Thursday, November 7, 2013

Another take on "what shows to spec?".

Last time when I wrote about 'what shows to spec', I hadn't really thought it out enough. Even though what I wrote was true in theory, there was still that other side to the story.

So, even though it's a logical choice to write a spec for a show that is a ratings hit and popular, award winning and respected by most, you still have to consider those showrunners who might read the script.

In any case, if you're like me, there are basically two or three sitcoms that are worth your time. These are in my opinion Modern Family, South Park and maybe, perhaps The Crazy Ones. Those others aren't worth, at least not my time.

Having this few even remotely relevant quality shows on air (South Park probably being the best) creates a lot of problems: Not only for the aspiring writers (the talented ones are in worst shape) but also for the showrunners too.

One of the biggest problems for a writer like me is that if the show that I spec is not one of these three, it's likely that the showrunners of Modern Family, South Park and The Crazy Ones  - the shows that I care about - simply don't give a damn about my spec.

I mean, if I'd write a Family Guy, what is there in my script that would convince them to hire me? There's probably no substance or heart in the script and Family Guy isn't known for being a storyteller's show. There's no reason for them to care.

If I write an absolutely superb Modern Family script full of soul, substance and entertainment, then perhaps one of these three shows might take notice and would hire me. It's a long shot, but you never know.

On the other hand, if you do want to get hired on a show like Family Guy, I guess my advice would be not to necessarily write a Modern Family spec. That is because they just might not want to read your script.

This is because a lot of showrunners don't want to admit to themselves that their show sucks. They want to feel special (we all do) and in this case feeling special means that they tend to read scripts that aren't any better than what they produce themselves.

So if you want to write Family Guy at some point, your Community script is probably good. If you want to write Community, your Parks & Rec is probably good too. As long as the showrunner thinks that it doesn't have a lot of artistic merit, you're fine.

This is also the reason that spec pilots are more in demand than before. The showrunners like them, not because they want to hear your voice, but because pilots are so incredible hard to write and the chances are overwhelmingly that your spec pilot sucks.

It's an awful situation obviously for almost everyone. At the same time, I'd suggest that you take it with a grain of salt if someone tells you that New Girl is hot or that you can't do it without a Happy Endings spec or your own spec pilot.

In any case, if you decide to write a South Park or a Modern Family spec, please make sure that it's awesome. If you get hired on one of these quality shows, remember that there's an audience out there expecting to see something really good.

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