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Analyzing Great TV Pilots: Case Studies of Alias, Community, Homicide, The O.C., Scrubs and 3rd Rock from the Sun (PT54)

Update: PT54 transcript now available

Alex and Nick break down six iconic TV pilots to look at what makes them great TV scripts (Alias, Community, Homicide, The O.C., Scrubs and 3rd Rock from the Sun).

What makes a memorable TV pilot work? How do they introduce characters in unique ways? How do they set up the world and engine of the show? What rules do they bend or follow, and why? What TV writing lessons can you learn from them?

Plus, we discuss how seriously you should take glowing feedback from screenwriting competitions.

The Paper Team starts things off…



Paper Scraps: Glowing feedback from competitions (00:00:50)
1 – Introduction to the six TV pilots (00:05:49)
2 – Why we selected these TV pilots (00:10:43)
3 – Teasers and openers (00:19:55)
4 – Character introductions, ensemble dynamics and dialogue (00:26:37)
5 – World and exposition (00:42:00)
6 – Pilot structure vs. series representation (00:47:35)
Next Week On (01:02:53)


BlueCat Screenplay Competition
“Feedback and Notes: Building Your Reading Onion” (PT08)
“Brains and Eggs” (1×01 – 3rd Rock from the Sun)
“Truth Be Told” (1×01 – Alias)
“Pilot” (1×01 – Community)
“Gone for Goode” (1×01 – Homicide: Life on the Street)
“Premiere” (1×01 – The O.C.)
“My First Day” (1×01 – Scrubs)
Josh Schwartz
David Simon
Dan Harmon
in medias res
“Morning Routine” – American Psycho (Video)
Paul Attanasio
“TV Characters 101” (PT46)
Tom Fontana
Diner (Movie)

This episode brought to you by Tracking Board’s Launch Pad Writing Competitions

Use code PAPERTEAM to get $15 OFF when you enter a Launch Pad Competition

Special thanks to Alex Switzky for helping us edit this episode.

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Paper Team
Paper Team
Alex Freedman & Nick Watson

Paper Team is a podcast about television writing and becoming a TV writer.