A year ago, my good friend and filmmaker Darrell Hazelrig and I dedicated a lot of time to creating a television show pilot. We had what we thought was something that stayed within the general framework of the paranormal programs currently haunting primetime TV, but with our own little twist.
The show was called “Small Town Gothic,” and it paid tribute to the back story of hauntings — those peculiar and offbeat little tales that give towns their character — rather than the paranormal investigation itself. Within each story, one investigator would play the “believer” while another would act as a skeptical historian. The two would dig deep into community lore, gathering tales of ghosts, monsters and general weirdness that accumulate through a town’s unique history. Using local archives, the tall tales would be separated from facts via historical record and personal remembrances.
We pimped this thing like a ho at 2AM. We made phone calls, got some feedback, had a lot of doors slammed in our faces and received several “thanks-but-no-thanks.” The commercial television market is a tough nut to crack, much more so than the music world (where I lived for many years). Whereas record labels seem interested in hearing what bubbles up from actual scenes (at least superficially), TV is much more self-involved and nepotistic. Production companies would rather rely on insider consultants than consider outside ideas, regardless of how interesting — or marketable — those ideas might be.
While pitching the show to production companies, I was shocked at a clause they all required us to sign which basically stated that they could legally produce the exact show we were pitching because they had the same idea before they met us. Meaning, each time we pitched a show, they could say, “Yeah, we already thought of that. Thanks. Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out.” And then put it into production.
The best feedback we received was “you’ve got something here, but I don’t think that it’s fully developed. Come back to us when you have a polished concept and we can talk.” I took this to mean, “I conceive better television shows on the toilet.”
So we gave up. Why bother? A colossal effort with little to no reward. Yet despite all this, I’ve spent the last year mulling the show over in my head, removing certain parts and altering others. I’ve spent countless hours in the shower (where amazing songs, lyrics and television shows are formulated and ultimately dried off with your towel) re-conceptualizing the show, and I came to a simple conclusion regarding pitching paranormal TV programs:
Fuck it. Fuck it all to Hell.
So anyway, here I am. With a television show I’m all set to pitch, but with no inclination to run around town, call around the country, sign ridiculous documents and all the other crap. Instead, I’m pitching it here, and tagging production companies. This is my show. Starring me and my friends. Production companies: you want it? Email me. You don’t? Go make a show about auctioning storage spaces — there’s four of those on right now, and surely the world needs another.
My show is called “Ghost Skeptic,” and it stars a dashingly handsome, likable and cocky teacher by day who spends his nights investigating supposed haunted locations around the country (world?). It begins with the following monologue:
My name is Chris Parizo. I spent my life studying the tales of ghosts, specters, and haunts. For years, I investigated the paranormal, searching for the unknown and unexplained. I spent hours with the latest equipment in hundreds of haunted locations and have come to one conclusion: ghosts don’t exist. But I want to believe! That’s why I’m offering this challenge. Send me to the most terrifying locations in the world, places where people dare not tread, and let me enter alone. Armed with a “panic button” as my only protection, and with my associate Darrell Hazelrig guarding the perimeter, I will venture into the world’s most dangerous and frightening haunted locales. And I will do it alone. This is “Ghost Skeptic.”
The gist of it should be clear from the opening. Basically, it’s “Small Town Gothic,” but we’ve succumbed to the paranormal investigation stuff. Act I will establish the location’s backstory: its history and the people who nurture the legend. Act II will focus on the archives and records, separating fact from folktale. Act III will be me scared shitless in the dark, doing my best not to press the panic button and alerting Darrell to switch on emergency lights, thereby ending the investigation. All of this will conclude with a wrap-up where I channel my inner Anthony Bourdain with my self-reflective and self-righteous philosophies of the paranormal. There’s another element that I will answer for anyone interested, but right now I’m too busy making fart noises with my mouth to get into it.
You’re frothing already, aren’t you!?!? This is just the greatest television pitch in history, right!?!?! You’ve got a great big boner and it has “Ghost Skeptic” written all over it, don’t you!?!?!?
So that’s about it. I think it’s a good idea and it’s definitely something that I would watch. Hell, I’d even buy a t-shirt. Consider this an open call to all production companies: I’m tired of calling and emailing you; now it’s your turn.
And if you’ve already come up with this idea, kiss my ass. Give me executive producer credit and $20,000 so Darrell can get some new editing equipment and we’ll call it even.