Today's LAT sits in on UCLA's new TV Development course, where Tomorrow's Showrunners (at least the ones who aren't learning the business by experiencing firsthand the severe consequences of botching a lunch order for a grumpy writers' room) develop series ideas and get practice pitching them to a panel of Real Television Executives, who lend some of their precious time on the remote chance they'll hear an idea they can later steal and rush into development. The wide-eyed students, who have not yet had their souls devoured and shat out by the industry, are still brimming with adorable optimism over the possibilities of the grand medium and the valuable connections they'll make during the semester:
Television is the "primary medium of our time," said Byron Hudson, a student who wants to participate in "cultural dialogue." He described his pitch as "a 'Northern Exposure'-esque character-driven dramedy." Because movies are getting dumb and dumber, he said, television is where he can "push the envelope."
Sebastian Matthews hopes to create a groundbreaking series like "Lost" or "Heroes." "There's something very special about telling your favorite stories to 14 million people at once," he said.
As he sat at a table with friends waiting for class to begin, he said he suspected that more than a grade might be at stake that evening. "It's a big opportunity," he said, referring to the panelists who would be judging his idea — a story about a ladies' man who runs a business to help less successful guys win the girls of their dreams. "If I put myself in the shoes of an executive and I'm here amongst creative young people and somebody has a great idea ... then why wouldn't I keep in touch?"
Of course, the class's midterm pitch sessions are not an accurate simulation of real life, as the students are afforded an entire six minutes to sell their ideas to a panel of professionals; eager learners like the ones above won't learn the cold realities of the TV business by having their spiels cut off abruptly after mentioning Northern Exposure ("Do we look like we're in the business of quirky and low-rated?") or hearing a development exec they thought they'd connected with not even waiting until they're out of earshot to tell their assistant, "Burn the business card of that guy who's trying to sell me Hitch."