The high concept is basically a premise for a show that can best be described in a one-line recap. For example, “a guy who jumps into other people and solves problems in their lives” is a pretty good summary of Quantum Leap.
Since most shows are little more than “guy and his family” or “police solving crimes,” it’s always nice to get a series with a fresh premise. However, being able to summarize your show creates a take-it-or-leave-it feeling. It also doesn’t help that some high concepts seem like concepts thought up while high.
Here are some of the more memorably stupid high concepts in TV history, including a few in production. Maybe if we’re lucky, Scott Bakula will leap back in time and prevent these shows from happening.
Cop Rock: Just your average police drama... where cops burst into song. It’s a shame this show only lasted a few months in 1990, since I came up with about a dozen law-related songs right off the top of my head. The touching love ballad “Miranda,” a big, vampy, Liza Minnelli-esque tune called “Internal Affairs,” and maybe a hardcore punk song about racial profiling.
Crazy Lawyers: Ah, the odd couple pairing: a staple of many high concepts. Crazy Lawyers is an upcoming FOX legal dramedy about a lawyer suffering a nervous breakdown partnered with a lawyer with an anger problem. All they need is a bald guy and FOX can retitle the show The Three Stooges Go To Law School.
Ghost Whisperer: An upcoming Jennifer Love Hewitt show where she plays a “newlywed who talks to the dead,” according to the CBS promo material. Wild prediction: she talks to them while wearing a tank top.
My Mother the Car: A staple of “worst show ever” lists, this 1960s sitcom was about a guy whose mother was rein-car-nated as his 1928 Porter. If they remade this show today, it would be 30 minutes of jokes like “I took your mama for a ride,” and “I opened your mama’s hood and tinkered around for a while.”
Soccer Moms: The Simpsons often makes jokes about fake TV shows starring Troy McClure about “(fill in the blank) that solves mysteries!” Flying in the face of parody is Soccer Moms, an upcoming ABC series set to star Kristin Davis and Gina Torres as a pair of suburban moms... who solve mysteries. Likely a tongue-in-cheek drama like Desperate Housewives, but if the cases end up being about who stole the orange slices, we’re in trouble.
The Trouble With Larry: A sitcom about a guy who was kidnapped by apes on his honeymoon, only to return a decade later to move in with his ex-wife and her new husband. Just to ratchet up the goofiness quotient, the lead character was Bronson Pinchot — a.k.a. Balki from Perfect Strangers — and the wife was pre-Friends Courteney Cox. Frankly, I think I’d rather just watch a show where Balki had to live with Monica. “Balki, did you clean your room?” “Oh Monica, don’ be ridikkulous.”