Seeking the Next Simpsons

Some 200 wannabe TV writers and producers lounge around Fox's commissary awaiting their turn to pitch their ideas for the next animated-series hit to Fox comedy-development executives. It's not an invasion of over-enthusiastic fans. It's Pitch-o-Rama, Fox's latest scheme to find the next Simpsons.

Pitch-o-Rama was the brainchild of Jeremy Gold, who has been Fox's senior vice president of comedy development since July. On his arrival from Twentieth Century Fox TV, Fox Entertainment President Gail Berman impressed on him the importance of finding a new animated hit, and Pitch-O-Rama was born.

Fox put the notice on its Web site, in trade-school newspapers, and in animation and writing trade magazines. And 1,000 potential animators answered the call.

Fox's comedy-development team narrowed that down to 63 who were invited to pitch their idea for five minutes in front of some 10 executives.

Applicants came, on their own dime, to take their shot—from as far away as Maine, as near as Venice Beach, Calif. They came with all sorts of ideas, from "Hank the Squirrel," about a man who turned into a squirrel upon his death, to "Double Wide Pond," about a bizarre group of "people" who live in a trailer park, to a show about dead rock stars who hang out at a celestial bar between heaven and hell.

And they brought more than just ideas. Several applicant teams arrived with branded merchandise, DVD samples, soundtracks, or full-color comic books.

Gold considers the event a success. "We identified half a dozen very talented people that we never would have met through the traditional television development channels with whom we now are going to develop."

Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.