This Year's Spec-able TV Shows

Well, screenwriters– here we are… the final day of the WGA writers strike.  As I write this, writers in New York and L.A. are casting their votes to end the last three months’ work stoppage.  And the end of a work stoppage means only one thing…

It’s time to get back to work.

TV networks have already announced which shows would be returning this spring, and ABC even gave 2008-2009 pickups to nine returning series, including Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, Dirty Sexy Money, and Pushing DaisiesNumerous pilots have also been greenlit, and NBC is even greenlighting some projects– like Kath and Kim and Robinson Crusoe— right to series.  Which means we’re looking at a pretty unconventional staffing season this year.

Some shows may begin hiring writers immediately.  Others will probably hire in late May, as usual.  And still others may hire throughout the summer.  The point is this…

It’s to get your writing samples in shape.

Dust off that original material and finish that TV spec you’ve been procrastinating on.  The urge to hire writers is definitely in the air, and I’ve had several email conversations today with writers and agents alike on what TV specs may be hot this staffing season.

There weren’t any huge breakout hits last fall… or even the previous year… so it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what specs people will be reading.  But here are my lists of what seem to be shaping up to be this year’s spec-able shows…

30 Rock
– Possibly the hottest comedy spec out there right now (which means people will probably be sick of reading it soon)
The Office – There was a massive glut of these last year, and people were pretty tired of them, but it’s still a well-respected show… so if you got a hankering to write an Office spec– go for it)
Weeds – Not the most-watched show, but it’s well-respected and has a unique, edgy sensibility; paired with the right originals, this could be a very effective spec
Samantha Who? – I’m gonna be honest: write this at your risk.  It’s a new show… and it was the closest thing TV had last year to a new hit comedy.  It’s coming back next fall, and who knows how it’ll do.  But if there’s gonna be a new spec-able comedy on the market, it’s probably gonna be this one.

– A widely respected show, with a dark, ascerbic sensibility.  This could be a huge spec this year (especially if it does well when it moves to CBS).
Mad Men – It may be just a tad too early to officialy declare this show as spec-able, but if I were a betting man (which I’m not), I’d say this could be a hot spec very soon.
Rescue Me
– I would’ve thought this show was pretty tired as a spec, but I’ve talked agents who definitely like reading it still.
Californication – I say spec at your own risk, although there are definitely agents and execs out there who will read it.  Not a lot, but enough.
Grey’s Anatomy – Yeah, this show’s old news, but people still love it, and that includes execs, agents, and other writers.  I don’t know if it’d be the number one show I’d tell you to spec, but if you love it and have a great idea for your story… go for it.
Criminal Minds – This show never seems to get a lot of buzz in industry circles, but it’s a hit nonetheless, and there haven’t been any size-able new procedurals for a while.  So again: maybe not the first thing I’d recommend, but probably spec-able.

There are several series out there which may not be spec-able yet… but could be soon.  So keep an eye on them.  Also, if you’re dying to spec one of them know, take a shot… if they become hot specs a few weeks or months down the road, you’ll be the first one on the market.  If not… well… consider it an exercise that made you a better writer…

Pushing Daisies
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
In Treatment
Breaking Bad

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2 thoughts on “This Year's Spec-able TV Shows

  1. Rhea

    I do hope the writers can live with the new terms of the contract. I always feel writers are underdogs and everyone forgets that the stories that move them are written by a person called a writer!


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