Sitcom Format or Drama Format? - Complications Ensue
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Monday, May 18, 2009

I'm writing a spec for a TV show called Party Down on Starz. It's like Arrested Development and all those other comedies on the pay networks. No laugh tracks, not your typical sitcom, so should I write the script in sitcom format with those annoying A and B scene headlines, or like an hour long drama, that I'm more comfortable with?
Scripts for single camera comedies like ARRESTED and 30 rock use drama format. Three camera comedies may or may not use sitcom format.

However, there's no real point in speccing a series that no one's heard of. If people don't know the show, they don't know how well you've reproduced its template, characters, voices, etc., in your spec.

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7 Comments:

PARTY DOWN, which has its first season finale next week, was already renewed for a second season. While I don't know many people who have STARZ, I know many people here in LA who love it-- it's a comedy about trying to make it in LA that's the anti-ENTOURAGE, has a well-respected comedic past, and a pretty good pedigree (Rob Thomas, Paul Rudd). I'd actually say it's a great idea for a comedy spec right now.

By Blogger Z, at 8:04 PM  

*comedic cast. And Alex, you've certainly been doing this a lot longer, so maybe I'm talking out of turn, but I think a PARTY DOWN spec would get some attention... and it's a simple enough premise I don't think an agent or manager who wasn't familiar with it couldn't catch on real fast. Sure, toss in a multi-cam or one of the single-cams that has been around longer, but I think agents and managers would rather see this than the billionth OFFICE spec.

By Blogger Z, at 8:09 PM  

On the one hand, Z is certainly right about all of Party Down's praises. On the other hand, I've seen the show, and it still didn't leap to mind when I read this post -- I spent a second thinking "PARTY DOWN ON STARZ" is an odd title for a show.

By Blogger Jeff Greco, at 8:13 PM  

I've found the one advantage to being in an industry town is there are always a handful of shows that most of America doesn't know exist, but tons of people in LA adore. GREEK was another one I was surprised to learn has a ton of fans among agents/managers/producers. My sample may be too small to say PARTY DOWN is one of those... maybe I'm jumping the gun.

By Blogger Z, at 8:18 PM  

@Z: Or I could be wrong. That's why I say to ask agents what the hot specs are. I'm just a writer, I don't have my finger on that particular post. I just make stuff up.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 8:46 PM  

It's been my experience that even shows people may have heard of - most people don't know the template for anyway (except, say, the big Office-s, et. al.), so it bears noting what's been picked up for a second season.

By Blogger Elize Morgan, at 9:29 PM  

Hey, I was the script coordinator on Party Down so I can say with absolute certainty that it's written in the drama format with a teaser, one act, and a tag.

I'd be careful speccing the show, though. Though it's pretty much a perfect show to spec from a technical standpoint, I definitely get a lot of "huh?"s when I tell people which show I worked for. I think the word has started getting out a bit more now, but I would consider at least having another sample to pair it with.

By Blogger Sam, at 1:35 AM  

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