TV Shows To Spec
What shows should you spec?
- Shows you love to watch
- A show that’s been around 1-2 seasons but expected to last
- Highly-rated, critically acclaimed shows
- Episodic shows
- One half-hour comedy and one procedural
- Not the show you want to write for
That’s the simple answer.
You should always write something you love to watch because it will show in your writing. Watch and study between 3-5 episodes, break them down, understand the structure, timing etc. Know the characters and story lines that have already been done.
Pick shows with high ratings, critical acclaim because those are the ones that are likely to stick around. The longer it’s around, the longer your spec will be useful to you. I wrote an episode of Entourage in its sixth season just because I wanted to. A few people wanted to read it because it was such a popular show to spec and people loved to read them, but now it’s kind of dead because the show is over.
Don’t spec Canadian shows! Why? No one wants to read them because unfortunately, not a lot of people watch them. This is what I was told by one of Canada’s top literary agents. Sad, but true.
Choose episodic over serialized because your spec will have a longer shelf life and it’s easier to write. If you pick a heavily serialized show like Mad Men or Once Upon A Time, you’ll probably have to pull out of the serialization. It’s not easy to eliminate serialization because relationships change all the time and once a relationship changes, your spec is dated. I wrote a Parks and Recreation spec when April was still mooning after Andy and he was still pining for Anne. It’s funny as hell, but now they have Rob Lowe and that guy who dated Leslie so it’s dated.
Write a half-hour comedy and a procedural is the advice I’ve been given. But I have little desire to write procedurals, I specialize in comedy so I have yet to write one. I have one on the back burner, but it’s a light-hearted one so it fits with my brand. Don’t write something because someone else suggests you should unless you’re passionate about it. I have several cable pilot scripts I’ve crafted that showcase my ability to write edgy one-hour drama and half-hour single camera cable comedies and this is apparently preferred by many writing teams now so I say write whatever works for you.
Don’t spec the show you want to write for. Well, you can spec it, just don’t send it to them. Write something comparable and send them that.