Thursday, October 24, 2013
Ken, if you had your choice of current sitcoms on air to write for, which show would you write a spec for and why?
The real question is what show should YOU write for? There are several factors.
Pick the show that best shows off your strengths. Are you a great joke person? Write a Chuck Lorre multi-cam show. Good with characters? Select a single-camera show that’s more quirky than funny.
Also, determine which show best fits your comic sensibilities. Do you like the sick humor of DADS? Hip coolness of THE NEW GIRL? Rural edge of RAISING HOPE? Surrealism of COMMUNITY? Retro feel of HOT IN CLEVELAND?
Generally, it’s a good idea to spec a show that’s on the rise. There must be a million MODERN FAMILIES and BIG BANG THEORIES. Readers are probably a little blurry eyed from reading them. And your script won’t have much shelf life if you write a HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER.
The trick is to find a new show that will have legs. You don’t want to spec a SUPER FUN NIGHT (well, I don’t know why you would anyway) and in a month it’s cancelled. Follow the ratings. See which shows appear to be catching on. Networks start handing out back nines around this time. See who gets a full production order.
Don’t spec an animated show unless you’re applying specifically for jobs in animation. A spec FAMILY GUY or BOB’S BURGERS will not normally get you a job on a live-action show.
Watch out for traps. LOUIE is a trap. That show is so specific to Louis C.K. that it would almost be impossible to write one that clicks. CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM is another trap since so much of the show is improvised. Write a real “scripted” show.
Some shows go for easy cheap laughs like 2 BROKE GIRLS. The word “vagina” is the punchline for five jokes an episode. As a result, the show doesn’t get a lot of respect from other writing staffs. So beware.
Whatever show you choose, don’t write a “special” episode of it. Don’t do a dream show, kill off one of the characters, have George Clooney guest, or do a crossover with MIKE & MOLLY. I always tell the story of a spec WINGS I read that was seen through the eyes of a fly on the wall. Do the best version of a typical episode.
Now that series are available On Demand, through Neflix and Hulu, and on DVD’s there’s no excuse for not really knowing the characters or their backstories. Do your homework.
At the end of the day, opt for the show you know the best, like the best, and can write the best.
And then write a second one. And a third. And a pilot. And another pilot. You never know which script is going to be the one everybody responds to, but you double or triple your chances with more specs.
Best of luck. Someone has to break in. Why not YOU?
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM