Keeping up with all the new TV shows that launch is a full-time job. It’s actually my full-time job. But for people who don’t get to watch TV and call it “making a living”, the endless deluge of dramas, comedies, reality shows, documentaries and whatever Gogglebox is must be overwhelming. Every week, another batch debut, and no matter how many you binge, like the Hydra of ancient mythology, more just seem to sprout up in their place.
And so I welcome anything that allows me to appraise shows quickly and efficiently. Gone are the days when I would give something five or six episodes to make an impression on me. If I’m not hooked by the end of the Episode 2, chances are I’m not coming back for a third because there are dozens of other shows lining up for consideration – which is why pilots are the best thing to have happened to Australian TV.
In the US, the pilot process is a finely tuned system of determining what will make it to air the following season, with scores of Australian actors flooding into LA each year in the hope of landing a part in the next Westworld and not the next Rise. Of all the pilots that are filmed, a certain percentage are given the green light – the ones that are picked up generally make it to air as the show’s first episodes; the ones that aren’t usually only ever get seen by a bunch of TV executives.
Locally, where such a rigorous pilot industry does not exist, a new trend has developed in recent years. Networks wanting to test the water with a variety of new shows without committing to a full season have started screening a selection of pilot episodes to try to gauge which ones might connect with the TV-viewing public.
The ABC’s Fresh Blood initiative began in 2013, and now, a second batch of comedies has just been rolled out, all hoping to earn enough ratings and buzz to convince the powers that be to commission more. Below, you can find out what the team from WHO’s TV podcast, Binge List, think of the fours shows – Koala Man, Why Are You Like This, The Angus Project and Be Your Own Boss, which are all available to watch on iView and YouTube now. Spoiler alert: I only enjoyed two of the four. And that’s the great thing about these pilot specials – you can sample a bunch of different shows without feeling like you’re missing out on something if you stop after just one episode.
Indeed, one episode might be all that ever gets made, which in the case of some of Network Ten’s slate of pilots from earlier this year was more than enough. Ten recently announced which of those pilots they’ll take to series in 2019, and because I was already able to check them all out in the smorgasbord that was Pilot Week, I know that I have zero interest in watching any of them ever again, leaving me more time for this week’s 28 new Netflix series.