I think somebody asked about whether writing specs of multi-camera half-hour comedies was wise. Based on the fact that TWO AND A HALF MEN just got renewed for 3 seasons and BIG BANG THEORY got renewed for 2, I'd say yes. It's fairly rare for a network to put so much faith in shows, and I don't really see it happening for a lot of single-camera shows. But it makes sense...they're consistent. They pull huge ratings numbers. They have clear identities that everyone understands. And it's unlikely any of that's going to change. As long as those shows keep doing what they're doing, they'll continue to succeed. If you want to be a comedy writer, I think it's smart to have examples of both single-camera and multi-camera shows.
I sat down with a TV Lit Agent the other day who suggested that getting into half-hour comedy at all is pretty hard, just based on few of them are on the air. It's a numbers thing. More drama shows mean more jobs for drama writers. Comedy was king in the 90s, and all those writers are still hanging around town. There's just a lot of competition. It's my opinion that this business will always be tough, so you should just forge ahead and do what you want to do... but if you're thinking you're not sure whether to do drama or comedy, you might be positioning yourself better by writing dramas. I feel like I meet a lot of people who tell me they're comedy writers, and I find myself thinking, WHY ARE YOU NOT HILARIOUS? I dunno. Not everyone is funny. It's okay if you're not. As long as you think I am.
Andy writes: Is it even possible to do a show based on a dysfunctional (snobby) family after Arrested Development? Would agents immediately pass on the idea since AD was so good yet "only" lasted a few seasons?
Hmm. I say write what you want to write...but whether you should outwardly compare it to ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT is another matter. AD has some very passionate fans, but it just didn't get enough viewers, and at the end of the day, that's what executives have to be buying. Shows that will get viewers. And agents want to represent people who write things that executives will buy. Usually you only want to compare your work to successful things. Saying it's just like a show that nobody watched is probably going to attach a negative connotation. Like I said, AD falls somewhere in between a hit and a show nobody watched...but in general I'm not sure.
But simply for the topic of a dysfunctional family, I say go for it. It's definitely a good idea to have some kind of interesting hook or world that makes your show different, but I don't think any settings or concepts are totally off-limits. Families will always be fodder for writers since they provide natural relationships and believable conflict. And we can all relate. My advice is - please just be funny.
Also, a sort of general note - agents do not represent scripts. They represent PEOPLE. You need at least a couple of scripts before you get an agent... and like I said, agents are looking for material that's sellable. But it's not about just one script. It's about you as a writer, your voice, your style, etc. Even if you write a spec screenplay or spec pilot that never sells, your reps will use it as a sample to get you staffed (or, in the feature world, get you considered for open writing assignments).