Monday, April 28, 2008

The Hot Specs of 2008 - The Dramas

This is a work in progress. I encourage everyone to submit their opinions and any information they have regarding the viability of specs for shows I've listed or those I haven't. I will update with your suggestions if it appears reasonable.

It's time again for my annual list of the "hottest" shows to spec for TV writers. Keep in mind, that is very important now to not only have a couple of good episode specs, but also a spec pilot, a spec feature or a play, to show how you can create your own "universe" and story. Showrunners/agents/managers today want to see both.

But, the traditional TV Spec is far from dead. It's still a valuable tool many showrunners use to assess new writers, and agents/managers like specs because it gives a good indicator of how well you can mimic voice and tone of a show, important for getting you staffed.

So, without further ado, here are the hottest specs this year, in order of perceived "hotness":

1. Dexter

Everyone I know is writing a "Dexter" spec. This could be good or bad, depending on your viewpoint. The feeling is you can do a lot of edgy stuff with Dexter you can't really do with even, say, "Criminal Minds". Like "House" last year, it runs the risk of being over-specced, but for now, this is a good bet if you have a great idea you can execute for the character and the show.

2. Mad Men

It's weird -- this show is probably the least seen of all the 'hot specs' and yet I continue to hear people talking about how this is *the* show to spec. I am a bit dubious, but since so many people are doing "Mad Men" specs, I feel it has to be this high on the list.

3. Pushing Daisies

It's rare to see a first year show so far up the list, but because this show has such a distinct voice, a lot of people feel like they want to give it a try. How showrunners will respond to a "Pushing Daisies" spec is the question, as there is so little else on the air like it, what would it really help a showrunner understand about your type of writing. I suppose "Ugly Betty" or a couple of other shows with some 'whimsy' to them would be plausible.

4. House

It's still a 'go-to' spec for most procedural type shows. It's more fun to read than your standard CSI/L&O/Criminal Minds spec, but still shows you can do procedural. This has been so popular for so long, I wouldn't be surpised if it wears out its welcome this year, so write it fast and use it quick before it goes stale.

5. The Closer

Also good for showing chops at witty lead character and procedural elements, it seems to have really gained in appreciation the last year or so.

6. Ugly Betty

Only in its second year, it's still fresh enough. If the ratings continue their downward slide however, it may not last longer than another year. Time will tell.

7. Brothers & Sisters

I had a tough time determining whether this was #6 and UB was #7, but ultimately, I think this one has longer term potential, but there's still a lot of people out there who haven't seen it. Still, if you need a serialized spec to go with a procedural for your portfolio, this one might meet your needs but if you like writing teens...

8. Gossip Girl

Another first year show with some upside. This will continue to gain in popularity. You might wait until summer to write this one -- just to see what kind of changes are in store for next year. (of course, if you can suss out any show changes, it's a good thing for any of these).

Lukewarm They aren't as hot as they used to be, but they still get some mileage:

Desperate Housewives
Rescue Me
Big Love
Grey's Anatomy (the love affair is waning)

The Wildcards These shows may become popular specs this year, but right now I can't find many people willing to take on the challenges they present. Still, I think this category of specs should be considered:

The Riches
Friday Night Lights
Burn Notice
The Sarah Connor Chronicles (now that it has been renewed)
Dirty Sexy Money
Life (I have a great idea for this one, but I don't know that the popularity of the show is high enough to rate)

The Aged and Infirm These specs are nearing or past their expiration date. Even if you have a great one of these, it may be time to consider writing a new spec. An agent or manager might read it, but you know, it pays to stay timely:

Criminal Minds
L&O, L&O: SVU and L&O: Criminal Intent
Cold Case
The Sopranos (seriously? it's over! move on)
Without a Trace
Boston Legal

AVOID AT ALL COSTS! You may love the show, or think you have a great idea for it, but I can assure you, no one will read it if it is for any of these shows:

The Ghost Whisperer
Prison Break
Battlestar Galactica (unless you are trying to get staffed on 'Caprica')
Men in Trees
The Unit (all but cancelled)

Other thoughts or opinions on the dramas? I'll post the comedies tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

Psych is a great show!

Kid Sis said...

Man. Rough.

Thanks for the truth dose!

Emily Blake said...

Why are NCIS and Ghost Whisperer dead?

Shawna said...

Emily: From everything I've heard, no one has an interest in reading them...couple that with how it seems no one in this town actually watches either show.

Kid Sis said...

So I guess I'm doing Gossip Girl.
OR...or I could do TSCC.

Actually...that could be cool.

Thank god I've prepped by studying every hour of television EVER MADE. And people thought I was just out of work...Fools.

Emily Blake said...

I watch NCIS. It's got the hotness of Michael Weatherly.

But I guess I'm alone there.

Numb Frog said...

Where does REAPER fit in?

Anonymous said...

You are not alone - RE: NCIS. How sad I am to hear that no one watches it.

whit said...

Is "Californication" too obscure to spec?

Anonymous said...

did the comedy list ever get posted?