7 Most Wanted TV Drama Pilot Scripts

One of the best ways to learn how to become a writer for TV is by reading pilot scripts and watching pilot episodes from some of the most talked-about drama pilots of the last three years.

Have You Read These TV Drama Pilots?

If you’d like to discuss the pilot scripts for more established shows such as Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Lost, The Sopranos, and more, check out the 10 Most Wanted TV Pilot Scripts.

What pilot scripts are your favorite?

What pilot scripts do you want to read that aren’t on this list? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks!

 The Blacklist

The Blacklist TV pilot script PDF Jon Bokenkamp is a screenwriter (Taking Lives, The Call) and he had a deal with Sony. In an interview with the WGA, Bokenkamp said:

writer Jon Bokencamp“The first time I ever pitched a TV show, I went in and talked to my agent at the time about the show. I said, ‘It’s going to be so great because in the end it’s going to be…’ and told him what was going to happen.

He said, ‘Okay. First, don’t ever pitch an ending on TV.'”

As for how The Blacklist came about, Bokenkamp said, “I was kicking around ideas with John Fox, a friend who’s also a producer on the show. He brought up an idea. Whitey Bulger (Boston organized-crime kingpin) was in the news then. What if a Whitey Bulger-type criminal was captured? What if you had a TV show that flashed back on where Hoffa was buried, who shot Kennedy? A bad guy who knew all the secrets, hopping around in time and place. I spent about three months developing it, coming up with a pitch.” Everybody passed on the show but NBC.

At the upfronts, Bob Greenblatt of NBC said Blacklist testing results were, “better than all other 125 NBC drama pilots in the past decade.”

Discuss the Blacklist TV Pilot Script

Fargo Pilot Script

Fargo TV pilot script PDF download Noah Hawley has written four novels and sold a spec screenplay. He wrote on Bones, and then got his own show The Unusuals. He sold a pair of pilots to FX and then got the opportunity to pitch his take on reinventing the Coen brothers’ classic film Fargo. In an interview with the WGA, Hawley said:

w “What I liked about [Fargo] and their world in general is beyond the mystery and philosophy. I went into FX, and I said, ‘Alright, here; I’m pitching you this idea for the show but now I wanna talk about Mike Yanagita.’ He calls Marge from high school, and they meet, and he tells her a sob story about this girl from high school he married who died of leukemia, and he’s just so lonely.

Then it turns out that that’s totally made up and the girl has a restraining order against him. You’re watching it, and you’re like, ‘Why is this in the movie?’ The reason is – at least my takeaway from it is – that at the very beginning of the film, it says this is a true story. You include a detail like this because it’s so odd it has to be true, do you know what I mean?

Right, so my original pitch was, ‘What is our Mike Yanagita?’”

Discuss the Fargo TV Pilot Script

Gotham

Gotham TV pilot script PDF download Bruno Heller is the creator of Rome and The Mentalist. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, he shared how he got involved.

TV writer Bruno Heller“Junior’s Deli in Burbank. I sat with [Warner Bros. President and COO Peter Roth and Warner Bros. TV development chief Susan Rovner] to talk about what to do next. I’ve been talking to Geoff Johns at DC for a few years about wanting to do something in the DC canon. I came in to pitch the idea that we’re doing, essentially, and they came to pitch me the same thing.

The nut of the idea was: What if young James Gordon was the detective who investigated the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents? And once you make that connection, it opened up a whole world of storytelling that we realized hadn’t really been looked at before, which is the world before Batman – the world of Gotham, young Bruce Wayne, and young James Gordon and the origin stories of the villains.”

When asked how he deals with all the past interpretations of Batman, Heller said, “My take on it is it’s a bit like Greek mythology. There’s a thousand stories. They all contradict themselves to a degree, but that’s the beauty of it — telling stories about characters that are larger than any one story. So that makes it much easier.”

Discuss the Gotham TV Pilot Script

House of Cards

House of Cards TV pilot script PDF download Initially, Beau Willimon was a painter and a political campaign staffer. After being devastated when Howard Dean lost the 2004 Democratic nomination for President, he wrote the play Farragut North. The play was optioned by Warner Brothers, became The Ides Of March and Willimon was nominated for an Oscar for co-writing the adaptation.

In this interview with the Hollywood Reporter, we learn that Willimon received a call from David Fincher, Josh Donen, and Eric Roth, asking if he had any interest in adapting the two-decade-old BBC version of House of Cards. In this profile from the New York Times, Willimon shares his obsessive process and recalls:

TV writer Beau Willimon“None of us had done TV before. Fincher hadn’t, I hadn’t. We weren’t bound by convention. We didn’t even know what the conventions were.”

 

According to the Hollywood Reporter, “Willimon binge-watched the series, took the meeting, and soon found himself dedicating almost a year of his life to writing the pilot, then nine more months pounding out the remaining 12 episodes of the first season.”

Netflix outbid HBO and AMC in a ground-breaking deal believed to be worth more than $100 million.

Discuss the House of Cards TV Pilot Script

How To Get Away With Murder

How To Get Away With Murder pilot script PDF download Pete Nowalk co-wrote The Hollywood Assistants Handbook, and was a writer on Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. In this interview with Variety, Nowalk said:

TV writer Pete Nowalk“I’m always coming up with ideas — maybe it’s because I’m unoriginal — where it’s a normal person caught in an extreme circumstance. There’s so much good TV on right now, I just wanted it to be loud and extreme and relatable. I was like, ‘What [would happen] if I murdered someone?

It started there and then I wanted to do something with a procedural element. The criminal defense lawyers and students committing the murder felt like the perfect little concept in order to launch the show.

I had talked to Betsy [Beers, Executive Producer] last year about certain ideas. One of them was about a group of young first year associates that work for a criminal defense attorney that get involved in a murder. That was always just the very clear, fine, loud concept and something that I found appealing.

And it wasn’t until this year that I had a moment and I was like ‘Oh, what if they’re in law school?’ A university setting felt really fun to me. Making [Davis’s character] a law professor felt really awesome. Teaching the audience also that these students can’t go into court and argue made it feel fresher to me. She has to use them as little private investigators.”

Discuss the How to Get Away With Murder TV Pilot Script

Masters Of Sex

Masters of Sex pilot script PDF download Michelle Ashford has been writing for television for many years, starting on Hollywood Beat and Cagney and Lacey, through HBO’s historical miniseries John Adams and The Pacific. In an interview with Deadline, Ashford shares how the show got to Showtime:

Michelle Ashford“I had been friends with (producer) Sarah Timberman for many years, and we were looking around for a pilot. She saw in The New York Times a review of Thomas Maier’s book and said, ‘I think we should look at this book. This sounds really interesting.’

Up to that point, I knew (Masters and Johnson) existed, I knew they were famous, I knew (they) had something to do with sex. Then I read the book. It was news as to what was really going on in that relationship and the enormous impact they had. So we optioned the book. A ton of our material is based on (it).

But the reason this happened was because (Timberman) has known (Showtime president) David Nevins for many years. She saw him in an airport, and she had the book in her purse and just handed it to him and said, ‘Michelle and I are thinking of doing this. What do you think?’ We had talked to HBO, we also talked to FX, but David immediately read it, immediately got it, (and) said, ‘I see this completely.‘”

Discuss the Masters of Sex TV Pilot Script

Orange Is The New Black

Masters of Sex pilot script PDF download Jenji Kohan created Weeds and The Stones. Previously, she wrote on Gilmore Girls, Mad About You, and Tracey Takes On among others. In an interview with NPR, Kohan described how she started:

Jenji Kohan“My ex-boyfriend said, ‘You have a better chance of getting elected to Congress than getting on the staff of a television show.’ Which was the perfect thing for him to say, because my entire career is, ‘Well, screw you.’ And we broke up.

And then I started writing. … I quit all of my crappy odd jobs, and I moved in with [a friend who] was living in Santa Cruz. And every day we would go to these little cafes in Santa Cruz, and I would work on spec scripts and study these videotapes I had recorded off television of Roseanne and Seinfeld and The Simpsons.

What ended up happening was, my sister-in-law’s father worked in a building with an agent and gave him my scripts in an elevator. And he read them, and I was on a show by spring. And it took off from there, and I never stopped working.”

When Kohan was working on Weeds, she was given Piper Kerman’s prison memoir by a friend and Kohen got Lionsgate to option the rights. “I loved the characters, the diversity, and I loved that the setting was a crossroads where every type of person could travel through,” she says, noting the vast potential for stories.

She has said that, “Piper (played by Emmy-nominated Taylor Schilling) was her “Trojan horse,” a network-accessible “cool blonde” entree into a world of characters — black, Latina, lesbian, transgender — rarely seen on television.”

In an interview with the WGA, Kohan said, “You can pitch it in such a way that it’s familiar. It’s Private Benjamin. It’s, you know, something with cultural currency that is familiar to people you’re pitching.” Kohan pitched the show to HBO, Showtime and Netflix. “The greatest thing about going to Netflix was that I pitched it in the room, and they ordered 13 episodes without a pilot. That’s miraculous.”

Discuss the Orange Is The New Black TV Pilot Script

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Discussion About 7 Most Wanted TV Drama Pilot Scripts

  1. Karen Roberts

    Thanks for the great scripts. I have been looking for a script from the TV Series Charmed ( for reference only). I am a supernatural/fantasy writer and would love to see more of the scripts from such series.

  2. Michael Levine

    Pilot Scripts I’d like to read: Sherlock (A Study in Pink), Mad Men, Cold Case, Original Twilight Zone, Original Star Trek (the first pilot, with Jeffrey Hunter). Thx

  3. alex katsanos

    That was really helpful and inspiring Stephanie!

  4. Chanel Turner

    I love this. I have a friend with a really cool pilot tv series. Looks like, I’ll be studying more tv pilot scripts. Question? How many episodes do you need to have ready before pitching it?

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Hi Chanel. It isn’t so much a question of episodes, but rather if you can get an opportunity to pitch based on your previous TV writing experience. Here’s an article about How To Get A Literary Agent and the differences between TV and film businesses.

  5. Charles Newton

    Wow!Thanks so much for the great job you are doing.
    Please,I have about six movie ideas and want to know if you could help me develop them .
    Thank you.

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Hi Charles.
      Unfortunately, I am not accepting new clients at this time as I am booked. I hope the resources on my site will be helpful as you develop your ideas. Here’s a good place to start.

  6. saad

    I would like the scripts of castle the show on abc , revenge on abc , Full house , One tree hill , downtown abbey and once upon a time .

  7. Rachel T.

    I would love to read the pilot scripts for comedies, like Big Bang Theory, Friends, and MASH, and for lighter dramas like Castle and NCIS: New Orleans.

    I’ve noticed that many comedies change quite a bit by the third or fourth episode, as the writers figure out how the show actually “works,” but I’m curious as to what there is in the original script that sold execs on the idea. Other shows, especially dramas, tend not to change so much. Castle especially has been (almost ridiculously) consistent since day one.

  8. Julius Jean-Baptiste

    You need the Empire Pilot on here ASAP!

  9. Jeff Guenther

    I found the pilot script for Longmire on the internerd a few months back. A great read.

  10. Abeneazer

    Hello there can i get the script of Australian tv series Bangkok Hilton,Tnxs

  11. Bianca

    Hi there,

    I am a Film and TV student and we are currently busy with an assignment where we have to write a new episode for Gotham. I have my basic storyline, but now writing it is an issue as I cannot, for the life of me, find Gotham scripts online. I managed to find the Pilot, thanks to you, BUT I am in desperate need of more episode scripts. I need to get a feel for the series and how it is written..

    Please please tell me you have more scripts?? I would appreciate it!

    Regards,
    Bianca

    • Stephanie Palmer

      I don’t, but I find searching “Gotham script pdf” or “Gotham script download” usually uncovers some scripts. Best of luck!

  12. mark yu

    Hello!

    Would you by chance have any scripts for the amazon instant comedy Catastrophe?

    Thank you!

    • Stephanie Palmer

      I’m sorry that I don’t.

      • Lucy Morehen

        Hello Stephanie,

        For a final performance at university you don’t by any chance have (or could find) the script for Channel 4’s 4-part drama National Treasure? Thanks.

      • Stephanie Palmer

        I’m sorry that I don’t, but break a leg in your final performance.

  13. Sunday

    Hi, thanks for all the scripts, I’m learning a lot from these great screenwriters. I may be living in South Africa but my plan is to one day write for Hollywood.

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Glad they are helpful to you.

  14. Yolanda C Lewis

    Is there a way you could get the pilot script of The Deuce?

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Hi Yolanda,

      While I don’t currently have that, you might be able to find it by searching online.