A brand new 2019 list has been posted.
Click here to access it.
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.
30 Rock (NBC)
Going strong with its sixth season currently airing, the show is still the to-go one when it comes to single-camera comedies. Which means additional competition within the very competitive field of spec writing.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – How many original ideas are left to tackle?
How I Met Your Mother (CBS)
Renewed for an additional two more (final?) seasons, HIMYM has been for a while, and probably will continue to be, an interesting hybrid animal in the spec world.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – It is clear that speccing an 8-season plus show is not the greatest idea. Would you have done a Friends spec around their seventh season?
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX)
The format of Philly, although fairly unique for its time, has been put through every mold and peripeties imaginable. Writing a new spec may make you late to the party.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Ten seasons and three movies?
The Office (NBC)
The change of cast brought a fresh perspective to the near-decade old show but it is kind of too little too late in the originality department.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – On its death bed with the inevitable Dwight spin-off.
Two and a Half Men (CBS)
If you’re that desparate for a Chuck Lorre-related spec, there are better choices out there.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – The Ashton Kutcher switcheroo brought new life to the series, which will probably make it last a few more seasons.
Despite the first two seasons being pretty straightforward and very speccable, the show has changed so much over the years that it’s hard to predict what misadventures are up next.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Dead show walking.
The current and new widespread shows in town that are getting read.
One of the best, if not the best contender in the animation comedy category.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Three seasons under its belt, a strong track-record of quality episodes; looks like the up-and-comer has become in vogue.
The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
If you’re thinking of a classic sitcom in its prime, this is the one. Careful though as it may go over the overspec hill pretty fast.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – One more season means twenty less storylines available, but don’t let this detract you from the most popular sitcom around.
A dangerous show to spec, if only for its tricky “on the nose” storytelling/dialogue, and the fact that it is always bordering cancellation.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Tread very carefully.
Cougar Town/The Middle (ABC)
Surprisingly enough, despite being very low-key on either coasts, these two shows have begun what one might call a cult speccing trend.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Never underestimate the under-underdogs.
Modern Family (ABC)
A mainstream single-cam that has matured enough to become the new king of comedy world.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – What a joke it would be if the show were to get canceled.
Parks and Recreation (NBC)
Not only is it one of the best comedies around, it is still very fresh and very popular.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Beware of the constant flux within the characters’ dynamics.
Raising Hope (FOX)
This one is quickly becoming a very popular series to spec, thanks to its atypical humor.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Despite dips in ratings, it looks unlikely that FOX will cancel Raising Hope for at least another season.
Not quite fully widespread but will get there given the chance.
Eastbound & Down (HBO)
Gathering cult status.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – The show’s third season has been announced as being the last. Send it out while you can.
Happy Endings (ABC)
Its countless meta pop-culture references may be reminiscent of Community, but unlike its NBC counterpart, the ABC shows deals with contemporary pop-culture instead of cultish/classic trends.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – With three other “group” comedies premiering the same season, no one expected Happy Endings to not only do as well as it did, but also be as good as it is. It’s the little network show that could, and does.
Mike & Molly (CBS)
Another classic multi-cam comedy that hasn’t been tapped to its fullest potential.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – With McCarthy’s new-found success, CBS will have a hard time justifying a cancellation of the sitcom.
New Girl (FOX) *
First we had Modern Family, then Raising Hope, and now New Girl. Watch out, we got a badass over here.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Renewed without any surprise.
Suburgatory (ABC) *
A great light and fun family comedy that fits right in the ABC comedy line.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Inventive and renewed; what more can you ask?
Two Broke Girls (CBS) *
If you like making racist jokes, the choice has been made for you. Just kidding?
Longevity: ★★★★★ – It’s a done deal on the renewal.
Up All Night (NBC) *
The new show under everybody’s radar, yet with one of the strongest comedy casts around.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Although a lukewarm track-record, it is doubtful that NBC will cancel this one for now.
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.
House of Lies*/Nurse Jackie (Sho)
Despite seeming like ridiculous contenders, Nurse Jackie specs have gone surprisingly far in various fellowships. And House of Lies‘ freshness, coupled with its hyper-cast, gives the Sho show potential for a strong script.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Emmy-winning this, Oscar-nominated that. Two dramedies that are not going anywhere for the next few months, or years.
The League (FX)
The macho-man show has transformed into a great outsider spec.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Recently renewed for a fourth season, The League may not go past another couple of seasons given the cast’s career trajectory.
For one reason or another, these are much riskier specs to do right now. You have been warned.
Childrens’ Hospital/NTSF:SD:SUV/Eagleheart (Cartoon Network/Adult Swim) *
None of them are strictly speaking half-hours, so it would be quite tough for any of these shows to be sufficient by themselves.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – They’re dirt cheap enough to not be canceled soon.
The Life and Times of Tim (HBO) *
Like the Adult Swim block, Tim is not only amongst the most un-politically correct show on this list, but more importantly is in a short-form structure that might not appeal to the mass spec market.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Saved from the dead at the last minute this past season, it is unclear if a miracle can be pulled twice in a row.
Once again, it seems the comedy landscape is outshining this year the drama side with its many choices.
Following last season’s footsteps into marking their comedy territory, both ABC’s and FOX’s lineups are giving NBC a run for their (lack of) money. Parks & Rec, 30 Rock, The Office and (ironically?) Community are still the most popular specs, but it’s become clear that the alternatives will soon take the top seat. While the big dogs are fighting, the cable world is slowly pushing its underdogs to the top. Who’d have thought Archer would be the mainstream animation show when it premiered?
With Eastbound and probably Tim gone by next season, HBO is left in the wind in the face of Sho’s dramedies (which, for the most part, are strangely categorized as dramas). Meanwhile, Lorre is still reigning supreme over multi-cams while they are, little by little, slowly phased out from our screens.
The tone has been set.
I know its only six episodes in but don`t forget `bent` it`s going to be very popular with Amanda Peet.
great job as always
Raising Hope was picked up for another season just the other day, so it is definitely safe.
I’m amused that you don’t do the ‘avoid at all costs’ category — would ‘Louie’ fall into that? I think you’d have to have balls the size of the Death Star to try speccing that… Also, is ‘Curbed’ on the endangered list now?
I’d wager that if ‘Girls’ and ‘Veep’ pull good numbers on HBO, they will also be locks for specs in a few months…
I’m new to this site, love it so far!, but I was wondering why the fox cartoons Family guy, Simpsons, ect. arnt on the list.
Girls and Veep do appear to be locks. They’ve been pretty well-received thus far, Girls especially.
As much as I love Louie and want to spec it, I’m going to leave it alone. I’ll probably go for slightly less of a gamble and spec The League.
How do you spec a show with no scripts around, like The League? I’m interested in speccing it but don’t want to shoot myself in the foot by screwing it up.
I might be a few months late, but what about FX’s Wilfred?
I’d like to spec Wilfred but I can’t find any copies of scripts online. Anyone know where I can find any.
Great article btw.