It wasn’t enough for the makers of Hawaii Five-O to let viewers pick the ending of an episode last season, now they’re giving fans control over a full hour. CBS today unveiled its Fan Built Five-O initiative, a Mad Libs-esque stunt that lets the public vote online for an episode’s half-dozen key story points: scene of the crime, victim, murder weapon, evidence, suspect and takedown. After the polls close on Halloween, the show’s writers will use the winning elements to forge a script. Before production on the episode begins in February, fans will be able to weigh in on such things as wardrobe, props, music and the title. The series hula-ed over to Fridays this season, and after two episodes McGarrett, Danno and company’s ratings are down 21 percent in the demo compared with last year. But it’s up by nearly that percentage in total viewers (9.6 million) on the older-skewing night, which CBS is dominating. Hence the web-voted story ploy targeting the less chronologically challenged. And TV writers thought reality formats were a threat to their livelihoods. Check out the categories and options up for balloting after the jump:
Another TV staffing season is coming to a close as, one by one, writers rooms of new and returning series are convening to work on the 2011-12 orders. Overall, “it was a healthy staffing season,” one industry insider said, while another was lamenting the system, in which prospective writers meet on 80+ pilots in the run-up to the upfronts, only a quarter of which would make it to series and actually hire scribes.
Of the new series, comedies New Girl on Fox, Two Broke Girls on CBS and Apartment 23 on ABC were sought after by writers this year. Joining New Girl creator Liz Meriwether are Joe Port and Joe Wiseman as co-executive producers as well as J.J. Philbin and Josh Malmuth. Three established comedy writer-producers will work alongside Two Broke Girls co-creator/executive producer Michael Patrick King — Greg Malins, Jhoni Marchinko and Michelle Nader, all as consulting producers. On ABC’s Apt. 23, joining EPs Nahnatchka Khan and Dave Hemingson are Casey Johnson & David Windsor (It Takes a Village) and Sally Bradford as co-executive producers.
Writers seemed split on the drama side this year. “Some gravitated toward the big-idea, big-swing shows like Once Upon a Time, The River and Pan Am, others wanted nothing to do with them, opting to go for more standard procedurals like Person of Interest, Prime Suspect and Unforgettable,” one source said. “A lot of writers are thinking about job security.” Also of note is that Josh Friedman’s Locke & Key script was a favorite among writers looking for staff jobs this season despite Fox passing on the pilot.
It’s like broadcast TV industry’s version of a hangover. It’s already August, the marketplace should be bustling with business but only a few pitches have trickled in so far. “We’re very late this year,” a network topper tells me. Why is that? Some point to the last selling season which was so long and bruising, by the end of it everyone felt exhausted. “We all took a collective break,” one top TV lit agent says. Also, there are a lot of new scripted series — 38 — picked up by the broadcast nets for next season, almost 60% more than the 24 new series ordered last year. That, coupled with the increased volume of original series on cable, made fewer writers available to develop this year. A non-writing producer told me he has never gotten so many “not available” answers from TV lit agents when inquiring about writers.
What’s more, I hear the major studios this year don’t allow writers staffed on first-year shows to develop. The general practice had been for scribes working on new series where they would be paid as much as $40,000-$50,000 an episode to regularly take time off to pitch their own projects or work on drafts of their own pilot scripts. “We don’t want them distracted, we want them focused on those 13 episodes,” a studio head said.