8 New TV Show Ideas Almost as Stupid as 'Grey's Anatomy'
If you've never seen Grey's Anatomy, you probably at least know it as a punchline representing awful, female-targeted, self-absorbed TV dramas. Characters are nicknamed things like "McDreamy" and "McSteamy," and actors of questionable attractiveness are passed off as sex gods and goddesses.
The title of the show is a pun that really makes no sense. It starts from the real medical reference book Gray's Anatomy (with an A), which apparently doesn't exist in the show and is replaced with a fictional famous book named Grey's Anatomy (with an E) that was written by the mother of lead character Meredith Grey (with an E), and the book apparently has nothing to do with the plot anyway. It's what you would get if someone with brain damage free-associates the words "Grey" and "medical" and tries to explain their thought process.
I'm not saying it's wrong to glance at the name of a reference book on a shelf and come up with a formulaic and predictable show premise based on it. I'm saying that if you're going to do it, do it with style. Here's a few of my suggestions.
Roget's the Saurus
As you can see, Roget is the Saurus. It's sort of like being The Man, except he is a dinosaur. This isn't the first dinosaur sitcom -- the live-action Dinosaurs somehow ran for four seasons in the early '90s despite every episode being 30 minutes of a baby dinosaur shouting "Not the mama!"
Roget naturally has his own completely original catchphrase ("Dino-MITE!"), but the show borrows more from ALF than anything, placing the reptile-out-of-water in the home of a bewildered suburban family. It's sort of a comedy of manners, at the intersection of American middle-class values and dinosaur culture, leading to hilarious misunderstandings where Roget displays his ignorance of baseball or inadvertently eats a classmate.
In later seasons, Roget's the Saurus might go beyond escapist comedy and attempt to tackle some tough topical issues, like gay marriage (he accidentally eats a gay couple) or drugs (he accidentally eats a drug dealer).
Miriam Webster's Dictionary
The show revolves around the trendsetting blogger Miriam Webster and her cleverly named blog, Miriam Webster's Dictionary, where she highlights and sometimes invents new slang words that annoyingly trendy people might use, like "frenemy," "frenefits," "friendsetter," "friendoscopy" ... basically words that make you want to hit someone when they use them.
Every episode begins and ends with Miriam blogging about the word of the week, kind of like Stephen Colbert's "The Word" feature, except without any subtlety, because people who watch a show about a fashionable blogger think subtlety is a bunch of English words on the bottom of a screen when characters are speaking a foreign language.
In the course of each episode, Miriam gets into hilarious hijinks and learns a valuable lesson about life or something that she blogs about in the closing scene, similar to Grey's Anatomy's ending voice-overs or the ending journal entries in the more realistic medical drama Doogie Howser, M.D.
Sometimes she learns the trite and easily digestible lessons that viewers come to expect from these awful shows, such as in the episode "Friendorphins" (every episode is named after the word she comes up with), where she learns that being around your friends can give you the high that drugs never could, or "Friendception," where she learns to stop being jealous of her pregnant friend's fetus and see it as "a friend inside a friend." But sometimes the show makes a statement about current political hot-button issues, such as one episode where Miriam's careless words get a friend deported to Pakistan and tortured ("Extraordinary Friendition").
The Chicago Manual of Style
Envious of the success of fashion-obsessed shows like Sex in the City? Beaten to the punch at purchasing the TV rights to the popular The Devil Wears Prada book/movie brand? No problem!
The TV rights to the Chicago Manual of Style can probably be had for a pittance, probably because it is not a saucy tale of high fashion but a language guide for proper citation and writing styles. You have all the benefits of most people vaguely thinking it sounds familiar and none of the drawbacks of those people knowing exactly what it is.
Kaylee, Madison and Mackenzie are three confident career women who can identify different makeup products and know the difference between Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik. Someone else is going to have to write that part or else I am going to have one character tell another she wears too much mascara on her lips or something.
They all work at a fake newspaper with a made-up name like The Chicago Sun-Times or something whimsical like that, but they never spend any time at the office, or working, because that would get in the way of their sexy and fashionable adventures. The show makes sure to stand out from Sex and the City by constantly emphasizing its Chicagoness, with at least one character in every shot holding a deep-dish pizza, at least 10 mentions of a local sports team in each episode and constant cutaways to aerial shots of Wrigley Field.
The show is, of course, shot in Vancouver.
Strunk & White
Odd couple cop/detective buddy shows named Something & Something have been popular forever, with such classics as Starsky & Hutch, Simon & Simon, Cagney & Lacey, Jake and the Fatman, Rizzoli & Isles and of course Law & Order, featuring the unforgettable characters of uptight, by-the-book Johnny Law and his spontaneous, free-spirited partner, Jessica Order.
In Strunk & White (based on the popular nickname for the authoritative grammar reference book The Elements of Style, by Strunk & White), buttoned-up grammarian Margaret Strunk faints at the sight of a dangling participle while her easygoing partner Torrey White sees English as "an evolving language" and launches social media campaigns to include the word "bromance" in the next version of the Oxford English Dictionary.
They hunt down criminals by identifying unique grammar and misspelling patterns. "Notice the use of 'should of' and 'bare with me' in both the first and the second ransom note."
Thanks to Strix.org.uk's ransom note generator.
Strunk & White is currently facing a legal challenge from the creators of NBC's upcoming show The Elements of Style (a sexy show about socialites in Minneapolis designed to compete with smash hit The Chicago Manual of Style) regarding who has licensing rights to the book.
Poor Richard's Almanack
Richard Franklin can't catch a break. It rained on his wedding day, he always runs into traffic jams when he's late, every time he wants to find a knife he finds about ten thousand spoons and Alanis Morissette stole the potential hit song he wrote about his life and completely mistitled it. His terrible fortune also leads to him losing his job and his life savings in the pilot episode, causing the show's title to work on multiple levels (two).
Despite being homeless and continuing on his way to rock bottom, Poor Richard turns out to be a fount of wisdom -- the catch being that his wisdom only benefits others, and not himself. When he suggests that "a penny saved is a penny earned," his friend Penny puts her monthly lottery fund into a savings account and is soon able to buy a house. Meanwhile, Richard finds a penny on the street and catches hepatitis from it somehow.
Saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," he advises his brother Donny to swallow his pride and see a doctor before his symptoms worsen, and a test catches a lurking tumor just in time. Meanwhile, Richard takes his own advice and begins practicing safer sex. Unfortunately, the discount condoms he purchased were made in China, where they were ironically contaminated with syphilis.
Also, most of Richard's misfortunes seem to fall upon his genitals, causing the title to work on three levels.
"Encyclopedia" Britannica Wutheringtonshire is a precocious English girl who solves minor crimes around the neighborhood, such as scone theft, cottage burglaries, tea fraud and corgi poaching.
Encyclopedia Britannica is an homage to the Encyclopedia Brown series of children's books, where the solution to each mystery was buried in either an obscure trivia fact no one could be expected to know or a single word in a single sentence in the story, forcing you to read every terrible line of the author's insipid prose in order to solve the mystery.
Encyclopedia Britannica continues the tradition by forcing viewers to keep their eyes peeled for the single, almost subliminal frame that contains the solution and can occur anywhere within the episode, including commercials, which is sure to appeal to advertisers.
To cover up the lack of actual content and story, the show relies heavily on Americans' love affair with all things British. The dialogue is extremely authentic, with lines like "Cheerio and tut tut, good sir, I daresay that smashing bit of evidence in the lorry turned out to be bollocks," and Britannica is accompanied by charmingly quirky British sidekicks Queen Elizabeth II and Winston Churchill's ghost.
DSM: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
Piggybacking on the popularity of both the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the authoritative psychology reference book, and CSI, the formulaic, brain-cell-destroying crime show, DSM is a crime procedural about an elite team of police psychologists.
Led by the brilliant Johnny "The Pencil" Kwon, the DSM team solves cases by diagnosing every person involved in the case until someone confesses. For example, when Johnny diagnoses the wife of a murder victim with anorexia, she naturally immediately confesses to the killing, as people often do in real life.
But the show requires more than just exciting recitations of psychology texts, so members of the DSM team also chase down subjects, make arrests, lead interrogations and go undercover, just like actual police psychologists and crime scene investigators, who often take over the responsibilities of homicide detectives without asking.
Rand McNally's Atlas of the World
"Walker, Texas Ranger meets Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?" is not a phrase you hear very often, and it's time for that to change.
This show centers around good ol' boy Rand McNally, a highly respected sheriff who specializes in doling out a fistful of justice. When Sheriff McNally's daughter embarrasses the family at a beauty pageant by failing to find the U.S. on a map, he realizes it's time for some drastic geography education.
Accepting a position as a goodwill ambassador for U.S. law enforcement, McNally takes his daughter Bree from country to country, where she learns that there's no such language as "Mexican" while he punches his way through bloodthirsty cartels, or she discovers that Africa is actually made of multiple countries while her father delivers the left hook of justice to a corrupt warlord.
With a perfect mixture of punching and education, Rand McNally's Atlas of the World is sure to appeal to the punching man who wants his kids to know something about other cultures.
For more from Christina, check out 7 Things From America That Are Insanely Popular Overseas and A History of Pop Culture's Obsession with Human/Cat Hybrids.