Tuesday, September 27, 2005

What to Spec: Part II

So, we got some good discussion going on what shows are good show to 'spec.' For those new to the lingo, a 'spec' script is one you write without assignment (if you write a screenplay at home with no deal attached, that's a spec too.) In TV Land, if you want to get a staff job on a TV show, you need to have a couple (or three or four..) spec scripts of current TV shows to peddle around. I personally have written spec scripts for 'Lost' and 'House'. I will spec another show in a few months once I decide what to put my energy toward. Even established writers have spec scripts they keep current.

So, after my last post, I was very pleased to receive some feedback from Paul Guyot regarding shows to spec. So, without further ado, I reprint his remarks here:

Lost - good spec.
The Shield - was the hot spec the last few years, its time may be up.
Deadwood - too specific.
Nip/Tuck - good.
The O.C. - good spec if you want to write for that particular genre. VERONICA MARS would be better because it shows you as a teen angst writer as well as crime and comedy.
Medium - not a good spec, except for a very specific genre/tone.
Everwood - not enough of Hollywood watches the show.
Rescue Me - hot spec.
Gray's Anatomy - hot spec.

Cold Case - has replaced CSI as that genre's go-to spec.
Without a Trace - only a single storyline, not a good spec.
Veronica Mars - good.
Boston Legal - becoming hotter. If you can nail that DEK voice, you've scored.
Battlestar Galactica - don't waste your time, unless you want to write ONLY for the Sci-Fi channel.
Law and Order: SVU or CI - not anymore.
The Sopranos - time has come and gone. Was THE spec to read/write prior to THE SHIELD, but I know of several agents and execs who won't read them anymore.

CSI (every flavor) - can still get away with it, but they'll ask you for something else.
Law and Order - nope.

House - this is THE hot spec right now. If you can nail a HOUSE spec, you'll get meetings.
24 - nope.
Desperate Housewives - another hot spec.

As to your question re: DEAD ZONE, the only execs likely to read (and give a meeting off of) a USA network spec are USA and Lifetime execs. I know that WB, TNT, 20th and FX people won't read them, or if they do it will only be as a second or third reading - meaning after they've read something else of yours. My agency (CAA) as well as Gersh and Endeavor won't read any "query specs" from any cable network shows except FX and the premiums. Why is this? It's just one of the many, many unfair Hollywood attitudes - there is a stigma against smaller cable company shows - they're perceived as inferior in quality or else they'd be on another network. THE SHIELD should have broken that attitude but all it did was make the execs think FX is somehow "more special" when it comes to cable networks.

If THE CLOSER remains a hit for TNT, it might be a worthwhile spec, but that's at least a year away.

There ya have it. I plan on updating my list. I suggest you do the same. Thanks Paul. Immensely helpful, as always.


the slackmistress said...

Found you via Cathy Seipp...

You're lucky you're working/want to work in drama. You know what my writing partner and I ended up speccing last year 'cause there was nothing else avaiable?

Two and a Half Men.


Shawna said...

But there is hope for you, sitcom slackmistress! Next year you can spec...My Name is Earl or maybe even How I Met Your Mother.

I weep for the comedians.

(And wilkommen!)

Emily said...

Thanks for the list. I have a question. I've been wanting to spec Veronica Mars because I adore the show, but how do you go about it? I could easily come up with a story-of-the-week, but what do you do with the season's arc, or with the ever-changing romantic relationships? I could get away with ignoring them in a Lost spec, but VM changes so quickly that I have no idea how to make it work.

John Donald Carlucci said...

Too bad that I have no interest in watching most of the hot shows to spec, but Cold Case sounds interesting. House lost me last year went it started to feel soapy. I am not a fan of the Ward storyline. I might have to Tivo it this year.

I can't tell you how disappointed I am with the Closer and the wasted opps on that show. The writing feels lazy to me and unrealistic. How she ended up with her new house was so silly I can't believe it made it out of the writing room.

How about specs for the new shows? Supernatural, Kolchak,Threshold allow for one-offs apart from their main arcs. Would they get read simply because they are new material?


biko said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
biko said...

I'm working on a spec for Rescue Me. I have a question. When I'm writing I get tripped up thinking: "Do I have to think of what may happen after the season 3 finale? Do I need to write scenes that consider Sheila almost killing Tommy in a fire and then try and guess where Tolan/Leary and company will take the show from there? Sorry if it seems like a novice question, but I'm at the "learning curve" stage in regards to spec writing for tv (first attempt).