If you want to to write for TV, you need at least two items in your war chest; a spec script of a TV show currently on air and an original spec pilot. They exercise different creative muscles.
A spec TV script demonstrates that you can mimic the voice, tone and feel of an existing show. An original pilot reveals you as a writer and as a person. Current trends dictate which is more important. Right now, original pilots are the most popular. But you also must demonstrate the ability to write for an existing TV show and mimic its voice and tone.
Pilots serve two purposes; to set up the world of the series; the locale, the characters, the plot. The ORIGIN type pilots did just that. They set up everything, but did not indicate the trajectory of the series. The PROTOTYPE episode, is a typical episode. The show has settled after overcoming its opening episode nerves. In the current climate of serialized TV, where shows are screened out of order, the hybrid prototype model is ideal.
In the current climate of economic storytelling, the setup of the series is occupying less screen time. The vital elements of the show are set up quickly and efficiently, while fragments of the back story are infused into the story as the series progresses. Think about where you want to start your series in terms of the overall story timeline. The setup (events leading up to the present) doesn’t have to be the opening scenes of the pilot. You can tantalize the audience with a bit of mystery.
I’m hearing many TV development executives complaining that current pilots are too safe. Writers are trying to be all things to all people, except themselves. Let yourselves go. Audiences are getting bored with recycled, derivative material and tuning out. Be daring. Write what you want to watch.
Start off with the overall concept of your pilot. How is it distinctive? Is it “Modern Family” in Atlantis? Then construct as few main characters as possible. Introducing too many characters too soon is confusing to the audience.
Experiment with the format. Is it 30 or 60 minutes? Drama or comedy? What are the character arcs over the season? How do the characters interact?
The fractured state of television has opened up many opportunities ranging from web series to cable to free to air catering to a wide variety of tastes.
Click here to read many past and current scripts of TV shows.
For in depth Film & TV script analysis visit Script Firm.