Television programs may be fictional (as in comedies and dramas), or non-fictional (as in documentary, news, and reality television). It may be topical, or historical. They could be primarily instructional or educational, or entertaining as is the case in situation comedy and game shows. A drama program usually features a set of actors playing characters in a historical or contemporary setting. The program follows their lives and adventures.
To create the pilot, the structure and team of the whole series must be put together. If the network likes the pilot, they pick up the show to air it the next season. Sometimes they save it for mid-season, or request rewrites and further review. Other times, they pass entirely, forcing the show’s creator to “shop it around” to other networks.
The idea for such a program may be generated “in-house” by one of the networks.
The show hires a stable of writers, who usually work in parallel: the first writer works on the first episode, the second on the second episode, etc. When all the writers have been used, episode assignment starts again with the first writer. On other shows, however, the writers work as a team. Sometimes they develop story ideas individually, and pitch them to the show’s creator, who folds them together into a script and rewrites them. If the show is picked up, the network orders a “run” of episodes—usually only six or 13 episodes at first.
For example, the BBC’s long-running soap opera EastEnders is wholly a BBC production, whereas its popular drama Life on Mars was developed by Kudos in association with the broadcaster. However, there are still a significant number of programs (usually sitcoms) that are built around just one or two writers and a small, close-knit production team.