The more I learn about the craft of writing, the more I appreciate finely crafted stories in print and on the big and little screen. I especially like to study the pilots of television shows. Thankfully, reruns (and Netflix) make this possible.
For three seasons, I was a devoted follower of White Collar. The pilot episode is, in my opinion, a masterwork of weaving backstory with character introductions and plot.
Neal is a skilled forger plotting to escape from federal prison. The FBI agent who arrested him offers him a deal: work with him (on a short leash) to catch other white collar criminals or languish until he is an old man in prison. Neal is desperate. The woman he loves is in danger. She's also hiding the valuables from his last heist. He has to choose between the FBI agent offering him conditional freedom, saving his loot, and saving his love. He chooses her and escapes.
The television series I've become hooked on recently is The Big Bang Theory. The 2007 comedy pilot introduces four fully-developed characters, nerdy young scientists. Sheldon is a socially-stunted, egocentric physics genius. Leonard is short, insecure, awkward and smart, but not as smart as his roommate, Sheldon. Raj is an Indian-born astrophysicist who can't speak to women. His best friend Howard is a Jewish space engineer who tries every worst come-on line imaginable as he tries non-stop to get laid.
A pretty, but dumb aspiring actress from Nebraska moves into the apartment across the hall. Penny is a magnet for self-centered macho men and has just ended her relationship with a particularly obnoxious one. Leonard falls instantly in love with her. Howard immediately comes onto her. Raj tries, but is tongue-tied unless he's had a few drinks. Sheldon just wants to eat dinner. To impress Penny, the boys offer to get her television back from her ex-boyfriend, and find out he is six feet four with two-hundred pounds of muscle.
Well- conceived characters. A perfect opener.