THE FORMAT DOCTOR’S CASEBOOK

 

Three shows I’ve recently consulted on as The Format Doctor stand out because of their genres: Health, Daytime and Animation. Together they prove that ‘formatting’ is not limited to reality, games and drama …

MIPTV 2016 was abuzz over Norwegian format DOCTORS VS INTERNET, which I helped to develop for pubcaster NRK last year.

jggju-vwtjrqibiwvxuvqgqgytqbauwmb43htmmebdeqThe premise of the show (called “What’s Wrong with You?” in Norway) sees two teams compete to diagnose the medical conditions of real people entering the studio, across three rounds. The twist is that while one team is made up of doctors, the other team are ordinary people with access to Google.

I often teach that the best formats answer a question viewers are asking: in this case, can you diagnose yourself better than your doctor? The team I worked with in Oslo already had huge experience producing a health magazine show – now they wanted to branch out into the game show field. Which is where I came in, to help shape and structure their idea according to the grammar of game (and international appeal), without losing the underlying content.

The result? “Doctors vs Internet” launched in March 2016, achieving an astonishing 43% average share across the series. Following each episode an online test asking the question “Should you have been a doctor?” netted 300,000 unique users, each spending over 9 minutes to complete the quiz. A second season has been commissioned for 2017, several options have been sold including Australia, Belgium and Holland, and it has just been picked up in the US by Critical Content, the product behind “Catfish”.

the-goods2-jpg-size-custom-crop-886x650July I was in Toronto working with pubcaster CBC on new daily daytime format THE GOODS, which launched this October.

Recorded live-to-tape in front of a studio audience, this fresh take on lifestyle sees a quartet of expert Hosts (including Steven Sabados from “Steven & Chris”) ‘share everything they know about how to live a happier, healthier and more stylish life’.

The challenge for me was to focus everyone on this core concept – the interconnection of the four hosts/themes – and make it central to everything.   It’s great to see Daytime shaken up with a new format that actively embraces what we all know: that home, health, style and food are not ‘silo’ topics, but interwoven to form the fabric of our lives.

pablo_castleI travel regularly to Northern Ireland to work with government-backed agency NI Screen, and a host of independent producers. Currently in production in Belfast is PABLO – a 52-episode funny and transformative pre-school series for CBeebies mixing live action and 2D animation – which I have consulted on over the past 3 years. 5½ year-old hero Pablo, who is on the autism spectrum, uses his magic crayons to turn his life challenges into fantastic adventures, and his feelings into colourful characters with a voice, in order to face the real world with confidence.

“Pablo” was a only a few lines long when indie prodco Paper Owl first approached me, and whilst I didn’t see animation as ‘formatable’, I absolutely loved the concept from the get-go. And through my work with I came to see that the ‘recipe’ of narrative structure, familiar and original elements, and a mechanism that drives characters through a story was as applicable to animation as to reality or game show. And I’m so glad to have been a part of it. Pablo is distributed by Cake.

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