“Got any specs?” has become a popular refrain around Hollywood these days as pilot spec scripts are thriving in a very unusual network executive environment – new top programmers at two of the major broadcast networks, NBC and ABC. With Paul Lee joining ABC in the end of summer when buying season was already underway, and especially Bob Greenblatt, who is just now taking over NBC, studios and producers had been betting that there would be strong demand for specs as the execs may not be that attached to projects they didn’t develop and may look outside for fresh scripts that are ready to shoot.
The gamble seems to be paying off. All 4 pilots Greenblatt greenlighted today were spec (though one, Michael Patrick King’s Mann’s World, was originally bought by NBC’s old regime in early November.) That includes the Steven Spielberg-produced musical Smash, from DreamWorks TV and UMS, which Greenblatt originally developed at Showtime, David E. Kelley/WBTV’s Wonder Woman, which was shopped earlier this month, and a comedy from writer Jhoni Marchiko and 20th TV, which was taken out earlier this week.
Meanwhile, ABC has been in talks about a Cirque Du Soleil spec from writer Harley Peyton and Scott Free Prods.
The interest in specs during pilot greenlight time is not limited to NBC and ABC. Tim Kring’s drama spec Touch was snagged by Fox earlier this week. (The project, about an autistic kid who can predict the future, was developed at 20th TV-based Chernin Entertainment and taken out late last week, quickly landing at the first network it was shopped to, Fox.)
20th TV has been among the most aggressive in shopping specs this month. In addition to Touch and the Jhoni Marchinko projects, it also has 2 other specs in play, a comedy from Liz Astrof about a working mom and stay-at-home dad trading places and a drama from Lone Star creator Kyle Killen. And next week, 20th TV and Chernin are expected to take out a comedy spec from former How I Met Your Mother executive producer Chris Harris.
CBS got in on the spec action too last week, closing a deal for Ringer, a spec by Supernatural writer-producers Eric Charmelo & Nicole Snyder that has Sarah Michelle Gellar attached. (ABC Studios, CBS TV Studios and Brillstein are producing.)
Why are specs being taken out now? The key is to wait until the network brass have read the script they had commissioned, one studio source said. “We wait for the panic to set in and then we go in,” the source said.