Pilots Without Parachutes

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I believe that I have a gift.  I don’t know how I got it or how to use it for the greater good but it is a gift all the same.  I often wish that I had been given the gift of wisdom or intelligence but alas, the good lord didn’t choose these paths for me.  I was given the gift of knowing the rate of survival of a new television program after watching that programs pilot episode. 

A pilot episode is the very first episode of a television series and here is how they get made.  When someone has an idea for a TV show they take that idea and “pitch” it to as many broadcast or cable networks that will listen.  If a network likes the idea they will purchase the idea and put up the resources to shoot a single episode, or pilot episode.  After the episode is created it goes back to the network to determine if it is good enough to go to air.   Many pilots are made and then rejected by the networks before ever seeing the light of day. Fewer pilots are made and accepted by the networks only to get canceled after one season or before the season is over.  Even fewer pilots are made, accepted, and live to see two or more seasons.

This is where I come in.  I can predict the likelihood that a program will make it to a second season just by watching the pilot (+ or – 3%).  I watched 2 pilots in the last week, here is what I thought:

The Americans

I would describe “The Americans” as “Homeland” light.  “The Americans” is an FX vehicle starring Keri Russell (Felicity) and Mathew Rhys (Brothers and Sisters).  The premise of the show is that Russell and Rhys’ characters are Russian KGB spies that are posing as a married couple in early 1980’s America.  In the pilot episode they kidnap a fellow KGB agent that has defected from Russia.  While keeping him in their garage an FBI agent and his family move in next door.  The FBI agent is immediately suspicious of his new neighbors.  Throughout the episode there are flashback scenes explaining how the KGB spies were trained and eventually brought to America for their mission.  I won’t tell you how the episode ends in case you want to want to watch it.

Chance of survival – 72%

Why?  Because of the success of Homeland and shows like it I think “The Americans” will survive.  As long as it rides the line of moral ambiguity it will be fine.  In the pilot you already get the feel that every character can be someone that you root for sometimes and also someone that you want to see fail.  That constant dilemma will be important for a show where the main characters are Russian spies during the cold war.  Mostly I think it will survive because it has good actors in an interesting setting.

The Following

Fox’s “The Following” is dark, very dark.  It’s about former FBI agent, Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) that is brought back into the agency when an imprisoned serial killer escapes.  The serial killer is Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) and he has convinced a group of people to assist him in his plan to get the one victim that got away.  The group of followers help him to escape from prison and get the would be victim out of protective custody.  This pilot also has a surprise ending that I won’t ruin but know that if you decide to watch “The Following” it is pretty gruesome.  

Chance of Survival – 61.5 %

Why? The acting and story is every bit as good as the Americans but The Following has 1 major flaw … It is on Fox.  Fox doesn’t mind taking a chance on cutting edge shows but they have a short leash.  If “The Following” doesn’t do well in the ratings then it will get killed off.  However, I think there is a better chance than not that it will make it to a second season.  TV is getting taken over by former movie stars and with the presence of Kevin Bacon I believe “The Following” has a shot.   

Posted on February 6, 2013 .