Rick Dixon writes from Cambridge: Vampires. If in doubt, start with vampires. Don’t be tempted to go with werewolves though. Vampires are much more popular, don’t need regular walks and tend not to accidentally wee on the carpet. If you really feel that you need to include werewolves then use them sparingly as the bad guys.
The key point to bear in mind with vampires is that they have to be sexy. Reanimated corpses ripping out throats and gorging on blood is not a great concept. Main character vampires should all be in their twenties or early thirties, regardless of when they died, and be drop-dead gorgeous – American TV Broadcasting Standards are quite clear about this. Vampires do not bite ugly people no matter how good their blood may taste. The only acceptable ugly vampires must be extremely old and referred to as The Ancient One or The Master.
Facial expressions are also a consideration. Your sexy vampire should have two default expressions – ‘brooding’ or ‘angry’ – both must look sexy. The only other permissible expressions are used when your vampire is shown feeding. Then they must either gasp as if they have just been let up after having their head held under water for 2 minutes or are having the most satisfying bowel movement ever after weeks of constipation. Sexy constipation.
It also can’t hurt to have a British vampire in your show either. The actor doesn’t have to be British, even if they can do a Cockney accent only slightly more convincing than Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, use them. Just don’t use them as one of the ‘good’ vampires – that would be unrealistic.
There’s always plenty of room for a new vampire drama to fill a niche not covered by Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, The Vampire Diaries, True Blood, Blade: The Series, Moonlight or Kindred: The Embraced – it’s not as if vampires have been done to death (so to speak). However, there are other potentially lucrative options open to you…
Sword and Sorcery style fantasy is now a viable proposition thanks to Game of Thrones. As with other shows there are rules that must be followed as well, if you wish to be assured of success.
Ugly and older characters are permissible in this kind of fantasy but try not to have uglier or older characters as main protagonists though – certainly don’t have them stinking up the TV screen for any more than 5 minutes per episode. Older characters must either be noble leaders, or have magical powers if on the side of good, or be on the side of evil. Ugly people will generally be evil – if not, they must only be included for comedy value or as some sort of pet.
While we’re on the subject of good and evil, it doesn’t pay to have clearly defined sides – moral ambiguity is the way forward these days. Ensure your ‘hero’ has anti-heroic tendencies and that the audience can sympathise with your villain to a certain extent. Don’t fall into the trap of distinct morally opposed factions. Look how badly that worked out for the likes of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings…
Beards. If I need to go into any serious detail about the need for beards, then you shouldn’t really be getting involved in this area of the genre. Beards favour neither good nor evil and are quite at home on the faces of either. All male background characters over the age of 25 will have beards. Absolutely any male who uses magic must have some sort of beard, despite what Harry Potter might have shown us.
Now we come to the most crucial overarching rule for any genre of modern fantasy which absolutely must be observed: sex. I’m not talking about sexy characters again, but the actual act of ‘getting it on’: Show it. All the time.
If you’re worried a scene might be too stagnant – two characters are discussing the progress of a war on a map – liven it up by having a naked woman kneeling between them, the map on her back. The first time we see a main character in an episode, show them having sex – or at least getting out of the shower/bath. Introducing a new character? Show them just finishing having sex with a main character. Not sure what to do with a character in a scene? Sex. Unless your show is about vampires, then you can just show him or her brooding. Sexily.
If you’re foolish enough to hire an actor or actress with a No Nudity clause then you’d damn well better make sure you make them wear as little clothing as you can get away with – and remember male vampires are always allergic to wearing shirts indoors. Those who can wear shirts indoors are cursed with the inability to button them up for all eternity.
So there you have it – you have everything you need to produce your own generic, by the numbers, tedious modern American Fantasy TV show. Follow these simple rules and the masses will lap it up. Just remember me when you collect the money.