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 for educational purposes only.
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.
A popular animated spec. Too popular at this point.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – They completely reinvented themselves, which is both a good and bad thing for specs.
The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
Seven seasons and counting should be enough to keep you away.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – The show isn’t going anywhere, but neither will your spec.
Dan Harmon is back, but the field is too crowded with Community specs at this point to be worth your investment.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Six seasons and a movie.
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: ★★★★★ – Decent numbers, I guess.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FXX)
Don’t try to compete in this arena.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – New network means new lease on life.
Considered by many to be one of the best comedies on TV for so long now, which made it a very popular alternative spec.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Mo’ seasons, mo’ problems.
Modern Family (ABC)
You could create ten seasons of content with all the Family specs floating around.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – It will outlast us all.
Parks and Recreation (NBC)
Peaked last year, and is now definitely not the smartest choice.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – They shook things up with the departure of, literally, two major characters. Although it could be a good thing for the show, it isn’t for your spec.
Raising Hope (FOX)
Raising Hope has become very popular as the “small but not too small” comedy to spec. In other words, this will probably its final year before being considered over-specced.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – It’s the final countdown.
Two and a Half Men (CBS)
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Yeah, no.
Perhaps once a novel idea for an atypical spec, Wilfred has now become quite popular as a spec contender.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – New season later this year. Will it be the last?
The current and new widespread shows in town that are getting read.
If you want to vent about your first-world problems, you now have the perfect show.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Don’t forget the nudity.
House of Lies/Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
Both are well-recognized at this point to be strong contenders.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – The real challenge is finding something fresh to talk about.
Mike & Molly (CBS)
Your best bet for an established multi-cam.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Besides the situations having been recycled from every show ever, you may have something.
The Mindy Project (FOX)
As long as you realize you’re not the first person to spec this show…
Longevity: ★★★★★ – …you can go ahead and write for this new New Girl.
New Girl (FOX)
Pretty much the dominant single-cam spec for relationship shows.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Plenty of awkward situations to milk.
It should be considered a drama given its length, but I’m a rebel.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Showtime ain’t letting this one go.
Slowly taking the place of Raising Hope as the cutesy under-rated family comedy.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Are the ratings any good?
Two Broke Girls (CBS)
Will you be the rebel taking on racist jokes?
Longevity: ★★★★★ – It has leveled off.
Iannucci’s quick-fire dialogues are very difficult to mimic, much less surpass. But if you have the chops…
Longevity: ★★★★★ – …go for it.
Not quite fully widespread but will get there given the chance.
Bob’s Burgers (FOX)
The Archer alternative.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Under-rated by most, watched by some.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX) *
The new hit on the block. Clearly a front-runner to be next year’s top spec.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – It is a critics fave, but also has shaky ratings.
The Crazy Ones (CBS) *
A single-cam on CBS?
Longevity: ★★★★★ – The timeslot switch may prove problematic.
Mom (CBS) *
If Mom continues on, it will probably end up being the go-to multi-cam to spec.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – A strong showing for CBS’ latest multi.
The Neighbors (ABC)
There are better options for single-cams.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Still living off average numbers.
Orange Is The New Black (Netflix)
Another category-ambiguous dramedy which has nonetheless become a hit (or so Netflix says). The question now becomes if you can match the quality.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Season 2 is about to premiere.
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.
You never want to go full meta…
Longevity: ★★★★★ – …which could be a problem with this show.
The Goldbergs (ABC) *
A freshman series not panned by critics?
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Got picked up for a full season, but I’d wait until a renewal.
The League (FXX)
Still overlooked, which means if you nail it with the right reader, you could be noticed.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Getting crazier by the season.
The Millers (CBS) *
A Survivor winner is on the writing staff, so how bad could it be?
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Definitely on the hot seat.
For one reason or another, these are much riskier specs to do right now. You have been warned.
Anger Management (FX)
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Only 600 episodes to go.
Childrens’ Hospital/NTSF:SD:SUV/Eagleheart (Cartoon Network/Adult Swim) *
Once again, a very odd and unique choice for shows to spec.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Good luck predicting where they’re heading to next.
The Exes/Hot In Cleveland (TV Land) *
Can you name five different unrelated people that watch these shows?
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Legit/Workaholics (FXX/MTV) *
Starting to gain momentum, but still obscure enough that you’d gamble on people reading it.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Probably not going anywhere.
Men At Work/Sullivan & Son (TBS)
Not widely seen means not widely read.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – TBS doesn’t have many options.
Another record year for the spec list with 42 comedies this time around. To put that into perspective, the WB Writers’ Workshop is only accepting 33 comedies this year.
Critical faves Louie, Modern Family and Parks & Rec have moved away, and Raising Hope was recently canceled, which means it’s time for some new blood.
Despite the departure of these major shows to spec, you can see other hot series becoming increasingly popular; not the least of which is Mindy, very popular ever since it premiered last year. With Archer gone (or at least reinvented), Bob’s Burger has taken its place as the go-to animation spec.
Premium cable still offers a strong showing, with Girls, House of Lies and Veep topping the list.
And let’s not forget Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which is sure to become the hottest “must-spec” freshman series in years.
First off, thanks for this list! I found your site a few weeks ago and I’ve been reading through it while eagerly anticipating the 2014 list. Appreciate your hard work putting it together.
I’ve got my Brooklyn Nine-Nine spec just about ready. Guess I made a good call going with that one for single cam. Hope the ratings pick up.
How about Last Man Standing? Didn’t see it on the list (or 2013). I know it’s now in the Friday night death slot, but the ratings seem to be holding. And Tim Allen is always a draw. I have some ideas that would fit well within the show’s world. Would it be worth specing in your opinion?
Where’s Broad City?
Tempted to write a ‘Derek’ spec. Any definitive reason why I should avoid it?