Pilot is a video work that was commissioned by TVOntario for broadcast on late night television. It is a highly structural video divided into five segments that match the five categories in Showcard Series, 1975–79. Each of the five segments draws on three different television formats, which are used in repeating sequence. The segments are introduced by an inspirational montage wherein a voiceover describes the segment’s subject as “basically this …” This, in turn, is followed by a “talking heads” section featuring Partz, Zontal, and Bronson, and each segment concludes with three minutes of prerecorded footage. The artists performed the work live and inserted the prerecorded segments, which function like stories within a television news program.
Through this structure, Pilot conveys key facts about General Idea. For instance, the artists date their collaboration to 1968. They also explain their intention to work together until 1984, which, Zontal says, is a “convenient way to format the future.” The video introduces several key projects by General Idea. These include FILE Megazine, which General Idea calls their “own media device.” Introducing the “Glamour Issue,” the artists discuss their legal battle with Time Life Incorporated over their appropriation of LIFE magazine’s logo. The video also introduces the V.B. Gowns (venetian-blind costumes created by the group), architectural studies for The 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion. Other key elements of the group’s work are featured, such as The 1984 Miss General Idea Pageant.
Blurring the lines between reality and fiction, Pilot is key to understanding General Idea’s work from the 1970s. It demonstrates their interest in appropriating popular-culture and media formats, while introducing the group and their work to viewers. The video is significant as it marked a shift in their practice—General Idea’s previous video works were conceived as television, but in Pilot and subsequent videos, the artists created footage for broadcast on television.