If You Want Something Done Right, Make A TV Show
“Life doesn’t imitate art, it imitates bad television.”
Last summer, on a medical drama whose own death was premature but predictable, a 20-something woman was admitted to the hospital, bewildering doctors with her mysterious symptoms. Not me.
What took a team of neurologists and psychiatrists an hour- a week in TV time – to diagnose, I nailed within five minutes.
“She has narcolepsy!”
This was one of the rare times something from my real life appeared on television. My father is a narcoleptic. When I was a kid, the character’s strange behavior– hallucinating and passing out a dozen times a day– was normal in my house, even boring.
Note that this flash of my life before my eyes had nothing to do with me today, not married and not a kid. What about you? How often do you see yourself or your life portrayed within a mile of accuracy by Hollywood?
Wild ass guess: Not often at all. In fact, a realistic female character who is single and 40+ is rarer than narcolepsy. It’s nearly impossible to envision a TV show with her as the star- even for me, and I am obsessed about these things.
If you are a regular around SingleandtheSweetSideof40.com, you might have read the recent posts on TV’s invisible woman– aka, you or me. I promise you, I am not whining; I am highlighting a massive cultural problem.
When the screen time of an entire demographic– millions of people– is limited to stereotypes, we limit its members as well. Human nature is to believe what we see: we can’t, don’t or won’t believe what we do not.
Shining a spotlight on an issue gets attention, but Americans invented short attention span theater. We don’t notice much of anything until our senses are assaulted by commercials and coming attractions.
In other words, a based-on-a-true-woman story must be seen incessantly to approach believability.
But none exists. So none are seen, not even once. Classic chicken and egg. Which is ironic because the source of the problem is roosters and cocks in control of scripts and studios.
If there is one thing women like you know to the core of your being it’s if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. So let’s.
If Hollywood either doesn’t want to give us a show of our own or can’t imagine what it would be about, let’s write a pilot. All we need is a heroine and a hook. I came up with five to get us started. Help tell the rest of the story.
First, read all of the heroine profiles and show concepts. Choose a favorite or favorites. Add or subtract traits and other characteristics you want her to have or believe she needs. Then go through the questions that follow, both about her and about the show.
Be creative. Be specific. Who is your heroine– why do you love her and want to be her?
If the questions are too much or you don’t have much time, you can still help by voting for your favorite heroine here. Who is most like you, who do you most like or who you are most likely to watch?
Five Single Women Who Should be Coming Soon to a TV Set Near You
Show Genre: Medical Drama/Comedy
Heroine: Doctor Faith Goodacre
Concept: Faith has been a family therapist for 20 years but she has a secret: she does not believe in marriage. She cares more about children living in dysfunctional households and thus counsels their married parents. By conventional measures, Faith does not have a great success rate: 80% her clients get divorced. She has a crisis in confidence when she learns that most of her clients chose her for that very reason.
Show Genre: Cop Drama/Dramedy
Heroine: Detective Catherine O’Hara
Concept: Cate wakes up on her 50th birthday to a police radio screeching out a BOLO for a road rage shooter. A call from her BF – from jail – woke her up on her 40th birthday. Turns out, she dated the shooter. In fact, Cate has dated a lot more criminals, which she comes to find out along with the audience.
Show Genre: After Hours/Pseudo-Reality
Heroine: Jane Smith, “Sociologist and Feminist Documentarian”
Concept: Jane, famous for the film, “Feminism and Female Escorts.” In this late night pseudo-docu-reality show, Jane presents feminism in the other half of the Escort industry: Gigolos and the women who pay them. She takes the audience along to meet, chat and a little show and tell with Gigolos and clients. Jane ends each show by rating the featured Gigolo. How far will she go to be accurate?
Show Genre: Sit-Com
Heroine: Gioia (Joy-uh) Marciano, Real Estate Developer
Concept: Gioia has an MBA in Finance but found her passion as a Fixer-Upper. She leveraged her business savvy, first house and DIY skills into the largest resident real estate development business in her town. She inadvertentedly became a specialist in housing for single women. She built and manages the high-end “Golden Girls” unit where her mother lives and the duplex her sister and nieces call home.
Show Genre: Drama/Mystery
Heroine: Rachel Dennis, CEO
Concept: Rachel developed an algorithm to enable dynamic authentication for commenters on websites while in college. She founded and continues to run a network security company that provides credentialing and certification cloud-based services. To date, none of her solutions has been penetrated. Realizing this unblemished record is statically impossible, Rachel quietly examines her own business and finds some troubling patterns, all while keeping her clients happy and competition at bay.
Now, tell us more. Who is your heroine, really?
What is your title for the show?
How long is it and how often is televised?
What does your heroine look like?
Who is she close to and why?
Who is her arch nemesis and why?
What drives her?
Who or what thwarts her?
What is her tragic flaw?
How does she triumph, week after week?
What happens first?
What happens next?
What will shock the audience to learn over the course of a season?
Why should the audience root for her– and keep watching?
Can you sum up your show in one sentence?
Who is she pointing that big gun at?
Share whatever you dream up with me via email or leave a comment. You can answer one question, all eight and even add some of your own. Feel free to change names to protect the innocent or out the guilty. Please, could you at least cast your vote for the show you are most likely to watch?
Our pilots might not get green-lighted anytime soon but who knows? If we do this right, and of course we will, we might just end up with a viable treatment.
Most importantly, if we tell our story, maybe Hollywood will too.