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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 dramas.
Canceled or dead shows have been removed since last season’s spec list.

In addition, you’ll also find (when available) a script for the corresponding show for educational purposes (title will be in red).

NOTE:
Given Warner Bros’ and NBC’s show lists for their fellowships, 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.

Let’s do another 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

And here we go.

Over-Specced

Re-tool your spec if you have one, but you probably shouldn’t bother beginning a new one for these shows.

The 100 (The CW)
Type: Serialized science-fiction drama
The world is on the brink of nuclear annihilation thanks to some fools. As for The 100, it’s in a better predicament.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Already renewed for a fifth season so you know you’re good if you can find the perfect evergreen story. Good luck with that.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC)
Type: Fantasy/action procedural
RIP Bill Paxton.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Game over man.

The Americans (FX)
Type: Serialized historical thriller
One of the greatest dramas on the air means it’s one of the greatest spec choices on the air.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Also let’s not forget it just got a sixth and final season for next year.

American Horror Story (FX) *
Type: Serialized horror
I’m scared for you.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Can you even?

Arrow (The CW)
Type: Action/fantasy procedural
Why you’d pick it above any of the other CW shows boggles my mind.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – At least you could change it into an episode of Iron Fist.

Bates Motel (A&E)
Type: Serialized family drama/horror
One of your last shots to get a spec in for this one.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Especially if you want to write for Rihanna.

Better Call Saul (AMC)
Type: Crime drama
So popular as a spec sample that it has to give way to fresh faces.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Still could go on a while depending on serialization.

The Blacklist (NBC)
Type: Action procedural
Everyone’s go-to action spec has a replacement.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Look on down.

Bones/Castle/Elementary (FOX/ABC/CBS)
Type: Police procedural
Can you believe David Boreanaz has been Castle longer than he was on Eli Stone?
Longevity: ★★★★ – Finals incoming.

Empire (FOX)
Type: Family soap
Admittedly there aren’t many FOX soaps to choose from, but this one is so popular it can be considered on the verge of release (date).
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Good luck keeping up.

Game of Thrones (HBO) *
Type: Serialized fantasy drama
There’s a reason why it’s not accepted by all.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Not sure if serious or hasn’t read the books.

Grey’s Anatomy/Scandal (ABC)
Type: Prime-time soaps
Still not as crazy as the real world.
Longevity: ★★★★ – As always, the trick is fitting within the show.

Hawaii Five-0/NCIS:LA (CBS) *
Type: Police/Action procedural
Barely accepted as show choices should give you a good indication of why it’s here.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – That and their season run.

Homeland (Showtime)
Type: Serialized thriller
I’m more scared of why you have a new terrorist threat in your mind.
Longevity: ★★★★ – 2019 will be its end.

House of Cards/Orange Is The New Black (Netflix)
Type: Serialized political/relationship drama
Netflix has so much other content it’s a wonder why these two are still so popular.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Possibly because they got those Peabody Awards to show for it.

Major Crimes (TNT)
Type: Procedural drama
Crazy to think its predecessor was cable’s highest rated drama.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Yes, the spin-off is still on the air.

Masters of Sex (Showtime)
Type: Serialized historical drama
There are a few other Sho choices (shoices?) out there if you want to bust out your spec muscles.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Obligatory sexual innuendo.

Nashville (CMT) *
Type: Musical/Family drama
Change of network incidental to its change of placement. Still over the road.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Check out its aftershow NashChat for some ideas. I’m not making this up.

Once Upon A Time/The Originals/The Vampire Diaries (ABC/The CW)
Type: Fantasy drama
Tough choice for fantasy fans since there are no decent alternatives besides some of CW’s newest.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Still have run for ages.

Orphan Black (BBC America)
Type: Serialized science-fiction drama
The good news is Tatiana Maslany finally got an Emmy nom.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – The bad news is its fifth season is also its final one.

Ray Donovan/Shameless (Showtime)
Type: Family drama
New placements for two of the strongest cable contenders.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – In a way, aren’t we all Ray Donovan and Fiona Gallagher?

Suits (USA)
Type: Light procedural
One of the last blue sky-type USA shows around…
Longevity: ★★★★ – …but for how long?

The Walking Dead (AMC)
Type: Ensemble/horror drama
I’d love to see a mumblecore version of the show.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Can you come up with a new foe?


Mainstream

The current and new widespread shows in town that are getting read.

The Affair/The Leftovers (Showtime/HBO)
Type: Serialized relationship drama
Unique storytelling methods leads to unique specs.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Obligatory comment that one is on Showtime so it’ll continue for a while, while the one on HBO will end on its terms.

Black Mirror (Netflix) *
Type: Science-fiction anthology
A real cheat since you could make it as much a pilot as a stand-alone episode…
Longevity: ★★★★ – …which means it’s as evergreen as it gets (as long as it’s accepted).

Blindspot (NBC)
Type: Action procedural
If you missed out on Blacklist, you got your replacement.
Longevity: ★★★★ – As many tattoos as episodes.

Bloodline (Netflix)
Type: Serialized family drama
Surprisingly popular choice. I say surprising because we’re talking about a show…
Longevity: ★★★★★ – …going into its final third season, plus has an ongoing serialized narrative.

Chicago Fire/Chicago Med/Chicago PD/Code Black (NBC/CBS)
Type: Action/medical procedural
Straight procedurals are straight proceduring.
Longevity: ★★★★ – As long as they don’t get rid of your characters, I guess anything can work.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (The CW) *
Type: Romantic musical dramedy
Transparent is a comedy as much as Ex is a drama. Great choice for those in the middle.
Longevity: ★★★★ – *sings a song about speccing*

Daredevil/Jessica Jones (Netflix)
Type: Serialized superhero drama
A slightly edgier/mature bend to the genre equals solid picks for your action/noir style.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Well established characters also makes this an easy sell.

Fargo (FX) *
Type: Crime drama
Anthology means difficult to pin down.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – At least the third season is finally premiering.

Fear the Walking Dead (AMC)
Type: Serialized survival horror
It’s like The Walking Dead with more family drama.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Also less shooting.

The Flash/Legends of Tomorrow/Supergirl (The CW)
Type: Action/Fantasy procedural
Pretty much the most popular picks for mainstream genre samples.
Longevity: ★★★★ – And they have a clear formula to boot.

Gotham (FOX)
Type: Superhero procedural
Not as flashy as the CW DC picks (no pun intended), and perhaps a slightly less “genre” choice if that is your style.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Also in its third season, potentially going into its fourth if it gets the renewal.

Halt & Catch Fire/Into the Badlands (AMC) *
Type: Serialized drama
Big potential for the latter once reads get started. The former already has built-in traction.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Final season, meet second year.

How to Get Away with Murder/Quantico/Scorpion (ABC/CBS) *
Type: Legal/action/thriller procedural
You’ll be surprised at the verbiage used in the prose.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Even if renewed, storylines are being burned like hotcake.

iZombie/Jane the Virgin (The CW)
Type: Horror/family dramedy
Popular choices all around. There’s wisdom in crowds.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Plenty of potential beyond their aired seasons.

The Knick (Cinemax) *
Type: Serialized historical medical drama
Constantly surprised at the legs on the show.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – But we’re still waiting on a new season.

Lucifer (FOX)
Type: Police/supernatural procedural
The true successor to the Castle/Bones “quirky guy with cop” duo. Plus it’s funny.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Renewed for a third season of 22 episodes, so much story indeed.

Madam Secretary (CBS)
Type: Political drama
Still not written as widely as The Good Wife specs were, but can still hit the beats.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Although the material may be tough to write without seeming too realistic.

Mr. Robot (USA Network)
Type: Serialized thriller
Very popular “edgy cable drama” choice now that Breaking Bad is long gone.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Do I need to explain the twists?

Scream Queens (FOX)
Type: Procedural drama
Not quite as popular as other Ryan Murphy shows, but the option is there.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Still in consideration for renewal, plus crazy pace, means it may not be as safe as being on that show.

UnReal (Lifetime)
Type: Serialized drama
Redefined a network while offering a new tone.
Longevity: ★★★★ – There’s plenty of meat in reality.


Wild Cards

Not quite fully widespread but will get there given the chance.

American Crime/American Crime Story (ABC/FX) *
Type: Serialized crime/legal drama
Two anthologies which may prove tricky to spec, yet still will be chosen as samples like Black Mirror and American Horror Story.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Complete wild cards in terms of longevity considering they have unique schedules, unique approaches, and, well, they’re seasonal anthologies.

Billions (Showtime)
Type: Serialized drama
No Homeland in popularity.
Longevity: ★★★★ – It’s Showtime so it’ll run a while. There, I said it again.

Bosch/The Man in the High Castle/Mozart in the Jungle (Amazon) *
Type: Serialized dramas
Still a tough spot for the Amazon dramas, which still aren’t as widely seen as cable counterparts.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – At least the full season releases allows you to plug in your spec in a specific place.

The Catch (ABC)
Type: Romantic/thriller drama
Not as popular as most of Shondaland’s slate, but still a viable option depending on your style.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Shondashow means story burning.

Lethal Weapon/Rosewood (FOX) *
Type: Police procedural
One is new (which means hard to get read), the other is still relatively untapped.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Slowly dripping stories.

Luke Cage (Netflix) *
Type: Action/superhero drama
On the cusp of joining Daredevil and Jessica Jones, but still recent enough (and not as popular).
Longevity: ★★★★ – Won’t have a second season before the Defenders, which may bring interesting choices in spec stories.

Narcos/Stranger Things (Netflix)
Type: Serialized period drama
Shows in the zeitgeist tend to be very popular, which places both of those Netflix picks high on this list.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Don’t get stuck in the upside-down.

Riverdale (The CW) *
Type: Teen drama
Bank on this one gaining real traction. Well, once the show is being read.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Especially with its fast renewal.

This Is Us (NBC) *
Type: Family drama
The new Parenthood spec.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Don’t forget to include a tear-friendly twist at the end of your episode.

Timeless (NBC) *
Type: Time-travel procedural
One of the few non-CW genre shows that will probably become a go-to choice…
Longevity: ★★★★ – …if it can survive the years.


Outsiders

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.

Animal Kingdom (TNT)
Type: Crime/family drama
A TNT show with traction, if only because of its accessibility.
Longevity: ★★★★ – What’s your power play?

The Crown/The OA (Netflix) *
Type: Serialized drama
One is a period with a new direction for its second season (not focused on Queen Elizabeth), the other one is a pure fever dream…
Longevity: ★★★★★ – …making them both very hard to spec.

Greenleaf/Queen Sugar (OWN)
Type: Family drama
Much like UnReal and Mr. Robot before them, these new premium entrants have redefined a network.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Turnaround so fast they’re already in their second season.

Humans (AMC)
Type: Science-fiction drama
Lesser known option on the AMC front, which could be ripe for an upset.
Longevity: ★★★★ – The second season just aired and it’s a British co-production, so hard to guess in the distance. The original only had two seasons though.

The Night Shift (NBC)
Type: Medical procedural
Another lesser known show compared to its Dick Wolf alternatives.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – About to enter its fourth year. Will it be DOA?

Outlander/Power (Starz) *
Type: Serialized historical/family drama
Starz shows have a tough time breaking out of their niches, despite their potential for great specs.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Renewed deep in the years.

The Path (Hulu)
Type: Serialized drama
Interesting choice which has put Hulu on the map in the drama world.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Jesse has found his way.

Peaky Blinders (Netflix)
Type: Period crime drama
British imports make strange bedfellows.
Longevity: ★★★★ – At least we have a decent idea of when the show will continue.

Underground (WGN) *
Type: Period drama
WGN continues to bring it with this underrated pick, even if not widely accepted as a sample.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Freshly entering its new season.


Gamblers

For one reason or another, these are much riskier specs to do right now. You have been warned.

12 Monkeys/Colony/Dark Matter/Killjoys/The Expanse (Syfy/USA) *
Type: Science-fiction drama
A large batch of genre shows which would make great spec fodder, it’s unfortunate that they’re not widely accepted.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Some are ending, some may last a while, but all have ongoing plotlines that may be tough to write for.

The Fall/Happy Valley (Netflix) *
Type: Crime drama
What I meant to say earlier is that British imports make strange specfellows.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – If anything, you never know when they’ll be back.

The Fosters (Freeform) *
Type: Serialized family/workplace drama
The perfect Freeform example of a show running relatively strong, meaning it could serve as a good spec, but sadly its lack of wide acceptance limits the potential.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Bonus point for its release schedule making it last longer than it would otherwise.

The Last Ship/The Librarians (TNT) *
Type: Action/adventure procedural
TNT genre shows are disappointingly never read enough.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Ordered to last a couple seasons so at least you have a deadline.

Legion (FX) *
Type: Serialized superhero drama
New and bright, which means a lot of people will want to spec it soon. Unfortunate then that it isn’t on anyone’s approved list yet.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – How can you keep up?

Outsiders (WGN) *
Type: Serialized drama
Perhaps it will join Underground once it gains ground, but right now it’s still not on the same track.
Longevity: ★★★★ – WGN shows can be cut ruthlessly. At least it got a second season.


2017 Trends

A gigantic 101 dramas (!) are listed on this year’s spec list. That’s right, we’ve broken into the triple digits. Comparatively, last year had about 87 dramas, and the season before “only” listed 68 one-hours. The explosion of content is well underway.

Continuing on last year’s promise, a good chunk of shows are genre-based (sci-fi/fantasy), with The CW holding strong (thanks to its DC slate) and some cable outlets also getting into it like Amazon and Netflix (Stranger Things anyone?).
Despite the huge increase in cable and streaming content, networks are still holding their turf with nearly half of shows coming from their end. It should be noted that virtually all of them are in the over-specced/mainstream categories, meaning that within a couple of seasons cable could rule most of the field.

Regarding picks, only a handful of “safely procedural” shows remain fresh — genre ones (like iZombie, Lucifer or The Flash) or straight serialized dramas (Mr. Robot) seem to be preferred.
There’s also a rising popularity of anthology series in specs (notably Black Mirror and American Crime), which is very likely due to their second life as potential pilots (if the sample fails as a spec).

Ultimately, it seems there are more opportunities than ever to find a spec sample that tonally matches perfectly with an original sample. Whether or not they’re worth their longevity is another question.



Still wondering which show to spec?

Try my awesome TV Spec Test


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.

NOTE:
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.

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.

Over-Specced

Re-tool your spec if you have one, but you probably shouldn’t bother beginning a new one for these shows.

Archer (FX)
It’s like a reset every time.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Could last a decade, but doesn’t change that it’s been written to death.

The Big Bang Theory/Two Broke Girls (CBS)
I mean…
Longevity: ★★★★ – …seriously?

Bob’s Burgers (FOX)
Tinaaaaaaa!
Longevity: ★★★★★ – On and on and on.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX)
Substantial amounts of specs submitted for this, which means it finally transitions upwards.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Could go for a while narratively.

Episodes (Showtime)
Fun show but limited reach comparatively to other Show picks.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Final season incoming.

Faking It (MTV)
Never got to reach mainstream status due to its niche…
Longevity: ★★★★ – …which isn’t surprising that it got cancelled.

Girls (HBO) *
Hot commodity at one point, but dwindling in the eyes of the beholder.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Fare thee well.

The Goldbergs (ABC)
Underrated half-hour, unfortunately still aged into this level.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – I mean we’re talking four seasons and counting here.

House of Lies (Showtime)
It’s about to close down.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Ticking time bomb.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FXX)
Unless you have a very fresh idea, it could be a tricky one.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Longest running live-action sitcom in American TV history should give you an idea of its popularity.

The Last Man on Earth (FOX)
You ain’t gonna be the first spec in this world.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – They change the game so often, your head may be spinning.

The Mindy Project (Hulu)
Change of network, change of spec grade.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Picked up for a fifth season which was reduced in episodes. Not the best sign.

Modern Family (ABC)
Are the great-grandchildren going to college soon?
Longevity: ★★★★★ – The only things that can stop it are paychecks.

New Girl (FOX)
RIP Prince.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Purple rain.

Veep (HBO)
Too realistic for our own good.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Change of executive position.

You’re the Worst (FXX)
What a season finale. I have a single tear stinging in my left eye.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Things are about to get real.


Mainstream

The current and new widespread shows in town that are getting read.

Atlanta (FX)*
A show that immediately hops into mainstream placement given its airing date and strong traction.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Things have just begun.

Black-ish/Fresh Off the Boat (ABC)
Popular and…
Longevity: ★★★★★ – …still relatively fresh.

Bojack Horseman/Rick & Morty (Netflix/Adult Swim) *
Both have catapulted into popular specs after spending their initial seasons on the outsider side. Surprisingly still not widely accepted. Probably because both are animated cable comedies.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – *writes another silent episode*

Broad City/Workaholics (Comedy Central)
Work work work.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – On the brink of relegated upwards.

Life in Pieces (CBS) *
Still a broad family comedy that can be a Modern Family-adjacent spec.
Longevity: ★★★★★

Master of None (Netflix)
The anthology formula makes it the Black Mirror of half-hours.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – In other words, almost no serialization to worry about. And the second season is on the cusp of its premiere.

Mom (CBS)
Probably last season at this level of spec.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – About to head in its fifth season, which could mean it’s probably the last one on this spec level.

Silicon Valley (HBO)
Very popular and very strong.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Much competition, much room for story.

Superstore (NBC)
What can I get ya?
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Just got renewed which means good news.

Transparent (Amazon)
Is it a comedy or a drama? Well, it’s a half-hour so it’s still here.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Critical darling but ongoing narratives could be problematic for an evergreen spec.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
Strong as hell.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Already three seasons in and yet still open world.


Wild Cards

Not quite fully widespread but will get there given the chance.

Better Things (FX)
No Louie this year, but you might find its replacement.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Recent, already renewed, and widely accepted.

Casual/Catastrophe/Difficult People (Hulu)
Moved up from Gamblers thanks to its rising popularity.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Hulu moving in strong.

The Good Place (NBC) *
Great first season with clear concept makes this a shoe-in for popularity.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Massive change of plans at the end of season one also makes it somewhat hard to nail down.

Insecure (HBO) *
Potential to become a popular contender in premium cable comedies like Silicon and Girls still are.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Second season on the horizon and very few episodes to speak of. Double-edged sword of only having eight episodes under its belt.


Outsiders

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.

Angie Tribeca (TBS)
It’s like Police Squad all over again.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Third season is happening and weird enough that there’s room for fresh stories.

Grace and Frankie (Netflix) *
Not the most “out there” Netflix comedy, yet a strong choice if it fits your sensibilities.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Especially since the third season is starting.

The Mick (FOX) *
If you like your Philly humor without the decade-long baggage of stories, this might be up your alley.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Bonus points for the renewal.

The Real O’Neals (ABC) *
Lesser known network comedy…
Longevity: ★★★★ – …which means a lot of untouched stories.

Speechless (ABC) *
Vehicle with potential. If it could get read, it would be moved to the Wild Cards.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Got an additional episode order on top of its full season, so a renewal should be incoming.


Gamblers

For one reason or another, these are much riskier specs to do right now. You have been warned.

Baby Daddy/Young & Hungry (Freeform) *
Long in the tooth…
Longevity: ★★★★★ – …yet still not quite there yet to warrant an over-spec mention.

Baskets (FX) *
Moved down from Outsiders after its lack of traction and acceptance in the fellowships.
Longevity: ★★★★ – FX, land of the weird post-post-post-modern half-hour.

Man Seeking Woman (FXX) *
Same boat as Baskets before it.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Final season probably.

Playing House (USA Network) *
Didn’t get the eyeballs needed to move up.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Third season still about to premiere, which may be a last shot.

Search Party (TBS) *
Great little show, sadly unaccepted as of now by many places.
Longevity: ★★★★ – It just got renewed though.


2017 Trends

Stagnation is in the air. Few new entrants in the mainstream categories, plus lack of traction for niche cable comedies, equals the same picks getting picked again (Silicon Valley being the ultimate example of that).

There’s still a slight upswing in comedy numbers this year, with 48 half-hours listed (up from last year’s 40 and 2015’s 38). Perhaps there’s hope that in the next few seasons we’ll see a lot more valid choices — besides a few network ones and the big premium outlets.

Speaking of, there’s a definite rise this year in comedies coming from smaller fares, such as TBS (with Angie Tribeca and Search Party). The question is whether or not they will translate in reads outside their fanbase.
Also of note is a near two-to-one advantage in half-hours coming from cable over network. Only 18 shows listed are from networks. NBC is still barely present with only two half-hours on the board. ABC has six and FOX five, though a good chunk are older shows (such as The Last Man on Earth and Modern Family).

Much like last season, we end up with choices for comedies that are between mainstream half-hours so popular they might as well be considered over-specced, and newer cable series that could be too niche. Perhaps by next season things will change.



Still wondering which show to spec?

Try my awesome TV Spec Test



UPDATED:
A brand new 2017 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.

NOTE:
Given Warner Bros’ 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.

Over-Specced

Re-tool your spec if you have one, but you probably shouldn’t bother beginning a new one for these shows.

Archer (FX)
Yup.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Still here.

The Big Bang Theory/Two Broke Girls (CBS)
Bazinga!
Longevity: ★★★★ – Ad aeternum.

Bob’s Burgers (FOX)
We’re going up to eight seasons, which should already tell you something about its popularity.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – It’s still an animated show, meaning you could pull off a rabbit.

Episodes (Showtime) *
Limited spec appeal for what used to be a gambler.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Especially with potentially a fifth (and final?) season.

Girls (HBO) *
So outdone that some fellowships don’t even accept the show anymore.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Over it.

The Goldbergs (ABC)
Replaced by fresher single-cam fares.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Four seasons and counting.

House of Lies (Showtime)
Listen to your spec consultant.
Longevity: ★★★★★It’s Showtime, it won’t end. Apparently the show may be ending this season (if you needed another reason as to why a new Lies spec might be risky).

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FXX)
The Simpsons of basic cable, in that it’ll run forever.
Longevity: ★★★★ – The Gang wouldn’t write a new spec.

Louie (FX)
Beyond the fact that we’re on season six, it’s in an extended hiatus.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – On the bright side, it prolongs your spec one more season.

The Mindy Project (FOX)
If you already got one, good. Otherwise, I wouldn’t start.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Some serialized changes last season.

Modern Family (ABC)
I guess you could write another college episode about the grand-kids.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Another generation is upon us.

New Girl (FOX)
Used to reign among the single-cams.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Over 100 episodes. Enough said.

Veep (HBO)
Insert 2016 presidential election joke.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – A return to form last season, which also brought some changes in one specific area.


Mainstream

The current and new widespread shows in town that are getting read.

Black-ish/Fresh Off the Boat (ABC)
On top of their single-cam game.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Go, go, gadget.

Broad City/Workaholics (Comedy Central)
Succeeded in going beyond their niche statuses into becoming a lot of people’s go-to specs.
Longevity: ★★★★★

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX)
Big success in the spec world thanks to two very popular seasons, which means…
Longevity: ★★★★★ – …it’s probably living its last year in this category.

The Last Man on Earth (FOX)
A wild card in terms of storytelling, but definitely a hot pick for your ambitious single-cam.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Can you predict where they’re headed to?

Mom (CBS)
Still the strongest multi-cam on the board.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Also, the only viable multi-cam on the board.

Silicon Valley (HBO)
A curated comedy stack for your future open-source, community-driven jokes.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Made with ❤ in Los Angeles.

Transparent (Amazon)
A critical sensation becomes a go-to dramedy spec.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Already working on season three.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
Season 2 is still not out yet, but that shouldn’t stop you.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Very likely to be renewed beyond if it can further its critical acclaim.

You’re the Worst (FXX)
Has matured into a serious contender for a lot of people.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Depression is in the air.


Wild Cards

Not quite fully widespread but will get there given the chance.

Faking It (MTV)
Dark horse among the half-hours but gaining momentum.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Already on its third season.

Life in Pieces (CBS) *
Broad family comedy that could become a great Modern Family replacement.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Pending a renewal.

Master of None (Netflix)
Gaining traction as a spec, but its anthology formula can be a put-off.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Season 2 isn’t for another full year.

Superstore (NBC) *
The lone NBC comedy on the board, barely making it…
Longevity: ★★★★ – …thanks to its precarious renewal.

Grandfathered/The Grinder (FOX) *
A full comedy slate rejuvenation for FOX single-cams…
Longevity: ★★★★ – …assuming they go beyond their first season.


Outsiders

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.

Baskets (FX) *
In the same spot as last year’s Man Seeking Woman, which could also mean a move downwards next season.
Longevity: ★★★★ – FX seems to love its bizarre post-modern comedies.

Bojack Horseman/Rick & Morty (Netflix/Adult Swim) *
Although fairly popular in the mainstream, they still haven’t showed real success among specs.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Can you outcrazy and outsmart them?

Togetherness (HBO)
Mumblecore will not help the writing.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Slightly precarious spot in both the real, and spec-world, given its reserved nature.


Gamblers

For one reason or another, these are much riskier specs to do right now. You have been warned.

Baby Daddy/Young & Hungry (Freeform) *
Unknown to a lot of readers, which could jeopardize your chances.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – And they’re 4+ seasons deep.

Casual/Difficult People (Hulu) *
Not even on most people’s radars, yet has potential to grow if it gets more recognition.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Hulu’s betting on its slate.

Man Seeking Woman (FXX) *
A slight downturn from last year’s Outsider category, if only because it hasn’t gained the traction it needed in specs.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Similar boat to Baskets, albeit a season older.

Playing House (USA Network) *
Beyond niche, but could become another Broad City-type spec assuming it garners more eyeballs.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Hard to predict where USA is headed with its branding still in flux.


2016 Trends

A lot of older shows and very few climbing newbies means that, this year, we’re not even cracking 40 half-hour series in our list (nearly stagnating from last year’s 38 half-hours).

The big domination this season is coming from dramedies. Half of all “comedies” listed are blurring the line between drama and, well, comedy; most notably with Master of None, Transparent and Togetherness.
This is without a doubt linked to the equally-dominating presence of cable in the half-hour world (over 20 of all shows listed!). ABC rules the network side of single-cams, while NBC is barely on the board with only a single half-hour. How times have changed.

The expansion of niche comedies has brought variety, but also makes this an even tougher year for comedy specs. Apart from a few shows that were able to grow from their initial fanbase (Black-ish, Broad City, Fresh Off the Boat, You’re the Worst), the choices really lie between comedies on the verge of being over-specced, and obscure cable series. Tough call.



Still wondering which show to spec?

Try my awesome TV Spec Test


Let’s begin the celebration of seven years with some of our classic TV Calling featured posts.

It used to be you’d pin a post to the top of your blog, and call it featured. Well–
“Featured Post” is somewhat of an outdated concept with this site, especially since we’ve never really had a slider to begin with (*shudder*). TV Calling has been a mostly linear design, with a few in-depth articles highlighted occasionally. And since I now only post worthwhile content, everything is highlighted (i.e. everything is a de-facto featured post).

We’ll take a closer look at the TV writing and TV business sides in more details (starting tomorrow), but in the meantime, I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight a few forgotten gems from our earlier days.

Our very first featured post was, unsurprisingly, a crazy rant of mine on why I hate French “television”.
Although the French TV industry still has a lot of catching up to do, it’s refreshing to see the amount of progress from 2008. In fact, I’m writing this very post from Paris (not the one in Texas) so I’m getting to see a few recent French TV shows. Not the worst.
It’s also funny to see that a few French shows have even made waves in the US (namely Les revenants).
I also attended last October at the Writers Guild Theater the second edition of “Direct to Series”, a “showcase dedicated to French television series”. No, I didn’t bawl my eyes out.
Speaking of International fanfare, a few of my other earlier featured posts were about visa/green card issues. We’ll get back to those when I post about “Seven Years of My Life 101 (or Life of Alex)” on Saturday.

When it comes to story issues, I wrote back in 2008 about mythic structures and hero psychology.
The instigating post was mainly focused on The Dark Knight (I had just seen it), in relation to the concept of flawed (super)heroes.
The second one, still an off-shoot about hero psychology, was on Joseph Campbell’s books–and how others have tackled a variety of issues through the prism of screenwriting.

Vices, virtues and dilemmas should also not be forgotten in the world of screenwriting. Identifying the “moral premise” behind a story is essential to understanding why this particular story touches us, affects us. It is also what will ultimately give dimension and consistency to a great story. Few books deal with this in direct correlation with screenwriting. The Moral Premise by Stanley D Williams appears to be right on target by clearly and easily linking past and present stories, both in theory and practice.

On the other side of mythical stories and structures we have what is inside the character’s head, the character’s psychology. A lot of books have been written on the subject but few aimed at screenwriters. William Indick’s Psychology for Screenwriters seems to be one of the only books I have come across dealing exclusively with this. Comprehending the psyche of your characters can only benefit your writing and your story, especially in the television medium where characters are the medium.

Deep stuff.

As pointed out previously, the concept of “featured post” has been phased out, with most articles now relating to TV writing or the TV business. We did have occasional floaters to mark events.

In 2009, Lordy had a series of very interesting guest posts on unsung artists (at the time): Don Bluth and Craig Ferguson. Of course, Craig Ferguson has since become more well-known, but Lordy’s posts are still worth the read.

I talked about technology, with the iPhone, the iPad, and the future of eBook readers.
I had a one-off interview with CSI:NY’s Hill Harper. Because why not.
I ranted about the unsavory televised spectacle that was Michael Jackson’s funeral.

During the first year of TV Calling, I wrote 11 movie reviews (8 based off of the screenplay).
My most popular was The Cabin in the Woods, which finally came out in theaters over three years after my article.
Others include The Box, Watchmen, Star Trek (the reboot), Inglorious Basterds (Cannes 2009 version), Buried, Prisoners (four years before it came out), Orbit (still waiting on production), Unknown White Male (two years before release), MacGruber, and Paul.

Movie talk still continued after. In the days of Ed Norton’s Bruce Banner, I took a look at “The latest about Marvel and DC Movies” and I brought up “five under-the-radar movies you should watch.” (A few of those have since gained notoriety.)
Given Hollywood’s fascination with IP, I had a talk about “Hollywood’s Trivial Pursuit of Games” (get it?), and most recently how “You die a brand or live long enough to become an IP“.
I also wrote about the advent of 3D (and Avatar) in a big way with three dedicated posts on the issue.

And, for some reason, there were these two amazing posts about: the Weinstein Company being on the verge of bankruptcy while doing a movie adaptation of the 1970 Broadway musical Pippin (“Pippin my studio: The Weinstein way of dealing with problems“); and Taylor Lautner trying to be Stretch Armstrong (“Taylor Lautner: Badder, Bulkier, and Sparklier“).

Good times. I can’t wait for the TV writing advice.

Hi there!

Alex Freedman

I'm Alex Freedman, the writer behind TV Calling.


I started this site in 2008 to chronicle my own journey in television writing.

687 posts and 9 years later, TV Calling has also become a comprehensive resource dedicated to the full TV writing industry — from spec to success.


Everything here is written by yours truly (unless otherwise credited), so feel free to blame me for any missed deadlines.


I hope you'll answer your television calling, and join me in this creative journey.


Write on.


P.S.: New around? You should start here.

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