You Aren’t Watching Enough TV – March 3rd, 2016

John Landgraf is wrong. There is not “too much television“. It’s that you aren’t consuming enough. And if you’re an aspiring television writer drafting a spec of a current show, then you aren’t watching television correctly.


Last week I wrote about how watching TV is work for a writer, with an emphasis on the data you need to collect per episode. This week we look at questions you need to answer after you’ve watched at least a half season of your show. Some of this is more data collection. Some of this is interpreting the data collected. Let’s begin.

-Is this show episodic or serialized?

-How many stories (A Story, B Story, etc.) does each episode contain?

-How many of the stories are related to the series threads?

-How often do stories wrap up? Every episode? Every few episodes? Every season?

-What is the typical focus of each story?

-Who is the protagonist of each story?

-Who is the antagonist of each story?

-What is the key relationship for each story?

-What is the theme of the show?

-How is each episode related to that theme?

The above might seem fairly general but the answers are insightful. For example, this year I’m writing an iZombie spec and after breaking down all of season 1 and season 2 (at least up until the winter break), I can tell you with authority that my show is…


-Contains 4 stories (A, B, C, D). For this example, I’ll concentrate on the A Story.

-The A Story (which is always a case of the week story) rarely relates to the series thread (curing zombie-ism).

-The A Story wraps up every episode (it is called the case of the week).

-The A Story focuses on solving the case of the week.

Liv is the A Story protagonist. Clive and Ravi support her throughout the A Story.

-The criminal of the week is the A Story antagonist.

-The key A Story relationship is Liv/Clive (occasionally Liv/Ravi).

Doing that kind of work will bring the show’s structure and mechanics into sharp focus. You’ll clearly know the boundaries, which in turn will help you identify areas where you can spin your magic.


Now get off your butt and go write a great spec.


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