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Home » Archives » June 2008 » Playing By the Old Rules
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06/02/2008: Playing By the Old Rules

I've got a good question here from Thomas in St. Louis who must be a very young writer indeed as he talks about watching Buffy since he was in second grade. Oh lord, is that possible? Dear me. Well, good for you, Thomas! I'm pleased to meet'cha! He's writing a spec for the ABC Fellowship, and he's wondering about a specific approach:

As a result of the WGA strike, a lot of shows didn't get proper season finales. Would writing a spec intended to serve as "the finale that could've been," be original and stand out, do you think, or would it not be enough of a typical episode?

You know, there used to be a lot of rules about specing episodes of shows that already existed. Such scripts were the currency of the town and you had to follow all sorts of rules about which few shows were "specable" and about making your episode typical and yet different at the same time. But now, with ABC/Disney pretty much the only place that still takes this kind of script, I'm starting to wonder if those rules mean anything anymore.

Sure, you still shouldn't base your script around a guest character, and you still need to demonstrate a thorough mastery of the show's voices. But do you still have to worry about hitting that exact "typical" vs. "special" bull's-eye? I'm not so sure. It used to be that your Seinfeld was going to be compared, head-to-head, with hundreds of other Seinfelds and almost nothing else. But now, your "Sunny in Philadelphia" might be up against a "Weeds" and a "Breaking Bad" and a "Tudors"! So you've got a little more latitude within the confines of the rules of your show.

So, sure, if you've got a great alternate season finale, why not? If the dialogue sparkles and the story-telling is crisp and controlled and the stage directions have both style and confidence, the script is going to stand out. Good luck, young Thomas!

By the way, you know how people always spec brand new shows too soon? Before they've had time to secure a second season or even settle into their own patterns. Well, you're going to want to write a Dollhouse spec as soon as this thing hits the air or even before. No, you are. Resist it. Hang back a little. I think this show is going to take us on a journey, and we have to get a feel for its trajectory before we jump on.

Lunch: cheddar-and-ham Lunchables. I had not tried the Lunchable product before. The ham was appalling. We give this to children? The cheese and crackers, however, were delightful.


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