Outline a show's formula

In another thread (many other threads I’m sure) the negative criticism of a show boils down to its being too formulaic. My personal conviction is that every show has its own formula. Some are so subtle they don’t smack you in the face. Others you can set your watch to.

Pick a show. Show its formula.

House

  1. Perfectly ordinary day going on for some attractive, physically fit individual
  2. Symptoms that cause a camera to go into lungs and guts and brain and any other place a body has things that look good at dinnertime
  3. Opening Credits
  4. commercial
  5. House and crew sitting around a table with a whiteboard listing every symptom it won’t be
  6. Interpersonal strife with:
  • a) House and Cuddy
  • b) House and Wilson
  • c) House and at least two of the team
  • d) at least two of the team amongst temselves
  1. Patient’s friend or relative (at least one, occasionally many) crowd the room demanding action
  2. None is available because “more tests need to be run”
  3. Organs are removed
  4. Procedures only affordable by the wealthy (or politicians) are administered to any and all
  5. House has clinic duty long enough to humiliate some schlub
  6. Patient nearly dies
  7. Semi-closure on one of the interpersonal tiffs
  8. The Look*
  9. During the remaining 10-15 minutes, between two or three commercials
    it is learned that this ailment is caused by something nobody ever heard of
  10. previews of next week’s exciting case and the promise that House will be challenged like never before
  11. some cool tunes
  • Check your watch: it will be x:48

In spite of all that, I love the show!

I’ve long thought about starting a thread called: Lost Episodes in which you would do the same things as you have suggested, but pretend you are searching for a “lost” episode of a program.
Home Improvement
Tim tries to fix something and royally screws it up.
He says something insensitive to Jill and she gets very angry.
Tim doesn’t understand why
Tim makes things worse on his show
Tim makes fat jokes about Al and his mother.
Tim goes and speaks to Wilson.
Wilson goes to great lengths to obscure his face.
Wilson offers obscure quotes and compares Tim’s predicament to some ancient culture
Tim sees the light
Tim apologizes to Jill, during which he butchers the obscure quotes from Wilson
All is well.

*Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
*
Threat to the entire planet, for the fourth time this month
No one finds this unusual
The only asset that has any chance of saving the planet is the Seaview
Seaview engages the threat
Inside the Seaview, the crew is thrown from left to right as the super sub rolls to impacts
Inside the Seaview, the crew is thrown from right to left as the super sub rolls to impacts
Inside the Seaview, the crew is thrown from left to right as the super sub rolls to impacts
Inside the Seaview, the crew is thrown from right to left as the super sub rolls to impacts
Sub straightens out. The Admiral and the Captain discover the threat’s Achilles heel
Threat is neutralized
Roll credits
Tune in next week for another thrilling episode!

Three’s Company, inarguably the simplest formula in TV-land ever:

  1. Somebodt says something perfectly innocent.
  2. Somebody overhearing it thinks it means something else, sinister, dirty, or both
  3. Hilarity rarely ensues.

**Criminal Minds **

Somebody does something tremendously horrible to some helpless person (usually a small girl or pretty you woman)

Greg (From Dharma and Greg) - gets a very angry look on his face as he calls his team to action.

Greg and/or part of his team meet with local ignorant folks(LIF). One or more of the LIF makes a stupid comment.

Greg gets very angry look on his face

Guy with the 12 year old boy haircut talks like a college prof explaining the criminal mind. Attempts by the writers to make his dreadfully obvious statements sound enlightening fail miserably.

Greg has softer but still angry look on his face

Not-Mandy (Patinkin) guy disagrees with or disobeys Greg

Greg gets very angry look on his face.

Not-Abby (NCIS Abbey like clone who stays back and communicates to staff via phone) suddenly discovers some important facts that they should have checked in the first place.

Greg (with very angry look on his face) Armed with Not-Abbey’s info Greg determines the following
Killer is about to kill victim
location of killer
very little time to reach killer
optional- team member also in peril

Team breaks in and kills bad guy/saves victim/discovers that team member just now did just that

Everybody jumps on luxury jet and flies back to wherever Not-Abbey is working.

Lost

“Previously, on Lost…”
… Jack being dumb
… Kate being a bitch/slut
… Hurley going “Dude.”
… Flashback
… Smocke Monster
… Flashback
… Never before seen character given a confusing amount of screentime - what, is this relevant?
… Flashback
… Jack has a question, doesn’t ask it.
… Sawyer announces his next con name to be “Jack Cockblocker”, bangs Kate.
… Flashback
… Ben and Sayid give this episode the few dramatic (and well acted) scenes that keep drawing me back.
… Flashback
… Jack finds out that Sawyer banged Kate (again!), purses lips.
… Resolution… not!
… “LOST” title card

Mythbusters:

Introduce a myth, saying, phrase, or pop-culture phenomenon that a majority of the audience has a vague familiarity with.

RECAP WHAT JUST HAPPENED

Begin to test out the myth while trying to stay true to the spirit of it.

RECAP WHAT JUST HAPPENED

Finish the testing, which typically ends with a fizzle or non-result.

RECAP WHAT JUST HAPPENED

Toss out the attempts to stay true to the spirit of the myth, scale it up, and go nuts trying out everything possible [RECAP WHAT JUST HAPPENED] to get a fantastic TV-friendly result, preferably an explosion or crash.

RECAP WHAT JUST HAPPENED

(I still really enjoy the show, but I only have to tune in for the last 10 minutes at most.)

OH, I’ve seen that one! Excellent, I hope they do more! :smiley:

Applies to just about every reality or documentary show shown on British television. Especially now as there’s a bunch of channels on “FreeView” that have advert breaks every 10 minutes.

  1. Jack falls over the couch.

The castaways come up with a plan to get off the island, but its thwarted at the last minute.

Applies to both Gilligan’s Island and Lost

I immediately thought of that when I read the mouseover on the OP. Most ridiculously formulaic show ever.

Game shows pretty much have the same format every day.

You almost got it right. It’s actually this (my edits in red):

PREVIEW WHAT’S ABOUT TO HAPPEN

Introduce a myth, saying, phrase, or pop-culture phenomenon that a majority of the audience has a vague familiarity with.

PREVIEW WHAT’S ABOUT TO HAPPEN
CUT TO COMMERCIAL
RECAP WHAT JUST HAPPENED

Begin to test out the myth while trying to stay true to the spirit of it.

PREVIEW WHAT’S ABOUT TO HAPPEN
CUT TO COMMERCIAL
RECAP WHAT JUST HAPPENED

Finish the testing, which typically ends with a fizzle or non-result.

PREVIEW WHAT’S ABOUT TO HAPPEN
CUT TO COMMERCIAL
RECAP WHAT JUST HAPPENED

Toss out the attempts to stay true to the spirit of the myth, scale it up, and go nuts trying out everything possible [RECAP WHAT JUST HAPPENED] to get a fantastic TV-friendly result, preferably an explosion or crash.

RECAP WHAT JUST HAPPENED

You forgot one part of House (usually either fairly close to the beginning or right around the 30 25-30-minute mark (and not to be confused with the initial problem before the credits):

  • Something horrific and disgusting happens, which has as its only purpose to top the horrific and disgusting thing that happened last week (previous examples–eyes popping out, bloody projectile vomiting, explosive diarrhea coming from patient on table…)

30-minute house porn (pick almost any specific show):

If it involves actual construction
Intro: Hey, here’s the house we’ve got to renovate to be able to sell so that these people can live happily ever after.
Act 1: Sellers fret for 12 minutes about how hard it is to let go of “their” home and the way it is now.
Act 2: Recap fretting for 5 minutes, show 5 minute montage of renovations actually happening (sometimes weeks of work), then 2 minutes of reveal.

If show does not involve any actual construction
Intro: Hey, here’s the house we’ve got to redecorate to be able to sell so that these people can live happily ever after.
Act 1: Sellers fret for 5 minutes about how hard it is to let go of “their” home and the way it is now. Redecorating expert pontificates about how her new design will increase the value/sellability of the house for 7 minutes.
Act 2: Recap fretting for 5 minutes, show 5 minute montage of redecorating actually happening (sometimes days of work), then 2 minutes of reveal.

Bones

  1. Ordinary people doing ordinary things discover a hideously decomposed cadaver(cue opening titles)
  2. Bones and Booth arrive on scene(and on screen) in mid-bickering about some trivial matter.
  3. Cut to the forensic team at lab with body, also in middle of bickering amongst themselves about trivial matter.
  4. Bones and Booth in car on way to interview witness/suspect; more bickering/awkward sexual tension moment.
  5. More bickering from team as they work on body.
  6. Someone makes obvious pop culture reference Booth fails to understand.
  7. Booth attempts to explain pop culture reference to Bones; she argues some technical point of explanation.
  8. Booth, with Bones present for no reason, interviews several witnesses/suspects.
  9. Personal crap about member of forensic team that’s vaguely related to case at hand.
  10. Member of team makes brilliant deduction based on tiny bit of evidence uncovered.
  11. Booth, with Bones present for no reason, captures guilty party.
  12. Bones makes failed attempt to use pop culture reference learned earlier.
  13. Musical montage of all involved cast members resolving whatever conflict they had.
  14. Bones and Booth alone together somewhere for another awkward sexual tension moment.

The Dog Whisperer

  1. “When good dogs go bad…I AM the Dog Wheesperer.”

  2. “My dog bites/attacks/pees/passes out.”

  3. “That’s it? Well let’s go meet him.”

  4. Montage of dogs behaving badly and Cesar screaming “Be the pack leader!” (Announcer: “Is this one case Cesar can’t fix?”)

  5. Commercial breka

  6. “BE THE PACK LEADER!” Traumatized dog obeys, and Cesar rides off into the sunset.

ST: TNG

  1. Rare/unusual space anomaly detected
  2. Picard adjusts stretchy pants, tells Data to figure it out.
  3. Riker scores some space tail in the B plot.
  4. Data spends much time/energy chasing down exactly what the problem isn’t.
  5. Worf wants to kill/eat the problem.
  6. Troi thinks it just needs a hug.
  7. Guinan says something cryptic.
  8. Geordi is baffled.
  9. Wesley solves the problem by accidentally spilling his bong into the <techno babble> while trying to see some boobies.
  10. Crusher clucks in mild disapproval. Picard frowns.
  11. Data says something unintentionally funny.
  12. Roll Credits.

Pawn Stars

  1. Somebody brings weird but possibly valuable thing into the store.
  2. Chumley says something stupid.
  3. Rick REALLY wants the weird thing, but only at the right price.
  4. Rick just happens to have a buddy that is an expect in Gregorian Dildoes, and wants to have him check the item out before making an offer.
    a) The item is fake. Customer makes sad face.
    b) The item is real. Customer wants whatever price the expert mentioned. Rick offers about 10% of value. Customer negotiates, Rick buys item for 12% of value.
  5. Old Man grumps and curmudgeons about how they did things in 1492.
  6. Corey screws up, blames Chumley.

Don’t forget the obligatory…

“We had this thing go wrong and we have a (completely arbitrary and self-imposed) deadline coming up REALLY SOON. What are we going to do?!?!?!”

(commercial)

“Dave knew a guy who knew a guy and we got what we needed in time. Whew!”

-Joe