Downtown - April 4th

DOWNTOWNFriday, 4th April

Here we go with another exciting journal entry, as always about three months late. Sometimes I wonder why I started this journal thing. It’s hard to find the time to sit down and write, and I realize that a lot of people have given up on me and have stopped coming back to this site. But when I do it, I remember how much I enjoy the process and recall the days when I wanted to do this for a living.

I still write to some extent, but I had a lot of desire as a kid. I wrote an endless supply of bad comedy sketches and even applied to an arts college with the intention of becoming a TV writer.

So much so that I did research on how to become a TV writer and found out I needed a ‘spec script.’

A spec script is the equivalent to having a resume in the real world. Essentially, a wannabe TV writer picks out a show currently running on the air and writes a sample episode. The spec script demonstrates if the writer has the capability to capture the characters voices, emulate structure, and most importantly convey a story.

So this is what I did. There was this show called ‘Just Shoot Me’ starring David Spade who worked at a fashion magazine office. The show was quite silly, but I liked the fact that there were a lot of jokes, which is what interested me at the time. I watched a bunch of episodes and sat down to write my first spec script. It wasn’t very good, but I was proud enough that I finished it and could put my name on something.

A year later I’m walking through NY, and I pass by the MTV building. Being from New Hampshire, I was very impressed. “Wow, maybe one day I’ll work there!”

As soon as I got home, I looked up who the development head was, pulled out my spec script and sent it along with a note introducing myself.

You can imagine my surprise when I got a phone call in my dorm room three months later. “Hello, is this Tarun?”
“Hi, this is so and so at MTV and we read your spec script. Can you come in for a meeting?”

Take note, I’m 20 years old at the time. The whole experience of being called in with the head of MTV development was pretty exciting. It could have been the MTV janitor, and I would have been happy mopping floors.

I go to MTV and I’m sitting in an office with this lady who was well into her 40’s but her bandana, Abercrombie jeans and Converse sneakers made me think she was going through a mid-life crises. (When I left I noticed everybody wore similar clothes. Maybe MTV has a dress code to look like your 16?) She’s like. “Tarun, I like your spec script. How would you like to be a writer on our new TV show ‘Downtown?’


She then goes on to tell me how ‘Downtown’ is MTV’s newest soon to be hit animation show. There was this other popular show called ‘Beavis and Butthead’ and so like any TV network, they made a bad spinoff with almost the same characters but with a new title! Genius!

She complimented me on my spec script’s dialogue. Especially the parts when I used words like ‘cool’ and ‘awesome. ’ I guess she never heard of these words before. “You’re so in touch with your generation!’

“Yes I am.”

She then asked the question which probably changed my life for the better.

“So, what else do you have?”


“Yeah, you don’t just have one spec script, do you?”

I almost fell out of my chair. ‘How could I be so stupid to only write one spec script!?”

I stumbled around and blurted out something like “Oh, I think I have something, but I left it at home.” The sad truth was that as a TV writer, I had just given her my entire body of work.

Later that week, I sent her like ten comedy sketches or something but I knew my days as being MTV’s newest prodigy writer were numbered. I never heard back from her, although ironically, I did intern for the same department 2 years later and ran around the city getting Starbucks for the animators.

MTV gave me my first lesson in television writing. Always come prepared and if you’re 20 years old, write a spec script with lots of ‘cool’ words or if you don’t of any, just make them up. It doesn’t matter. Nobody knows anything. This is a definite and with this knowledge, you too may almost catch a break and work in the wonderful world of showbizness.

Tarun ShettyComment