Another comedy spec by an up-and-coming writer has found a buyer. ABC has bought for development Grandma Dearest by Todd Linden (TV Land’s Jennifer Falls), which has comedy veteran Moses Port attached as executive producer for Sony TV and Jamie Tarses’ studio-based FanFare Prods. The show is about the world’s worst grandmother, who loses her considerable wealth and moves in with her daughter.
Grandma Dearest comes on the heels of CBS’ pickup of All In, a comedy spec by Ben McMillan who wrote the script while looking for an agent to sign him. That project too is produced by Sony TV, which bought and worked on both spec scripts before taking them out, and it too has a high-profile Sony TV-based pod attached, Will Gluck’s Olive Bridge.
In both cases, the studio’s comedy executives saw potential, said Sony TV’s head of comedy Glenn Adilman, noting that they sometimes put a blind script commitment behind a spec purchase to underscore their faith in the writers. In the case of Grandma Dearest, the spec had received an offer from ABC Family. Adilman and his team felt there was a broadcast play for the project. “We guaranteed Todd a small amount of money to give him courage (to pass),” he Adilman said. “We thought it was the right way to go.” The gamble paid off and the script landed a deal at ABC Family sibling ABC.
Sony TV has sold six comedy specs so far this season, both from up-and-coming and established writers, and Adilman says CBS has been the most active in buying finished scripts. “They seem to respond to (spec scripts),” he said. “They think development is hard, and they would rather bet on a script than on a pitch.”
The overall high volume of spec comedy sales during the regular pitch season is somewhat unusual and could be tied to the dearth of available experienced showrunners on whom networks would be more willing to bet off a pitch.
Sony TV also is prepping 3-4 comedy specs to take out during the traditional spec market window in January when the main spec buying activity had been concentrated the past few years. During the 2013 January spec season, Sony TV landed a pilot order with the comedy spec Brenda Forever.
As for whether new scribes should write spec scripts to potentially sell, not simply as a calling card to land representation and staff writing jobs, that’s a good idea, Adilman said. “It’s a great way to control your destiny.”
Linden, who also wrote for short-lived ABC comedy Family Tools, is repped by Paradigm and Industry Entertainment, the management company that also reps McMillan and worked with him on getting All In off the ground.