Monday, January 25, 2010

What shows to spec?

Nick writes: With fellowship deadlines coming up soon, which shows do you think are best to spec this year?

You have a bit of time for the fellowships (check out the links at right for the deadlines), but it's a good question. A friend of mine who works at a big production company suggested that shows like MAD MEN aren't the best since they're so limiting in terms of being applicable to a lot of shows on the air (that being said, I have heard of people getting into the WB and ABC programs with MAD MEN specs). She suggested THE MENTALIST since it's in it's second season, and with the "red John" thing, there's a lot of room to have both procedural elements and sort of bigger storylines when you're doing a spec. She says she's also seen a lot of DEXTERs lately for similar reasons, although that show is sort of hard to do with the random V.O.

New shows like THE GOOD WIFE and THE VAMPIRE DIARIES might be good, but keep in mind that with a new show (and more obscure cable shows), you are risking the fact that readers might not be familiar with it.

Like everything in Hollywood, there is no 100% correct answer or guaranteed path to success. Write a spec that shows off your skill and your voice, and make those first five pages absolutely fantastic. Both the ABC and WB programs look to staff their graduates on their shows, so take a look at what their shows are. WB doesn't have a ton of single-camera comedies, while ABC and ABCFamily don't have a lot of gritty 24-ish shows, you know? (The WB Workshop website also tells us what past participants wrote to get in, so I'd study that). Position yourself well.

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Unknown said...

Hi Amanda,

I'm new to your blog but really enjoying it so far! Quick question about THE MENTALIST: You mention the "Red John" storyline--would you suggest (in a spec) using elements of this as B story (woven in with a procedural-of-the-week) or doing a whole Red John-centered spec. I'm reluctant to do the latter because it's not a "typical" show (they seem to be dedicating a few eps a season to Red John) and also because it might render the spec obsolete more quickly. Any advice you can give would be much appreciated!

Amanda said...

@Ruth - I haven't seen a ton of MENTALIST episodes so take my advice with a grain of salt.. but I would imagine you'd want a spec of that show to include a procedural-of-the-week plot to show off your ability to do just that. If you can include that AND some Red John stuff, why not?

Unknown said...

Thanks so much, Amanda!