Screenwriting : Are viewers tired of political TV series? by Doug Fetterly

Doug Fetterly

Are viewers tired of political TV series?

I wrote a one-hour tv pilot about an African American female journalist in DC who takes on corruption (including Big Pharma, a senator, FDA Commissioner, and a few others). One critic told me that viewers have grown tired of political drama. Thoughts?

Maurice Vaughan

I don't think viewers have grown tired of Political Drama as long as the show stands out from the ones that are already done. Yours sounds unique.

Bop Shipman

I don't think so but make sure it's not just another stand in for the news networks (on either side of the aisle). Show the good point and bad of both sides and I think it becomes a show people talk about the next day,.

Vikki Harris

You will have plenty of content for seasons that's for sure.

Maurice Vaughan

Great advice, Bop Shipman.

Niksa Maric

Any viewer with the functioning brain likes political TV series, most people will agree. Maybe the "CRITICS" didn't like the fact that you marked Big Pharma, a senator, FDA Commissioner, and a few others as a bad players in your pilot. But those critics were right about one thing. Viewers are getting tired of REAL LIFE political dramas, not the fictional ones. Don't give up of quit because of one NO, there will be a YES, sooner than you think. Good luck!

JC Young

How many political dramas can they name right now? Just because some Americans are getting tired of REAL political drama doesn't mean you can't have a good series.

Niksa Maric

JC Young - This is not me arguing with you or starting a political debate, this is just my opinion. It's not just Americans getting tired of this political garbage, the same problems exists in every country and territory on the planet. If any one of us comes up with some good idea or with some fresh approach in TV series or a movie I will always encourage him/her to keep going,. Then again, this young man came up with the idea for a TV series and just because some so called CRITIC told him that people are tired of political dramas on TV doesn't mean anything. How does that critic knows that, is that his shallow opinion, was there a survey, a nation-wide research, where did he get that information, from twiter, CNN, MSNBC... If this young man keeps asking, I guarantee you he will get the YES, sooner then later.

Kiril Maksimoski

Depends....throw me something deeper and I might be interested....but I'm a guy who knows Ford had factory/HQ in USSR in the most dark times of Stalin's rule, for dig deeper :)

CJ Walley

You get a lot of sweeping statements like this and then something always comes along to completely disprove them. The industry is full of people who talk in absolutes depending on which way the wind is blowing and they will u-turn in a heartbeat if they see an opportunity.

Generally speaking, nothing is off the table. Entertaining content will always have an audience.

Craig Prickett

I think if the characters are interesting enough along with the world they inhabit and it's written well enough everythings salable.And as it usually takes years to get anything from concept to a reality what's in vogue today and what people want in 2 years or longer down the road is 2 different things.I think it's silly to chase trends as by the time somethings production ready that trends over anyway.

Dan MaxXx

If ppl truly know what audiences want, they would have salary jobs as executives, and it's still a guessing game. More fails than success because you're predicting the future. Your pilot idea, if it ever goes into development, is 3-4 years from filming.

I look at my writer-peer who created a series for a network airing this year and she began tv development 5-years ago. Before covid. When trump was still prez. Her show changed showrunners and fired & hired new tv executives. And they reshot the pilot.

Gary Keyes

Interesting concept. I personally would be curious about a show with a premise like that.

Jim Boston

Doug, I wouldn't mind watching that pilot you've written.

Glad you're here on Stage 32...all the VERY BEST to you!

Niksa Maric

Craig Prickett - All good remarks in your comment, 3 to be exact but here's what some people can't understand and it doesn't make any sense (keep in mind, I'm one of them). Now, Point #1 - "it usually takes years to get anything from concept to a reality" Point #2 - "what people want" There's no easy answer to these questions because they are interconnected, No matter what approach you take, from which side you look at it, every answer creates another question and again everything is interconnected. If you ask; why does it take 2+ years for production to get started you will most likely get two answers: They are dragging their feet because they get paid either way regardless what gets produced. You might even hear; They don't know how to do their job.

Imagine the movie industry as a wall that looks like a Pyramid. First row has 9 blocks, second row 8 and all the way on the top there is only 1 block. Imagine that single block as one of these executives who has the final word on which TV series or movie will get greenlighted. Hold on! If that's how this industry is built, this should be stable, I mean, we're talking about 5 or 6 tone blocks connected to each other. In reality it should work exactly like that. The problem is: The block on the top is not only disconnected from 2 blocks beneath, he' disconnected from the reality. He's driven by what's trending this week or month, who should he pander to this weekend and of course how to make some profit out of all this. 1 out of 10 top executives takes this path and as a result of this approach We, the people, the audience gets 1 watchable movie out of 10 produced.

Doug Fetterly

Goodness! First off, I am so appreciate of he outpouring of support, ideas, reality checks--aka wisdom. Pardon that this will be a longer response, adding detail in reference to what you all wrote.

As to the suggestion that I'm a young man, I still feel as one (still surf, hike), but the young man status disappeared several decades ago. Secondly, when I "quoted" a critic, I used the term loosely more as someone who suggested I reconsider writing about politics (and, yes, I appreciate the point about writing a political series as fiction and not about following the news feeds). I have an agent in Hollywood, one who knows the ropes. But I can appreciate that he can only(?) put so much energy into a project in its current form (after reaching one roadblock) and suggested a new project (novel, screenplay). Still, i'm not one to give up, and the ebbs and flows you all referenced are what I stand behind as part of the process.

We all have our stories, yes. I've been writing (short stories, interviews, articles, one novel, forays into screenplays/tv) beginning in the early '90s, with scriptwriting just this past two years. I studied Shonda Rhimes MasterClass (which, I know, does not make me a scriptwriter), and studied with a showrunner (L.A.) and cohort for a couple of months last year. And then there are the comments relative to my initial pilot entry (which received a decent review) and the 2nd pass (that person had a bad day--I'm sure of it :-).

No sales pitch intended here. My novel is Silence Her, which I departed from slightly in my tv pilot.

Two questions:

1. Does tv still seem the best approach? I know my pilot ia 64 pages, and a full movie might be double that.

2. Do any of you share your scripts, or is it best to do so only through an agent?

Aloha and mahalo (we live here on O'ahu).

Doug (Fetterly)

Maurice Vaughan

Doug Fetterly

1. Does tv still seem the best approach? I know my pilot is 64 pages, and a full movie might be double that.

Do you feel a show is the best approach for your story? Would it take seasons to tell the story, or can you tell it as a movie?

2. Do any of you share your scripts, or is it best to do so only through an agent?

I had a manager, but I pitch my scripts now/share my scripts with producers, companies, etc.

Jason Mirch

Hey Doug Fetterly - great question - and there are a lot of great answers here. I don't think anyone can predict exactly what audiences want, because audiences can't predict what they want. So my guess is that this executive wasn't a fan of political series personally and they projected that dislike across the entire industry. Keep writing what you want to write and you will find the market when it's time.

Doug Fetterly

Amid the outpouring of so much wisdom, I received one request to share my pilot. The temptation is that it would be seen by many of you, which could lead to it getting some additional attention. And, yet, I ask if that is foolish in terms of it being “borrowed.” I’ve traveled widely and am not naive, but this one stumps me. I want to be completely trusting of anyone in a Lounge of this nature. Any suggestions? Aloha and mahalo.

Erik Meyers

I think there will also be love for political drama. Don't give up on your dream :)

Maurice Vaughan

Congrats on the script request, Doug Fetterly. I'm not sure what your question means.

Ewan Dunbar

If it provides a different outlook on something familiar, enabling the audience to see it from a different perspective and may challenge their previous experiences, then it absolutely still has a chance. In one review for the Danish political drama "Borgen", broadcast in its original language but still had a primetime spot on one of the main channels in the UK: "Who would have thought Danish politics would be so interesting?"

Bill Loiselle

I know I'm late jumping on this thread but I was curious if others were running into the same problem I was experiencing with my political piece "The Judas Branch". I've been told a number of times by "experts" that the audience will not tune in to a political piece. My attitude is, if the characters are strong and the plots unique, people will tune in. There seems to be a mindset now that viewers will only sit through mental pablum and nothing is further from the truth. "Experts" and "executives" have to stop underestimating the general public. Reality TV has it's place but the real heart and soul of the industry is in solid storytelling, political or otherwise.

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