Ken Levine Gives Us TMI on the 2013 Pilot Scene

Ken Levine is constantly revealing TV secrets, just as Louis C.K. keeps telling everybody what it’s really like to think like a man.

Dangerous doods, both of ’em. Especially Ken:


What’s currently happening in the world of pilots
by Ken Levine

We’re in the middle of pilot season. For those not intimately involved, here’s what’s currently happening:

Network executives are running all over town to get from runthroughs to table readings to filmings. And Coldwater Canyon is closed. As they’re stuck on Laurel Canyon desperately trying to make a runthrough for a pilot they pretty much know is dead they’re muttering to themselves. “Why can’t they spread out these pilots?”

Table readings used to consist of the cast sitting around a conference table with writers, execs, etc. sitting in one row behind them. Now there are so many executives that the cast is generally at one long table like a dais and there are rows of chairs – theater seating.

So to get a jump there are now often pre-table readings.

Actors are being fired after table readings and runthroughs. Networks, studios, producers, and directors try to reassure their nervous casts but actors aren’t dumb.  The pressure can be enormous, especially if a pilot isn’t going well.

Actors are being fired because their parts are being eliminated. Almost every pilot goes into production way too long. The sister, thefourth roommate, the zany mechanic – they’re usually the first to go.

Or, those side characters score and suddenly became the second lead.

Creator/producers will ask their writer friends to come in and help out on rewrites during production. Half of these consultants will show up, sit in the room, and not say a word.

Every cast will have one actor who is a handful. Hopefully, it’s only one, it’s not the star, and whoever it is is worth it.

Some sitcom pilots get massively rewriteen. Here’s what I don’t understand:  the script was good enough to get a pick up, and the actors hired were the ones who got the biggest laugh with thatmaterial. Why is it now all shit?

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