How many of you judge a new TV series by its pilot? I know I do, but I know some great shows have had stinkers for pilots, so I follow the four-episode rule; otherwise, I’d miss out on many good TV shows.
Four essential elements that make a good show
Many different elements contribute to a good TV show or film, but the most important ones are the story, acting, visuals, and music. If any of these elements are weak, it can ruin the show or film. But if they all come together correctly, it can create a fantastic experience that people will remember for years.
- The story has to be interesting and keep people engaged. It also needs to be well-told, with solid characters and a straightforward plot.
- The actors need to be able to bring the characters to life and make them believable. They also need to be able to convey the emotions of the scene properly.
- Visuals are another essential part of a good show or film. The visuals need to be exciting and engaging, and they need to help support the story.
- The music needs to be appropriate for the scene and help convey the mood. It can also add to the excitement of a scene.
With that being said, many pilots fail to get things right in the first 40 minutes and because of that, I try to give TV shows some latitude by following the four-episode rule. It’s actually more of a test than a rule, but it’s still a practical measurement. Before completely abandoning a show, I will watch four episodes and decide if it’s worth committing to the series. I look at character development; I want to see interesting and believable characters. Of course, storylines are important, as is smooth flowing dialogue. It’s that simple.
Some shows take a few episodes to find their feet. They are under pressure to introduce the characters, give an overview of the premise and not be boring. Sometimes you end up with a lot of talking and little action, so much exposition your ears want to bleed. What about the clumsy attempt at character development in the first episode to force you to love a lead you hardly know?
Sometimes you can tell within the first 20 minutes whether you will grow to like a show, especially if it isn’t in your favourite genre. I admit to dismissing most procedurals out of hand and won’t watch a minute of them because they are not my favourite thing. I only gave Rizzoli and Isles, Bones and Castle the four ep consideration because of the actors involved. Luckily the shows were worth my time, so I continued to watch long after the first season. Although, I have to say Bones and Castle are getting a bit long in the tooth.
Anyhoo, I know we all have busy lives and need to make snap judgments about how we spend our TV viewing, but it might be worth watching just one more episode if it’s in your favourite genre. You might be pleasantly surprised. When I think about the cringe-worthy Star Trek: TNG two-part series première, I think about what I would have missed had I abandoned the series at Farpoint station. Even the original Buffy pilot was a bit iffy luckily, the version that aired was much improved.
So the next time you change the channel halfway through the first episode of a new series, consider tuning in the following week to see if it gets better. Of course, some shows have a good first 4 or 5 episodes or even a solid first season and then proceed to suck after that. Under those circumstances, all considerations are off, set phasers to maximum and do as you will!