Every year we are bombarded with pilot episodes of new television shows. Comedies, dramas, dramedies, game shows, and the cultural embarrassment we call reality TV.
I normally watch a lot less television than the average person , but I do have a handful of favorite shows. Near the top of the list is Scrubs, which I have really missed this year.
Lots of people watch Scrubs. 7 seasons worth. It’s in heavy rerun rotation. Plenty of people don’t "get" Scrubs but it’s clearly a successful show. And yet it wasn’t until ABC picked it up that Scrubs was guaranteed a final season .
Think about that for a moment: a hit show put out to pasture without airing its farewell season despite all the pieces being in place.
The big television networks are hit-driven. And Scrubs is a hit in its twilight. By all reports, the show would be calling it a wrap after Season 8 (which was disrupted by the writers’ strike). For NBC (the original airing network), there was a strong desire to focus on pushing out new shows that could become bankable hits for years to come.
Every new TV show starts as an idea hoping to be a hit. Most ideas are too crappy to become hits. To be hit-driven, the television networks need to have really good crap filters.
Television networks filter out ideas in iterations. Some pitches are rejected immediately. Some are discussed before being rejected. Some ideas become pilot episodes. Some pilot episodes go to air. Some shows get picked up for initial runs (e.g., the first 4 episodes of Seinfeld). And a very lucky show becomes a huge hit.
My Kind of Hit
If you are an idea person and plan to pursue one or more ideas, you probably want the idea to be a hit. Of course being a ‘hit’ can mean many things depending on context. If your goal is to earn some weekend beer money with a web site on arena football, making $15/day from advertising makes your idea a hit for you.
The risk with a glut of ideas is that pursuing unworthy ideas can cost you time, money, relationships, and opportunities.
Therefore you must learn to filter out the ideas worth pursuing. If television networks embraced every idea that walked through the front door, there would be no network television. Implementing every idea is a path to sure destruction. You do not have the resources to implement all your ideas (unless you are devoid of ideas, in which case come see me).
Filter Aggressively – Your Idea is Probably Crap, Infeasible, or Boring
Let’s consult Derek’s Super Simple Idea Filtering Process:
If you are an idea person, you must realize that not every idea you have is good. If you’re like me, most of them are probably mediocre at best. If you have any intention of pursuing your ideas, you need to develop a great crap filter. Without proper crap filters, you risk wasting nontrivial amounts of time and/or money.
- Your personal crap filter: This requires a certain level of personal enlightenment. I’ve listened to plenty of people drone on about the crappiest of ideas and I’m dumbstruck that they don’t have an internal crap-o-meter ringing.
- Your external crap filters: If you think your idea might have some merit, run it by some people you can trust. Trust is important here. You need to know that your external crap filters will be honest with you.
Once an idea is past the crap filters, it might be an idea worth pursuing but there’s still a huge question: Is it an idea that YOU should pursue? For an idea to proceed in Derek’s SSIFP, it must pass two more filters:
- Your passions: It is foolhardy to chase an idea that you are not passionate about. In the pursuit of an idea, you can get your butt kicked pretty good. You need to have the intestinal fortitude to push through. Passion fuels that courage. I have abandoned lots of ideas at this phase. Some ideas are better off left to someone else to implement. (Serial web entrepreneur Steve Poland spews ideas out on his blog.)
- Your constraints: Let’s face it – you won’t have the time and/or money to pursue every idea. Plenty of ideas are prohibitively expensive or time-consuming. Be honest with yourself about what you can do and how much funding/seed money you can contribute or raise.
The benefit of limited resources is that it forces you to evaluate and prioritize ideas. NBC decided that it was a better bet to invest resources in new ideas than to squeeze the last bit of revenue out of Scrubs. So rejoice: you cannot implement all of your ideas. That will force you to choose only the best ideas!
Formalized Crap Filtering
Want to know a secret? Writing a "business plan" can be a great form of crap filtering! Writing even a simple business plan forces you to think through an idea and surround it with some facts and projections about costs, risks, and potential. You don’t have to call it a business plan if that makes you queasy. Call it a Tactics, Planning, and Strategy Report (see 1:07:20). Don’t download some overblown template – just type out the idea in a bit of detail and make some honest projections.
How About You?
How do you decide which ideas to pursue and which to walk away from? What ideas have you walked away from?
 According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day (or 28 hours/week, or 2 months of nonstop TV-watching per year). In a 65-year life, that person will have spent 9 years glued to the tube: http://www.csun.edu/science/health/docs/tv&health.html (For the overly curious, I also watch Heroes, Fringe, Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, and The Office. I’m still mourning The West Wing and Studio 60.)
 In an unusual network switch, ABC has picked up Scrubs from NBC for season 8. Here are some sneak peaks from the new season of Scrubs starting Tuesday January 6:
(Brain image courtesy of Gaetan Lee. Television image courtesy of Lilie.)
I think it’s important to get a few third party opinions for a fresh look on your new idea. Sometimes you will have a bunch of great ideas that get past your personal crap-o-meter and you will need someone else to let you know why to pick one of the dozen great ideas and run with it.