10 Weirdest High Concepts On Television

Vampires, time travel, righteous serial killers. They are all here...

High concept. It's a term that gets thrown around a fair bit these days. Everyone uses it - but few seem to understand it. So before we talk about ten of the weirdest high concept shows on television, lets look at what "high concept" actually means. One of the more common explanations is that high concept is anything you can pitch in a single sentence - in other words, you can explain the premise of the show or movie in a simple statement, and therefore you've got a work that can be considered high concept. Anyone can understand the premise of the production from that one sentence, and therefore it should have fairly wide appeal (in contract to a concept that needs a fair amount of explanation, and is more difficult to sell). The problem with this definition, however, is that it is overly simplistic. You can, if you try, sell almost any concept with a single sentence - your sales pitch might not be the best, but in most cases it can be done. A better definition would be that "high concept" represents an idea or premise that captures the audience's imagination. It should propose a "what if?" sort of situation, but still be something that can be explained in a simple pitch. The combination of these two factors - capturing the imagination with a "what if" scenario, and being able to explain the concept in few words - is what makes something high concept. There have been arguments made that go beyond this definition, and add in all sorts of caveats, but for our purposes, this is what we'll go with. As an example: low concept television shows (since TV is what we're focusing on here) would be likely many sitcoms. News Radio, for example, the Dave Foley sitcom that featured the late Phil Hartman. There's not much of a "what if" there. It's a show that focuses on the wacky antics of the staff at a radio station, is concerned with characters, one-liners, situational comedy, etc. You could try selling it in a simple pitch - "A bunch of crazy people work at a radio station" - but that pitch doesn't really tell you much about the concept (plus, are they literally crazy? Just wacky? Where's the what if?). Compare that to a high concept show like Quantum Leap: A scientist winds up stuck travelling through time as the result of an experiment gone wrong. The "what if" is there - what if time travel was possible, and what if someone could get stuck travelling through time? The simple pitch is there too. You know exactly what the show is about, where as you don't with the low concept. Quantum Leap could have easily made our list of ten weird high concept shows, but since we've used it as an example, lets take a look at ten other weird high concept television shows.
In this post: 
Posted On: 

Covering the sport of MMA from Ontario, Canada, Jay Anderson has been writing for various publications covering sports, technology, and pop culture since 2001. Jay holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Guelph, and a Certificate in Leadership Skills from Humber College under the Ontario Management Development Program. When not slaving at the keyboard, he can be found in the company of his dog, a good book, or getting lost in the woods.