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How Writing a TV Show Works

Television Show Loglines

Now that the concept is on paper, you'll need a logline to make it ready to present to a network. A logline is a one- or two-line synopsis of the concept. It is an essential part of presenting or marketing your idea to the networks and is typically used in tandem with the treatment or script.

The act of composing a logline forces you to condense your thoughts to the bare essentials of what the show is about and why folks will want to watch it. It also allows you to focus on the hook or plot twist. Successful loglines immediately provoke interest and make the network executives envision the show's potential. If they see potential, odds are they will consider it for development.

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Many TV execs consider the logline to be the most important element of the development process, and the network often uses some version of it for marketing. In that respect, loglines are considered to be similar to the description of a show you would find in TV Guide.

The TV Writers Vault offers these examples of possible loglines for "Mad Men" and "Walking Dead":

"A look at the high-powered world of advertising in 1960s New York City, from the boardroom to the bedroom."

"In the years that follow a zombie apocalypse, a group of survivors led by a former police officer, travel in search of a safe and secure home. But it's their interpersonal conflicts that present a greater danger to their survival than the zombies that roam the country."

A logline is different from a tagline. A tagline is something you might see on a movie poster designed to tease a moviegoer into attending and so may have very few details ("In a world of mayhem, one woman fights for justice.") That won't work for a logline.

Once you have put all of this together (after many rewrites and read-throughs), you'll need to protect your concept, script or treatment. Most people register it with the U.S. Copyright Officewhich you can do online. Registering with the Writers Guild of America-West doesn't offer you legal protection.

When you're sure everything is pitch-perfect, it's time to try to sell your idea to a network. The TV Writers Vault has some good tips on how to pitch your idea.

Last editorial update on Jun 24, 2020 11:36:13 am.

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Sources

  • ABC.com. http://www.abc.com
  • Cook, Martie. "Write to TV: Out of Your Head and Onto the Screen." Focal Press, 2007.
  • Epstein, Alex. "Crafty TV Writing : Thinking Iinside the Box." Owl Books, 2006.
  • Finer, Abby and Deborah Pearlman. "Starting your Television Writing Career: The Warner Bros. Television Writers Workshop Guide." Syracuse University Press, 2004.
  • Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com
  • NBC.com. http://www.nbc.com
  • Sandler, Ellen. "The TV Writer's Workbook: a Creative Approach to Television Scripts." Bantam Dell, 2007.

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