Do you like watching Scandal? Can’t miss an episode of Once Upon A Time? Absolutely love Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Well, then, you have one person to thank for all these television series – Patrick Moran.
As the executive vice president of ABC Studios, Moran is responsible for development and production of scripted series, which include the aforementioned titles as well as other hits such as Nashville, Agent Carter and Secret And Lies.
But you know which shows he is really proud of at the moment? At his corner office at the Disney Studios lot in Burbank, California, there are only three posters on the wall behind his desk.
“Every fall, I refresh them with new posters,” Moran says pointing to the posters of How To Get Away With Murder, American Crime and Black-ish, three of the breakout hits of the 2014/15 TV calendar for the studio.
He better make more wall space soon as many of the 2015/16 series from ABC Studios have potential to be winners.
Moran is obviously pleased with these new shows he and his team have worked on for the past one year.
“We have grown so much. We used to have 15 new shows per season and this year we are up to 31, so we have doubled the shows we are producing,” Moran says proudly.
At the annual ABC TV Upfront event held in Los Angeles recently, the studio showcased some of their upcoming shows and indeed, there is a variety of shows from different genres.
There are comedy (The Muppets, Grandfathered), period piece (Kings And Prophets), medical drama (Code Black), crime series (Quantico, Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders) as well as thrillers (The Family, The Catch)
But, whether these shows become a hit or a flop is yet to be seen as shows start to premiere from September onwards.
According to Moran, identifying a hit is not easy even for someone who has spent more than 15 years in the TV industry.
“So much happens between reading the initial script and getting the pilot produced. You hope the audience will get on board once the show comes on air, but you don’t always know until then. I have been involved in shows that we really like but no one turned up to watch the pilot, so that’s always a heartbreak,” the 43-year-old says.
But once in a while, Moran can tell when a show will resonate with the audience. “We all knew there was something special about How To Get Away With Murder (after reading the script) and once Viola (Davis) signed on the show, it instantly elevated the pilot. I was thrilled that audience responded to it.”
How To Get Away With Murder was a runaway success, netting nine million viewership for its Season One finale in the US.
Moran’s track record proves that he does have the Midas touch when it comes to picking the right series. Before joining ABC Studios (this is his fifth year at the Disney-owned company), Moran spent seven years at Twentieth Century Fox Television where he saw the development and success of TV favourites like Glee, Prison Break and Bones.
“I got into this industry because I like the medium,” says the self-confessed “rabid TV fan” who holds a degree in English.
“I still like going home to watch television and I am thankful I get to work on TV shows that I am a fan of. It makes my job more fun that way.”
While many might think the most important asset of a TV show is its lead stars, for Moran it is the writer. He is constantly scouring for talented writers to work with, someone who can bring something fresh and dynamic to the studio. For it is the writer who is responsible in putting out characters and stories that make fans tune in each week.
Moran says when strategising for new shows, it is important to take the road less travelled. “I am mindful of what’s currently not being done (on TV), think about area where we can claim some territory that’s not being exploited elsewhere and who are the best writers out there who are able to achieve that.”
However, he does want to raise the bar where characters are concerned. Gone are the days where lead characters had to be likeable and sympathetic. He rather have characters that are complicated, complex and compelling.
So, Moran tells writers who pitch story ideas to him to not be afraid to make their main characters flawed. “I think that’s a far more interesting way to go and put that old-fashioned likeable lead aside and think about how to render characters that are complicated to reflect what the modern audience wants to see.”
While most of the shows produced by ABC Studios are aired on ABC network in the US (ABC is one of the four big networks in the US apart from CBS, Fox and NBC), under Moran’s supervision, the studio also produces series for other networks, including Criminal Minds for CBS and Devious Maids for Lifetime.
In Malaysia, channels like Fox on Astro and Warner TV on HyppTV air ABC Studios-produced shows like Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, Castle, Once Upon A Time, Resurrection, Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D, Forever and American Crime.
You might notice most of the shows mentioned above are from the drama genre. Moran feels that drama is a genre that’s much easier to sell internationally than, say, comedy.
“If a drama works in the United States, it is likely to work elsewhere too. Comedy on the other hand is harder to travel. It tends to be more specific, a more cultural thing,” Moran says, giving Black-ish as an example of a comedy that is wildly popular in the US but doesn’t quite translate well in markets like Malaysia.