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.
Too popular as a spec for its own good.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – All these changes, man!
The Big Bang Theory/Mike & Molly/Two Broke Girls (CBS)
[Insert laughs.] Longevity: ★★★★★ – They could run forever, but not your spec script.
Bob’s Burgers (FOX)
Not as widespread as others, but it is replaced as the animation spec by fresher fares.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – It’s already renewed, but you’ll be in competition.
Community (Yahoo) *
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Next step: “and a movie”.
Cougar Town/The Middle (TBS/ABC) *
Little shows that could, and did.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Won’t be long now.
House of Lies/Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
Once upon a time, when half-hour dramedies weren’t that well represented, they would have been your best choice. They climbed lists and put writers in fellowships.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – One is about to end, the other is in its rhythm.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FXX)
The Gang Picks Another Show.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Rewatch that one-shot episode.
The League (FXX)
It was a good off-beat choice. Not so much now. Especially since…
Longevity: ★★★★★ – …the last season is upon us.
Are you really going to compete with Louis C.K.?
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Who knows where the wind will take him.
Modern Family (ABC)
Reliably funny, but picking a show deep in its sixth season isn’t the greatest of ideas.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Will run forever. They’ll renew it every generation.
New Girl (FOX)
People’s must-spec relationship show for the longest time. Has lost its shine in that respect.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Coach! :(
It would be a very strong choice, only if everyone else around didn’t think so last season.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – New President, new tempo.
The current and new widespread shows in town that are getting read.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX)
Good track record and in its second season. Pretty much everyone’s pick for a strong workplace single-cam to spec. It gets laughs and is the more popular successor of Parks & Rec.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Not quite the bestest of ratings, but it already got renewed.
The go-to “not too funny but still half-hour comedy” show out there. Living its last year of mainstream.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Eh.
The Mindy Project (FOX)
Another aging show that is most likely in its last not-over-specced season. Get it while it’s hot.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Strong formula, albeit with some shifts this past year.
The strongest multi-cam in these necks, bar-none.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Renewed.
Silicon Valley (HBO)
Brooklyn is to network what Valley is to cable. A confident, funny comedy in a very unique world.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Not going anywhere.
Not quite fully widespread but will get there given the chance.
Black-ish/Fresh Off the Boat (ABC) *
Hilarious new comedies injecting some life into the network. Most likely will be mainstream by next year.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Trending upwards.
Broad City/Workaholics (Comedy Central)
A bit of a gamble, but their success is growing.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – You never know with Comedy Central.
The Goldbergs (ABC)
Who doesn’t love the 80s?
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Wobblier legs now that the network has found more successful family comedies.
The Last Man on Earth (FOX) *
Not your usual network sitcom, which could also mean it’s a great future pick. Or fall apart in a hot second.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Watch out for the curveball thrown every other episode.
Married/You’re the Worst (FX/FXX)
Edgy and definitely on the verge of becoming very popular (more so than any other FX comedies).
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Fresh renewals and potentially stronger second seasons.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix) *
It’s brand new and getting a lot of traction very quickly. Definitely will become a popular spec sooner than later.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Free reign until the new season is released.
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.
Caution. Meta humor can be dangerous.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – A season or two left.
Man Seeking Woman (FXX) *
A bit of an oddball. Not a pick for the faint of heart.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – And not the greatest numbers.
Bojack Horseman/Rick & Morty (Netflix/Adult Swim) *
Hard to compete with what’s on screen. Their success off screen will make them more popular as specs to write than legitimate contenders.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – A lock for the next couple of years.
For one reason or another, these are much riskier specs to do right now. You have been warned.
Childrens’ Hospital/NTSF:SD:SUV (Cartoon Network/Adult Swim) *
A new season, and an absent friend.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – On the verge of disappearing forever.
Cristela (ABC) *
Not quite the same popularity as its other new ABC counterparts.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Risky pick.
The Exes (TV Land) *
Weird choice. Then again…
Longevity: ★★★★★ – …the network doesn’t have any alternatives.
Rough. How one should categorize this past year for comedies.
As predicted, few new series of the previous season survived their freshman year. Networks are desperately trying to freshen up their schedules–unsuccessfully so. A gap in mainstream specs was therefore created: a record-low five series are vying for the spot.
This year’s comedy spec list is almost entirely made of veteran shows or babies, making good shows to spec rarer. We saw the departure of popular shows New Girl and Veep into over-spec territory, with Mindy and Girls standing ground. Mom and The Exes are also the only multi-cam still in play. It doesn’t bode well for the format.
On the bright side, the arrival of successful new comedies, mainly Netflix’s Bojack Horseman/Kimmy Schmidt and ABC’s fresh slate of single-cams, gives hope for the future of specs. Expect a wider variety and more mature choices next year.
You forgot “Orange Is The New Black.”
I moved it this year to the Drama category (it’s a one-hour). Same for Shameless.
Looking? 2nd season so It’s on the WB list. Togetherness? (It’s not, but wondering…) Transparent? (Ditto)
Excellent list as always, Alex. Now I gotta see if I can make time for that Rick & Morty spec…
‘Looking’ unfortunately got cancelled so I’m not sure how viable a spec it would be now. It’s also not that widely read. I’d argue it would fit in the “Outsider” category.
‘Togetherness” recency, plus its mumblecore format, would firmly classify it this year as a “Gambler”.
‘Transparent’ is an interesting half-hour choice. For now, I would call it an “Outsider”. It is growing strong though, so it may become a surprise “Mainstream” next time around.
The Simpsons is sort of the CSI of the comedy world. No one wants to read it as a spec. And after a quarter-century of existence, it is impossible to make one that can be funnier than the original (in its heydays). I would advise going for alternatives (even Bob’s Burgers if you want to do an animation spec).
Thanks for the compliment! :)
Hmmm, what about Sirens? Not enough numbers?
I’d also place ‘Sirens’ as a “Gambler” for a few different reasons:
– The show is a USA half-hour. USA is known for its blue-sky character dramedies (one-hour), not as much this particular format. In of itself, this makes the show an offbeat pick.
– ‘Suits’ is a remake of a British series. With a few exceptions, one-to-one remakes/adaptations can sometimes come with a stigma for certain readers. Although not a deal breaker, it is also not accepted for Warner Bros.
– And as you pointed out, the show has been trending downwards with low viewership numbers in the second season.
What are your feelings on “baby daddy” on abc family?
Same as for ‘Sirens’ (minus the adaptation bit).
What do you think about Getting On?
Hey man, love this list. Is your list for 2016 coming soon?
Getting On is definitely a gamble. I’d say be cautious when picking niche comedies that may be ending soon (or already).
It’s also not a widely accepted show in the fellowships.
The 2016 list is definitely coming up in the next few weeks!