Note to up-and-coming writers with good drama spec scripts lying around: now is your time. We’re heading into mid-August, and the network drama marketplace is still very sluggish. While there have already been several bidding wars and big commitments on the comedy side which traditionally gears up after drama — three pilot production commitments and one put pilot — things have been slow in drama save for the bidding frenzy over the sci-fi spec Extant by novice writer Mickey Fisher. I hear there is a sense of quiet panic at some of the networks over the dearth of drama pitches. Word is some of them, like NBC, have only bought about a couple so far, with a couple more in the deal-making process. Besides Extant, which is headed to next summer with a series order at CBS, there has been only one significant commitment to an hourlong project so far this season, Fox’s put pilot buy of Michael Green’s adaptation of League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen right after Independence Day. There is fear that there may not be too many other marquee projects from seasoned showrunners this year as many of them are tied up in staff jobs. With the proliferation of scripted programming — the broadcast networks expanding their slates with limited, summer and more in-season series and more and more new players entering the drama space, like Netflix, WE TV, WGN America, Bravo and E! — there are a lot more senior level writers on staff and more opportunities in cable and digital, so fewer and fewer experienced drama writers are available for broadcast development. That opens the door for up-and-coming scribes like Fisher. Let’s not forget that the biggest global drama franchise, CSI, was created by a first-time TV writer.
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