Thoughts on speculative fiction. Join in the conversation on books, television and film. I review everything I read or watch from the world of the imaginative and the fantastic.

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February 7, 2013

Piloting a Series on Pilots

What do Once Upon a Time, Doctor Who, Lost,  Firefly, Star Trek, Sherlock, Battlestar Galactica, and Game of Thrones all have in common? Well, lots of things actually; stellar casts and crews, good scores for the most part, strong niche fan-bases that have grown to mass appeal, and great stories.

For my purposes, what they all have in common comes before all of that, to the very beginning: the pilot. Every show on the air by definition has to have a decent pilot, but let's not stop at the obvious -- let's take a look at what makes these particular pilots so incredibly appealing to viewers and networks alike; what gets us past episode one? How do we go from a new audience member to a completely addicted fanatic? What are the different tactics our writers and directors have chosen to keep us watching week after week, or if you have Netflix, hour after hour after hour?

Over the next few weeks, I'll re-examine some of my favorite pilots, and take a scalpel to some new ones. Personally, I tend to watch shows that make it past a season, or fail early but quickly raise to cult status, so you might not see anything new from this current season. If you want to recommend any show to me, I would love the suggestions. I watch on audience demand, these days. You can make your demand public either below, or on Twitter.
The Cage is Star Trek's unaired pilot, currently available on Netflix. It aged better than you might think – that's one good looking cast, for one thing, and the writing was unparalleled. Its well-drafted philosophies were also largely stolen by The Matrix. 

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