Lecture 2 – The Essential Ingredients of a Format

Further reading- http://www.tvformats.com/formats.html

Last week I asked you to consider this – What are the essential ingredients of an entertainment format?

TV formats are made up of a “kit of parts”, these are the key elements that make the format work.  All TV game shows, quizzes and entertainment formats are made this way.  Producers spend a long time in development taking apart the format and rebuilding it until they are sure that it works (and if they are cash lucky a pilot or pilots will help them in this process).  This ensures that the time spent in the studio is efficient and that the production runs smoothly.  This might seem a rather restrictive and prescribed way to make telly but I would argue that there are (small) places for chaos or spontaneity in a format. For example when a contestant wins the big prize, when a celebrity does something unexpected or when the audience gets involved.

Today TV schedules are dominated by formats because they easy to make, can be bulk ordered and most importantly audiences have a huge appetite for them.  Why?  Well because these formats tap into one or more of the following; our love of winning (particularly if for a big money prize or if beating a baddie), big named celebrities and a good laugh (and natter).

Today we will be analysing 3 different types of entertainment formats looking for their key elements and reasons for success.

So what are THE ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS OF A BIG HITTING FORMAT?

They are;
1. A SIMPLE IDEA – You MUST be able to sum up your show in one line.
2. A HOOK – the reason to watch.  Why will an audience want to watch your show?
3. PLAY-A-LONG ability –  Also known as shoutablity - if your audience is shouting at the telly they are engaged and likely to be loyal.
4. BRANDING or a distinctive style – Formats need a distinctive set and music and lighting
5. REPEATABLE (again and again and again) – Format stays the same every show.  Key ingredient of a Format
6. COMPETITION – for drama or fun.  Formats need a winner or a sense of competition.
7. A CHARACTER (presenter or contributor) – Presenter brings their personality to the proceedings and makes the show their own.
8. TRANSFERABILITY – The measure of a truly successful format is how many countries you can sell it to.  A format should tap into basic or unilateral human interests demonstrating language and/or culture is no boundary to understanding it.
9. Spin-offs – money making merchandising is all part of the business plan these days.

Deal or No Deal

“ Part game show, part psychological thriller”
“The most flexible gameshow ever invented”       www. endemol.com
Game of tension and chance
Daily show

Teatime slot
5.5m audience
Broad audience  8-80
Daytime audiences are 50% male
Began in UK 2005 (originally a Dutch format)
                       
                    The suspense of decision-making
DOND – the recipe of it’s success;
A SIMPLE IDEA – 22 sealed boxes and one question – deal or no deal?  The method behind the idea is based on the “suspense of decisions” – will they, won’t they? And money.
A HOOK – (the reason to watch).  This is essentially a game of chicken.  The contestant spend 50 minutes trying to dodge the juggernaut heading their way.  The audience develop an attachment to the contestant so that they care who wins.
PLAY-A-LONG ability – The audience at home, in the studio and the contestant’s family can all play this game along at home.
BRANDING – Today’s Quiz Formats are about creating a spectacle or an event.  So they need a distinctive set and music – Often quiz shows will have an “arena” of combat (think gladiators of ancient times).  The set creates a place for the battle to take place, with glamorous assistants,  dramatic music, lighting changes and a big celebration should there be a win.
REPEATABLE (again and again and again) – Format stays the same every show.  Key ingredient of a Format
COMPETITION – for drama or fun.  Formats need a winner or a sense of competition.
A CHARACTER (presenter or contributor) – Presenter brings their personality to the proceedings and makes the show their own. Can you imagine anyone else presenting this than Noel Edmunds?  Contestant research is a key job behind a successful format.  You want people who show their feelings and who are talkative, emotional, or on a “journey”.
TRANSFERABILITY – The measure of a truly successful format is how many countries you can sell it to.  A format should tap into basic or unilateral human interests demonstrating language and/or culture is no boundary to understanding it. DOND is about the victory of the little person and a big lump of cash.
SPIN- OFFS – 10 Online Games/ Iphone game/ Online Bingo/ Noel doll?
WHAT NEXT FOR DOND? Formats can be refreshed but it is a lot harder to do so with quizzes like this.  Likely that audiences will not respond to any changes to the rules. But audiences and formats do tire and get retired.  Sometimes they come back revamped (Strictly Come Dancing is a recent example of this.  It used to play late at night, with amateur couples, presented by Angela Rippon – my how it has changed!).   The US version of DOND is  far glitzier than the UK – including glamourous assistants and has a later tx time.  Involving big names in the game is a good way to keep the format fresh in audiences minds.
Deal or No Deal and George Bush
IN THE SAME STABLE:
Who Wants to Be  a Millionaire – £££
The Weakist Link -  Humiliation
Golden Balls – Nasty tactics
High Stakes – Latest peaktime gameshow
BBC2
Weekly
9pm – Post watershed
18-35 years(young for BBC2)
Blokey
Music knowledge required
Began 1996
SIMPLE IDEA – Irreverent pop quiz, with guest competitors from the worlds of music, TV and comedy
HOOK = Comedians + Pop idols away from the mike are the reasons to watch
PLAYALONG- ability =  Various Q & A rounds.  Home and Studio Audiences can join in with answers.
BRANDING = distinctive set, lighting, music and logo. Black and white gives a retro look. Speakers to reflect music them. Logo taken from Sex Pistols album that title comes from.
REPEATABLE = same round played each week. Host and guests change
Spectacle/ event = studio audience / set design/ music/ celebs
COMPETITION = Win for fun.
A CHARACTER = Team Captains (Phil Jupitus and Noel Fielding) have become identifiable faces of the show. Hosts change arguably giving each show a sense of uniqueness.  An Idea first tried on Have I Got New From You.
TRANSFERABILITY = Idea has been tried out in Holland, Germany and US but not caught on. It’s quite a uniquely British format that taps into our particular sense of humour. Just like these other shows;
QI
8 out of 10 cats
Have I Got News For You
What next for Buzzcocks?
Personally I think it’s a tired show or maybe I just outgrew it. I think Celebrity Juice has stolen it’s audience and got better laughs. Scope to improve this format definitely.
ITV1
Weekdays
Lunchtime chatshow
Female
Lots of talk!
+ Celebrities
Began 1991
SIMPLE IDEA – 5 women talking about the issues of the day.  Mirroring playgrounds/ workplaces/ homes all over UK.
HOOK = Likeable and controversial cast + current celebrities.
PLAYALONG- ability =  Home  audiences can join in with debates via twitter, email etc
BRANDING = distinctive set, lighting, music and logo. LIght, bright and breezy to reflect time of day and tone of show.
REPEATABLE = same format to each programme each week.
COMPETITION = Big Money quiz.
A CHARACTER = Panel has become well known from revealing much about their personal lives on screen.  This format idea is reliant on the warmth, genuineness and opinions of the on-screen team.  Has won numerous daytime TV awards but this year ratings have dropped. Carol Vorderman and Janet Street-Porter recently joined to shake up the format.
TRANSFERABILITY = Idea has been tried out in US and Germany but not caught on, had better success in Australia (but more of a magazine format).
SPIN-OFFS – Various “uncut” DVDs of the panel disgracing themselves and biogs.
Other shows in the stable;
Chatty Man
Paul O’Grady
What next for Loose Women?
The loose women star seems to be on the wane. Loose Men anyone?
Remember TV formats work best when they speak to our basic human likes.  On one hand we like suspense, intrigue and mystery (that is why there are so many crime dramas) and on the other laughing or crying at real people’s stories and always shouting at the telly!  Use this guide to help you devise the formula for your format.
HOMEWORK – 27th October
In your TV teams you need to start developing your entertainment format ideas.  Come next week with a pitch (a one line summary) for your top 3 ideas.

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