A brand new 2019 list has been posted.
Click here to access it.
Like last year, it is now time to review which shows are good to spec, and which are not.
I’m assuming you know what a spec script is of course.
This time around, I’ve double things up and am dedicating a post respectively to the best comedies (half-hours) to spec, and then the best dramas (one-hours).
I’m also offering a little bonus: a script for each of the shows listed — when available.
Let’s do a quick recap of how this 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 massively)
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 those shows.
30 Rock (NBC)
Beginning with the number one choice in town. You know everyone is doing it, so why bother doing the same?
Longevity: ★★★★★ – The show probably won’t die soon, but the readability of your script might. Chances are, your idea has been done before, or someone else specced it way better.
Do you really think you have a fresh take on a six-year-old series about Tinseltown? Yeah, thought so.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – It is hard to see the show getting renewed after its future seventh season.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX)
Once a borderline show to spec, Philly is going to soon enter its sixth season, and probably thousandth spec.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Like Entourage, FX will probably give it a couple more seasons tops. The network is already trying to renew its comedy sked.
The Office (NBC)
Though it was a hot property last season (and the one before it), it has now gotten somewhat stale.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Same deal as 30 Rock basically.
The storyline is ever-changing and the clear-cut formula has been gone for a few seasons.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – How long can Showtime keep this show alive? A couple more years?
The current and new widespread shows in town that are getting read.
The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
A classic sitcom with a geeky side to it. You should like this.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Extraordinary ratings.
Parks and Recreation (NBC)
Considered by some to be the new The Office of specs, and with only two seasons under its belt, it is fresh enough to find original ideas for your script.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – One of the first comedies to be renewed by NBC this year. It’s not going anywhere.
Not quite fully widespread but will get there given the chance.
Community/Modern Family (NBC)
Two different series that have proven the comedy genre is not dead on network TV. Beware though: A lot more peeps than you’d think are already speccing those two.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Great ratings and enthusiastic reviews makes me think this comedic duo is safe (and renewed).
The United States of Tara (Sho)
The light dramedy of choice. Perhaps you can feature Patton Oswalt’s character a little more (that was a joke; never make an episode around a guest-star).
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Showtime has found its successor to Weeds, and it’s not going to let it go.
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.
Cougar Town/The Middle (NBC)
Although less popular than their two other siblings (Community/Modern Family), they do have a lot of story potential.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – New and renewed. What more can you ask?
Nurse Jackie (Sho)
The lesser-watched counterpoint (and counterpart) to Tara that works both as a medical show and a short-format light dramedy.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – The Edie Falco-starrer got instantly renewed when it became Showtime’s most-watched premiere in history. Enough said.
Party Down (Starz)
Talk about an underrated comedy. Its disjointed aspect makes it a good speccer that is both fresh and still formulaic, though it is still not that known/watched.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – The constant cast-change might be dangerous to your storyline (Jane Lynch and now Adam Scott departing). A third season however is almost guaranteed.
For one reason or another, these are much riskier specs to do right now. You have been warned.
Archer/The League (FX)
The upside is that no one else has thought of speccing those two shows. The downside is no one watches those two shows. Both are renewed however.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Will they continue the renewal trend or disappear into nothingness during their second season? With their finite number of episodes, fresh story ideas are easy to find. What is not easy to find however is their adequate format.
Bored to Death (HBO)
Arguably one of the best new comedies this season, it is also pretty much unknown. Though it does suit well to its “case of the week” formula.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Safe for now thanks to its amazing cast.
Eastbound & Down (HBO)
Despite being execced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, and having a somewhat-cult following already, the question you should be asking yourself is: Do you actually know what the show is about?
Longevity: ★★★★★ – With the strong talent attached to it, it’s doubtful the show will get canned anytime soon.
The show received tepid reviews during its first run but it does have potential.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – The somewhat-serialized aspect might be problematic, though it was easily renewed.
The Life and Times of Tim (HBO)
Almost as unknown as Archer and The League, it is still holds a fruitful list of stories. I wouldn’t recommend speccing animation however.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Tough to guess the future of an HBO show, let alone a comedy, but this one seems solid enough.
Most of the current comedies/half-hours have been listed here, although I didn’t name any FOX show given that they’re mostly over-specced animations.
NBC still dominates the comedic field with seven shows, and CBS the classic sitcom. HBO, known more for its dramas, is surprisingly strong this year regarding half-hours. Although, much like FX’s own comedies, they are relatively under-the-radar, and it will be tough finding a reader that follows them regularly. Showtime fares better than its direct opposition with two highly-speccable series that could go a long way (like Weeds in its time).
Overall, there’s a lot of variety this year, so try not to put all your eggs in the same spec.