Doing it for Love
Now, there are two trains of thought on this one (or at least people think that they're two thoughts, I think they're one):
1. Only add/write specs that are current and will complement your portfolio.
2. Write what you love.
I constantly find myself in conversations with friends discussing what to write next. Invariably we talk about the shows we love and then end up talking about what we'll actually spec -- I always end up going back to what I love.
Case in point, I've just discovered Battlestar Galactica. I'd been loathe to try it out, because a friend warned me that I'd have to get through the miniseries (by her own admission, it was subpar) and then get into the series (which was awesome). So, you know, devoting six hours to a show that my friend who loves the show considered subpar? Not high on my list of priorities. But, there's been a lull in new episodes of my favorite shows lately, and a hangover from hell on Sunday. So, I bit the bullet. The miniseries wasn't great, but immensely watchable. The series itself was fabulous. I'm already most of the way through the second season at this point! But, as watchable and fun and poignant as the show is, I don't think I luuurve it. Don't get me wrong, It's awesome. But in terms of cable shows I love, I can think of only one show I'd could spec: Dexter. Mainly cuz I'd get to kill people. And, I could watch the episodes over and over and never get bored (which is my litmus test for speccing a show).
Sidebar: Frak. I hate this word. It's the FCC friendly substitute for fuck. But, "fuck" is only bad, I believe, because it means dirty sex. Not the sanitized "love-making" that I assume the FCC people do only when they're trying to have a baby -- as in, only when they have to. I'm assuming FCC wives don't even the benefit of an orgasm in this FCC approved sex. But, uh, fucking? Well, that's dirty. And, if frak is a substitute for fuck, well, the FCC are idiots. But then, I believe that fuck, damn, shit, cock -- they should all be allowed on network TV. Because what the FCC fail to realize is that people can actually turn the channel if they're offended.
There are a ton of shows that I'd write specs for, if there were more than 24 hours in a day -- but since I limit myself to what I love (which begets my actually enjoying writing), for me there are only a few. Oh, and I never go by the whole "it's what's hot right now." Because, you know, if you can't show the love in your spec, and you're just chasing the trends, your spec is going to end up as sanitized as the FCC doods fucking, sorry, making love to their wives.
So, here's what I'd spec (some may be considered "hot;" some may not -- I cannot advise on that, because I think once the masses hear what's hot, a show gets inundated with those "hot" specs, and I tend to shy away from those because I'd prefer my scripts stand out) if I had all the time in the world:
(Loved it: I already specced it; love it: I'd spec it in a heartbeat; admire it: would spec it if I were out of things to spec)
24 (LOVE IT)
Battlestar Galactica (admire it)
Big Love (LOVE IT)
The Closer (LOVE IT)
Cold Case (admire it)
CSI (I did very well off a 12th season Law & Order -- so I don't think it's past its prime -- LOVE IT)
Criminal Minds (admire it)
Desperate Housewives (admire it)
Dexter (LOVE, LUST, PINE for IT)
Friday Night Lights (admire it)
Heroes (LOVE IT)
House (LOVED IT)
Law & Order Criminal Intent (this show's really grown on me -- admire it)
Medium (LOVED IT)
Numb3rs (admire it)
Prison Break (LOVE IT)
Psych (LOVE IT)
Supernatural (LOVE IT)
Ugly Betty (LOVE IT)
The Unit (admire it)
Veronica Mars (you might be taking a chance here, as 4th season isn't a lock -- LOVE IT)
The Wire (admire it)
Without A Trace (LOVED IT)
So, you've got your trusty specs, and you're thinking about a pilot. Or, you've got your pilot and you're thinking about what to spec. The most important thing to do is write what you love. Especially since you could end up on Grey's Anatomy when you're more a Supernatural kind of person, but hey, a job is a job!
But, I'm of the opinion that while we're not staffed, we should enjoy writing as much as possible. Which means that a clinical approach to your portfolio is probably smart, but might not end up in the best spec you could ever write. The reality is, it's most likely going to be one script that gets you staffed. Would you rather that script be something you're passionate about or something you chose because you want your portfolio to be well-rounded (not that there's anything wrong with that -- especially if your goal is to find an agent).