A Really Crazy Idea

The story goes that when Seth Rogen approached Judd Apatow, Saturday Night Live producer and then also producing Seth in Freaks and Geeks and told him he and his writing partner wanted to write comedy movies and had some ideas to pitch to him, Apatow told him not to give him a script or a pitch but to first prove they had idea depth – he told them to go away and write up pitches (full pitches, at least 500 words) for 101 OTHER movies. If they could do that, he’d know their pitch would be solid.  (They did, and then they proved they could write by scripting Pineapple Express, which wasn’t their idea, and having thus proven themselves in both realms, were allowed to write Superbad, and the rest is history.)

About five years ago I decided to challenge myself along the same lines: 101 ideas for TV shows. Back then I gave myself three months to do it, and 500 words each, and set up a Yahoo Groups group for it, but then I got hit by the Life Truck and the idea lay in ruins after about ten.

Today, I found my original scribbled list of ideas and I decided I needed a new challenge, but shorter, and more insane. 101 movie ideas in 24 hours. Now, to make it easier, these won’t be full pitches. Rather, they’ll be elevator pitches. One sentence only. No more than fifty words. Sum it up, succinctly – because if I can’t, it’s no good for TV anyway. They’ve got to be obviously watchable and workable and pop off the page. I don’t, however, guarantee they will be particularly original. It is TV after all.

I can’t think of anywhere else to do it, so I’ll do all 100 of them here, in the comments. The time is now 10:17 pm. My time starts now.

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17 thoughts on “A Really Crazy Idea

  1. 101: Thick And Thin
    Two high-school “frenemies” find their rivalry resparked (much to their husbands’ annoyance) when, twenty years later, one opens a gym and another opens a patisserie in the lobby of the same apartment complex.

    100: Premiere
    An hour long comedy-drama about the ins and outs of producing a nation-wide monthly film magazine, as the subeditors and copywriters struggle to not lose their love of film and critical insight as they drown in glad-handing and puffery.

    99: Bunk
    A Harry Houdini-analogue and a Catholic priest travel across America at the turn of the century, debunking supernatural menaces and exposing the evil schemes behind them, over constant and lively arguments on the nature of faith and skepticism.

    98: The View From Here
    To learn more about humanity and its struggles from a personal point of view, God sends an angel and demon to live in a working class tenement in Detroit.

    97:Near Liberty
    An historical drama set on the processing centre on Ellis Island after World War 1, following the doctors, nurses, administrators and staff as they process the millions of new Americans who arrived from Europe, seeking a new beginning under the light of Lady Liberty.

  2. 96: Logan
    This “Australian Deadwood” tells the story of Patrick “Bloody” Logan and his three-year reign of terror and brutality over the Moreton Bay Penal Colony in the 1820s.

    95: The Polar Bear Club
    Legendary aging TV stars regather to make a sitcom about an elderly couple who (between discussions of their now tricky sex life) run a “polar bear” club (ie swimming naked in sub-zero waters) for tourists in upstate Vermont, and their wacky co-workers and customers.

    94: Talk to the Animals
    An eccentric (but not faking) pet psychic and animal lover becomes a private detective and police consultant when one of his clients is murdered and the persian cat is the only witness.

    93: Labrats
    When a bizarre accident gives six strangers psychic powers, they don’t go out and change the world because the CIA locks them all in an underground laboratory for scientific testing for the rest of their lives; a quirky comedy of manners results.

    92: Sundivers
    A blue-collar sci-fi series about the working class grunts making sure the rest of the solar system gets their power by doing the most dangerous job in space – operating the massive solar farms on the surface of Mercury.

    91: Employees Only
    A sitcom where bellboys, waiters, tour guides, holiday co-ordinators, cleaners and prostitutes swap horror stories behind the scenes of the largest resort complex and convention centre in Miami.

  3. 90: Ghost of History
    Time travel is possible, but only as a hologram, so when the five scientists who invented the device discovery a conspiracy working to unravel history, they have to assume the identity of spirits and repair the past before their present is destroyed.
    (yes, I’m allowed to use my Campaign Toybox ideas, dammit! That would so work as a show!)
    89: The Zenda Initiative
    A heist show meets Quantum Leap, as a group of special agents disguise themselves as the most powerful people in the world when said powerful people aren’t around or can’t do what’s needed to keep the world from catastrophe.
    88: Asylum
    Alien refugees fleeing a terrible galactic war are not fit to go straight to earth, itself still recovering from devastation, so they have to be processed first on a giant station on the moon, thus adding a kind of Battlestar feel to Near Liberty. (reboots count)
    87: Club Dead
    When a young billionaire discovers his father’s last years were miserable, he devotes his life and money to making wishes come true for the old, dying and regretful.
    86: Mort and Arthur
    A man who may be either crazy of King Arthur reborn sets out with his friend Mort to unify Britain, starting by winning a local council election – a task made difficult because most of his constituents are crazier than he is.

  4. 85: Back of the Bike Sheds
    A teenaged con artist/drug dealer and a hacker solve mysteries for their fellows in the savage world of high school, but operating under the tropes of film noir detective stories, rather than Nancy Drew.
    84: The Clinic
    The doctors, nurses, orderlies and guards are just as crazy (and self-obsessed) as their celebrity patients in Beverly Hills’ finest detox centre slash low-security prison for the rich and famous who found their tiger blood a little too hard to handle.
    83: System Shock
    Social sci-fi as, twenty years in the future, the questions of the nature of humanity and the limits of intelligence are asked as biotech, cyberware and true AIs take their place in the staging ground for the biggest ethical dilemmas of our day: in a busy city hospital.
    82: Airstrip One
    This dark but playful satire of media culture shows us the farcical and cynical world inside the control rooms and board rooms of the producers of several of the latest and greatest reality television shows, and all the chaos involved in making it look like everything’s under control.

    And that’s as far as I can get tonight.

  5. 81: Face Time
    A rich and powerful Barbara Walters slash bulldog type can ask the hard question of the big hitters on her award-winning interview show Face Time, but has trouble answering them when her illegitimate daughter shows up with two children of her own.
    80: Halfway
    When a nun despairs at keeping kids safe at her halfway house as gangs and drugs ruin the inner city, she turns to the help of local teetotalling vampires, trying to go straight, creating a show that is half 21 Jump Street and half Being Human.
    79: Vigiles
    Historically, the first police force of ancient Rome was only there to control fires, but when their leader discovers a conspiracy of arson and the traces of a powerful crime lord he moulds his team into a detective squad worthy of a gritty police procedural.
    78: Acting Normal
    This sitcom follows a middle aged gay man and lesbian who decide to pretend to be married (while maintaining their own relationships) to keep access to their children when their former, straight partners remarry.
    77: International Waters
    For 90% of the customers, it’s just a gigantic luxury ocean liner, and they have no idea that it’s funded by the CIA so that certain members of the crew can perform stings and assassinations on wealthy and powerful security threats when their guard is down and they’re deep in international waters; it’s like Chuck but the Buy More is the entertainment deck.
    76: Re-Pete
    After narrowly avoiding a terrible accident, an ordinary man finds he can see the future, but only a few seconds in advance, and decides to use his skills to help people make decisions that could change their lives or those of others.

  6. 75: My Canadian Girlfriend
    A geeky girl gets tired of helping her geeky male friends not fall on their faces in love (or pretending to be their girlfriends when they do) she sets herself up as a professional love guru for the perennially insecure.
    74: Kolzchei the Undying
    When a group of med students working in the morgue unthaw a cranky, ancient and seemingly suicidal Russian homeless man, they are surprised to find he is a figure of folklore who literally cannot die, which makes him perfect for experiments into determining unusual causes of death, and that, combined with his centuries of experience on murder, makes him a perfect assistant to help the students solve cold cases involving inexplicable causes.
    73: Mrs Darcy’s School For Ladies
    (Again from the Toybox) After Pride and Prejudice, Mr and Mrs Darcy move to India, where he serves in the army – and she fights the Great Game by opening a finishing school that is in fact a spy school, teaching young women how to seduce, infiltrate and overcome the unseen hand of Imperial Russia against the Empire.
    72: Finishing School
    (same idea, modern day) Girls from the best Ivy League colleges who have it all – beauty, brains and sporting excellence – are recruited to go to a extremely exclusive finishing school, which is, in fact, a front for a CIA spy training school – with plenty of training done in the field.
    71: Smoke Signals
    A curmudgeonly stick-in-the-mud old bachelor resigns from lifelong factory work to open his dream business: a fumidor cafe/bar where smoking is not only allowed, it’s mandatory – but discovers he needs his doctor to cosign the loan.

  7. Thanks Mur. And now, a historical moment.

    70: The Colonial
    Quincy P. Morris leaves vampire hunting to become a special consultant to London’s metropolitan police as they hunt new kinds of enemies through the narrow streets – and Morris hunts the man who killed his father.
    69: A House Divided
    We follow the campaign and second term of Abraham Lincoln, when John Booth’s bullet misses and he goes on to preside over an angry, wounded nation, hold off Stephen Douglas’ challenge and figure out whether to pass power on to the weak-willed Johnson or the drunk Grant…
    68: The Park
    The lives and times of the countless people who use Central Park, NYC, for their hobbies, artistic expression, business operation and home – buskers, dancers, skaters, exercise gurus, party kids, dog walkers, drug dealers and the homeless.
    67: Macarthur Place
    In 1941, General Macarthur made Brisbane, Australia, the central command for the war in the Pacific, causing a sleepy town of some hundred thousand people to triple in size almost overnight, dragging it into the modern world, the international stage and into conflict with an ally they did not trust.
    66: Simon Says
    Simon Singh, a professional life-coach and motivational psychologist (author of the best selling “Singh for Your Supper”) discovers he has married into a family entwined in a dysfunctional, strife-riven, criminal empire, and sets out to use his skills to improve morale, productivity and efficiency, with the hope of eventually helping them go straight.

  8. 65: The Story of Crow
    The local tribespeople, an over-educated anthropologist and some undermotivated actors struggle to keep their own and others’ interest alive in the local Inuit culture while working at a run-down tourism and educational culture centre in far-north Alberta.
    64: Parkour and Ride
    Two teens from a big urban centre try to pass their passion of parkour onto the local terribly bored youth when they are forced to move to a tiny rural village – despite the village has no buildings larger than two stories and the objections from the skateboarders from one-town over.
    63: Heartland
    When conflict with a Iran-China-esque Islamic fundamentalist power leads America into a growing certainty of a long-range missile war, the people of the large urban centres respond as per the London Blitz – sending their children to live in the rural interior, flooding America’s heartland with children used not only to urban lifestyle but of atypical racial and religious backgrounds.
    62: Four Score and Ten
    When an environmental plague threatens to kill all life on earth and leave the atmosphere toxic for a generation, one billionaire’s solution is a world-wide lottery to live in his gigantic space-station, an offer he extends to random strangers (as long as they are healthy and fairly young); the show’s gimmick is there are exactly 90 people, and aside from deaths and births, the cast will remain fixed like that – and they may end up being the future of all humanity.
    61: Polter
    When a childless couple move into their new house in a new town they discover they have a poltergeist – but a friendly one, just angry that she died at 13, and never kissed a boy, so they offer to raise her as their own, on the condition she promises to stay materialised all day at school.

  9. 60: Brute Force
    After their boss is arrested and their empire crippled, the mid-level heavies of a big city organised crime family turn states’ evidence and are relocated with new identities to a small town; faced with nothing to do they decide to put their order-keeping skills to use in the local, understaffed, police force.
    59: Generation Psy
    In the 1960s, the FBI conducted extensive testing for latent psychic abilities across the America populace. Those who tested the strongest were asked to form a township in Wyoming so that, two generations later, the interbreeding would produce a whole town full of much more powerful psychic teenagers: this is their story.
    58: The Guardsman
    It’s like Forever Knight, only instead of cops in Chicago, they’re Special Forces working as proxy law enforcement in occupied Kabul, and instead of a vampire, he’s a 4000 year old Egyptian mummy, looking for his stolen pharaoh.
    57: Resurrection Men
    A body snatcher and a gifted young medical student team up to solve mysteries the police cannot or will not, at the risk of their own arrests, because this is 1850s Edinburgh and medicine is frowned upon and body snatching highly illegal.
    56: Love and Other Fictions
    Inside the bustling office of a high-turnover, highly structured romance novel publishing house, the writers in the writing room do their best to churn out romantic fantasies in their particular genres, while in real life, their romances are rather less than fantastic.

  10. 55: Troubleshooters
    A group of ex-professional mercenaries get tired of working for the bad guys and decide to start taking them down instead – they insert themselves into the worst trouble spots of the world, pretend to work for dictators and gunrunners, then sting them in the tail. Sort of like a globe-trotting Leverage, with a lot more gunplay.
    54: Coming Home
    Returning Vietnam vets living in 1970’s San Francisco are forced to ally with members of the Black Panthers and the Weather Underground when they discover that government experimentation during and after the war has given them superpowers – a secret the government is willing to kill to keep.
    53: The Crunch
    On the advice of his even sleazier accountant, a sleazy 1980s style wall-street real estate baron divests his entire net worth in order to avoid going to prison, forcing him to move in with his unemployed daughter, who is feeling the terrible crunch of the global financial crisis.
    52: Makeup and Glitter
    A fading glam rock band – a bit KISS, a bit Black Sabbath, a bit Queen – deal with trying to keep their brand alive, putting out new albums and doing tours, as well as being grandparents, which means explaining what the lyrics to “Sex Crazy Demon Bitch” are all about, and bonding with the littlest girl over an obsession with makeup and glitter.
    51: Fifty First State
    A family-based drama about life in Puerto Rico, not unlike ‘Treme, but about America’s closest neighbour, and with a few political elements as some of the cast are involved in movements for and against American influences.

  11. 92: Sundivers
    You know, gathering solar energy on Mercury is not such a good idea. The thing with the sunlight is that it’s available everywhere (granted, the closer you are, the more concentrated it is). However, once you’ve gathered it on Mercury, you would have to transport the energy, which makes no sense 🙂
    Plus, Mercury goes round the sun in 88 days, so from the perspective of other planets, Mercury would at one time or another “disappear” behind the sun and be further away, or “out of sight”. Plus, Mercury rotates on itself, and the days and nights of Mercury last 88 earth days each. So for nearly a quarter, the solar farm would be on the dark side 😦
    Solar farms are better placed in orbit, at the Lagrange points next to the “client” planet, for easy maintenance and transport (say, by microwaves).
    “blue collars in space” are screaming to be adapted into a TV series, however; think of the movie “Outland”; don’t you want to know who Marshal William T. O’Niel will piss off next after Io? 😉 What investigation landed him there, and what he’ll do next?

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