Here's how to pitch a TV show: Take a well-known piece of literature (or, hey, a TV show will do) and add a wacky concept. Today this adds up to "Present-day Les Miserables."
That, at least, is the show that Veronica Mars and Party Down creator Rob Thomas is working on for Fox, according to Deadline's Nellie Andreeva. Andreeva explains that the drama, written by Graham Norris, is a "primetime soap about a brilliant lawyer running a legal exoneration program who fights to evade the consequences of his own unjust conviction many years before." The protagonist, who we presume will be named Jack Valjean, will have to deal with "a ruthless U.S. Attorney who refuses to let the ghosts of the past die." Once again, we're assuming that character's name is Simon Javert, and that our hero stole Wonder Bread stock.
So basically it sounds like your standard nighttime soap with a splash of Victor Hugo. (Revenge, Andreeva reminds us, was based on The Count of Monte Cristo.) The thing is, while comparing your new thing to an old thing makes for a snappy pitch, it also turns your idea into an easy joke. See: Above. See also: Other pilots in development. A show called Paroled—also for Fox—is described as a "male Laverne and Shirley on parole." The question is, why? Can't it just be a buddy comedy? Why Laverne and Shirley? Do the main characters have two awkward female friends named Lana and Iggy? Does one of the lead actors always have an initial emblazoned on his chest? Also, don't forget that CBS is working on a Wizard of Oz "medical soap" and Fox has a "Catch Me If You Can-type drama."
But why settle for what's already out there. You can easily divine your own concept for one of these shows. The formula, which we mentioned at the outset of this post is rather simple, all it requires is a knowledge of some beloved property, a time period, and a television genre. So perhaps you'd be interested in seeing The Brady Bunch as a police procedural in the 1920s. What about a Lord of the Rings-type drama set in present-day Chicago? Or maybe you could have a sitcom described as Jane Eyre in the 90s. (Though, perhaps that's just The Nanny.) Play around. Make your own. Become famous.