Reality has the same elements as any other type of show. You need all of them:
- Strong premise – a brief (1-2 sentence) description of the overall show
- Character descriptions – Even if this is a format-driven show, you need to articulate what types of people you’ll case. American Idol casts starry-eyed dreamers; Top Chef casts talented, successful, savvy restaurateurs; The Price is Right casts regular people familiar with prices of everyday goods.
- Pilot outline/format explanation – A step-by-step walk-through of a typical episode’s format or story. Even if you’re pitching a personality-driven show, be able to walk buyers through a typical episode. What kinds of stories or segments might they see?
- Sample episodes – Short one-sentence descriptions of potential storylines. If you’re pitching a format-driven show, like The Voice or Jeopardy, you need examples of challenges or questions.
- Show sustainability – TV shows are designed to run, in theory, into eternity… so you need to show buyers how your show is infinitely sustainable. Simple game shows are easily repeatable, but shows like The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills are tougher, because they depend on potentially unreliable characters to generate story. Is your idea self-sustaining, like Family Feud? Or do you need to suggest ideas for new takes on future seasons in order to keep the show fresh and engaging?
- Emotional hook – Every show—or, rather, every piece of art—needs to be some kind of reflection of audiences’ lives. Does your show tap into viewers’ own aspirations and dreams, like American Idol? Does it reflect family dysfunction and sibling rivalry, like Keeping Up With the Kardashians? Does it utilize the universal desire to find true love, like The Bachelor?