So you’re a writer, huh? And you want to write television? More than that, you want to write TV regularly and make a real living at it. Or, better yet, you want to score big. That being the case, bunky, you’ve come to the right place. This article we found is a must-read for anybody looking to create a new comedy series. For reals:
by Stephanie Palmer
Writing A TV Pilot Script? One of the best ways to learn how to write a TV pilot script is by reading pilot scripts. I gathered eight pilot script PDFs from some of the most popular recent comedies.
Kenya Barris co-created America’s Next Top Model and wrote the TV versions of Soul Food and Are We There Yet? He created Black-ish loosely based on his life. “Honestly, a little bit of the evolution of this comes from my life. My wife’s a doctor. She’s mixed [ethnically], as Tracee [Ellis Ross, who plays Anderson’s wife] is, and we have five kids. This was something that I wanted to do that was really personal. And it sort of came up – my youngest daughter Lola came into the room, and [what happened inspired] one of the scenes that was actually in the pilot.
She was trying to explain a little girl in her class to me, and I was like, ‘Hold on, who are you talking about?’ And she’s like, ‘You know, with the …’ and I was like, ‘Hold on. Do you mean the only other little black girl in your class?’ And she was like, ‘I guess.’ My wife was like, ‘Isn’t that beautiful?’ And I was like, ‘This is ridiculous. Why couldn’t she just say that? But it made me realize they are coming up in a different world.’
When Barris pitched the project to Laurence Fishburne’s company, Fishburne immediately agreed to be in it. Barris shared “We sold it everywhere we pitched.”
Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson met taking improv classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade. They developed a web series which they produced and starred in for a year and a half. In this interview with Splitsider, Jacobsonshared a key moment in the development process. “We were going to end the web series, and we were in the middle of writing the pilot, and we were thinking about going out to LA and pitching it… So we were like, let’s end this with a bang, and see if we can get somebody who not only we really admire but would be, like, crazy to have in it.
And because we had come up through UCB, we thought that Amy [Poehler] would be somebody who like, why not? And one of our teachers was nice enough to reach out to her for us, and she had seen the web series and liked it, and was totally on board to be involved. And then the day of the shoot, we just hit it off. And when we sent her the finished product – which was the season finale of Season 2 – we asked her if she would ever consider being the executive producer, and she said yes. You can imagine that moment was a little insane for us.” Glazer added,
“Abbi and I had – let’s say prematurely – quit our jobs. We just wanted to take time off and do some pitching, do whatever it takes, and figure it out later. So we pitched to a bunch of places. Comedy Central was interested in it; they wanted it. But FX ended up purchasing a script commitment from us. They were like, ‘We want a 22-minute pilot script from you.’ So we developed that and wrote it, and sent notes back and forth. And by the time summer rolled around, we heard back from FX that the script wasn’t right for their channel.
We’ve been talking lately about how grateful we are for the way everything happened because we learned so much at FX. And when we went to Comedy Central, we at least had some experience. We just learned a lot. Obviously, FX makes great content, and they’re great about giving notes. And then in the summer, Comedy Central purchased the script back from FX and committed to a pilot.”
Jacobson adds, “When we got back to Comedy Central, Brooke Posch was the new development head, and she was a person who we loved working with. I’m so glad we ended up there because I couldn’t imagine working on the show with anyone else. A year earlier, Comedy Central was still settling, and they were figuring out who was going to be running what, but by the time we came back to them, they were raring to go. It was just beautiful, beautiful timing.