Can I Use an Hour Sample for Half Hour? - Complications Ensue
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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I am an aspiring comedy writer, but have chosen to write one of my specs on the NBC show "Chuck" because I know and love the characters. It is an hour long, but entirely different from most dramatic television, it's more of an action-comedy. Is this spec useless to me as a comedy writer even though it has so many comedic elements? Should I not show it to people interested in my work and just crank out a "Two and a Half Men" like so many other people in LA?
Think about it from the showrunner's point of view. If I'm hiring comedy writers, and I get a stack of 12 sitcom scripts, and an hour comedy, who am I going to pick?

Right now there is no shortage of qualified staff writers. You're competing with writers who have credits. You have to really grab people to break out of the pack. Anything short of "you nailed it" equals fail.

That's not to say you can't send it out. A great CHUCK is better than no script. A great TWO AND A HALF MEN (if that's what people are speccing for half hour) is better with a great CHUCK than without it. Your agent might know about a relatively more action-y, more dramatic half hour. And of course, your great CHUCK will be useful for other comic hours.

And maybe you don't want to be a half hour writer, y'know? Maybe if you love CHUCK so much you should consider yourself an hour writer. John Rogers worked on COSBY, and now he's running a one hour heist drama. I guarantee there are laughs in it. I wouldn't worry about CHUCK being sui generis. BUFFY was an action-comedy, too. If you can write action and laughs, there may be hour jobs out there for you too.

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2 Comments:

Weeds is not your typical half-hour comedy. Check it out.

By Blogger Clifford Myers, at 11:13 AM  

I kind of disagree. Not that I'm in the position of showrunner, but if I'm reading ten scripts and 9 of them are The Office and Two and a Half Men, and one's Chuck or Ugly Betty or one of the other more comedy-minded hour-longs, I'm gonna pounce on that. With sitcom specs, you end up putting all your energy into trying to imitate the show. With an hour-long, there's a little more room to show that you're more than a good mimic. But that's just me.

By Blogger Kati S, at 9:56 PM  

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