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50 of the Best TV Scripts To Download In Every Genre

Learn How To Write TV Specs By Studying The Best TV Show Scripts & Pilots

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by Script Reader Pro in Best Movie Scripts to Read, TV Show Writing
September 19, 2018 11 comments
best TV scripts download

Here are 50 of the best TV scripts online to download in every genre.

Just like in our post on the best screenplays to read, we’ve broken down our list of the top TV show scripts into the following categories:

  • Drama
  • Comedy
  • Action/Adventure
  • Thriller
  • Horror

If you want to learn how to write for TV, reading these TV pilot scripts is one of the best ways to help boost your writing ability. You will learn how to establish the characters in a pilot, set up the world of the show and all about TV pilot structure.

Most importantly, study these TV scripts in order to discover how to create a sense of intrigue that will make a reader want to know what happens in the next episode. As you know, your script will be up against the hundreds of other TV specs out there, so it better make an impression.

The list contains examples of single-camera, multi-camera, half-hour, one-hour, network and cable pilots and TV specs, so pretty much every formatting option is also covered. So let’s dive on in with the first category…

Best TV Scripts To Download – Drama

best tv scripts download

1. Better Call Saul
created by Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould

Created by Vince Gilligan as a spin-off from his hit TV series Breaking Bad (see below), Better Call Saul has received similar levels of critical acclaim for its writing. In fact, when the pilot aired in 2015, it became the highest-rated premiere in cable history. This is one of the best TV scripts in recent years.

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

2. Breaking Bad
created by Vince Gilligan

From a writing perspective, Breaking Bad is a tremendous study in how to write an anti-hero. Vince Gilligan’s whole concept for the show came from a desire to create a protagonist who turned into an antagonist, and it’s this character arc that makes the show so fascinating to many.

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

3. ER
created by Michael Crichton

Based on Michael Crichton’s own experiences as a medical student, the script was originally written as a feature in 1974, before being resurrected twenty years later as a pilot. If you’re writing medical-based TV show scripts, there’s probably no better one to check out than this mid-90s classic.

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

4. Godless
created by Scott Frank

This seven-episode Western mini-series is a great example of how TV is attracting some of the very best feature writers. In this case, Scott Frank wrote the series exclusively for Netflix and it went on to win many awards including Outstanding Writing for a Long Form from the WGA West.

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

5. The Handmaid’s Tale
created by Bruce Miller

Read this script not only for inspiration on how to create a dystopian future world but also how to adapt a novel into a TV series. This show does a great job recreating Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel of the same name and the author also served as a consulting producer.

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download
best TV script download

6. House of Cards
created by Beau Willimon

If you’re interested in writing political drama TV scripts, you need to read this. The show was based on the 1990s British TV series of the same name and co-produced by David Fincher, who also directed the first two episodes.

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

7. Mad Men
created by Matthew Weiner

Mad Men was conceived as a spec script by TV staff writer, Matthew Weiner in 2000. It was the originality of the concept offering a glimpse into the world of New York advertizing in the 1960s that first got Weiner a job as a writer on The Sopranos. Mad Men was then finally picked up by AMC seven years later and went on to be widely accepted as one of the best TV scripts of all time.

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

8. Orange Is The New Black
created by Jenji Kohan

In 2015 the Emmys forced Orange Is The New Black to change categories from Comedy to Drama, but that hasn’t stopped it winning as many awards in its new category as it did before. Based on Piper Kerman’s own memoir detailing her year in a women’s prison, the show is the most-watched original series on Netflix.

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download



9. This Is Us

created by Dan Fogelman

Originally titled Thirty-Six, this is a solid family-based TV pilot script that first aired in 2016 on NBC. Reading this will be especially helpful to those writers attempting to interweave the emotional storylines of various family members while utilizing the use of Flashback.

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

10. The West Wing
created by Aaron Sorkin

The genesis of The West Wing lies in Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay for the 1995 film, The American President. It was after the moderate success of this film (also starring Martin Sheen as Chief of Staff), that Sorkin decided to lift some of its unused scenes and turn them into one of the most influential TV scripts of all time.

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best tv scripts download

Best TV Scripts To Download – Comedy

best tv scripts download

1. 30 Rock
created by Tina Fey

The creator of 30 Rock, Tina Fey, based on her experiences working as head writer for Saturday Night Live. Shot in a single-camera format, these TV series scripts are definitely worth studying for their original use of surreal humor, satire and abrupt cutaways.

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

2. Arrested Development
created by Mitchell Hurwitz

Ron Howard and Mitchell Hurwitz came up with the idea of a show based on a “riches to rags” family. The result was the story of the dysfunctional Bluth family, presented in a serialized format. Note this TV pilot’s use of handheld cameras, V.O. and occasional use of historical photos and movie footage to set it apart from the norm.

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

3. Casual
created by Zander Lehmann

Casual is a great example of a TV Dramedy, mixing both drama and comedy into its TV scripts about an uptight newly divorced woman struggling to navigate life with her daughter and unpredictable brother. If this is your genre, this pilot is worth breaking down and studying.

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

4. Curb Your Enthusiasm
created by Larry David

Here’s a script from a show that famously doesn’t rely on scripts. Instead, writer Larry David produces an outline himself, and the dialogue is largely improvised by the actors on set. Nevertheless, this is essential reading for all Comedy TV writers looking to find humor in the minutiae of daily life.

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

5. Family Guy
created by Seth MacFarlane

Family Guy TV scripts are generally written by a single writer out of a team of fourteen. It’s then given to the other writers, including show creator Seth MacFarlane, to be punched up with the funniest gags they can come up with. If you aspire to make it into a writing room coming up with gags all day, this is a script you need to study.

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download
best TV scripts download

6. Frasier
created by David Angell, Peter Casey and David Lee

Just as essential is this TV script pilot from the show that won a slew of awards during its ten-year run during the 1990s. Rather than enroll on a “How to write comedy TV scripts” course, simply purchase the Frasier complete boxset, study every episode and save yourself 200 bucks.

best tv scripts download
best tv scripts download

7. Friends
created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman

No “best TV scripts to download” list would be complete without Friends. The show that started life as Insomnia Cafe, before becoming Six of One, and then Friends Like Us is required reading if you want to learn how to set up and pay off jokes within a multi-camera sitcom formula.

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

8. Modern Family
created by Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan

Christopher Lloyd (who worked for many years on Frasier) came up with the idea for a family-based mockumentary during a discussion about families with co-creator Steven Levitan. If you’re writing or thinking about writing a mockumentary-style Comedy, look no further than this TV pilot script on how to write one. (Don’t be confused by the title, it was originally called My American Family.)

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

9. New Girl
created by Elizabeth Meriwether

This is a single-camera ensemble Comedy aimed at a general audience that’s proved to be one of the most popular TV shows over recent years. What’s interesting about the protagonist is that, according to the creators, she would have been a side character on any other series. (Originally called Chicks and Dicks.)

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

10. Parks and Recreation
created by Greg Daniels and Michael Schur

Another great mockumentary, this time about an overly optimistic small-town bureaucrat. If mockumentary is your genre, consider following in the footsteps of the writers who spent months researching California politics, talking to government officials and attending community hearings. No one said writing was easy…

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

Best TV Scripts To Download – Action/Adventure

best TV scripts download

1. Game of Thrones
created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

The author of the original novels, George R. R. Martin was happy when HBO expressed interest in adapting them, saying, “I knew it couldn’t be done as a network television series. It’s too adult. The level of sex and violence would never have gone through.” The lesson: always bear in mind the target home of your TV script pilot.

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

2. 24
created by Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran

Creating a sense of urgency is paramount in most TV pilot scripts, and this one is required reading for all Action/Adventure writers. Use it to study how the writers harness the power of real-time action in order to heighten the dramatic tension. Maybe there are moments you can add to your own TV script that emulate this.

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

3. Arrow
created by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg

This show, based on the DC Comics hero Green Arrow, is a great example of how to incorporate Flashbacks as a major part of the narrative. Here, the Flashbacks aren’t added because they look good, they illuminate what’s going on in the present as Oliver Queen attempts to stop a gang of mercenaries targeting the Chinese economy.

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4. Gotham
created by Bruno Heller

When writing TV show scripts based on superheroes, remember the advice of this show’s creator, Bruno Heller. He notes: “Frankly, all those superhero stories I’ve seen, I always love them until they get into the costume.” After this point, “they’ve stopped becoming humans.”

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

5. Homeland
created by Howard Gansa and Alex Gansa

Reuniting the executive producers of 24, Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa, this show was based on the Israeli TV series, Hatufim. The pair developed the idea in early 2010 and Showtime green-lit it in 2011. While its later seasons came in for a fair amount of criticism, these early TV scripts are well worth studying.

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download
best TV scripts download

6. Jack Ryan
created by Carlton Cuse and Graham Roland 

This show offers a “new contemporary take” on Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series of novels and is worth studying if you’re writing a political, action-based series. Note the extensive use of bold, underscore and all caps in making the action really pop off the page of this TV pilot script.

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

7. Lost
created by Jeffrey Lieber, J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof

In 2003, Lloyd Braun who was then head of ABC, was on vacation in Hawaii when he had the idea of a show that was “part Cast Away, Survivor and Gilligan’s Island, with a Lord of the Flies element.” Despite many finding his idea ridiculous, it went on to become one of the most popular TV shows of all time.

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best tv scripts download

8. Sneaky Pete
created by David Shore and Bryan Cranston

Starring the criminally underrated actor Giovanni Ribisi, this is a great TV pilot script that expertly mixes genres. The show is listed on IMDb as a “Crime Drama” but its use of humor, zippy dialogue, action set pieces and so on, set it apart from darker crime shows, such as True Detective or The Wire.

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

9. Stranger Things
created by the Duffer Brothers

Series creators, the Duffer Brothers, received a hands-on mentorship from M. Night Shyamalan during the production of an episode of Wayward Pines. Once finished, they came up with the idea for Stranger Things and pitched it to fifteen cable networks—all of whom rejected it, saying a plot involving kids as leading characters wouldn’t work.

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

10. Vikings
created by Michael Hirst

Writer Michael Hirst initially wanted to write about vikings way back in 1998 after penning the movie, Elizabeth. However, there wasn’t the appetite for historical Scandinavian TV scripts back then and so he waited until 2013 when the zeitgeist had changed. Now it’s one of the hottest shows on TV.

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best tv scripts download

Best TV Scripts To Download – Thriller

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1. The Americans
created by Joe Weisberg

Joe Weisberg, a former CIA officer, came up with the idea for the show after leaving the service. He says “The Americans is at its core a marriage story. International relations is just an allegory for the human relations. Sometimes, when you’re struggling in your marriage or with your kid, it feels like life or death. For Philip and Elizabeth, it often is.”

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best tv scripts download

2. The Blacklist
created by John Eisendrath

It was executive producer John Eisendrath who came up with the idea of a TV pilot script about a criminal surrendering to the FBI and offering the names of people he’s worked with for the past twenty years—at a price. The character was based in part (like the Jack Nicholson role in The Departed) on the notorious gangster, Whitey Bulger.

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

3. Black Mirror
created by Charlie Brooker

Writing anthology-style TV series scripts like Black Mirror or The Twilight Zone can be an extremely effective approach. If this interests you, study the Black Mirror scripts and see how the show weaves the theme of mankind’s growing dependency on technology throughout its episodes.

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

4. Fargo
created by Noah Hawley

This is also an anthology-style series of sorts, with each season set in a different time period containing mostly different characters. Like the Coen brothers movie of the same name, this show deftly combines elements of Drama, Thriller and Comedy into one intriguing mix.

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best tv scripts download

5. The Killing
created by Veena Sud

Producer Veena Sud describes this excellent remake of the Danish original as “slow-burn storytelling in a sense that every moment that we don’t have to prettify or gloss over or make something necessarily easy to digest, that we’re able to go to all sorts of places that are honest, and dark, and beautiful and tragic, in a way that is how a story should be told.”

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

6. The Looming Tower

created by Dan Futterman, Alex Gibney and Lawrence Wright

If your TV show scripts are based on real-life people and/or organizations, research is probably the most important step. The producers of this show spent months researching all the characters they intended to bring to life from Ali Soufan and Lawrence Wright’s books chronicling the build-up to the 9/11 attacks by Islamic terrorists.

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

7. The OA
created by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij

If you’re part of a writing team you could do worse than follow the example of writers Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij. They spent a lot of time reciting the story to each other out loud, noting their reactions and making changes accordingly. All their hard work paid off as their resulting studio pitches triggered a bidding war.

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

8. Peaky Blinders
created by Steven Knight

This TV series was created by British screenwriter, Steven Knight who hails from the same area of Birmingham as the show’s setting. As he began researching the project, he was surprised to find that the gangster stories he’d heard growing up hadn’t been embellished at all—in fact, they’d been toned down.

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best tv scripts download

9. Scandal
created by Shonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal lasted for seven seasons from 2012 to 2018 and is another great example of a TV script based around the machinations of Washington. The lead protagonist was based on a former White House press aide Judy Smith, who was a co-executive producer on the show.

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best tv scripts download

10. The Sinner
created by Derek Simonds

This is probably one of the best TV pilot scripts on the list: a masterclass in how to establish character, the world of the story and a strong hook in order to get the audience back for episode two. Jessica Biel has stated that she moved into producing shows like this just so that she could play more challenging roles and this one doesn’t disappoint.

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best tv scripts download

Best TV Scripts To Download – Horror

best tv scripts download

1. American Horror Story
created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk

Here’s some good advice from co-creator Brad Falchuk on writing Horror TV scripts: “If you want to kill everybody in a movie except one person, you can kind of get away with that, but if you’re looking to do a horror TV show, you have a different responsibility to the characters because the audience has a different affection for them.”

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

2. Bates Motel
created by Carlton Cuse, Kerry Ehrin and Anthony Cipriano

Writers Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin have cited the inspiration for this Psycho prequel as being Twin Peaks. Cuse states, “They only did thirty episodes. Kerry and I thought we’d do the seventy that are missing.” Cable network A&E, gave Bates Motel a straight-to-series order in July 2012.

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

3. Hannibal
created by Bryan Fuller

Basing a show around an antagonist can be tricky. As executive producer Bryan Fuller says, “There is a cheery disposition to our Hannibal. He’s not being telegraphed as a villain. If the audience didn’t know who he was, they wouldn’t see him coming. What we have is Alfred Hitchcock’s principle of suspense—show the audience the bomb under the table and let them sweat when it’s going to go boom.”

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

4. Harper’s Island
created by Ari Schlossberg

Rather than being based on any preexisting material, Harper’s Island is an example of an excellent original concept: a group of friends and family members travel to Harper’s Island for a wedding only to discover there is a killer among them. And the protagonist’s mother was killed by him seven years ago…

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

5. Masters of Horror
created by Mick Garris

The origin of this anthology TV series lies in a number of dinners hosted by director Mick Garris and attended by several “masters of horror” directors. These included Tobe Hooper, Guillermo Del Toro, Eli Roth, Ti West and others and the success of the events persuaded Garris to develop a series of one hour movies that were picked up by Showtime.

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

6. Penny Dreadful
created by John Logan

Another Showtime production is this British-American Horror series, developed by John Logan. He wrote the TV pilot script on spec and it’s a great example of how to incorporate characters from the public domain into your work, such as Dorian Gray, Van Helsing and Count Dracula.

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best tv scripts download

7. The Returned
created by Carlton Cuse

In 2012 a French movie Les Revenants—about a small town whose dead residents begin returning to life—was adapted into a TV series of the same name. Then, an English-language adaptation was developed by Carlton Cuse for A&E studios. It only lasted a season, despite the quality of the writing which you can see in this pilot.

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

8. Scream
created by Jill Blotevogel, Dan Dworkin and Jay Beattie

Following on from a couple of disappointing chapters in the film franchise, MTV decided to make a go of commissioning a writer to pen a TV series adaptation. The resulting show does a good job of maintaining the humor and self-aware pop culture references of the original movies.

best tv scripts download

best tv scripts download

9. Twin Peaks
created by David Lynch and Mark Frost

Despite being canceled after only two seasons back in the early 1990s, this show has since received cult status. It’s been extremely influential on writers and reading the pilot script is a great way of absorbing all its terrifying weirdness. The TV show scripts for both this and the 2017 version are essential reading.

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10. The Walking Dead
created by Frank Darabont

If you’re writing particularly gory Horror TV scripts, don’t give up hope if they don’t get picked up right away. The Walking Dead was turned down by many studios, including HBO and NBC, due to its extremely gory and violent material. Bizarrely, it was even suggested that it be rewritten “without zombies.”

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best tv scripts download

###

We hope this resource of the best TV scripts to download has helped you on your journey to becoming a TV writer. Let us know what TV scripts you would have included. Which TV pilot scripts have really helped and inspired your own writing? Let us know in the comments section below.

best tv scripts download

If you’d like us to give you feedback on your TV show’s concept, pitch document or on the script itself, check out the following links:

Thanks for reading and we look forward to working with you!

More posts on how to become a TV writer and sell your scripts…

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best TV scripts downloadHOW TO WRITE FOR TV: A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO STARTING YOUR CAREER: And Why Feature Writers Should Write A TV Spec Too

 

best TV scripts downloadHOW TO BECOME A TV WRITER BY CREATING A WEB SERIES

 

11 Comments
  1. Jes Sugrue says:

    Great scripts, but upsetting to see how under-represented women’s voices and talents are. Such a hard industry for women to break into. The status quo is the status no. Let’s shake it up!

  2. Sara says:

    Great article and love having access to all of these scripts. Just a correction though, Martin Sheen wasn’t president in The American President, that was Michael Douglas. Martin Sheen’s character was Chief if Staff.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks for the heads up, Sara!

  3. GM says:

    Great selection!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, GM!

  4. Luca di Gioacchino says:

    Thanks for this!
    Anyone know the name of the font that was used in the script for The Returned?

  5. Deborah says:

    I find myself this is among the most substantial info on where to get scripts. Exceptional job, all the best

  6. Lawrence Galvin says:

    Thanks for these wonderful scripts. Very inspiring and very generous of you!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      No problem, Lawrence!

  7. Wayne Hoss says:

    Good evening, very nice scripts! Thanks.

  8. Souza P says:

    Fantastic posting. Helpful information especially the last portion 🙂

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