How to choose a title for a reality TV show

Steve Blears PItch a TV Show Podcast - Season 1

How to choose a title for a reality TV show

Pitch a TV Show Podcast
How to choose a title for a reality TV show

Season 1: Episode 3

By day Helen is a court administrator, she's also a fanatical sailor who wants to make a reality TV show. In this episode, is the title Launch grabby enough? Series producer, Jo Woolf who's made lots of hit reality TV, believes the name isn't good enough.

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How to choose a title for a reality TV show - Transcript

Ahoy there. Helen wants to make a reality TV show about sailing. 

"Once afloat, you're in a new world, your decisions, your responsibility. It's called Launch."

"What I think needs to be worked on is the title."

Welcome back I'm Steve Blears. This time is the name Launch grabby enough?

"Boaty McBoat face, call it that."

Plus, will viewers really want to watch a show about sailing? 

"Is there enough filmable techniques and skills?"

"They have to have high stakes. It can't be a minimal thing like can you tie a knot?"

We'll be asking Helen. But first, let's hear from someone who's made reality TV.

"Hi there, Steve. This is Joe Woolf just giving some feedback as requested on Helen's pitch. Just to tell you about me. I am a series producer and a senior editor producer in factual television. I've been working in the industry for about 20 years. Shows that I've worked on are very varied but factual entertainment-wise I've worked on quite a lot of competition shows like Bake Off, Master Chef, Big Flour Fight for Netflix and I'm currently doing an American competition series about doll's houses and making miniatures. 

So I am just going to talk about Helen's idea which I thought was a really lovely idea and very clever, and I think Helen has got onto a really good topic there. 

I think that the sailing competition show idea is original, but it would be very visual, emotional. It's quite practical on and sort of inspiring both for the people participating and for viewers. And I think it is a repeatable format so you could do an eight-part series and then there could be another series the next year, following on from that in a kind of Bake Off type vein. 

Every production company is looking for their version of Bake Off because it's been such a huge success. So if you could make sailing the new Bake Off, that would be fantastic. 

I think other good things about it, you could get very diverse contributors from all walks of life and all kinds of ethnic groups. All the channels are looking for diversity, and I also think that people haven't necessarily seen a lot of boating and sailing ideas on TV before, so I think it's original enough to be different. 

People understand the competition format, and it's immediately interesting to watch because you know you've got always got the storey line of who's going to be the best? Who's going to win? Who's going to overcome their own personal hurdles? So, it's a good way of telling stories using that competition format. 

What I think needs to be worked on is the title. 

I think Launch is a nice idea on sort of a nice concept, but I don't think it's grabby enough for TV commissioners. They really like titles which are kind of witty and grabby and fun and sort of express the whole tone of the series. It's very difficult to come up with the perfect title. 

I think Launch doesn't bring in the idea of sailing for me or boating, which I think is the important thing to get across. 

So I think you that needs work on something. I mean, this sounds really naff, but something like Ships Ahoy or Amateur Mariners. Something a bit more to the point on the boating element, but also that sounds fun." 

Okay, let's hit Pause on Jo just for a moment and bring Helen in. 

"She's got an issue with the title launch. She doesn't like it. She thinks maybe you should call it Ships Ahoy. I'm not a big fan of that idea but you get a point."

"Yeah, I think anybody that's it's like having a competition. And you invite everybody in the country."

"Boaty McBoat Face you could call it that."

"Boating? It's not sailing, is it? Like a gondolier, like a coffin on water."

"My question's for Helen. Are there enough techniques and skills that you could learn for sailing that you could demonstrate and eke out over six or eight episodes? 

Also, are these techniques and skills demonstratable? Are they filmable? Are they things that the audience could understand and see whether they had been achieved or failed? 

Because you have the audience has to understand them and be able to make their own assessment. 

Whether oh yes, they've done that well. Or, Oh no, that's a bit of a disaster. You know, something like in a cake competition, very easy to understand. Oh, my goodness. that cake is an utter flop. It's burnt, it's fallen apart. It looks dreadful versus oh, my goodness, that cake is incredible, jaw-dropping, wow! Look at that seven-tiered iced wedding cake with the most beautiful decorations I've ever seen in my life! 

So I think the sailing techniques that the contributors are set, the audience needs to be able to understand and see straight away, whether they have been achieved or failed. It's not enough to have the judges analyse it and tell us whether they've failed or achieved their goals. 

I also think that that the jeopardy has to be as important as they desperately want to achieve it. The cake might completely flop, burn, fall on the floor, be inedible. 

They have to have high stakes to make a good programme.

It can't be, forgive my ignorance of sailing, but it can't be a minimal thing. Like, can you tie a knot? That isn't going to make it exciting? Or can you move the sail from this side of the boat to that side of the boat? It has to be something where the win or fail is important. 

So the contributors and the audience care whether they have managed to succeed or fail and the audience see what skill and what kind of determination to succeed is involved and how hard it has been to it to achieve that success. 

So overall I would say I really like the idea. There's definitely something in there. I've given my opinions for what they're worth on. Good luck with it."

So some big question marks from Jo Woolf but she did call it original, practical, inspiring and repeatable. 

Next time, "I really enjoyed listening to your pitch for launch. I thought your enthusiasm and knowledge came across really well." 

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