whenever i write a new spec, i do a lot of research on the show. i watch every episode in order and take notes while doing so. then i get my hands on actual scripts from the show, and proceed to break them down to figure out the show’s structure.
i list all of the sluglines, what happens in each scene, how long the scenes are, and which characters are in each scene. then i color code the scenes so i know which are the A story, B story, runner, etc.
this is a screenshot of the crazy excel file i created before i wrote my 30 rock spec that got me into the nick fellowship.
this is just from one episode. i did it 2 more times, so that i had 3 scripts broken down in the same way. i recommend you do the same thing. why go through all this trouble? because now you can figure out things like:
- how many scenes are in each act
- if the show will have the act break on a B story
- the page length of each act
- the ratio of A story scenes compared to B story scenes
- how many flashbacks are in a typical episode
- how often certain characters appear and interact with each other
- how often they use certain locations
- if the cold open sets up the A story, or is an unrelated joke
p.s. – don’t ask me to send you my spreadsheet. there are no shortcuts. you have to go through the process yourself.