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’ and NBC’s show lists for their fellowship, I have indicated with:
– An asterisk (*) any series that will not be accepted by WB.
– A dagger (†) any series that will not be accepted by NBC.
Any public update will be reflected on this list.
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 to have become on-the-nose speccers — with a lot of people speccing them)
– Wild Cards (soon, everyone will spec these, 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.
American Dad/Bob’s Burgers (FOX)
Remember when FOX had animated comedies?
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Oh wait, they still do.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – In what reality are you speccing?
The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
Our whole universe was in a hot, dense state, then nearly fourteen billion years ago The Big Bang Theory started on CBS.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – The earth began to cool, the autotrophs began to drool, Neanderthals developed tools, The Big Bang Theory is probably entering its last season.
BoJack Horseman/Rick & Morty (Netflix/Adult Swim)
Once being the hottest specs in town has made them both…
Longevity: ★★★★★ – …overdone.
Broad City (Comedy Central)
10/10 web series, 11/10 TV show.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Contracted for a fifth year. Whatever that means.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine/The Last Man on Earth (FOX)
FOX’s sizzling single-cams have aged.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Always a question mark.
The Goldbergs (ABC)
Put on your ugly sweaters.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Stagnant ratings, which would be a good thing in this case.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FXX)
The Gang Becomes the Definition of Overspecced.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Holding pattern on the show.
Modern Family (ABC)
I think the kids are joining the AARP next month?
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Will run as long as money runs into the actors’ bank accounts.
Starring an Academy Award-winner.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Who’s probably expanding her contract.
Silicon Valley (HBO)
‘Twas a good long-term investment…
Longevity: ★★★★★ – …but it may be soon time to cash out.
Kind of a touchy pick.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – No pun intended.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
It’s been a second since a new minute aired.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – A single season divided into parts on an OTT platform is a sign of trouble, but makes your spec lasts longer.
Too serious for our reality.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – 2019 will mean its end.
You’re the Worst (FXX)
Yes, we’re all the worst.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – These final hours.
The current and new widespread shows in town that are getting read.
It’s robbin’ season.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Only Glover wanting out would end this.
Black-ish/Fresh Off the Boat (ABC)
Probably the last year in this category.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – And on a path to break five seasons.
Fuller House/One Day at a Time (Netflix)
Reboots and remakes can make it on the mainstream, especially with so few limited multi-cam options.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Popular and inexpensive show = endless.
The Good Place (NBC)
One of the best and hottest comedies on TV, also known as…
Longevity: ★★★★★ – …how to burn an entire season of stories in one quick montage.
Grace and Frankie (Netflix)
Loved by the people who watch the show.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Entering its fifth season, which may prove tricky for some.
The hottest new pick in the realm of respected “adult” cable comedies.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – All the awards, renewed, and only sixteen episodes deep.
Life in Pieces (CBS)
Not as popular as Modern Family in its heydays, but still one of the better family comedy options.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – It’s all or nothing for this network.
Master of None (Netflix)
Enjoy some Americanized European sensibilities.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – It’s not cancelled (yet), and a third season is expected in a long time, which would make a Master spec viable as a rare long-term option.
Purchase it while it lasts.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Freshly renewed for a fourth complete season.
Not quite fully widespread but will get there given the chance.
9JKL/Kevin Can Wait/Superior Donuts/Young Sheldon (CBS) *
CBS’ quadruple threats…
Longevity: ★★★★★ – …to the art of comedy.
Better Things (FX)
Did you know this show received a Peabody Award?
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Barely three hundred thousand people watch this on TV, but critically acclaimed.
Casual/Catastrophe/Difficult People (Hulu/Amazon)
Mixed bag of opportunities.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Especially with some ending and others continuing.
Dear White People/Glow (Netflix)
Are these dramedies or full comedies? Who knows, but…
Longevity: ★★★★★ – …they’re definitely trending up.
A nice complement to Search Party.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Renewed and not continuing for a while, which means your spec may be reusable for a while.
Ghosted (FOX) *
Either your new go-to FOX spec…
Longevity: ★★★★★ – …or something we’ll all forget existed within a year.
Great News/Trial and Error (NBC) *
They may be new cult faves, which also means not widely watched.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Precarious renewals.
People of Earth (TBS)
In a very similar spot to its other TBS counterpart…
Longevity: ★★★★★ – TBS is thirsty for some content, and it already got renewed for a third season.
Search Party (TBS)
A surprising success and ample readership moves it up.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Can you work your story within this mystery?
Speechless (ABC) * †
As predicted last season, it is moved a notch to this category, despite still struggling to get read.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Dipping under a four mill total may prove fatal.
Will & Grace (NBC) *
My asthma is getting triggered from all that dust coming off your spec.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – How can I even grade this show at this point?
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.
American Housewife (ABC) *
It’s surprising to see a network show classified as an Outsider, but sadly the ratings and episode orders do not correlate to readership.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Who knows how long this ride will last.
Angie Tribeca (TBS)
Probably living its last year in this section.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Already past its third season.
Friends From College (Netflix)
One of the lesser-known Netflix comedies that is still getting read.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Renewed for another batch of eight, so you got some time.
Grown-ish (Freeform) *
This may seem like a low placement for a spinoff of a popular broadcast series…
Longevity: ★★★★★ – …but remember this is on basic cable with very little readership (for now).
High Maintenance (HBO)
At least nine states offer recreational use of this show.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Freshly renewed and despite the high season count, doesn’t have many non-Vimeo linear episodes.
Swipe right or left?
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Final season either way.
The Mick (FOX) *
A stagnating reach for a show which is still not widely accepted or watched.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – It did get additional episode orders, but who knows where this leads.
Young & Hungry (Freeform) * †
Ending its five-season run while still not being specced or accepted enough to be retired as an overspeccer.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – A rare low longevity grade for a show that isn’t ovespecced — mainly because this is their final season.
For one reason or another, these are much riskier specs to do right now. You have been warned.
Alone Together (Freeform) * †
Another Freeform show that may become way too niche to gain spec momentum.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – It barely premiered, so impossible to gauge.
American Vandal/Big Mouth/Flaked/The Ranch (Netflix) * †
What do these Netflix shows have in common? They’re not widely accepted or read. You’d think these popular and/or critically lauded comedies would be shoe-in for spec material, and yet here we are.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Also the narratives will be a tough nut to crack.
A.P. Bio/Champions/LA to Vegas (NBC/FOX) * †
Way too new to consider.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – And who knows what ratings even mean.
Baskets (FX) * †
Second straight year at this level for a very niche cable show.
Longevity: ★★★★★ –
Man With a Plan (CBS) * †
Why is a broadcast show so low on this list? Simple: it’s not accepted by many programs.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Also, it’s gonna run forever.
Did anyone say peak TV? The explosion of content keeps chugging along with no end in sight — especially on the half-hour front. Trends predicted last year are getting confirmed, including a ton a fresh choices outside of your usual networks. In fact, even the big premium outlets are getting some fierce competition from unexpected sources.
This time, we hit 63 (!) different half-hours listed and rated (a huge increase from last season’s 48, and 2016’s 40). There’s also a resurgence in the classic broadcast end with 28 series originating from the big four. Compared to prior years, they’ve nearly recaptured that two-to-one cable advantage.
That said, take a note of how those cable and OTT networks are evolving. Netflix alone makes up a whopping 14 shows on the board. Nearly a quarter of all comedy series (thanks in part to unique offerings like American Vandal, Big Mouth, Dear White People, or Glow). And more lower-key outlets, including TBS and Freeform, are gaining ground on the field.
Speaking of more content, we’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of all revivals and reboots coming to television. Will & Grace, Fuller House and One Day at a Time are at the forefront of this new tidal wave that will be sure to grow in the next few seasons.
In short, things are moving, and they’re moving fast. There’s a lot of offers, which means great diversity for your spec. But while this fragmentation may seem like a net-positive, we might incidentally be headed for very few “mainstream” shows, in favor of a ton more “wild cards”, “outsiders” and “gamblers”. Selecting the right show to spec may prove more difficult than ever.
Any thoughts on spec’ing Corporate, from Comedy Central?
What’re your feelings, spec wise, on Santa Clarita Diet?
I just read your spec script test and I really want to do Bob’s Burgers because it’s my favorite show and I know those characters so well and I have a great idea for an episode. With that being said, should I just choose a mainstream show, such as Insecure, because it speaks more to my original script? Please help lol. Oh and this website is life changing.
Corporate is very niche, and isn’t accepted by many fellowships, so it’d probably fall in the gambler category.
Santa Clarita Diet is recent enough and accepted enough that I’d put it in the Wild Card category alongside Love (albeit with more longevity).
Popularity of a show is just one of many factors to consider. I recommend doing my TV Spec Script Test:
Thank you for all you do. Thoughts on the Roseanne reboot?
Roseanne got cancelled. Might be a spin-off though.
I’m speccing a show that, according to producers, will shift tonally next season. Same cast. Same world. Same comedy. Only now, the hero will deal with the issues they ignored in Season 1.
Should I write from a Season 1 perspective? Or do I show the hero dealing with their issues in a Season 2 type story?
Thought on Crashing?
Hi! Wondering your thoughts on writing a spec script for I’m Sorry on TruTV? Thanks!
Thoughts on speccing HBO’s Crashing? Tricky because involves writing stand up bits for established stand ups? Help?
What about Schitt’s Creek? Seems to have a cult following among comedy peeps.
It’s hard to say in a vacuum, but if it is an anthology-type series that has already aired its second season, then doing it through that prism might be best. It always comes down to what your strongest idea and execution are.
I covered the topic in greater detail in this post — https://www.tv-calling.com/when-should-your-tv-spec-script-be-placed-readers-mail/
@Colette / @Max / @Josh
I will be tackling Crashing and Schitt’s Creek in my 2019 update.
This is such a niche show that I would generally advise against speccing it. That said, if you can make a compelling spec script that highlights your writing, then this shouldn’t stop you. Be aware that the more niche a series is, the fewer the opportunities to be read are.