The embryonic stages of a TV shows life begin with the pitch being picked up by a network and the writers working with a network to churn out a script for the pilot episode. By all accounts this is a grueling process composed of rewrites follow by notes that necessitate more rewrites that ends in a usable script. From there the characters are cast and the pilot gets produced ... or not. Most shows die at this stage, often for obscure reasons, leaving their creator to lament the time and energy spent wasted in their development.
Dead Pilots Society is a podcast that takes comedy pilots from A-list writers that were picked up and developed by networks but never produced and gives them the table reads they never had. Most episodes begin with some background explaining the core premise of the pilot and what the creator was trying to do with it . It then proceeds to the main event: a full cast reading of the script by professional actors like Aubrey Plaza, Danielle Nicolet, and Cedric Yarbrough. Since most of the humor is in the dialog the show rarely suffers from the purely auditory medium.
There's a lot to like in this program. Every pilot is a little peek at a TV show from a parallel universe, each bursting with potential and each cut down before it's time. I'm not going to say that every show that comes through is a master piece and deserved at least one season. I will say that about half of them do. The number of cool ideas that never see the light of day is really tragic and this podcast is doing its small part to mitigate the waste. The show also provides a look at the process of writing from dozens of different writers' perspectives. I like how the show treads this really fine line between talking about the travails of working with network executives without ever quite devolving into just bashing. It takes effort and talent to make a show that's essentially about failure, missed opportunity, and wasted effort feel so positive. It has a real core of gratitude, gratitude for an industry that employs writers creatively, gratitude for a community of writers and voice actors willing and perhaps eager to bring these works to life, and gratitude for a format that grants the opportunity to share them with the world. It's a great podcast which you can listen to here and which I'd recommend to anybody who likes television.
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