The Helpful Reviewer

Spec Scripts of Existing TV Shows

Monday, March 2, 2020

When applying for most fellowships or writing programs at different studios/networks, they normally ask for a spec script of an existing TV show. That means you pick a show (normally from a list they provide) and write an episode of said show showing that you can channel the voice of the creator and the writing staff, that you can write characters created by someone else, that you can follow the structure and style devised by other writers, and that you can create a story that would read just like any other episode of said show. But while doing this, you also need to show your unique voice and original take. It’s a tricky balance of showing you can write someone else’s voice, while also showing you have a unique voice yourself. Why? Because you need to prove you could be staffed on a show and write the way that show functions—most writing fellowships at studios end up offering a staffing position on one of their shows. But you also need to show that you have original ideas and can bring a fresh pair of eyes and original concepts to an already existing writing team.

So what makes a good spec script aside from those things? You need to show you understand the show, that you’re a fan, you’ve watched every episode (make sure that what you’re writing hasn’t been explored before in that show), you understand the characters, and that you can write in a way that would make anyone think it’s just another episode of the show. You should come in and write an episode that would work in the world of the story, using the characters we see every week, and that leaves the world mostly unchanged. Episodic shows make for much easier specs, since the storyline is wrapped in that episode and it’s not a continuing story. But if you decide to write for a serialized show, just make sure you date it, so whoever reads it knows when that episode would happen (especially if they read it after more episodes have aired, making your episode dated, and most likely “wrong” in how the events continued to unfold). But most importantly, write an episode we haven’t seen on TV before, that shows your originality while also channeling someone else’s writing style.


Cody Smart

Cody Smart

Reviewer

Cody is an independent writer and script doctor from Santiago, Chile. She attended the prestigious Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, where she double majored in English Literature and Linguistics, with a minor in Dramatic Literature. She moved to L.A. and got her MFA in Screenwriting at the New York Film Academy, Universal Studios location, while at the same time working at Sony Pictures as a reader and story analyst. She also received two Certificates from UCLA, in Development and Producing for Film and TV.

Aside from her years of experience as a studio reader, she’s a judge for multiple script and film competitions, has written some award-winning short films and feature film scripts, she’s been working as a script analyst and doctor for years helping writers take their scripts to the next level, and is currently the head of the coverage department at Story Data.