Why Generation Coax?
Although our parents were raised watching television, mine is the first generation that was raised watching cable TV. While our grandparents were tethered by power cables and our children are defined by wireless signals, we are Generation Coax.
What is a “spec script?”
A spec is a script that is written “on speculation,” which means it hasn’t been ordered and paid for. In general, it is a writing sample that all script writers need to prove that they know what they’re doing, so someone will pay them to do it again. There are several kinds of spec scripts:
Standard spec: This is a sample episode of a show that’s currently on the air. As a rule, spec scripts don’t sell and it’s a bad idea to send one to a show that it’s a spec of. For instance, you don’t want to send a spec Grey’s Anatomy to Shonda Rhimes. In addition to the legal liability this opens the show to (if they happen to be working on a similar storyline), a writer on the show is likely to nitpick your script to death. However, a writer on Blue Bloods might read your NCIS and say, “this person clearly knows how to write good cop shows! We should hire them to write for us.”
Note: Yes, everyone knows somebody who sold a spec. The reason these stories are a big deal is because they are extremely rare, and are not really the point of a spec.
Pilot spec: This is a spec for the first episode of a show that doesn’t actually exist. They’re becoming more and more popular as the people who have to read scripts all the time are getting a little sick of reading a thousand versions of the same shows that are already on TV, and appreciate something new. Also, since a standard spec has to sound like a real episode of the show it emulates, a pilot is considered a good opportunity to showcase a writer’s unique voice.
Novelty spec: This is a spec that, for whatever reason, could not actually get made. Even though a standard spec will never get made, everyone is aware that, given exactly the right set of circumstances, it could. A novelty spec could not. Some examples of novelty specs:
An I Love Lucy: The show is canceled and the stars are deceased.
An Elementary/Sherlock crossover: These shows are on two different networks, produced by different studios.
A pilot set in the Star Wars universe: The writer does not have the license rights to his own story.
So why write a novelty spec? Because they’re fun. When done right, they’re a brilliant inside joke you share with the industry, and can get you attention. So why not? They’re really easy to get wrong. And while a mediocre standard spec is just a mediocre spec, a mediocre novelty spec is a train wreck and worse, a waste of time. Proceed with caution.