Detroit Homicide


 NBC’s Jeff Zucker just made the (to my mind) unusual announcement that henceforth NBC would not longer engage in piloting.

This strikes me as a bit strange. I guess when you spend millions to pilot and it never airs it seems a waste of money. But once again, with small cameras and laptop edits, it doesn’t cost much of anything to pilot – or at least to get a sense of what a show looks like, or could look like. The Office, (the real one, the BBC version) was actually a project produced in a BBC director’s class.

If you want to write a novel, you sit down at a word processor (or typerwriter, if you can find one) and start banging out what is in your head. Either it works or it doesn’t, but it’s no one’s time but your own. (And no one’s vision but your own).

Likewise for TV.

Below, a tester (less time than a full blown pilot) I shot a long time ago in Detroit.

As a VJ, these things cost me next to nothing to try, except time.

We always tell the participants at the Bootcamps “just make what is in your head”.

I had in mind a reality version of Law and Order.

Law and Order is one of the most successful franchises in TV history.

Detroit Homicide, alas, went nowhere.

But…. you never know….



13 responses to “Detroit Homicide

  1. Mike, I thought you of all people would expect the end of NBC-produced pilots, for all the same reasons you talk about here every day.

    Why should NBC pay millions for scripts and episodes that never air when other people will do it for them?

    Just as technology has made it possible for anyone to be a video journalist, technology has also lowered the barrier to entry for fictional programming. Anyone can be a showrunner!

    30 years ago, NBC only had one platform to showcase new material — the network. With such a limited platform, the networks had to choose carefully what they put on the air. It made perfect sense to invest millions in pilots.

    Now NBC has 6 cable networks in the U.S., dozens more around the world, and a budding web platform (Hulu) that’s getting rave reviews.

    Why in the world should NBC keep investing millions in pilots that don’t make air when they can use those low(er)-cost platforms to test new programs with a real audience?

    My suggestion for Jeff Zucker: Open up Hulu to independent producers who want a showcase for their work. Set a low bar for inclusion on the website. Take the best “pilots” from Hulu and create a show development competition program on Bravo — Top Chef meets Project Greenlight. The winning producers get a run on an NBCU network. If it’s successful there, a show makes it on to the broadcast network.

    By getting rid of pilot season, NBC isn’t getting rid of its test platform — Zucker is just acknowledging that he doesn’t have to pay for it anymore!

  2. You’re right Aaron.
    Missed that one entirely.

  3. Zucker’s announcement about piloting was to a large degree directed at the Writers Guild. In fact, it was part of a response to a question about the strike posed to him on CNBC. Ending piloting and changing the system of “upfronts” has been a goal of the AMPTP from the start of negotiations. Jeff Zucker is the first to come out with it , but all the networks will follow suit. This dovetails with cancelling about 60 writer development deals that were in place. The networks have recognized that the old system of developing programs was broken, and needed an excuse to fix it without violating contractual obligations.

    The most significant thing he said was that the success rate of programs that are piloted and focus group tested is about the same as programs that they just put on, and that it is the job of the programming executives to use their gut instinct to decide which programs will be successful. Good luck with that!

    The networks are all very aware that they are losing their leverage as their role as the gatekeepers for distribution is diminished by on-line. Fortunately for them, most on-line video is unwatchable, and people still turn to them as the arbiters of what’s worth watching. However, they are fearful that what has happened to the record companies will happen to them, so they are relying on schemes like Hulu to save their business.

    It could be that television is going to move from a business model that has a small number of programs that make a huge amount of money, to a huge number of programs that make a small amount of money. The networks as we know them will be much less relevant at that time.

    There will always be a place for high quality programs that cost a lot, the question is who will pay for them, and how will they make money.

  4. Michael,

    Got to tell you man, that was a great piece!

    It had it all… the characters, interesting visuals, the 5 basic shots and great editing (I didn’t care for the words fading in the extreme corners of the frame).

    The access you had to amazes me. I loved the shots where the camera was inches from the cops face and the fact that they allowed you inside the murder scene. Wow!

    Looking at this piece confirms some personal weaknesses in my shooing and it highlights some things I need to overcome… I’m too stinking timid. I have forgotten “Mario” and “Calma” because pressing record prior to the shot being perfect is an easy trap to fall into. And oh yes; I seemed to have forgotten discipline

    I wish you would have shown this during the TCA. Your words are ringing in my ears right now; “GET IN CLOSE”, “5 BASIC SHOTS”, “DISCIPLINE”, “TAKE THE CAMERA WHERE THE EYE WANT TO GO”

    It is neat to see you not only preach this stuff but YOU can actually do it

    -and it works very well.



  5. anyone who knows detroit knows that label sewn in the guy’s sports jacket too; “van dyke” clothiers is a icon in the hood.

    you weren’t far off the mark with this, m.r.. did you ever see the series that goes around filming the detroit dog catchers?

    fairly popular on cable.

  6. never saw the series.
    The Detroit detectives I hung out with were called ‘the hat squad’. Loved them. What great characters, but could never get a bite. Too bad.

  7. Looks like a Detroit version of COPS.

    Just with detectives instead of street officers.

    One worked. One didn’t get seen.

  8. those look like “louis the hatter” hats too.

    VERY detroit.

    too bad it didn’t click. they would have made some great sponsors.

  9. it’s called “animal cops: detroit”, part of discovery’s animal planet.

    to read the blurb on its fansite sounds much like where you were going with this pilot.

    you can google ‘animal planet’ for a link.

    you can also google ‘louis the hatter’.

    those, my friends, were the days.

  10. I will tell you, I took this thing to most of the major networks and cable ops, and I have an OK track record. Based on their off the record comments, I think one of the major problems, unfortunately (unfortunately for the country) was that the main characters were African-American males. You don’t see a whole lot of them as main characters on cable. White rednecks a la Dog, the Bountyhunter. Dwarfs. Lost of white families and hosts, but you don’t see a whole lot of black people. I was told more than once ‘great show. wrong demo’.
    It’s a brutal business, and sometimes a bit ugly as well.

  11. Hello Michael, I saw the comments regarding Louis the Hatter.

    Louis Bradlin was my former grandfather in law, founder of LTH. Bill, Louis’ son, was my father in law, and passed away a few years ago.

    LTH was just one of the establishments that made Detroit a special place. Those days are indeed gone, but not forgotten.

    You may of been too early presenting the pilot. Shop it around again.

    • Is this Pete, the father of Sean, and grandfather to Louis?
      How are you?
      P.S. I could not find the comments about Louis the Hatter. Where are they?

  12. Nina, Hello! Yes, its me, LOL
    You can contact me through the link for chatmag. I have lost all contacts and would love to hear from you all again.

    Thanks to Rosenblumtv. I lost contact with my family, and you’ve helped get us back in touch.

    The comments include some references to LTH. Read down through the comments here. ”

    those look like “louis the hatter” hats too.

    VERY detroit.

    too bad it didn’t click. they would have made some great sponsors.”

    Pete Carr

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