Over at Cosmic Variance, Sean Carroll gets us an imaginary audience with Les Moonves (President and CEO of CBS) to pitch a new TV show about science:
You have thirty seconds -- which, as this blog is still a text-based medium, we'll approximate as strictly 100 words or less -- to pitch your idea for a new TV show that is based on science. It can be an hour drama, a half-hour sitcom, a reality show, game show, documentary, science fiction, whatever you like ...
Most importantly: Les Moonves's goal in life is not to make science look good. It's to make money. So don't pitch that this show would make the world a better place, or make science seem interesting; convince him that it's exciting to everyone and will attract millions of eyeballs.
Use the science. For our purposes, we're less interested in a show idea that tacks on some science to make things sound cool, as we are in a concept that couldn't happen without the science.
Story is paramount. As much as we love accuracy and realism, there has to be a compelling narrative. You need to convince Moonves that people will be emotionally connected to the characters and their situation.
Your elevator pitch, left in the comments at Cosmic Variance, could win a T-shirt. Since what I'm proposing is a family drama, I'm pretty convinced it'll be beat out by a super-hero show, or a reality show ("Celebrity Scientist Grant Proposal Camp").
Here's the elevator pitch for my show:
The economy has tanked and modern infrastructure (utilities, highways, food supplies, schools) is decaying - "pre-apocalypse". We focus on a couple who left science a decade ago, moving to a small town for a new start. Their kids keep stumbling into sciencey situations, drawing their parents into them. Their town has a distinct anti-science vibe -- science and technology didn't hold off the decay gripping the community, and (we find out) the town is still scarred by tragic events due to mad scientists. Despite themselves, our family uses scientific reasoning and keen observation to rebuild the community and their own lives.
It's got some "Mad Max", some "Footloose", possibly even a hint of "Little House on the Prairie". And you know those kids are going to kick ass.