How to Sell a TV Show and Produce a Pilot

Ever wondered what it takes to create a television show? Comedian John Lehr shows you the day-by-day process of getting a new show greenlit

Comedian John Lehr pitches a show idea

How to Sell a TV Show: comedian John Lehr tempts the Grim Reaper by trying to land a deal in 60 days

The process of selling a TV series in Hollywood is rarely short and sweet, so it’s pretty impressive that comedian John Lehr (10 Items or Less) dared to pledge that he and his writing partner, Nancy Hower, would successfully sell a series within 60 days.

It’s also a testament to how dark his sense of humour can be that the full title of his web series—well, technically, it’s really more of a video blog, but since it’s doled out episodically, we’re going to let it slide — is How to Sell a TV Show in 60 Days . . . or Die Trying.

Indeed, there’s rarely an installment of the series in which Lehr doesn’t cheerily remind viewers how many days remain until he’ll be forced to kill Hower. (“There’s been a lot of chatter on the internet about how I should kill Nancy, and I just want to put that to rest: I’m going with a gun.”)

He was kidding . . . probably. Either way, the point is moot, since How to Sell a TV Show wrapped last year and — spoiler alert! — Lehr and Hower quickly embarked on a follow-up series, this one entitled How to Close a TV Deal. Being aware of the duo’s ongoing existence actually makes this a much more valuable viewing experience, however, as it confirms that, yes, they really do know how to sell a TV show. Even better, they offer up valuable advice about the selling process, not to mention Hollywood in general, in a humorous and occasionally profane manner.

Alas, you will never actually see Hower on camera, as she happily handles the camera in favour of letting her writing partner take the spotlight. Fortunately, even when Lehr is assuring you of the probability of his and Hower’s imminent deaths, he’s still got more than enough enthusiasm and congeniality to hold viewers’ attention.

How to Write a TV Pilot

After successfully pitching a TV series to NBC, John Lehr and Nancy Hower are now forced to make good on their creative assurances and produce a pilot script, embarking on the process with the same assurance as before: they’ll do it in 60 days, or they’ll die trying.

In fact, Lehr, ever with the death wish, ups the ante and says that they’ll actually need to get their pilot picked up; otherwise it’s curtains for them. Clearly, Lehr isn’t playing around this time: he’s got a wipe board ready to roll from the first episode, scribbling down such key phrases as “loglines,” “breaking the story,” and so forth.

Although its predecessors ultimately may have been more fun than educational, How to Write a TV Pilot really does offer numerous tips for creative types. Don’t miss it.

Originally published in TVW. For daily programming updates and on-screen Entertainment news, subscribe to the free TVW e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.