We’ve taken a long glance at a lot of TV shows over the past seven years.
In fact, I’m usually pretty vocal about shows I love, and shows I…do not.

Before the age of Ultron TV marathons and binge-watching had arrived, I pointed out “why mythological shows are often idolized.” I’d probably broaden the scope to “serialized shows” now, but most of my points still stand:

In marathon-like screenings, the mind is somewhat submissive to the story told and the episode. The brain is passive, not active. You don’t have time to really think about the many twists and turns since you’re watching them unfold. You’re “eating” away the episodes, not “digesting” them. Everything will probably seem to blend into a unified storyline instead of finite stories broadcast every week or so with hiatus lasting months in-between seasons. Watching the first three seasons of Battlestar back-to-back won’t be the same thing as having been there since 2003.
For one thing, you didn’t theorize during Season One or Season Two. That might not seem all that important, but not being able to think for several months or years (or even only days in the case of a marathon) about who the twelve Cylons are won’t make you aware of how preposterous the introduction of the Final Five during the show’s third Season is. If you care a little bit about a show, you’ll surely think about it, start asking yourself questions. Let’s be honest, we all have way too much time on our hands and we love to theorize. Shows such as BSG or Lost work because you can theorize about them all day long… Until you can’t due to a faulty mythology.
Turns out, when watching episodes back-to-back you don’t have months to think about “what’s in the Hatch” or anything else that deserves theorizing. You’re not expecting special answers either, so you rarely end up disappointed either.

Since we’re on the topic, I did expand in another article on my love-hate relationship with Battlestar Galactica (as the show concluded six years ago).
And speaking of finished shows–
There was this post on why Dollhouse might be renewed, and a counter-post on why Dollhouse would be canceled. Turns out I was right on both ends. It would get a second season, thanks to some of the elements I brought up, and then subsequently would get canned, again mostly due to the aforementioned reasons. Looking back, it’s interesting to see that even at the time I was alluding to the concept of “brand” for writers. Namely, Joss Whedon’s geek appeal. (Part of which would get him the Avengers gig later on.)

As I said previously, I often voice (or write) my opinion on shows, even if it’s a negative one. One such example (and disappointment) was with the series premiere of FlashForward. For over a year, I had hyped the show. I loved the script, Iloved the cast, I was anxious for the final result. Unfortunately, the finished product left a lot to be desired:

Overall, what worked on the page didn’t work on screen.
I don’t blame the writing though, I blame the plain directing and editing.
A two-hour premiere would probably have given enough time to develop both the story and the characters. Sadly, this wasn’t the case. Better luck next time.

Although more optimistic, Lordy wrote at the time about two cult-adjacent series in Better Off Ted and Medium.

In science-fiction show news, I expanded on the unoriginality of Fringe. First I tackled its resemblance to The X-Files, before comparing its alt-world dichotomy to that of Sliders.
And we shan’t forget Heroes, now incidentally coming back from the dead. During its third season, I explained why Heroes should not set an end date.

Haters gonna hate.

Case in point: my 2009 article on the heydeys of Mad Men, or as I called it, “Mad Men: demystifying the overhyped“.

When a single series occupies 80% of all writing nominations despite obvious worthy contenders, when Times Square dedicates a whole evening to said series’ season premiere, when virtually everyone declares it the best series of the year, no matter how good the show actually is, that’s Mad Men.
And Mad Men is being overhyped.

Finally, let’s transition to more positive thinking, and three of our biggest talking points over the past seven years: Lost, Star Trek, and Breaking Bad. Trek was more writing (and Terran)-related, the other two were about their end.
To celebrate all three, we dedicated for each an entire week of brand new in-depth articles. Kind of like what we’re doing now with this site, except with original content.

The first one was the end of Lost, and our Lost Week. On top of articles covering Lindelof/Cuse quotes, Lost parodies and the future of the brand, my main focus was on a big aspect of the show: how Lost revolutionized TV storytelling. One example were its use of flashforwards:

Flashforwards in Lost gave weight to something that was rarely used, or at least not for their sake, but just to give hints of the future. It was the ABC show that truly revealed the potential of such a storytelling technique. The series had showed again that audiences could follow simultaneously two very different timelines. Not since La Jetée have we had such a complex array of timelines, combining both analepses and prolepses. One could argue the writers are trying to catch the lightning in the bottle once more with this season’s flashsideways technique. But all they’re actually creating is a fake sense of nostalgia.

On September 2013, I decided to spec and release a pilot for a new Star Trek show (Terran). We already covered that aspect earlier in the week, which is why I wanted to bring up another post I did on the subject: “Why Star Trek?” — The State of an Enduring Franchise. Beyond my own spec experiment, it was a way to express why we needed (and still need) a new Star Trek series. Here’s a taste:

One of the most interesting trait of the genre has always been that it could serve as an echo of reality. And the world desperately needs a reflection of itself.
You could make a pretty long list of contemporary issues that are begging to be explored (surveillance, social class, role of government, etc.). These are issues that would still be prevalent within the Trek-verse. In fact, the franchise has always been great at taking on societal and moral issues throughout its series (some more contemporary than others).

Even more importantly, Star Trek endures because it always has been forward-looking.
Star Trek stands for hope. Reaching for the sky and going where no one has gone before. It is sending a positive outlook about people. A better humanity, united, and equal. We need Star Trek on TV to inspire society, but also a new generation, people growing up to be explorers in their fields. This is about believing in a better future and striving to better ourselves.

We need a new Star Trek series, not for the fans of the franchise, but for everybody else. We need it for the bigger picture.

What a rallying cry!

Last but certainly not least, we had the end of Breaking Bad, and our Breaking Bad Week. I’m actually even happier with the amount of great, thoughtful articles we did on the show. (Maybe I’ll edit a book with these fancy posts!)
I covered the amazing experimental storytelling of Breaking Bad:

The show took the time to breathe and embrace the real world around it, and feed the humanity of its characters. Consequences and repercussions mattered because of the time spent at building these relationships, this status quo being broken apart. Like a steady hand on the wheel, it knew where it was heading towards. It was spending its time on meaningful moments. Bad was about real emotions, real greed, real jealousy, real fear. All of it stemming from smaller scales. The series was not trying to milk these moments, it was trying to establish context. Even in the craziness of season five, you still had family moments and humorous moments, like Skinny Pete and Badger’s Star Trek conversation.

We talked about the realism of Breaking Bad:

The show was hyper-serialized, and given its time-frame (one year within the story), it couldn’t afford being “ripped from headlines” topical. Nonetheless, it was still relevant. We’ve already seen how the series embraced its everyday roots by showing the “moments between the moments”. And the show proved to be even more receptive to its cartel storylines. Most notably, in the second season, the now-iconic image of a drug informant getting beheaded (and later put on a tortoise). “Extreme” moments that are, actually, completely believable (and similarly happened later in real life). Another great example of an atypical sequence is Los Cuates de Sinaloa’s narcocorrido track inspired by Heisenberg in 2×07 (“Negro Y Azul”). Narcocorridos are traditional Mexican songs with lyrics usually inspired by illegal criminal activities, often cartel-related. Although not a music genre well-known in the States, it nonetheless cements his story within the “real world”.

We braced ourselves for the failings of Breaking Bad:

As a fervent viewer of the show since day one, that season two buildup was one of the biggest cock-teases in recent TV history. It wasn’t as bad as Lost’s smoke monster, or Battlestar Galactica’s Cylon plan, but for a season-long mystery, it was definitely a miniature version.
It may not play out the same now, as you binge-watch the show, but when it came to a weekly viewing, the resolution of such an extended teasing was nothing short of a slap in the face.

A little too harsh? Only time will tell.

And then we talked about the legacy of Breaking Bad, most notably its serialized binge-viewing:

With the advent of Netflix and other great streaming services, Breaking Bad was able to capitalize on its serialization where other shows had previously failed. Word-of-mouth coupled with amazing cliffhangers (i.e. the need to watch the next episode) cemented its online boom.
It started out as a niche show that caught on with the popular success only coming the last couple of seasons. It is without a doubt thanks to the unprecedented access to Breaking Bad’s previous seasons that viewers were able to not only catch up on the show but tune in live for the final episodes. Bad was the first drama to fully benefit first-hand from the one-click-away access to its serialized episodes. Everybody caught on just in time for the final season. With only a couple million viewers watching the series “live” during most of its run, it isn’t a stretch to believe that more people actually watched the show on Netflix than on AMC.

Lots and lots of shows. Lots and lots of great analysis.

I can’t wait to see what I’ve been up to.

Once upon a time, author Stephen King issued a challenge to the Lost writers:

Minus the continuing presence of David Duchovny, X-Files blundered off into a swamp of black oil, and in that swamp it died. If J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, and their band of co-conspirators allow something similar to happen with Lost, I’m going to be even more pissed, because this show is better. Memo to Abrams and staff writers: Your responsibilities include knowing when to write The End.

Flash-forward to five years later: the 100-minute long Lost series finale, abstemiously entitled The End, airs on ABC.

Before I go into my in-depth look at Season Six and the series finale, let me get something out of the way:
Saying that people didn’t like The End because “there were no answers” and “it’s about the characters, stupid” is hypocritical.
If you flashback to a couple of years ago, I am betting Montand’s left arm that you were interested in knowing ‘what the hell is that black smoke’ more than ‘what the hell do Jack’s tattoos mean.’
In season Three, you were interested in knowing Juliet’s and Ben’s backstories not only because they were intriguing characters, but because they seemed at the time to hold key pieces of the Island puzzle.
And people tuned in en masse to the Season Two premiere not to see Jack’s divorce, but to discover what was in the hatch.
Don’t tell me otherwise, because that is either a blatant lie or misguided faith.
The only exception to this rule is the first half of Season One, which indeed delved more into the characters than the (not-yet-fleshed-out) mythology.
Lost drew a cult following because of its mysteries and original storytelling, not because the 815ers were the greatest characters on television at the time. If you disagree with this statement, then you’ve never watched, let’s say, Six Feet Under (2001-2005), The Wire (2002-2008), The Sopranos (1999-2007), or Battlestar Galactica (2003-2009), and the list goes on.
Like Lordy said in his own review, the fact that Lost did not answer any of its main mysteries is completely irrelevant to most people’s quarrels with the series finale.
Why? Newsflash: Darlton had 120 other episodes to answer questions.

So, no, my problem with Season Six does not reside in the lack of answers, it’s more in line with gross character neglect and unjustified fan manipulation.
The “character-only” approach of Lost is first untrue, but more importantly distorted. This point of view was only shaped last year when Lindelof and Cuse began to realize that they couldn’t satisfy fans with answers and needed to go back to a cleaner slate.

Cue the flash-sideways.
As they themselves admitted, the writers wanted to bring to the final season some symmetry in regards to Season One. Though admirable, the effort was pointless and quite frankly disappointing.
First, the idea here was to bring a new sense of mystery and discovery to the characters we had come to know throughout the years. Since doing a flashback on Jack’s ankle-tattoo seemed ridiculous at this point, they chose to do an altverse and switch things up a bit.
The only problem here, and it’s a big one, is that these are not our characters. They haven’t lived through the crash, they haven’t lived through the Island, they haven’t lived through six seasons of tumultuous events. Ergo, we do not care about them.

Of course, this whole ordeal was made irrelevant by the final revelation that, not only did none of it matter, but nothing was actually real. This was quite literally the metaphysical equivalent of ‘it was all a dream.’ Perhaps it wasn’t Vincent that dreamed Jack’s son, David, but this doesn’t mean I didn’t waste an hour watching his pre-adolescent angst towards his father.

There’s also the lack of any character development. Even if you were to assume that the flash-sideways actually happened and mattered, the finale rendered them nonexistent.
Paradoxically, this even impacted ‘our’ characters. For me, the whole emotional effect of Juliet and Sawyer’s reunion was nullified by the fact that, mere seconds ago, she was very content with being in a family with Jack and David. When she ‘remembered’, it was as if an instant brainwash had occurred. Now that Juliet was exchanging fluids with Sawyer, I was left to wonder if she recalled having a son and being with another man, or if her ‘old personality’ had crushed this new life.
Bringing back Julie Bowen as the mother would have actually made things better. And before you comment on her unavailability, allow me to remind you that Modern Family was actually shooting an episode in Hawaii at the same time! Talk about a wasted opportunity…

There is also all that happened on the Island.
The episode felt more to me like a season finale than a true series finale. There was no real farewell to the Island, contrary to what was alluded to since the season premiere (a cataclysmic event involving either a nuke or the volcano). The dramatic reveal of the Island being underwater now makes no sense at all.
As for the characters in peril, I’ll here quote Charlie Jane Anders’ great review of the finale:

Probably the greatest weapon in Lost’s arsenal was always its ability to make you care, desperately, feverishly about what happened to these people.
And in the end, I just didn’t care if that rock went in that hole or not. By extension, I had stopped caring whether the island sank. I had stopped caring about the fate of the Man In Black, long before he got kicked out of the episode prematurely. I didn’t care about any of it.

I do still have chills watching Through the Looking Glass or There’s No Place Like Home, but similarly to Anders, I have stopped caring about Jack & Coe for some time now.

Now about that ending.
What I found interesting about the ending of Lost was that it was thematically related to the series. It echoed two main components of the show as a whole: the fact that everyone was connected and the Island was the most important part of their lives — with one difference.
Whatever the timeline, Lost had always shown events directly (flashforwards) or indirectly (flashbacks) linked to the Island. Even when the Oceanic Six were on the main land, Lost lingered on how the crash and the on-Island events had impacted their lives. Sayid was working for Ben, Jack was suicidal because he wanted to ‘go back’, Kate was raising Aaron, Hurley had to lie about the crash, and so on.

For the first time, the flashes this season were neither about what preceded the crash, nor what followed it. The flashsideways were never narratively connected to the Island. This may be why some were let down by the ending. Basically, we were led to believe all along that, like the flashbacks and the flashforwards, the flashsideways would prove to be important to the understanding of on-Island events.
They weren’t. And, as we’ve seen, most of them were made irrelevant.

Beyond that, the end was also more abstract than some people appear to say. Though you do get some sort of a spiritual conclusion to the characters, you certainly do not get closure of what we might call their “corporeal selves.” You don’t know for instance Sawyer’s ultimate fate.
However, I accept that since, as pointed out above, what will happen in their lives onwards won’t have much to do with the Island.

One thing I don’t really get is the whole “moving on/letting go” part. Beyond the obvious meta comment, I don’t really understand what they have to “move on” from/to.
As far as I can see, virtually every single one of the Lostaways is finally happy, and has moved beyond his/her issues to a new realm of bliss.
Let’s take a look: Ben is a father figure to Alex, Jack is in love and has a son that cares about him, Sawyer stars in a ‘buddy cop’ drama with Miles, Hurley is lucky, Sun and Jin are finally free and about to have a baby, Locke is with Helen and can walk.
If one were to argue that the flashsideways had a point, it was to show that the characters had “moved on” from their (literally) otherworldly problems. Yet, now they need to abandon this wonderful world.
Would this message of “letting go” be present in the episode if it were not the series finale? I’d say no.

During the first four years, Lost was about rescue.
That was Jack’s purpose: to get his fellow castaways off the Island.
It was never about “moving on”, it was never about “letting go”, it was about “getting the hell off this damn rock” as Sawyer would say.
Season One ended with the raft launching, season Two ended with Penny discovering the Island, season Three ended with Jack communicating with a potential rescue team, and season Four ended with the actual rescue of the Oceanic Six.
Mission accomplished.

Personally, the show concluded with season Four. There’s No Place Like Home, the 2008 finale, does offer what I believe to be a great conclusion to the series.
Sure, some questions would have been left open-ended (how did Locke end up in that coffin?), but no more than the amount of mysteries further multiplied by the last two seasons.
Seasons Five and Six brought in unnecessary drama and one-sided debates. Indeed, once Jack is converted by Locke, there is no scientific counterpoint. Plus, since both MiB and Jacob appear in the flesh, no one is here to doubt their existence.
It also tried to solve major philosophical questions (Fate vs. Free-Will, Science vs. Faith) that, despite being part of the show from the very beginning, certainly did not need to have a clear-cut answer (you can guess which one).

Even though The End thematically resonates to the show as a whole, it certainly is not a true conclusion to the series’ ongoing purpose, only its last season. Ultimately, it ended with a tribute to its own completion. Whether this will shape the way Lost is viewed for generations to come remains to be seen.

Before telegraphed flashsideways and magical caves, there was a time when Lost told its complex and often surprising story through other means. The mythological show brought to television seldom used attributes to entertain and mystify its audience.
Here’s how the groundbreaking series revolutionized television storytelling.

The first thing to notice about Lost is undoubtedly its unusual use of flashbacks.
At the time (and dare I say still to this day), it was a groundbreaking way to tell a story.
No, I’m not talking about the flashback itself, rather its use in network primetime.
Could viewers keep up with two simultaneous narratives involving the same characters at different times of their lives?
Since its first inception, flashbacks have not only become the staple of the show, but also populated the television landscape.

So much actually, that fans quickly grew tired of what appeared to only be a gimmick.
I guess now we can peak behind the curtain and reveal that, yes, it was at first an opportunity for the writers to stall.
Don’t take my word for it, here’s what Damon Lindelof had to say on the subject:

We knew early on that the flashbacks were going to have to be a prominent aspect of the series but we didn’t use flashbacks in the pilot other than to tell the story of the crash. We knew as we were shooting the pilot though that the only way to do the series would be to use the art of the stall. In any given season of 24 there’s not that much happening, but they give the illusion of constant suspense. On Lost if every episode were about discovering the mysteries of the island than we would be sunk, because there’s an inevitability to that where if the characters decided ‘we’re going to explore this island and figure out what this place is’ whereas if it’s ‘we’re going to figure out how to live with each other and figure out what this island is’ and we’re going to learn about the characters before the crash so that they’re emotionally compelling, that was the only way we saw to do the show.

The bottom line of it all is that, beyond its apparent uselessness, flashbacks on Lost (save for, let’s say, Fire+Water and Stranger in a Strange Land) were compelling both narratively and emotionally. You can’t say that about Damages’ flashforwards (more on that in a minute).
One of my personal favorites is the final flashback of Walkabout where it is revealed Locke was in a wheelchair.
The tour de force of Lost was to intertwine two narratives and therein create a seamless emotional journey that could resonate both in the past (off-Island), and in the present (on-Island). Those “flashes” were actually useful to the show.
As revealed by Lindelof, this back-and-forth between present and past was partly based on the storytelling method of the Watchmen graphic novel as well as Slaughterhouse-Five.

And since we’re on the subject, if you’re going to talk about one, then you’ll need to talk about the other.
I am of course referring to flashforwards (or prolepses).
Remember the time when you had never heard the term “flashforward”?
Me neither.
And yet, before the twist ending occurred during the Season Three finale (Through the Looking Glass), only a few people knew that the technique existed, let alone its usage.
You could say the series finale of Six Feet Under, The O.C., or even Star Trek: The Next Generation used flashforwards to offer viewers glimpses into the future of the show’s characters, but those were just that: glimpses. Like with flashbacks, Lost juxtaposed its timelines in such a unique way that you couldn’t look at prolepses as ‘just that’.

Flashforwards in Lost gave weight to something that was rarely used, or at least not for their sake, but just to give hints of the future. It was the ABC show that truly revealed the potential of such a storytelling technique. The series had showed again that audiences could follow simultaneously two very different timelines. Not since La Jetée have we had such a complex array of timelines, combining both analepses and prolepses. One could argue the writers are trying to catch the lightning in the bottle once more with this season’s flashsideways technique. But all they’re actually creating is a fake sense of nostalgia.

This true revolution gave way to a few series that probably would not have been green-lit had it not been for Lost.
Damages certainly succeeded in using flashforwards with its first season, but could have gone without it with its following seasons. They were as well only used as glimpses into the season finale, not true parallel storytelling. In addition, we can talk a bit about the now-canned FlashForward (based on the 1999 book of the same name) that proved a show could not sustain on mythology alone.

Ultimately, Carlton Cuse describes his show as “a giant mosaic“:

At various points in the journey you’re going to be standing in various spots and you can define them as past, present, or future. We like fractured storytelling, and the way we’re going you’ll be looking at various aspects of our characters’ lives in the story we are telling. We want to explore that from various perspectives.

Another revolution in the network landscape is the scope of the show.
And I’m not just talking about the size of the Four-Toed Statue.
From its cast and sets, to the score and cinematic visuals, Lost was pretty much unprecedented as a network drama. The show is de facto massively expensive (large crew and Hawaii shoot), but it also premiered during a time where networks were slowly moving away from scripted dramas into the realm of cheaply-produced reality shows. Whatever you might say about the mythology of the show, you can’t deny that the series had a lot of layers.

Comparing the show to video-game storytelling, Carlton Cuse went on to say:

We also felt that since Lost was violating a lot of rules of traditional television storytelling, including having a large and sprawling cast and having very complex storytelling, we felt that videogames were one model that showed that if audiences get invested, they love complexity. In fact, the more complexity the better, and the challenge of that complexity was an asset as opposed to a liability. Those are the games that people actually respect, you know?

As for the characters, even though an ensemble cast is far from being new, Lost distinguished itself from others thanks to the innovative “centric” aspect.
And regarding the mythology, well it seems to span literally thousands of years, though we’ll have a lot of things to say about that in the coming days.

Television storytelling was also revolutionized in another surprising way when, after a few months of back-and-forth talk between ABC and the Lost execs, an end-date for the series was announced on May 7th, 2007. Clearly, this move was done as a gesture towards the fan that both answers and the end were in sight. It was also an unprecedented move in network history that is unlikely to happen again, though it shaped in many ways other mythological series. Finally, the announcement led to three shorter seasons (around 15 episodes each), and, as we can see from the current renewals, such “cable seasons” are now becoming more and more in vogue.

Last but far from being least, we can now talk about the final two fundamental changes Lost brought to television storytelling: Crossmedia & Transmedia.
Simply put, crossmedia is distribution of one “story world” across multiple platforms, and transmedia is the usage of said platforms to tell the story.

Think of it this way: the ‘Lost world’ has many stories told through various mediums, the main one being the mothership (the television show on ABC). The rest of the (less important) side-stories can be told through, for instance, a series of books. This is crossmedia.
The show explored Information technologies as a way to distribute its stories. Case in point in December 2007 when Lost: Missing Pieces was launched on the Internet and mobile phones. The thirteen short videos (about three minutes each) were actually mini-flashbacks comprised of mostly deleted scenes. It wasn’t the first foray into mini-episodes (see 24 and Battlestar Galactica), but it certainly was the most effective of its time.

You also have transmedia, which is basically a more engulfing version of crossmedia. The most obvious example is what is called “Alternate Reality Game” (ARG), or, as Wikipedia describes it, “an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants’ ideas or actions.”
One of the best ARG was The Lost Experience in 2007. I won’t go here into the dirty deets of what made TLE so great (Ivan Askwith deconstructed the ARG pretty thoroughly in his paper), though I have to congratulate one of the masterminds behind it, Javier Grillo-Marxuach.
Though their later attempts were much less successful (Find 815, the Dharma Initiative Recruiting Project), what you had with TLE and other Lost crossmedia was a unified viewing experience that allowed the audience to decide on which level it wants to be involved with the series.
You could be an über-fan and follow The Lost Experience, or just a casual viewer and simply watch the series on TV.

At the end of the day, Lost may be most remembered for complex mysteries or lack of answers, but its most overlooked aspect will certainly be the one that will have the greatest impact on television: groundbreaking and timeless storytelling.

A brand new 2017 list has been posted.
Click here to access it.

After criss-crossing several sources, it is now time to review what dramas are good to spec, and which are not.
As usual, when available, a sample script is offered for each show listed — usually the pilot episode.

Let’s do again a quick recap of how this 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 (newcomers that could potentially become popular down the line — if they’re not canned first)

There is also a grade regarding the show’s longevity in relation to specs of said show.
Meaning, how long can you keep your spec script without having to throw it in the trash?
To do this, we use what I think is the greatest grading system on Earth; stars:
★★★★★ – Excellent
★★★★ – Very Good
★★★★★ – Average
★★★★★ – Fair
★★★★ – Poor

And here we go.

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

CSI/Law & Order (CBS/NBC)
Type: Police procedurals
Past their expiration date.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Nothing’s A-Changin’ for this one. It still will get “real old, real fast.”

Dexter (Sho)
Type: Serialized crime drama
As predicted last year, the Dexter time has passed, killed by its own popularity (commonly known as the hotness monster).
Longevity: ★★★★★ – If you’ve seen the end of season four, you know what I mean when I say your spec won’t survive the fifth season premiere.

Grey’s Anatomy/Private Practice/House (ABC/FOX)
Type: Medical procedurals
It is harsh putting these three shows at the same level, but the truth of the matter is that they’ve all already been done to death(s), literally.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Renewed, and renewed, and renewed.

Mad Men (AMC)
Type: Serialized historical drama
This might be a surprise for some, but it’s the same reasoning as 30 Rock: everyone is doing it. Sure, you won’t go wrong with a Mad Men spec, but it certainly won’t be an original choice.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – And not only that, but who knows what’s going to happen with all the massive changes at the end of last season? You would need to stumble on major plotlines to get this spec going, which is never good.

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

Bones (FOX)
Type: Police procedural
Still a mainstream procedural that’s probably living its last year(s) as a tangible spec.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Doesn’t mean the show is going to die soon though (you know, strong ratings and all that).

Breaking Bad (AMC)
Type: Serialized character/family drama
Although it was last year a “Wild Card”, the series has now become pretty much mainstream, replacing Mad Men as one of the most sought-out speccable shows. As much as this is true, I would still not recommend beginning a new spec for three reasons: first, the show is way more popular than you’d think (meaning more competition), second it’s heavily serialized, and third…
Longevity: ★★★★★ – …the end of season two hinted at a different character dynamic altogether for season three. See Mad Men on why that could be problematic.

Chuck (NBC)
Type: Light spy/action procedural
On the one hand, Chuck is still an offbeat drama that has a lot of potential, so you shouldn’t throw your current spec out the window.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – On the other hand, the series recently scored its lowest rated episode ever. Beyond that however, the status quo is simply not quo anymore, so it’s hard to find the correct balance between serialized stories and “mission of the week.”

Fringe (FOX)
Type: Police/Science-fiction procedural
At this point, the show is more fantasy-fiction than science-fiction. With that said, its procedural side is undoubtedly attractive to many.
Longevity: ★★★★ – It got beaten hard in its new Thursday timeslot, and despite this, the notoriously-fickle FOX network renewed it. Yeah, it’s safe. Plus, the core dynamics of the show will probably not change much in these next episodes.

Gossip Girl/90210 (The CW)
Type: Teen dramas
When it comes to this subgenre, there’s no debate that, yet again, these are the shows to spec.
Longevity: ★★★★ – The CW is hanging tight on those two.

The Mentalist (CBS)
Type: Police procedural
Surely the hottest specced procedural right now. Maybe you can play with the Red John storyline.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – This one is pretty much safe.

True Blood (HBO)
Type: Serialized fantasy drama
At one point an “Outsider”, it has now become surprisingly common. I say surprisingly because it is a hard speccer, given both its dense mythology and the fact that it is based on a series of books.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – HBO is certainly not going to can it. Maybe you can predict the future of the show via said novels, but Alan Ball has already changed major stuff. Would your season one spec really fit into a season three narrative?

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

Burn Notice/Psych (USA)
Type: Light action and crime procedurals
Although less popular than a few months back, story ideas have not been exhausted yet…
Longevity: ★★★★ – …and USA isn’t letting them go anytime soon.

Caprica (Syfy)
Type: Serialized science-fiction drama
This category choice might also surprise some people. If you look at Caprica, unlike the early days of Battlestar Galactica (or SGU), you don’t have a standard formula, at least regarding a potential ‘procedural’ aspect. There are overarching stories that more or less get expanded throughout the various episodes, but you don’t have a stand-alone crisis each episode. If you do decide to spec this, tread lightly…
Longevity: ★★★★★ – …especially considering the regular character and mythological developments, as well as its lukewarm ratings.

Castle (ABC)
Type: Police procedural
Will most likely take over Bones‘ place in the spec world.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Strong 10PM ratings means its nearly-assured renewal. Its classic ‘case of the week’ format is also a crowd-pleaser.

Glee (FOX)
Type: Light serialized high-school drama
Probably one of the most difficult specs out there, despite its overwhelming popularity. It is indeed hard to get past the serialized aspect of the series, as well as its primary use of popular songs which contradicts with the need for a spec script to be realistically producible.
Longevity: ★★★★Glee is definitely in for the long run. Try to be careful with the arrival of new cast-members and soapy twists.

Leverage (TNT)
Type: Light heist/con/action procedural
Most likely will become one of the hottest spec, the series proved this season it could go beyond the basic “con of the week” and offer actual season-long arcs (and big pay-offs). Regardless, the show’s procedural formula can still be applied to your spec. John Rogers’ blog has tons of other behind-the-scenes info about the writing.
Longevity: ★★★★ – A major drama for TNT getting renewed early. I would say wait until the season three premiere (and Gina/Sophie’s comeback) before going the hands-on approach.

Type: Police procedural
A spec as worthy now as its older brother was in its heydays…
Longevity: ★★★★★ – …thanks in part to phenomenal ratings.

Southland (TNT)
Type: Police procedural
The little cop show that could. Saved by the bell, it is still the underdog police drama on TV and a speccer with great potential.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Don’t take it as granted though: the ratings are going down fast. You should wait for a definite yes from TNT before beginning a breakdown.

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.

Eureka/Warehouse 13 (Syfy)
Type: Science-fiction procedurals
Yes, believe it or not they are getting specced; and for good reasons. Stand-alones are easy to place inside any of their seasons. Even Eureka, soon in its fourth season, still has some spec potential as a procedural. Not to mention the fact that there are not many other science-fiction shows out there.
Longevity: ★★★★ – You can count on them being on TV for some time, and major mysteries/arcs can be easily avoided in a potential story.

The Good Wife (CBS)
Type: Legal procedural
IT is hard to define this show, but one thing’s for sure: it will become a hot speccer very soon.
Longevity: ★★★★ – You shouldn’t be worried for Julianna Margulies anymore, she has found her goldmine.

Stargate: Universe (Syfy)
Type: Serialized science-fiction procedural
This might seem antinomic, but the truth is, SGU is way more serialized than its two predecessors. Still, some episodes can center around the usual “problem of the week,” and therefore give a more procedural aspect to the show, which makes it much more speccable than you’d think.
Longevity: ★★★★ – Long live the Stargate franchise. Be careful that future episodes don’t change major events in your spec.

White Collar (USA)
Type: Light crime procedural
This year’s dark horse, it could down the line become a major speccer for light procedurals.
Longevity: ★★★★ – It definitely seems it’s going to be here for a few seasons.

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

Dark Blue (TNT)
Type: Police procedural
This is a gambler simply because it is virtually unknown compared to the other police procedurals. This might be a good thing usually, but I’d hold off speccing this…
Longevity: ★★★★ – …until it’s deep into its second season and more acknowledged.

Human Target (FOX)
Type: Action procedural
As virtually the only reliable (formula-wise) action-drama on television, you’d think it would be the go-to show to spec. But if you look at it more carefully, there are just too many unknown variables for now.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – If anything, the series is in strong danger of getting canceled. Try to wait for a renewal before starting on your script.

Parenthood (NBC)
Type: Serialized family drama
Are you seriously considering speccing this one? Let’s get real.
Longevity: ★★★★★ – Despite a possible second season, already finding a formula you can lean on for your spec is near-impossible this early.

With over thirty shows reviewed, we can spot of few trends.

Showtime is almost totally absent from this list mainly because of their lack of dramas (they’re more into half-hours it seems). FX is also not listed thanks to their current programming renewal. The basic-cable shows from AMC, TNT, and even Syfy and USA, continue to rise on the spec market.

A lot of new shows are already getting specced right off the bat, primarily due to some early pick-ups, shorter seasons, and dying classics.
I would advise against getting too invested into a spec unless you know for sure the show has been renewed.
Besides the cancelation factor, you also have to consider if the show is heavily serialized or not.
I didn’t include series like FlashForward, V, or even Sons of Anarchy, as they are all nearly impossible to spec at this time. Your spec would be hard to put into “stasis mode” due to the ever-changing storylines.
(Semi-)Procedurals are still the norm, though a lot more serialized shows are getting some sense of success. Even what appear to be classic procedurals such as The Mentalist still have a few arcs you can play with.
The bottom line is the same as usual: chose a show that reflects your voice, your aspirations, and what you like. You really do have a wide array to choose from.

So now, let me ask you this: What are you speccing?

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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