How to pitch a TV show idea? I have no idea, but that didn’t stop me from trying.
I know we are not supposed to use words like “fail” since every misfire is a “learning opportunity,” but sometimes things don’t work out. And sometimes, euphemisms aren’t satisfying.
But every failure does let you know you tried. And trying shows you give a shit. So every now and then, I like to document some of my favorite failures. Each one, of course, redirects me to where I am supposed to be.
As I was nearing the end of my stint with VH1 on the satellite radio end of things, I realized I’d be foolish if I did not try to make my way from radio to TV. After all, I might never have the “inside track” again. So I pitched a couple of shows to a network executive. The concepts never went anywhere, but it recently occurred that, despite tremendous advances in digital recording, one concept, TOSS THE MIC, holds up almost 20 years later.
During the age of ubiquitous streaming, it feels as if the world is running out of TV show ideas. So for prosperity’s sake, I’m dropping my ancient pitch below. Maybe there’s still hope for a “green light.” 🙂
TOSS THE MIC
The show that captures the excitement of the songwriting process by creating outrageous collaborations with today’s hottest talent
Submitted by: AGR
WGA Copyright #: XXXXXX
Date: November 28, 2004
Summary: Collaborations have taken the music industry by storm by topping charts, selling millions of albums and creating massive media buzz. TOSS THE MIC facilitates extraordinary musical partnerships by recording a song, one track at a time, by various artists, working together towards a common charitable goal.
The 30-minute show begins with the introduction of a primary artist who will act as the host for the duration of the show.
This star chooses a charity and proceeds to record the foundation of the song in the form of a single track. He/She then takes the track to a second artist who is asked to add the song’s next element.
The artist is left alone with the initial track, recording equipment and a time limit. Once the performer has completed his/her portion, the song is retrieved by the host and taken to a third artist, then a fourth and so on. Throughout the process, all participants are unaware with whom they are collaborating with, except for the initial artist/host.
Ultimately the tracks are fine-tuned by a famed producer who will decide if some tracks need to be eliminated, replaced, or tweaked.
The final product is played for a panel of judges that is unaware of whom the contributors are. They vote on the song – the higher the score, the more money they earn for the charity.
All the while, cameras are rolling, capturing both the joys and frustrations of songwriting. The end of the show is the viewer’s chance to hear the finalized song in its entirety, see the artist’s reactions when their anonymous collaborators are revealed, find out if they beat the time limit, and see how the song is voted on and the amount of money won.
BTW…At the time, I was told that this three-page approach was how to pitch a TV show idea. In today’s world, I would imagine there’s a better way!
LOGLINE: Imagine today’s hottest artists passing a song around like a chain letter; with each recipient adding their own unique sound. Now keep in mind that the musicians are anonymous to one another and candidly critiquing each other’s work. Throw in a stringent time limit, a set of discriminating judges and a large cash reward and you have “TOSS THE MIC”, the show that captures the synergy of songwriting, the rush of reality television and the draw of big-name talent.
Description: The number of interesting collaborations is limitless, and the cross-genre appeal will draw an incredibly broad audience. Imagine Ja Rule and Dolly Parton as a songwriting team, with Dave Navarro playing guitar, Ringo Starr on drums and Timbaland pulling it all together.
As each artist adds their individual talent, they will talk about the songwriting approach they’re taking, the love of the instrument they are using, their opinion on the already existing tracks or anything else they like.
Stars will be eager to participate because of the show’s originality, the intense creativity involved and the benefit to the charitable cause.
TOSS THE MIC is not a copy of any existing reality show, instead, it’s an innovative and new concept that acts as a vehicle that allows VH1 to create hit songs, integrate fresh artists onto the channel and entertain a vast audience.
Furthermore, this entertaining program offers a cornucopia of opportunities for ancillary products, consumer goods and creates a powerful new franchise. (Musicians love talking music!)
-Jon Bon Jovi explains to viewers that he is trying to raise $5,000 for the National Breast Cancer Foundation by recording a collaborative song within a 24-hour period
-J. Bon Jovi tells us about a 3-minute guitar piece he came up with that he’s been stuck on – he’ll use it as the foundation for the song
-J. Bon Jovi is backstage with the Goo Goo Dolls and asks Johnny Rzeznik if he’ll help the charity by adding some vocals to the song. J. Bon Jovi leaves him with the song and tells him he’s got 30 minutes to come up with something
-J. Bon Jovi retrieves the song which now consists of his guitar work and J. Rzeznik’s vocals and takes it to a recording studio where Faith Hill is working. He asks her what she thinks of the song so far and if she’s willing to add some backup vocals to help the charity.
“Is that Johnny Rzeznik singing,” Faith asks.
“No comment,” replies J. Bon Jovi.
-J. Bon Jovi visits Ja Rule at home and asks if he can take a listen to the song and add some backing tracks, but he’s only got 15 minutes to make it happen.
“This song isn’t my thing but it’s for a good cause, so I’ll help you out,” says Ja Rule. “The singing sucks.”
-J. Bon Jovi takes the song that now features elements from J. Rzeznik, Faith Hill, Ja Rule and himself, and rushes it to Timbaland, the Producer.
“It’s gonna be rough pulling all this together but I’ll give it a shot,” he says.
He adds some electronic beats, vocal effects and samples.
-The song is played for a panel of judges, all of who are unaware of the participants and why they are collaborating. It is necessary to have a positive majority vote to win the $5,000. J. Bon Jovi plays the song for this episode’s panel; a group of 5 honor students from the Berklee College of Music in Boston. They offer some feedback but not their verdict.
-For the first time the song is heard in its entirety by viewers. Visually, we are seeing a montage of the recording process.
-The panel votes and 4 out of 5 like the song and J. Bon Jovi proudly announces that the time limit has been beaten and $5,000 raised for The National Breast Cancer Foundation.
-We see the reaction of the other participants when their surprise collaborators are revealed. They will get the opportunity to comment on the finished product as well as back up any earlier comments they made regarding the musicianship of the other artists.
“The production is hot, I knew it had to be Timbaland,” says Ja Rule.
“My singing sucks cause I only had like 20 minutes,”says J. Rzeznik
“Wow, I can’t believe that’s me singing,” says Faith Hill. “I sound so different!”
“I can’t believe the direction this song took. I never would have imagined it ending up like this – it’s definitely different,” says J. Bon Jovi
And there it is, another beautiful failure.
But come on, if we’re being honest, you would totally watch this show today! Just picture Lil Nas X, Neil Young and Olivia Rodrigo, and you know you’re in! 🙂