A story conceit is an idea, a distinctive approach to the concept of your show. It is what makes an everyday situation different and never before seen because it is the very basis of it. The show's conceit could be the nature of the main relationship of the series, as we demonstrate below, but it doesn’t have to be as it could be more situational, but, it does have to take the ordinary, the everyday and the expected and come at if from a whole new angle or spin.
The conceit is enmeshed in your logline and points the whole tone and feel of your show as well as implying the inner conflicts to come. Could be simple, could be severe but there is a uniting factor incorporated here and hints of the thematic going on, so, individuate your show and watch it take on a specific line of story and universal line of appeal.
Because your show’s conceit is a hook that is embedded in in the central idea and is driving the show’s concept in perpetuity after it is established, it does have to be already up and going in the pilot. It does not have to be initiated in the pilot, although it usually is, but it does need to give viewers the sense that this very element is going to be a major reference point and be illustrated in some measure weekly.
Also, it has to come from you, your take on this world you create or the subject as you will be illustrating it week after week. The conceit highlights your imagination and implies that this world is already second nature to you and that you will be able to allegorize it expertly as per your own life experiences and emotional core; that you have nothing but great ideas on how to progress it, arc it and keep the flow going continuously.
The logline is the first thing that anybody reading your Bible, Synopsis or Written Pitch Document will see but the conceit will be the first thing that they “get”.
Let’s look at a couple.
A sensitive FBI agent, fresh from an intense emotional break-up, is paired with a tough CIA operative who personifies his issues with his ex as they embark on missions to save the world but have to put up with each other in the process - Whiskey Cavalier
Yes, of course they are playing on the whole mismatched duo idea but look how specific it is. They are using a bit of role reversal, a little of the ole 80’s, “will they or won’t they” trope but it is done in a cool new world and the characters are fresh and inventive. We also see the central and external conflicts as well as a good idea of what the interpersonal ones will be and that they will be different yet ongoing.
Good loglines become more effective when the conceit is clear and built into it.
Mismatched duos have been the basis for hooks and conceits since “I Dream of Jeannie” and “My Favorite Martian” and that is because when you put your own unique spin on it, it not only works but is the mainspring of your story engine that will illustrate how this premise and TV series will be able to run forever.
For more on proving how your TV show is unique, fresh and can go the distance, checkout the “Written Pitch Document' or 'Show Bible”.