Like every year, it is now time to review which TV shows are good to spec, and which are not.
Dedicated posts will be made respectively for the best comedies (half-hour) and the best dramas (one-hour).
As the title says, this post is all about the comedies.
In addition, you’ll also find (when available) a script for the corresponding show.
Canceled or dead shows have been removed since last season’s spec list.
Given Warner Bros’ new rules for their fellowship, I have indicated with an asterisk (*) series that they will not accept specs for (mainly first-season series).
Here is a quick recap of how the list works:
The shows are divided into five categories regarding their appeal to readers and how well they are known/read:
– Over-specced (shows that have passed their prime, try to avoid doing them)
– Mainstream (shows that have matured enough that they have become on-the-nose speccers–and a lot of people are speccing them)
– Wild Cards (soon, everyone will spec those, maybe you can get a head start)
– Outsiders (specs that will get you out from the pack)
– Gamblers (risky shows that could pay off, or bomb)
There is also a grade regarding the show’s longevity in relation to its speccability.
Meaning, how long can you keep your spec script fresh without having to throw it in the trash?
To do this, we will use the greatest grading system on Earth; stars:
★★★★★ — Excellent
★★★★★ — Very Good
★★★★★ — Average
★★★★★ — Fair
★★★★★ — Poor
Let’s get started.
Re-tool your spec if you have one, but you probably shouldn’t bother beginning a new one for these shows.
It’s surprising to see Archer here, but the truth is that after four years of existence, it’s difficult to see why it should not be.
Longevity: ★★★★★ — FX isn’t giving up this soon.
The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
For many years the go-to multi-camera sitcom to spec, Big Bang has seen countless of variants.
Longevity: ★★★★★ — The show’s running jokes have been beaten to a pulp.
You could spec this, but why would you?
Longevity: ★★★★★ — Yes, it got renewed, but who did it not surprise?
How I Met Your Mother (CBS)
Season 9 is going off a completely new format…
Longevity: ★★★★★ — …and it’ll be the last.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX)
Remember when this show was fresh? I don’t.
Longevity: ★★★★★ — Standing on its last leg(s).
Two and a Half Men (CBS)
Longevity: ★★★★★ — Everyone is jumping off-board at this poin
The current and new widespread shows in town that are getting read.
Cougar Town/The Middle (ABC)
A change of network for the former couldn’t have come at a better time. Both series are not that watched, but are surprisingly popular in spec-world.
Longevity: ★★★★★ — Good enough numbers.
Everyone is dying to make their own Louie spec. But can they be any good?
Longevity: ★★★★★ — [Insert stand-up routine]
Modern Family (ABC)
Its mass appeal can be seen in the spec world.
Longevity: ★★★★★ — 10 seasons and 2 TV movies?
Mike & Molly (CBS)
If you’re looking for an old-school multi-camera, this is the one.
Longevity: ★★★★★ — CBS has a working sitcom. Shocker.
New Girl (FOX)
The frontrunner for any “friends” comedy spec around.
Longevity: ★★★★★ — A critical darling on top of being watched.
Parks and Recreation (NBC)
One of the best comedies on TV, and it’s still fresh in its fifth season. What could be better?
Longevity: ★★★★★ — Now that The Office is gone, Parks is NBC’s strongest Thursday night show.
Raising Hope (FOX)
An extremely popular spec ever since it premiered, Raising Hope may not set you apart, but it’ll get read.
Longevity: ★★★★★ — A bonafide hit for FOX.
When it comes to premium cable comedies, this is a goodie.
Longevity: ★★★★★ — No reason to think Showtime is letting this go.
It’s funny and original.
Longevity: ★★★★★ — Be careful with the ratings.
Two Broke Girls (CBS)
If you’re into more edgy racist jokes, then maybe this is the sitcom to pick.
Longevity: ★★★★★ — No decline to be seen.
Not quite fully widespread but will get there given the chance.
There’s a new kid on the block. And it likes to show its ass.
Longevity: ★★★★★ — Yeah, I don’t see this going anywhere.
House of Lies/Nurse Jackie (Sho)
One is taking over the other. Both are surprisingly popular choices.
Longevity: ★★★★★ — Growing old.
The Mindy Project (FOX) *
It’s a hit or miss for most, but it’s one of the rare romantic network comedies getting past a first season.
Longevity: ★★★★★ — Continuing to build their comedy block, FOX is holding on tight.
The Neighbors (ABC) *
Do you really want to spec a show that has been eviscerated by critics?
Longevity: ★★★★★ — It did get a new season off average numbers.
A political comedy! From Armando Iannucci! Difficult to harness, but if you’re succesful you may hit the jackpot.
Longevity: ★★★★★ — Is it that serialized?
The shows (mostly cable) you may be tempted to take a risk on, getting you on top of the reading pile. Beyond that, it depends on the willingness of the reader and his/her knowledge of the show. Who knows, maybe the showrunner is into less popular shows and will value your risk-taking.
Eastbound & Down (HBO)
Still kicking and screaming…
Longevity: ★★★★★ — …for one last effort.
The League (FX)
An overlooked charming comedy from FX that could be a good contender for a very atypical spec.
Longevity: ★★★★★ — Pretty formulaic but it works.
For one reason or another, these are much riskier specs to do right now. You have been warned.
Anger Management (FX) *
Longevity: ★★★★★ — FX has shot a gazillion episodes.
Childrens’ Hospital/NTSF:SD:SUV (Cartoon Network/Adult Swim)
Not sure why you’d spec 15-minute shows…
Longevity: ★★★★★ — …but they’re growing in popularity.
Legit/Workaholics (FX/MTV) *
Only a handful of spec-readers would watch these show.
Longevity: ★★★★★ — One got super-renewed, the other is helping launch a spin-off network.
A wide variety of choices this year from the comedy landscape, although maybe less than the drama side (for the first time in a while).
With the departure of 30 Rock and The Office, plus the spec semi-retirement of Community and (bound to happen) Archer, the comedy spec market is wide open. The top seats are taken by hot contenders like New Girl and Raising Hope, which were both very popular right off the bat when they premiered.
HBO is able to succesfully compete against Showtime, with the addition of Veep and, yes, Girls. Who knew nudity would sell? On the other end of the spectrum, there are no real changes when it comes to multi-camera sitcoms.
It is known.