TV is a strange beast — what we watch usually seems so effortless and enjoyable, but many people don’t realize how much work never gets seen at all. And this isn’t just in footage that gets left on the editing room floor after squeezing weeks of shooting into a 30 minute episode (22 minutes with space for commercials). It’s also the rarely discussed pilots and sizzle reels that get created so a network can decide if it likes the show concept enough to move forward with it. There are countless numbers of these often amazing shows that just never get seen because of someone feeling it is not being a good match for a channel. (Ask me sometime about the pilot I shot in 2012 called “The Toolbox.”)
There’s a good WSJ article from 2011 that sums this up pretty nicely.
And, again with the “TV is strange” theme, there are shows that do get produced that go on for many seasons, often because of the combination of an incredible theme and undeniable actors or hosts. But when those shows eventually wrap up (and they always do, unless it’s a soap opera), the talent is then sent back to the pool, having to then find a new on-camera job either by pitching and creating a show, or getting cast in something that someone else has pitched. Sometimes those get green lit and go straight to production; often they go into the pilot process described above. Being a known talent with a following can be a good thing for getting attention to your project, but it doesn’t guarantee that a network will find it to fit, or that they’ll have a time slot open for it. In short: TV is a tough gig.
Because it’s so rare to see a pilot that doesn’t get picked up, it’s fascinating when they do materialize. And today one did.
One of my favorite shows (as is the case with most makers) was Mythbusters. It had that perfect combo of “incredible theme” and “undeniable hosts” — the magic that Jamie, Adam, Kari, Tory, and Grant brought with their builds, their application of science, math, and engineering, and their natural humor (individually and together) made every episode perfect. With over a decade of ruling Discovery channel, the show and its hosts became household names.
After the build team wrapped up their part of the series in 2014, they shot a few shows, often together. (Check out White Rabbit Project if you haven’t yet.) Behind the scenes, they worked on more concepts, some with solo projects, some with other hosts, and some still together. These would get mentioned in private conversation and occasionally teased out on social media, but as usual, weren’t something you could see if it wasn’t broadcast.
Today, Kari Byron busted that by posting the 11 minute sizzle of a show that she shot and pitched with Tory Belleci a few years ago, but was never picked up. Called “Prankenstein,” the concept mixes science with pranking unexpected guests, in potentially messy ways. The segment in the episode is about cryogenics, where a body is frozen in hopes that it can be revived much later in the future. The science is explained; the segment begins. Things go wrong. Hijinks ensue.
“I always wanted to make a prank show about science,” Kari tells me about it. Her posting of the segment comes in hopes that another company may pick up the concept. It’s a fun one, and certainly seems like an enjoyable show with lots of potential for success. I hope it happens.
There’s also a chance this may all get pulled down by a production company that owns the rights to it. But for now, you can peek in and enjoy a show that was (thus far) never made.
This is the show @torybelleci and I always wanted to make. It is where science meets science fiction. What network do you think we should get to make it? Watch this before someone takes it down! #Prankenstein #science #prank https://t.co/fbjYeuQGp2
— Kari Byron (@KariByron) April 29, 2019