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October 6, 2015

How not to write a television script

by Bob Sassone, posted Aug 13th 2006 1:30PM

NewsradioThere's always something great to read at Ken Levine's blog, and this past week was no exception. He has a really funny (and really useful) list of situations and scenes that aspiring writers should never include in their TV scripts. My favorite:

Don't hinge your show on stunt casting. I read a "Becker" where former President Jimmy Carter came in for a check-up and offered dating advice. Yeah, President Carter gets his physicals in the Bronx. And yeah, President Carter is always available to guest on a sitcom and advise a character to say whatever is necessary to get laid.

Of course, we've all seen even worse things actually make it on the air, but this is a great list.

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Ken Levine

I have a post on unsolicited material, too. Check it out.

Ken Levine

August 14 2006 at 10:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

JAmes: As I've been told, you get on a show by either having an agent or being in the WGA... however you can't get into the WGA (and/or sometimes get an agent) without being on a show, so it's a vicious circle.

Now, what you can do is submit to agencies, though many don't accept cold submissions. Hollywood's all about who you know, so make a connection and *then* when they ask you to send something, that's when you do it.

Alternatively, you can apply to a fellowship program like Warner Bros. or ABC Disney. It's a 9 week course where you write a couple scripts and get the hang of the industry. I'm told most people come out of those programs with an agent, and thus can get on a show. Also, I've heard while the WB one doesn't, the Disney one will put you up in the Disney 'dorms' if you're from out of town and will pay you something like $50,000 to take the program. It's very hard to get into, though, and you apply with a spec script (among some other stuff).

Proof it's good to do: one of my teachers did the WB fellowship 15 years ago and came out of it with a job writing for "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air". And "Buffy/Angel/Firefly/Gilmore/Battlestar" writer Jane Espenson came out of the Disney fellowship.

As soon as I finish school and move to L.A., I plan on trying to get into the Disney one.

August 14 2006 at 1:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Michael Shapiro

Question to all you wannabe TV writers... How do you get the networks to view your spec scripts without an agent?? Do you already have to be in the bizz?? What about pitching your own show, does one need a spec script

August 14 2006 at 1:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bob Sassone

There's a pic of NewsRadio because Ken mentions it in his post.

August 13 2006 at 10:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

SJ, Ken Levine is referring to spec scripts, what aspiring (and sometimes established) TV writers submit to shows to try to get hired.

That said, he's not talking about what the shows themselves produce, as they can do whatever they want, but rather what those looking to prove they can write the genre and the characters can do, and the first rule of doing so is to 'not rock the boat', so to speak.

I'm in the same place as those Levine was talking to/about, as I'm working towards being a TV writer (currently in school for it and I've written a handful of shows so far) and most of that seems like common sense, yet some people forget these rules as it's easy to get carried away.

August 13 2006 at 8:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why is there a picture of Newsradio next to this post? They had excellent scripts. And Ken Levine (a great writer) didn't write or produce that great show.

August 13 2006 at 7:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Better show this post not to us, watchers, but to writers, who make all of this crap

August 13 2006 at 6:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"I was going to recommend you don't do like one aspiring writer and make a joke in a CHEERS about Diane's pussy because it's crude, offensive, and inappropriate, but I saw the same joke two weeks ago on STACKED."

That was a great blog post, and the above quote proves that sad state of sitcoms nowadays.

Some other examples:

"Don't marry off any of the main characters." - Friends did this and the show became mediocre.

"Don't do the "supersize" hour episode." - Will and Grace anyone?

"The last sentence in your script should not be "To Be Continued"." - I remember this happened in Friends once.

August 13 2006 at 5:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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