was a long time ago when those shows still existed.
Joke: And Food Network has changed drastically since then.
Biagio: Now just in case you don’t know what I mean by dump-and-stir, it’s like the old-school cooking show where, you know, you see someone with an interesting personality behind the stove and they’re mixing up the ingredients and having fun cooking it and having fun teaching you how to cook it along the way.
That’s a typical old-fashion cooking show and nobody wants those anymore. Almost nobody.
Joke: Well, Food Network doesn’t want them anymore. But the Cooking Channel will listen to those kinds of pitches.
The only thing is that they need a very specific point of view with a very, you know, dynamic piece of talent that feels edgy but is still very kind of middle of the road. I mean they’re so very specific that if they see it, they’ll know that’s it.
But other than that, you know, we don’t want just vegan. We don’t want just this. We don’t want just that. So it’s like it has to be niche yet broad. It has to be edgy yet likable across the board.
So if you’re going to say, “Hey, where should I start? I’m going to start looking for a dump-and-stir show,” I think you’re wasting your time. You can put your energies better on something else.
Now if you have an amazing piece of talent that you’re like, “Well, you know, this person could potentially be that,” then sure we can look at it and see if Cooking Channel would be interested in it. But again, it’s a long shot.
Biagio: Okay, number four type of show nearly impossible to sell but everybody pitches, the infotainment/issues show.
Bad Reality TV Pitch 4: Infotainment/Issues
Biagio: And I’m combining these two into one category because Joke thinks that’s more efficient.
Joke: What the heck was that all about?
Biagio: I just threw you under the bus. The infotainment/issues show, talk to me about that.
Joke: They’re both the same because it comes from a really good place of like, “Oh, these are feel-good shows. We’re going to shed light on some issue. You’re going to learn something along the way. There are lots of take-aways,” you know.
And the truth of the matter is those ideas are probably great talk show segments, but they don’t necessarily make for good TV shows.
Biagio: The fact of the matter is these kinds of shows are not often bought.
You know, one of the most popular sort of like infotainment/issues shows that was on for a while was Intervention. They’ve just aired their last episode.
But yet people will pitch shows over and over again that are like, “Hey, we’re going to teach you about X or we’re going to shed light on Y.”
Generally, shows that begin that way are not going to be bought by any of the major networks.
These Four Kinds of Reality TV Pitches Are “Capped”
Joke: You have to understand the network executives are all looking for their big hit shows. And these kind of issue-driven shows, they have a cap in terms of how many people will actually watch them.
They will never get Duck Dynasty numbers.
Develop Your Reality TV and Documentary Series Pitches Like This Instead…
Joke: And so again, if you want to break in with a show that has legs, that has a chance of becoming big, it’s much better to spend your time and energy looking for those really big characters, these crazy worlds we haven’t seen before that are just entertaining, that are…
Biagio: So we told you we were recording this on an iPhone, right? All of a sudden my iPhone just shut off in the middle of Joke’s talk, which I thought was hysterical.
So thus, the pause in here. And you know what? I’m going to leave this in because you’re here –
Joke: No, we’re not leaving this in.
Biagio: I am leaving this in because we are here doing the best we can, got to get back to set. And you know what? This is all for our wonderful listeners who take the time to listen every week. We will forget how to record this on an iPhone. So Joke, you were saying?
We Still Want Your Reality TV Pitches
Joke: I forgot what I was saying. But the point is, you guys are all awesome. And I can’t wait to hear your ideas, meet your big characters and the wonderful worlds. Just keep in mind that, you know, these shows, whether they’re kids shows or whether they’re dump and stir or travel shows or, you know, you’ve got some issues that you want to shed light on, there are always exceptions to the rules.
But in our effort to help you maximize your time and resources the best, we would just advise you to stay away from those.
A Place for Passion Projects…
Biagio: Yes. Now that said, you know, everybody has passion projects. What I would say the new home of – and I can’t really speak to kids’ shows as much – but certainly travel shows, certainly dump-and-stir cooking shows, definitely issues and “shed light on” type shows have become, you know, either the web or documentary.
You know, you can launch a series on the web.
You’re never going to, you know, it’s never going to have the numbers more than likely that you’d have like playing on a network.
But if you’re doing something because it’s a passion project, it’s giving you personal satisfaction – and that is your number one goal, personal satisfaction and not making money and that’s perfectly fine, you know – then I would encourage you to look to the web or if it’s a kids’ show or a travel show or infotainment.
Maybe Your Reality TV Idea is Really an Indie Documentary
Biagio: Or, look to doing an independent documentary if it’s an issue or “shed light on” style project.
So that’s going to wrap it up. We actually have to get back to the show we’re making.
So we do want to thank you so much for tuning in. And if you like the fact that me and Joke are willing to play hooky on our latest show to sneak away and give you more of our secrets, then I’m going to ask you for one little favor.
Please take one minute, literally one minute – I mean it will take you less than 60 seconds – go to producingunscripted.com/itunes.
That’s producingunscripted.com/itunes and please leave us a rating or review. It would mean the world to us.
And that’s it for this week. We’re going to get back to work on our show here. And we hope you found this fascinating and intensely interesting or at least mildly amusing. And that’s it for me. Joke, you got anything?
Joke: I hope there’s still a red velvet cupcake on the crafty table.
Biagio: Ooh, all right. We’re going to crafty. See you guys in a couple of weeks. Buh-bye.
Joke: See you in two weeks. Bye!
Announcer: Producing Unscripted with Joke and Biagio.
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