Learning About the 2013 Pilot Season Through Pie Charts

As TV networks push their shows into a pit of death and despair over the course of a television season, they aim to replenish their stocks over the course of pilot season. Pilots are to tadpoles what television series are to frogs: the last stage of development before the lucky ones leave the pond as full-fledged programs that are ready to say "Yo!" to the world. But only a handful are lucky enough to hear their names called at the Upfronts in May and go on to join network schedules. 

Before we drop the amphibian metaphors to focus on the specific details of this year's pilots, we thought it'd be fun to explore the overall crop, in hopes of understanding what the networks were thinking when they ordered this year's offerings. And I don't know about you, but nothing is more fun than pie graphs! As evidenced by this totally accurate pie graph:



So now that I've provided you with some indisputable evidence of the good times created by pie graphs, let's take a look at which networks are developing what in the fields of comedy and drama. 

Note: We got all of our pilot data from The Hollywood Reporter's 2013 Pilot Guide. You can also refer to last year's edition of "Learning about Pilot Season Through Pie Charts," which'll come in handy for comparing year-to-year changes.



Who's got the most pilots in development?

Given how many disasters NBC has suffered this year and how many of its shows are ending, it's not surprising that the network has more pilots in development than any of the other broadcast networks, with 27 works-in-progress (up from last year's total of 23). Unless NBC puts The Voice on five nights a week (which wouldn't surprise me) or miraculously renews some of its low-rated newbies (Deception, 1600 Penn, Guys with Kids), it's facing an absurdly large schedule turnover. Of course, most pilots stink, so NBC has a long way to go before it stops getting laughed at by Univision. 

ABC, Fox, and The CW have all held steady, ordering the same number pilots as they did last year (24, 16, and eight, respectively; don't forget that Fox doesn't program the 10pm hour, so it's actually keeping pace with ABC). But CBS went on a relative spending spree by comparison, ordering 23 pilots—way up from last year's total of 16. I'd guess that the network is investing a little more in search of some edgier fare (superhero comedy Super Clyde and Josh Holloway as an enhanced agent in Intelligence both stand out), probably in an effort to keep up with pop-culture trends. However, it's worth noting that the network's slate isn't overloaded with risky-for-CBS shows. Maybe the network will program Saturdays and blow our minds?



Are networks looking to make us laugh, or do they want to get serious?



No surprises here. A couple seasons ago, the rush for another Big Bang Theory or Modern Family was rampant, but comedy has produced lots of duds in the years since. New Girl is probably the biggest hit to come out of the last two years, and the show's numbers are way down from its debut. ABC wins the consistency award, evenly splitting its 24 pilots between comedy and drama for the second year in a row—which makes sense, since it whiffed on new hits in either genre this year (The Neighbors is its big comedy hit for the 2012-2013 season, and we still can't say whether Nashville, its biggest drama, will be back). 

The biggest change in the comedy-or-drama category comes from Fox, who went comedy bonkers last season, ordering 11 comedies and only 5 dramas in an effort to solidify its Tuesday comedy block. But only one of its freshmen comedies, The Mindy Project, has survived, so Fox cooled its jets on laughter this year and went for an even split. 

CBS retains an almost even split, mostly because it's not dealing with any glaring problems in either comedy or drama. Meanwhile, while every aspect of NBC is in shambles, its comedy slate is particularly dismal: 30 Rock ended in January, The Office will say goodbye in May, and Up All Night is a definite goner. What's more, only Go On and Parks and Recreation look promising enough for renewal, meaning the network needs laughers badly. And its drama situation isn't much better. Come to think of it, NBC needs everything but alternate-history dramas about power outages. 

Finally, The CW is once again going for the title of Unfunniest Network on TV, focusing exclusively on capturing the young-adult crowd with stories about vampires and ghosts. 



How many cameras will the network comedies be needing this season?

Single-camera comedies are still oh-so-fashionable, and it seems that even stubborn old laugh-trackin' CBS has taken notice. Last year, CBS ordered eight comedy pilots, seven of which used a standard multi-cam format. This year, the network has added four single-camera projects for a total of five, which means CBS has a nearly even split between formats. THAT IS CRAZY! But just like with CBS's increase in total number of pilots, I have to suspect that the reason it's trying more single-camera comedies is that it sees something changing down the line and is slowly shaking things up. Gotta keep up with the times, even when you're in first place, and single-camera comedies are the shows that get all the attention come awards season. Don't expect comedies about aliens or community colleges, though; most of CBS's single-camera pilots still fall squarely in the ratings-friendly family comedy territory. 

Elsewhere, given NBC's decisions to let Guys With Kids and Whitney hang around and the bone-headed proposal to turn Up All Night into a multi-cam, it wouldn't surprise me if the network really pushes toward multi-camera comedies (borrowing CBS's model) to remedy its problems. At the very least, if multi-cam comedies fail, they're cheaper failures. Fox's lone multi-cam pilot is actually Seth MacFarlane's Dads, which apparently already received a six-episode order. But that deal is more to appease Seth, who makes Fox billions of dollars each year with his sophomoric 'toons. The network is committed to single cams. ABC has some versatility to play with when it comes to comedy. It can add a single-cam to its solid Wednesday block (at the cost of a Suburgatory or The Neighbors shift), give the one-hour Tuesday-night single-cam block another shot, or continue to air multi-camera comedies on Fridays. ABC is simply looking to improve, not to shake up the program.



What's all the drama about?

Note: There's a lot of genre overlap this season (supernatural cops, cops who become lawyers, etc...), so I grouped shows into whatever genre felt "dominant" based on their loglines, but it wasn't exactly a scientific process. I've also added a new genre this year: the "political / military" group. 


Good old ABC and NBC are going with the dartboard approach, ordering a large variety of dramas. With ABC, this isn't surprising; the network isn't afraid to try new things, and the plan it thought was solid last year—beefing up on sci-fi and soaps after the success of Revenge and Once Upon a Time—didn't work. NBC appears to be doing the same thing, but it's casting a wider net because it's interested in catching whatever it possibly can. An old boot? Sure, pull it up! 

CBS looks to be branching out, possibly due to the success of its sci-fi-tinged Person of Interest giving the network a reason to experiment. But its development slate is still cop-heavy, as usual (last year, six of CBS's eight pilots wore some sort of badge). And despite the failures of Alcatraz and Terra Nova, Fox is giving sci-fi another go (with J.J. Abrams' Human leading the way), and tempering it with a few staples. 

Finally, after a couple medical experiments (Hart of Dixie, Emily Owens, M.D.), The CW is accepting its fate as a home for teenage girls' fantasy swoon sessions. But with Arrow a big hit, male-skewing pilots like The Hundred and The Tomorrow People might also find a home. Why all the sudden interest in political/military thrillers? Blame the buzz of Homeland.   



Conclusions

So there you go, numbers and pretty colors in circles!. We'll take a closer look at individual pilots in the coming weeks, but based on what we've seen so far, CBS is trying to remain in first place by following its winning formula while also preparing for the future. ABC is adding some variety to its drama slate while banking on single-camera comedy—a category where it's already found success. Fox is hoping that it'll finally be able to find a sci-fi hit. The CW is embracing its audience full of young'uns who love beautiful supernatural beings. And NBC has hit rock bottom and will try pretty much whatever, in hopes that something—anything—will stick. 


What do the pie charts tell *you* about the current state of the networks? And how awesome are pie charts?
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great analysis, congraulations
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"Fun in pie graphs" pie graph? More like "Lie graph"!

I think CBS's shift to single-cam sitcoms is due to stumbling hard on "Partners" despite giving it a plum lead-in, as well as 2 anchor shows - How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men - starting to feel worn and looking for an exit. That said, they've done poorly in the single camera format over the last decade.

Poor "Old Boot Network", they really haven't a foggy clue as to what their audience wants to see.

WHAT THE FUCK ARE THESE VOTING RESULTS THOUGH?!? The CW has the "best strategy" for remaining the lowest-rated national broadcast network, and nothing else. Who else pisses that much money away to capture 0.33% of viewers and is happy to do it? That's not a strategy for success, that's a strategy for keeping the water-treading CW's face from slipping under the waterline. Call me when they have 1 percent of the national audience and I'll call that a step in the right direction.
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CW is a little different from the other networks. For one thing, it has less hours of original programming and more syndication, which is much cheaper. The original programming it does have is a bonus on the top of the cake. Also, while it doesn't have great ratings, it does have a very understandable and lucrative target audience, which advertisers like. They've been running this way, steadily, for 5 years or so now; it doesn't make sense to change a working strategy. All of that said, I agree with you. I'm surprised it's doing so well in the poll, nearly 3x the next highest rated option.
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The CW has a VHF broadcast license with national affiliates, that's a huge deal, they are in a very exclusive club in that respect. The CW has new original, non-syndicated programming 2 hours a day, 5 days a week (ok, it looks like with the cancellations this season they have 2 rerun slots). They are operating as 5/6ths much content hours as Fox, and have more operating capital than Fox had when it started out. Yet they continue to flounder. This strategy doesn't look like it's planning to turn that around. And yet, as you said, it's 3 times higher-voted than the next choice. I accuse its fans of spamming the vote without comprehending the article's content.
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I think that's an unfair assessment of the network truthfully out of these five networks the majority of my favorite shows come from the CW with the two exceptions being NCIS and HIMYM. Plus it's a smaller network when you look at networks like Fox and NBC that don't even have one show that I find entertaining and haven't since the death of Heroes (RIP), I would say the CW does fine for it's size and at least has some fun/good programing, and I mean really look how far NBC and FOX have fallen that's what I call treading water... :D
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How is that an unfair assessment? The CW has very low viewership, a scant fraction of the other networks listed here. You can say that you like the network and its content, but you can't say that their strategy has worked at all to better itself so far, it's not grown significantly, it's utterly stuck in neutral. Doing more of the same doesn't seem like a great strategy to succeed. Arrow might be an enjoyable show, but its CW ratings are the worst in the world, they're a blight on a show that's huge overseas from the UK to Asia.

Fox used to be The CW, they used to be the pipsqueak upstart joke with a handful of viewers, but their strategies worked and now they're considered a major player, they stand taller than NBC. The CW hasn't succeeded in that way and it's had plenty of time to do so. Even as NBC and Fox flounder, they still are head and shoulders above The CW in business terms.
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Does anyone even care anymore? All the good shows are on cable/premium cable, anyway
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I don't disagree with you USA, TNT, AMC, and Syfy make up 80% of my shows watched anyway but CBS, ABC, and The CW have some good stuff. Truthfully if you haven't checked out Arrow yet you should give it a try it's quickly becoming one my favorite shows. :D
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I've checked Arrow, as well as Elementary and Go On. I also keep watching Person of Interest and Supernatural. But the truth is all my favorite shows nowdays are on cable
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Duh. Some of us don't HAVE cable/premium cable. Primitive living conditions, I know, but there it is.
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And there is nothing wrong with that (although there are other means to get those shows ;) )
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I love pie charts!
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How come The CW is winning in the polls? CBS has clearly the better plan, they may not be the best network here, but the business strategy is solid.
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Vote-spamming by teenagers invested in TVD or something, I'd guess.
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i assume Tim jumbled the frog and tv analogy for comic effect ... more like comic affect! (comedy gold, tim, comedy gold)
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You sound like a person who watches Craig Ferguson. Top shelf!
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In Thailand they don't have the "le" sound, as in little. They say "littun"...so I guess Tim's pie article is an Apple Pie article (A pun Pie)...

am i right?

is this on?
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This comment has been removed.
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The pie charts don't tell us anything new; NBC is sinking, CW is "the teen network" and CBS is a network for procedurals
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Pie Charts are awesome.
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Cant wait to see an article with the description on all the CW pilots since its the one with more votes on the poll!! :)
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Pie charts make me hungry.
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I'm looking forward to The Originals, The Sixth Gun, Sleepy Hollow, The Hundred, The Tomorrow People and Oxygen. Although isn't The Hundred a teen version of Oblivion?
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good article, man.

Now if every pilot that makes it or whatever is something that I like how awesome and improbable would that be?
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NBC does community. it did office and 30 rock, it's got Hannibal with MADS - give 'em a break, yeah? With all the crap they do, they never did anything as God-awful as Cult or Beauty and the Beast or anything on CW and nothing as mind-numbingly formulaic as what CBS has going on. Not everybody can be as perfect as FX.
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NBC ruined Community. Once Community's gone, the only NBC show left for me will be Sunday Night Football.
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How awesome are the pie charts you ask?
So, so awesome.
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I may be just a moron (I am in fact) but why is there a need to specify whether a show is multi-camera or single-camera?
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Because there are people who prefer not to hear a laugh track or the studio audience while watching a comedy.

Tim actually wrote an article about this over a year ago: http://www.tv.com/news/tvcom-throwdown-single-camera-comedies-vs-multi-camera-comedies-27285/
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So multi-camera usually equals canned laughter? That's good to know I hate hearing people laugh over every little thing that supposed to be funny. I feel like yelling at the screen, "I'll decide if its funny or not you easily amused bunch of invisible imbeciles!" (Issues I know)
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I know how u feel.. DON'T TELL WHAT TO DO! moments when I hear those laughs... and btw, I until 2 mins ago I had no idea what was the difference either; not a moron anymore! TV.com makes you smarter :D
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I don't really watch comedies, but I'm also suprised that this is how they are categorized. Were Friend and Seinfeld single cam? What about Arrested Development?
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thanks for the replies everyone!
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Friends and seinfeld, yes. AD, no. Multi-cam usually means you see one (or maybe two) sets and focus on characters saying jokes back and forth. They are "multi-cam" because they are filmed the same way the tonight show or other audience shows are shot. You have a set, an audience, and several cameras for all of the angles you get. You get a laugh track because there was an audience.

Single cam has no audience, and it's how movies are shot. You film the scene from one angle, and then you reset everything again and film from a new angle. It gives the director and actors a lot more creative freedom, to block the action in different ways. It's also more time consuming - and more expensive. No audience = no laugh track.

Not every show can fit neatly into these categories. Friday Night Lights for instance, while not a comedy, used a multi-camera set up in real locations rather than a stage. But most comedies do tend to fit into this formula.
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Usually, shows which take place in mostly a few of the same places (because sets are built) shown from a few of the same angles are multi-camera. Also, there are more close-ups in single-camera, like in a movie. In multi-camera shots are further away from the characters.
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Friends was a multi-cam, since it was filmed in front of an audience. And I think Arrested Development is a single-cam, if it's the same modus operandi as Modern Family and Parks and Rec.
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Now I feel bad for NBC. I laughed so hard that the CW wasn't given a spot on the comedy section. Haha. At first I couldn't figure out why (I blame you, my very smooth brain, TV has ruined you), but when I did I felt sad, and then just laughed. Don't know why I'm giving a blow-by-blow on this, and now I'm done. Anyway.
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I just did an inventory of all the shows I watch... and NBC actually is the network with the most shows on my schedule. Weird.
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NBC makes great comedies, even if they're not necessarily popular.
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NBC is the only network that has me watching a comedy. I hate comedies, actually. And yet, I am in love with Parks & Rec. I only started to watch it because of Adam Scott, and it's kept me hooked ever since.
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Parks and rec is all kinds of perfect. I love comedies, I watch tons of sitcoms and NBC nails them like no other.
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CBS takes the cake for me, then a NBC/ABC tie, followed by CW. Fox, after cancelling favs like Arrested Development, Sarah Connor Chronicles, and Terra Nova, just to name a few, is dead to me. Tho, in hindsight, I guess it's good that the actress who played in SCC has time to do GoT now.
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CBS used to, but all the shows I watched on CBS has done something to turn me away recently. So, I'm not actively watching any of those. And ABC gets all my love through Castle which I LOVE. But I was ticked that they canceled No Ordinary Family, so now Castle is the only thing I really watch on that network. Fox lost me a while ago with their refusal to care about character characterization on every show that I attempted to watch. And CW lost me a while ago, too. I am in love with Walking Dead, but that's the only show I watch on AMC.

So... yeah, NBC. Thank you for Grimm, my newest obsession among many. Takes me back to the good old days of Charmed.
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You're not weird. Dozens of people across the nation are loyal NBC viewers.
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Lol. Dozens.

NBC: Yay! 24 people are loyal NBC viewers!!

Ha, but seriously. I meant it was weird because everybody always dogs NBC. And then I realize that NBC is the network that has kept my attention the most by getting me hooked to not just 1 or 2 programs. On top of that, this site that I actually love doesn't review any of those shows, so I'm forced to love these shows in silence. Just weird!
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50 dramas in the running?? Ultimately, less than half will be put on the air, and I bet just over a handful will make it to a second season. That's simply ridiculous and gives us more reasons as to why cable is where its at these days.
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I'm not sure how many single-cam comedies CBS will make it onto the air, or will last, as good as they might be. Single-cam comedies generally have a harder time pulling bigger audiences, or lasting in general (though Modern Family proves that they can actually work) and on CBS, it would be harder yet to try to stay on the air. It would be a worthwhile experiment to see if any stick, but CBS just has too high of ratings standards to let many go through.
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CBS has the best strategy, but it can afford to. It has a number of hit shows but it's still trying to develop future hit shows. It's top show right now, NCIS, has been around almost a decade and there's no guarantee they can afford to keep it around or that the actors will want to stick around for it that much longer.

NBC may not seem to have much of a strategy, but they have to take risks right now. They should be trying to appeal to middle-aged men because that's the one area that most networks, aside from CBS, aren't appealing to. It's the middle-aged men making NCIS such a hit. Mini-series, that is true mini-series of 10-13 episodes, are a good approach. They should be looking not at what other networks are doing but at what's working on cable channels. It might also be smart for them to produce some prime-time documentaries since there really isn't much on any other broadcaster other than PBS.

CW's strategy may appeal to a lot of Internet users but it's not the best approach. They run the risk of over-saturating the market and turning a lot of viewers away from the monster/fantasy genre. It's working for them now but there's going to come a time that it turns on them and they'll be in worse shape than NBC.
More+
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CW's strategy of relying on genre shows is starting to bite them in the ass with the awful BATB still on the air. Please CW, cancel it!
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I fear I still would much rather watch BATB than the Vampire Diaries spin-off.

CW's focussed strategy could work but the downfall may be the way they're carrying it out (uninspired). A spin off Vampire Diaries could easily leave us with two boring shows instead of one really good one.
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*cough*2012DeadPoolResultsStillNotReleased*cough*
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'Cuz no one won!
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I think this link tells you everything about the future of networks.
http://tv.yahoo.com/news/freaks-geeks-creator-paul-feig-rather-show-qvc-010553206.html
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Is is too early to begin the over/under on NBC's demise? Or a complete turnover in leadership?
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CBS: Multi-cam comedies, 7; single-cam comedies, 5.

This actually made me smile. CBS's strategy reveals so well what their target audience is.
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I have not slept during the last 48 hours, therefore, when I first glanced at the charts concerning what kind of dramas networks are developing, the CW's baby blue, that really symbolized scifi and fanatasy (which is logical), seemed to me as the political/military color. You can imagine my confusion. CW's 5 out of 8 shows will be POLITICAL/MILITARY.?! What the..?
As I am a politics student specializing on strategic and intelligence studies, I must admit that I really enjoy the idea of a show for example that features leprechaun politics or the complicated relationships in the intelligence community of a vampire coven or something. It really got my creative juices flowing. I also must admit that I was sad when I re-read the chart. I am sad. Also really tired. Mostly tired.
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Seeing as I only watching CBS shows (and now one NBC with Hannibal), that's the formula that's working for me.
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Why is everyone voting for the CW? They have no comedies and are going all out on supernatural shows. I won't deny that they'll get some good shows out of it but narrowing their focus doesn't bode well for long term success.
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Maybe some of us don't like to watch comedies and love to watch genre shows.
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This site is populated by Somerhalder fans and people who had a vested interest in the identity of Gossip Girl.
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Ahaha so true.
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Maybe we are all Unfunny like that.

I don't know, it seems to me that comedies get boring (or at least repetitive) rather quickly. Well, most of them. And they suffer from dragged out seasons more so than other types of shows. It's hard to stay original or innovative when networks are mass-producing them in such large quantities. I for one often can't escape that nagging "seen this before" feeling.

But in truth, I guess I just prefer to get my regular dose of fantasy/sc-fi stuff. Plus, dramas can often produce amazing comedic moments when they are not being serious full time (just look at some Supernatural episodes).
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THIS. Now I'm reminiscing about the time when Dean died 100 times over and about how Gabriel trapped the brothers in TV land.
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"Maybe we are all Unfunny like that."
LOLOLOLOL
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Maybe the people voting like those kind of shows.
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I think everyone's misunderstood me. I have no issue with the CW and like their shows well enough. The poll wasn't about what's your favourite network it was which looked to have the best strategy moving forward. There's no reason why the CW has to limit itself to its current niche by ignoring comedies and 'natural' dramas in the future.
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True, but the current trend in TV is either horror or trying to come up with a Sci-Fi 'sequel' to LOST. Comedies aren't doing well, and a drama has got to be something else to succeed. If you need proof, look at NBC and ABC and how many shows they burned through in a short time.
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Go ABC! :D
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Am glad FOX is going half and half this year. Hope they have some successes this year.
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1. A mis-spelled word in the first sentence and a blown analogy in the second? Somebody didn't study for SATs this year.

2. How could anyone consider NBC's desperate flailing the best approach to preparing for the new season? It's the TV network equivalent of a baseball team that can't hit, pitch, or field hoping to improve via the draft.
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On your second point, I think it's more the equivalent of a baseball team that can't hit, pitch, or field hoping to improve via *free agency*. More expensive and just as risky.
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No, a team that is hoping to improve via free agency is working at getting better, now. A team that is hoping to improve via the draft is conceding that it will take years before they're any good, if ever. Witness the first twenty years of the Seattle Mariners' history..
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I can follow that logic, just struggling to understand what the TV show development equivalent is to drafting a player... signing young writers to exclusive deals to develop ideas while they are still working on their existing show?

Free agency made more sense to me because NBC so often goes with BIG names who have had past success as opposed to growing promising talent from within (for example, letting Mindy Kaling take her show to FOX).
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I think CBS has the best strategy, but NBC sounds like it has the best pilots (except some of the comedies....just no)
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CBS always have the best strategy, that's why half their stuff last longer than most.
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OH EM GEE pie charts! they are so fun! i only came here for them, definately not the info! you guys are so clever!
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I'd like a "Procedural or serialized" pie chart, but then again, that would just be all the comedies, the cop shows, the doctor shows, and the lawyer shows, combined into one thing,

Why can't there be good serialized comedies? Why the majority of the sci-fi/fantasy shows imitate Lost's formula, with the unanswered questions approach? WHY IS TV SO FORMULAIC?
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Serialized sitcoms do exist. I would say "How I Met Your Mother" is a serialized sitcom. Sitcoms like "The Office", "Parks & Recreation", & "30 Rock" often have ongoing storylines.
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Why is TV so formulaic? Because when the producers stray from the fomula, viewers don't know what the make of it and don't watch. "Please, please give us more of the same stuff we already like so we'll know we like it!", scream the viewers.
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Pie charts! Yum!
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