Your Honor: A Pilot Masterclass

I just watched the pilot (and half of ep two) of Your Honor. The whole construction is a bit contrived, but ignoring my more cynical thoughts, it’s a masterclass in setting up a TV show. I decided to jot down why, in my opinion, it does so many things right. Here are those jottings…

What makes a show (more specifically, a TV drama)?

  • A problem that needs to be solved – and then the solution results in an even bigger problem that reveals the wider characters and the story engine. (Adam accidentally kills the son of a crime lord).

  • A new world we’re not familiar with, offering potential to go places we don’t expect – and give us new knowledge in the process. (New Orleans, justice system, organised crime)

  • Which leads to… the protagonist will use the skills he/she has gained in that world to solve the problem. (Protagonist: Judging? Judging skills? You know what I mean. And the antagonist: all the dastardly stuff he has at his disposal as a major crime kingpin).

  • Irony. The story engine is fuelled by the central irony of the situation. (Morally upright judge needs to protect his son who’s recklessly killed someone).

  • A moral/ethical question: what would you do in this situation? The story needs to present different sides of an argument. (What would you do to protect the person you love?) (You could say this applies to Michael and Jimmy).

  • A bunch of characters, all of whom need to solve the central problem. All motivated by solving it. (Who killed Rocco?)

  • Matter of life and death. The worst outcome has to be the one thing the protagonist will do anything to avoid. (If Michael fails, his son will die).

What else? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Published by

Christian Ward

I write books and screenplays. I have been twice long-listed by the BBC Writersroom. I work as a trend forecaster for innovations advisory Stylus. I speak about media, technology, culture and advertising, at events including SXSW, YMS and the Stylus Summit. I host a trends podcast called Future Thinking with Stylus.

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