Pitching Variety & Talk Formats for TV Today

This is the one format in television programming that is heavily driven by the "talent" or person(s) involved in hosting the show. With that in mind, the writer and creator of a talk show or variety show format needs to be keenly aware of possible hosting talents that could bring a unique fit to the format they have created. First, we'll look at formats, then talent.

Daytime: Nobody can deny the damage that was done to daytime television by the overflow of talk shows that crowded programming for many years. As a result, we're left with a great void in quality syndicated programming between 9 am and 4 pm. This leaves a challenge for network programmers, and a great opportunity for writers and creators of original programs.

Just like all other genres of television, when creating for daytime television it is critical to understand your audience. Daytime viewers are predominantly women between the ages of 18 and 49. Looking within that age bracket of women one can also assume a diversity of tastes in terms of programming content. What are these viewers interested in? Remodeling homes and raising children is just the tip of the iceberg. Ask yourself what the viewer possibly deals with in their day to day life. What are their major concerns? Interests? Desires? Necessities? And then ask yourself what type of show can be geared toward any of these avenues.

Late Night: When thinking of Late Night Programming, its often best to look at what network or cable network has an open slot of airtime, and then try to identify their target audience for what could be the flavor or spirit of any late night talk show. Most shows that air after prime-time are more liberal in content when it comes to acceptable language and activity on the show. But don't forget that this too is a highly talent-driven arena, so it's best to have a host in mind and eventually attached to the show.

Variety: In recent days both viewers and networks have hoped to bring back the Variety format. With Jimmy Fallon now hosting The Tonight Show, we're seeing that mold being filled in a very cool and funny way. The format is looser, more on point with pop-culture and social trends, and all is driven by Fallon's infectious personality. Outside of that flagship show, the trick and challenge to creating any new show within that genre is to define what makes a variety show for today's audience as opposed to the Variety shows we all remember and love from years past. Music and performance are root to any variety show, but it is now the producers challenge to find the format that goes beyond what we've seen in the past and both entertains and informs. It seems that if you can create a highly original format for a composite variety show, then the sky is the limit. Components could be comedy sketches, hidden-camera bits, game show elements, audience participation, celebrity interviews, musical performance, amateur talent competitions, topical news segments, etc. Keep in mind the following: Who is the audience? Family? Teens only? Children? And what network or cable-networks would possibly air such a program.

Talent: One may think that a network first develops a show and then goes out to hire the host. For talk shows and variety shows it is often the opposite. A producer will find a concept for a talk or variety show that suits a specific talent/host who they have been targeting or believe has a following that will help launch the show. The talent is then engaged in a development deal where they will work hand in hand with the producers and creators of the show-to-be, and build the show around their personality, interests, and public brand. The talent hired has to match and support the brand of the show. If a cable network wants to produce a daytime talk show for women about weddings, they most likely are not going to hire a host who has most recently left her fourth marriage for an actor she was previously cheating with. That hosts personal life is in conflict with the brand of the show and would be a distraction and deterrent for viewers.

To find personalities and talent who may be a good model for your shows host, look anywhere and everywhere on television. Local cable shows may sometimes feature a unique talent. Local newscasters have become hosts of hit shows many times over. Also, sports figures, political figures, or former television and film stars with a very specific point of view or persona could bring the right hook to an original format.

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