Thursday, January 6, 2011

Exercising My Thriving Television Imagination

When I was a teenager, I wrote episodes of Scarecrow & Mrs. King in my head. They usually featured me as a brilliant young spy working with Agent Lee Stetson on an international undercover operation. My cover was often an accomplished concert pianist or a modern dancer. Lee would act as my demanding yet dashing teacher while Amanda tagged along as my daft chaperone. Together, we would infiltrate embassies and investigate leads, often getting discovered and taken hostage. We would always escape before the end of Act 3.

And even though the show was called Scarecrow & Mrs. King, I was the one who would take down the Russian arms dealer or Libyan terrorist in the end. My fierce intelligence and spy savvy would save us every time. And at the close of each episode, I would share a romantic moment with the Scarecrow. That’s right, I got the handsome spy.

They were really great episodes.

Little did I know that all that fantasizing was early practice for the task I’m about to dive into – writing a spec script. A sample episode of an existing television show meant to showcase my writing skills. Coming up with a story that matches the voice of an established series, yet has my original stamp on it.

My sole purpose for writing a spec is to apply to writing fellowships around town in the spring. Because otherwise, spec scripts are dying a rapid death here in Hollywood. Agents, studio suits, & development execs all want to see original pilots as writing samples now. They’re tired of reading Grey’s Anatomy specs, I suppose.

The new feeling is that an original pilot is a much better snapshot of a writer’s unique voice and technical ability. Plus there’s always the hope that a Desperate Housewives will emerge from the field. (DH was an original pilot that saved ABC in 2004 – more on the challenge of writing an original pilot later...)

But despite its declining usefulness in the biz, a spec script is still the key to getting into these writing fellowships, which are highly coveted gateways into the inner circle of television writers.

So here I go. I haven’t decided which show to spec yet – The Good Wife, Castle, & Fringe are all contenders. If you have any opinions on which I should choose or any story ideas to offer, leave them in the comments below. I’m still in the brainstorming phase right now.

Though I know I will not be featured in any of them as an international spy. I’ll leave that character in my imagination.


  1. If you choose The Good Wife, I can be your "legal consultant." :-)

  2. @Sarah - I love Dexter! I need to get caught up...

    Unfortunately, Dexter is kind of overdone in terms of spec scripts. House, Burn Notice, and Mad Men are also popular. I prefer to have less competition for my script!

    @Ann - I may just take up you on that! :)