You can find it here. I'll save you some scrolling. Today I’m going to talk about which show to write.
Just as Friday Questions have become a feature on this blog, which spec to write could be a weekly feature as well. That’s because the answer changes almost hourly.
I’ve actually addressed this question before several times and all of those posts are now completely obsolete. Shows change, needs change, and time marches on. A spec you wrote two years ago could be completely useless today. (I told you not to write a spec MULANEY.) Hot shows cool off. Or worse, everybody writes specs for them.
So here are a couple of general guidelines:
Write in the style that you feel best shows off your strengths. If you’re a dramedy person, write one of those. If you can really pull off comedy then go for a show that is really funny. I will say that if you’re trying to get into half-hours, writers who can make you laugh on the page have a huge advantage. Dramedies are no easier to write than comedies. They just require different skills. So again, what genre best fits YOUR sensibilities?
Unless you’re trying to get a job in animation (which is a thriving field), I would avoid writing a spec animated series or at least also have a live-action spec. If someone writes a hilarious live-action spec I have no doubt he can also do animation. But if someone writes an uproarious animated spec that doesn’t tell me he can write real people and grounded situations.
Another problem is some comedy series are serialized. How do you write one when you don’t know what the showrunner has in mind? For me the answer is just pick a spot in the series and go. Readers understand you’re not privy to the ongoing development of these shows. They’re more interested in the quality of your writing.
Pick a show that is on the rise. What shows are hot? Now is not the time to write a NEW GIRL. Or MINDY PROJECT. The shelf life of your script will be very short.
Some shows are considered sexier than others. LAST MAN STANDING and DR. KEN are not sexy shows. Unless that is the genre really in your wheelhouse, try to find something a little hipper.
Beware of new shows on obscure channels or streaming services. If the reader has never heard of the show you’re specing he probably won’t read it.
And finally, may I offer some advice that totally goes against what most people tell you? The general rule is you don’t write a spec for the show you really want to work on because the producers know that show so much better than you and every fault will stick out. Producers from other shows won’t be bothered by these flaws.
I say write it anyway. It’s the show you know best, the show you like the best, and probably the show you will write the best. Yes, the showrunner will detect minor inconsistencies, but if you can really capture the voice and spirit of the show he probably will be able to overlook the red flags.
So go for it. On the comedy side -- if you’re thinking mainstream and networks there’s BLACKISH, THE GOLDBERGS, FRESH OFF THE BOAT, MOM. MODERN FAMILY and BIG BANG THEORY may be on the downside. Probably best to avoid.
For cable and streaming there’s SILICON VALLEY, VEEP, KIMMY SCHMIDT, SHAMELESS. Edgier fare might be DIFFICULT PEOPLE, YOU’RE THE WORST (when it’s being funny), CATASTROPHE, and BASKETS (although a lot of people don’t think it’s a comedy).
And by the way, these are just SOME of the shows in these genres. If you want to write a MOZART IN THE JUNGLE, don’t avoid it just because I didn’t mention it.
It’s harder for me to suggest which is the best dramedy to write. Not my thing. But TRANSPARENT and ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK are always worthy.
I’m sure I’m leaving out ten good candidates. But you get the idea. At the end of the day, you have to feel most comfortable. And you’re the one doing the work. Do the spec you’d have the most fun with.
And as always, best of luck. Someone has to break in. Why not you?